What you get when you date a girl with a chronic illness

When it was proposed to me that I write about dating again I initially cringed at the idea. How could little old me offer insight to a world where I myself struggle so much? How could I offer guidance or wisdom when I myself am blind to the successes of dating? But I realized that instead of guidance or wisdom, perhaps I could offer honesty and vulnerability and perhaps reach one person in a relatable state as merely a connection.

If you ask anyone what the most attractive quality is in another, man or woman, I guarantee they will say confidence. Even I find confidence extremely appealing and can attest that for the most part, if a person possesses a genuine confidence in themselves, it’s a turn on. It’s a simple concept but here is my struggle.

I am a very confident person. I am confident in who I am, what I believe, what I value. I am confident in my writing, my work ethic, my friendships, my sexuality, my humour, my intellect. I am confident to know what I like, what I deserve, what I find attractive and what I want. I am confident enough to withstand confrontation, be honest, accept responsibility and offer advice. I am confident in my experiences, my upbringing, my mistakes, and my growth. But when it comes to dating, for some reason this little anxious monster in my brain waves around a banner reading, “He’s out of our league!” or “It’s never going to work!” and just like that, that attractive quality I am sure I possess, is invisible.

Every once in a while a special kind of person comes along who I sometimes let linger around, just long enough to see past that monster.  And what they find is someone with potentially more to offer than just your average girl. They see someone with a chronic illness. When you date a girl with a chronic illness, you get someone with thick skin, but a soft heart. You get someone who can share stories of pain and strength, sadness and recovery. You get someone who values every healthy moment, and is ready to live life to the fullest. You get someone who can handle anything.  But you also get someone with no time to waste.

In an online world of instant gratification through swiping, liking and commenting, the option to move on to the next fling is literally at your fingertips. At the sight of one unattractive quality you can swipe the next one, or dial last week’s girl, or DM someone different. So we try to emulate our best self, with positivity, radiance, beauty and confidence. But that’s not real life. Not all the time.

And so begins the grey area: The area where a text, a snap, a swipe, a like or a tweet may be your most common form of communication, in which real and honest conversations are difficult to have. It’s all fun and games until comes the time to express the hardship, illness, and baggage you’ve been carrying…But appropriately in real life, not through a screen. So the grey area continues where you don’t know how the other person really feels, where it’s going, who else is involved and it’s a constant back and forth game. Which is fine for regular people. I get that. You have to play the game. But for someone with chronic illness, that’s not going to fly.

I’d rather be all in, or nothing. See my scars, feel my tears, help carry that weight. Or leave. Because I can carry those things on my own, and I am not going to chase you for help. It would be nice, sure. But I’m so strong on my own that I am not going to try to convince you to help. I got this.  It’s kind of cynical and guarded but you’re dealing with someone who has been let down by the universe so many times that it’s safer to be my own hero, then to have someone drop that baggage on my toes.

People love the grey area, and what people think is that it’s easier to fade out of it gradually, then to go all in, and have the honest conversation when/ if it doesn’t work. But believe me, if you date a girl with a chronic illness, you’re not going to break her heart that easily. She isn’t fragile.  Because she’s already experienced the ultimate heartbreak: betrayal from her own body.

I am a walking oxymoron as I write the things I write, vulnerable and exposing my fears of being a lone and undesirable. Yet confident enough to share them. I somehow have opened my soul to the world about hardship and illness yet when it comes to men, I can’t even begin to explain where my life spiraled out of control and how difficult it was. Why I have been single for so long, why my life was put on hold, why I have scars, why I run to the washroom, why I have anxiety, why I lack that key attractive characteristic.

More specifically for someone with UC, that confidence began to dwindle when all of a sudden I was literally shitting my pants in a grocery store. Or I was spending 30 min. in the washroom, 15 times a day. But then I was cancelling plans because I was in the hospital and my face got puffier and puffier because of steroids. And then all my hair fell out and my skin was pale and my eyes were sunken in. And then I had an ostomy bag. I kept telling myself I’ll be okay to date when I’m healthier, my face is normal, my hair grows back, I’m finished all my surgeries….But here we are, physically ready to go yet a whole piece of me is missing (and I don’t mean my colon).

And now that illness is two fold as you deal with a girl struggling with her own mental health. For someone who is so guarded, expecting disappointment is easy. That little anxiety monster is screaming inside my brain that everything is going to crumble, even though everything is perfect. I can be lying beside someone after the most fantastic night thinking about how fast he’s going to run. A girl with anxiety likes that reassurance that everything is just fine. Expect in the game and grey area, that comes across as “needy”. Let me be clear though: I don’t need you to text me, I don’t need you to validate my feelings, I don’t need you to take me out, I don’t need you to calm me down from a panic attack, I don’t need you to hold my hand during a flare up. Because like I said, I’ve got this…. But it sure would be nice.

How do you explain to someone who doesn’t know the story what you’ve gone through, and why you’re still going through it now that it’s over? It’s complicated and messy and confusing and I’d rather just stay away from all of it. I want someone to get to know me before they get to know my baggage. But what I forget is that baggage is a part of me now. A girl with a chronic illness is someone who is resilient and tough; spirited and wise; brave and daring; humbled and sensitive. That’s what you really get.

 So when I was asked to write about dating, I initially thought, “Who am I to touch on a subject where I am an absolute rookie? A subject I know nothing about?” But really, I do know. I know exactly how hard it is, and I know how fun it can be (mind you, just because I’m single doesn’t mean I’m lonely). Like I said, I know what I deserve and I know what I’m attracted to.  I know exactly where my problems are and I know how to articulate them.  I just don’t know how to fix them.

And here I am, at the end of my best year yet, missing that one little piece…..

So if you know anyone who doesn’t mind a sleepy girl with a scatter brain… hook me up.


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