Dating Myself: How Learning to Love Myself Allowed Me to Date with My Invisible Illness
It wasn’t until this past summer that I realised that I truly deserved to be loved, despite my chronic invisible illness. However, that didn’t come to me until I had realised it for myself. Dating, in and of itself, is difficult. There’s something terrifying about being completely vulnerable with someone, trying to make sure you’re putting forth the best image of yourself in hopes of a possible future. When you’re living with an invisible, chronic illness, all of the hardships of dating become amplified. The illness becomes a dirty secret, a problem constantly circling in the back of my head. When do I do tell them? How do I tell them?
Relationships are all about trust. Personally, it’s hard for me to trust others.
I never know when or where I’m going to get a migraine, or when I will stop being able to function, put words together or even support my own body weight. No matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise, I always felt that if I told someone the truth about my medical life, they wouldn’t want to be with me. I told myself that I was a burden, that eating out was difficult because of my food allergies, and no one would want to put up with me. In my head, I knew that I was wrong. I have been fortunate to have had amazing relationships in the past couple years, with people who have stood by me when I needed them most. There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed, where washing the dishes was enough to put me back into bed for the day. I found someone who would still call me sexy when I was on the floor of my bathroom almost throwing up, someone who could make me laugh when I was in the most pain. He showed me that I could be loved, illness and all.
I can’t tell you how often in the past 5 years I’ve downplayed my illness.
Chronic, intractable migraines are no walk in the park, both physically and emotionally. Letting someone into my world becomes like a game of battleship: I never know at what point they will become fed up with the challenges in my life. This volatile secret keeps me from wanting to be vulnerable around others.
This summer, I had an epiphany. I realised that if I am confident about my illness, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of me.
This is who I am. This is my life. If the person I’m potentially going to be involved with cannot deal with this part of my life, I don’t want them to be in my life. Maybe I’ve just dealt with too many people who say that they care but in reality don’t when push comes to shove. That, or I’m just closer to becoming that cat lady much earlier than I intended. I’ve learned that the healthiest thing for me is to surround myself with supportive people who actually care. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I don’t need to make excuses when I can’t make plans or start feeling badly and downplay my symptoms. I am who I am, chronic illness and all. Learning to love myself for who I am has allowed me to be happy.
I’ve learned how to love myself.
I now know what I want in a partner, so while dating isn’t a piece of cake (is it for anyone?), it isn’t as anxiety-producing to meet new people and talk about my life. Taking the time to learn to love myself, I now know what makes me happy and what I want in potential romantic partners. If anything, my love life is just as messy and complicated as any almost 20-year-old’s would be, but hey, that’s life, right?