When Do I Disclose My Chronic Illnesses to the Person I'm Dating?
I have a hard time with dating and living with chronic illness, especially when it comes to disclosure. When do I disclose? Does my potential dating partner deserve to know prior to making a commitment? Do I owe disclosure to them? Do I owe it to myself? I end up waffling around, sometimes disclosing prior the first meeting, and sometimes after several weeks of dating. Sometimes I end up having to disclose before I would like, but I find it hard to have a flare and not explain it.
Because these names, these chronic illnesses of mine, they are a part of me. They don’t define me. They can’t even kill me. But they’ve created constraints and limitations to what I can do, and I’m not altogether sure they haven’t informed a substantial part of who I am. I want my potential partner to get to know this part of me, this part that is controlled by chronic health problems. But how much of me is really me? Is it possible to even distinguish who I am apart from someone living with these health issues?
It’s my very own existential crisis: Would I have become an extroverted introvert without developing fibromyalgia in my teens? Gastroparesis and interstitial cystitis in my early and mid-20s? Would I have become an outdoor enthusiast? A runner? A teacher? What haunts me the most is whether I would have already found a partner, started a family. What life would I be leading now? It’s not that I’m unhappy, I’m really not, but I feel like there’s so many roads untaken, and not all of them by choice. And choice is a powerful thing.
Dating is odd when you have invisible chronic health issues, and I’m one of those lucky ones where everything is fairly well managed. I don’t look sick. I don’t act like I’m sick. But I have routines I need to follow to stay as healthy as I can, pills I need to take, sleep that needs to be regular and long. It means after a full day of work I can’t go and take an evening salsa dancing class, go to an art gallery opening, or hear an evening lecture. Well, it’s not that I can’t, but I might peter out fast, and each of those activities comes with potential risks that would impact me for days or weeks. Almost all activities have varying weight of potential consequences, both mentally and physically. How do I explain this to a potential partner? How do I make it sound serious enough to take into consideration, but not scary enough to avoid dating me all together? I keep wondering why, after all this time, I still haven’t figured it out, but a lot of it comes down to the person I’m dating and how they respond when I tell them. I remind myself that there’s so much I can’t control, and one of them is how others react, what they think, and what they do.
I need to just be me.
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