Why Chronically Ill People May Also Be Chronically Single
This one’s for the single ladies (or gentlemen) who find themselves not only chronically sick, but chronically single.
I almost titled this post “girl interrupted,” but for me it’s not like I ever had a steady healthy life to interrupt, it’s more like health troubles have been the gremlin to the airplane of my life since my teen years.
Being chronically ill can be incredibly lonely, whether you have close family or not (thankfully I do), and like I have talked about in past posts, most chronically ill people see friends and/or family walk away as illness goes on. When it comes to dating with illness (even if you are somewhat functioning), that doesn’t mean that dating is easy or possible. Healthy people have more avenues to meet people that would fit their criteria for a significant other (I’m not implying that’s a cake walk either), but what about the chronically ill?
Even for the “functioning” chronically ill this may be close to impossible.
I am not bedridden and I can hold a part-time job, but that doesn’t mean every day isn’t a struggle. But “functioning” in what’s required of me means sacrificing everything else, and a lot of the time there’s not much left of me after my basic obligations. What is hard to navigate is that I seem to have a few months every year when things seem pretty good; I have better energy and I can start being social again, being able to exercise some, and feel reintroduced to my own humanity. It’s in these times I think “well maybe I can start to think about finding someone,” but then inevitably things take a dive again and I go back to survival mode: bare basics, just getting by. With every “bad cycle” I have to start saying “no” again to social activities and almost everything outside of bare basics. It’s a yo-yo life.
So how does one date someone like me? In my personal experience I guess they don’t.
Firstly, you would have to actually meet someone. But how if you don’t go out? There are no weeknights out with friends. There are no group social activities. Church attendance may stop. Any weekend activities like hiking or day trips may be too much. And what if you feel like you look and feel like crap and just the stress of even thinking about getting yourself presentable and putting on a good face is too much? It’s so much easier just to sink back into isolation because self-care and living is enough to deal with.
If you are chronically ill it is exhausting being you, but how much more so for those closest to you? I see how close family is affected when the ones they love who are ill, and it’s a horrible strain especially when there’s no end in sight. But these people already know and love us. It takes a long, long time for new friends that come into my life to “get it,” even the ones who are sweet and understanding have a hard time grasping that what are normal activities for them (even their daily routines) are not apart of my life and not possible. It takes people time to see that while your body may look OK from the outside, it serves as your prison of pain and fatigue.
But how would you approach a possible new partner with your life? (We are assuming that somehow you have made it past the first hurdle of actually getting out). It would take a special person to willingly enter into this scenario. But I know they are out there… (bless you, those who love and support your ill partners).
I also don’t feel like I am present for other people the way I want to be. A lot of the time I am exhausted just dealing with me. But I do try; I am an uber-communicator and reach out to others all the time and do the best I can to support others in their struggles and try and be diligent in prayer for my friends and family. But I can’t imagine having a spouse and trying to be there in the capacity that they would need. I fear I may not be able to hold up my end in a household, or relationally.
More than that, when I am going through a hard time physically, I am fairly aware that I am not quite myself mentally or emotionally as well. Whether it be more inflammation on the brain, or toxins or whatever… I am well aware that my ability to rationalize or consistently think clearly is affected. I also lose the creative and motivated sides of myself. So in a very real way, I am not fully myself!
Friends that have known me a while can tell a definite difference between clear-headed me and me on the days things are foggy. You see if you don’t know me it looks like my personality is different. If I ever seem quiet and a little shut down its because I literally am, but it’s not my personality or my choice. So how do you begin a new relationship like this? Well, if you figure it out let me know.
Chronic illness is tough, and maybe it is tougher being single and not having the support of a significant other. But I only know this experience, and maybe the strain of being in a relationship when one partner is ill would/could be a lot more difficult.
We are all individuals and every situation is different. So this is just a shout out to my fellow chronic illness warriors; for now we will just hunker down, survive, take care of ourselves and (for me) serve God the best I can with what limited spoons I have.
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