How Building Walls to Protect Myself Against Lupus Also Shields Me From Love
Lupus was the ultimate wrench in the works. There isn’t one aspect of my life that went untouched; nothing was safe or left unchanged. I have to admit that in most cases it’s been a positive thing. However, when it comes to love, I can’t bring myself to confidently place it in the “good” category.
Lupus has made me an incredibly strong individual. Evolving into a stronger version of myself wasn’t so much a choice, but a necessity. To not choose strength would mean relinquishing control of my life to my illness.
But with strength come walls and barriers. You can only take so many hits before boxing yourself in becomes not only instinctual, but a mode of survival. The first two punches come flying in at you hard and fast, the shock of them leaves you stunned and it takes a while for the pain to properly set in. After a while every blow feels just like the last. Just another attack on the system, and you start building up and pushing out – hiding the soft side of yourself from anything that could damage it.
Looking back I remember myself as a “softer” person. Before lupus I was lucky in that I really hadn’t seen much loss or pain in my life. I made it to 20 years before something truly shook me, but it was only a sample of what was to come with my diagnosis mere months later.
The best thing about living without this hard exterior shell was the ease I felt in loving someone. I was free to love them without boundaries; I didn’t have to break myself down bit by bit to let them in. I wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable for them.
Relationships require an openness and honesty that no longer comes easily to me. I can’t yet trust myself to feel truly vulnerable, as I only associate such an emotion with memories of overwhelming hurt.
It’s not that I push people away; it’s more that I hold them at a distance that seems safe to me. Close enough to form something, but just far enough away that I can cut all ties and run at the faintest sign of trouble. No one deserves that.
I want to love and to be loved, but in this modified version of myself, I’m not sure I know how anymore. You can’t love just half of a person. Yet I don’t know if I can trust anyone with everything I am. I’m so scared to hand over what’s left of my “soft” self.
Under all my layers, I know there’s still a part of the old me, the “soft” me. Every time I start to like someone I feel her peeking out from behind all of the walls I’ve built up, smiling at them and trying to form a real connection. But out of habit, I gently coax her back inside, and close off that part of myself out of fear.
I fear that if I let her out to form something real, and get close to someone to love, that she’ll only get her heart broken. This part of me is so hopelessly romantic and so naively optimistic, and I while I adore it, it also scares me to death.
I’m scared because I’m so imperfect, and I know this only too well.
I don’t want to get my hopes up just to watch them come crashing down in front of me. I don’t want to feel things for you, in case one day you change your mind on a whim. And even though you might bare your soul for me, I’ll really struggle to bare mine, because I’m afraid that when it comes down to it, you’re just not going to like what you see.
I’ve built walls to protect myself, to shield myself from pain and hurt. The reason I can’t break them down to let you in is that ultimately, I’m just so scared that my greatest imperfection, my lupus, means I won’t be worth fighting for.
This post originally appeared in Kristiana Page’s column “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” on Lupus News Today.
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Thinkstock photo via Liderina.