Dating is already so complicated. Should you wait more than a day to text them back after a date? At what point in the relationship do you have the “DTR” talk? Am I compatible with them? When can I fart in front of them? So adding a chronic illness into the mix can turn things into a shit show…and sometimes literally.
As a kid I had chronic kidney and bladder problems since I was put on medication for at 4 years old. Then I tore a hip muscle at 12 (I never got as answer as to why, doctors didn’t give me a direct answer) and now 10 years later I still get pain. Endometriosis and adenomyosis have caused terrible periods and pain, and then at 19 I developed food allergies to pretty much all good tasting, fun foods and I cut out alcohol.
This is all just scratching the surface. Chronic inflammation, high cortisol, the countless blood tests and pills and doctors visits.
I’ve lived my life frustrated with my body and this is just my normal. I didn’t really realize how I would explain my situation to someone else, to the other twenty somethings that love to brunch together and go out on taco Tuesdays and have wine Wednesdays. I do know how awkward is it to be enjoying something someone else can’t partake in. If I had a dime every time someone looked at me with mildly uncomfortable pity and asked if I was okay with my glass of water and plate of rice, chicken, or side salad, or some other safe food, I would at least be able to buy my textbooks for school.
When I started seriously dating in my early twenties, this giant wave of anxiety and despair hit me. I had never dated as an “adult” before—which to me meant meeting total strangers at bars or a restaurant or coffee shops or going hiking together. In high school people had some understanding of what I could or could not do and thus my teenage boyfriends had some idea, I never in directly talked to them about my illnesses. Meeting strangers comes with a whole host of variables when you have a chronic illness that maybe the average healthy person doesn’t think of. Besides stressing over what to wear, I will google search the area because need know where near by bathrooms are. What can I eat on the menu? Can I eat anything on the menu? What if I’m too tired? What if I’m in pain again? What if I have a reaction to something? Will they think it I’m not fun because I don’t drink? And to my horror, what if they notice something is wrong?
I’m still wrestling with these questions and situations, but I’m learning after a lot of practice. I’m still learning how to set boundaries when discussing what I can and can’t do, or how much sharing is oversharing. On the up side it’s easier to weed out who is understanding and worthy of another date! 🙂
My anxiety has a lot to do with the concept of being excluded, feeling unaccepted. It feels like a dream sometimes when I have a new food I can eat, like someone thought of me. Or when someone remembers my allergies! Finally, I am considered. I want to be seen and understood like everyone else. So when I can participate and literally have a seat at the table with food in front of me, it’s easier to also join the conversation and join in the connection.