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The Heartbreak of Chronic Illness Doctors Didn't Prepare Me For

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Commonly in movies, the main “sick girl” character is seen as so “broken” until her superhero man comes along, who is seen as the cure for all symptoms for chronic illness. She is swept off her weak, defenseless feet and forgets about all the pain in the present moment. It made me believe for a while that, after trying every prescription the doctor could possibly prescribe had failed, love was the only remedy I had not tried. Yet there was one issue: being ill made me feel like the most undesirable person on the planet.

What they forget to tell you in the movies is that chronic illness has an ugly face you might carry with you. The pain flare-ups, the mood swings, the times I cannot get out of bed for days at a time — how would anyone ever want to deal with that for the rest of their life? When I started to want to get serious with a guy, I was mortified to think about what would happen when I told him the ugly truth. Would he stick with me through trials or would he flee the scene as soon as it started to get difficult?

The most heartbreaking realization was that it takes a special type of person to desire to be faithful when I am hurting the most. I thought I had fallen in love with someone who knew how my chronic illness affected my life, but loved me enough to look past my imperfections.

I was unfortunately wrong.

For the first time since my chronic illness took over my life, I let my guard down and let someone into my life that I deeply cared about. I didn’t expect him to fix me, but to help me look past the big roadblock that was my illness. I let myself be vulnerable in hopes that we could deepen our relationship, but instead I was left emotionally more broken than I began. I wish I could say that I could pick myself back up and try again, but I lost myself in self-hatred. I wondered why anyone would ever find me lovable when there are perfectly healthy women all over the world who don’t carry the same baggage my illness has decided to bring along? Who would ever want a wife whose chances of bearing children has been minimized by a doctor who prescribed a medication that could cause infertility but cure pain?

For the first time in my life, my illness caused me to spiral into a deep, dark hole of self-hatred to protect myself from ever being hurt again. I am already used to enough pain physically — why would I want to suffer any more emotionally? I believed my dreams of being a loving wife and nurturing mother were demolished. I would never be anything more than my illness which was a burden to humanity.

Doctors have spent hours explaining my illness, how it will affect me now and in the future, but no doctor prepared me for the heartbreak of believing that I am too “broken” for love.

I believed this lie for quite some time. The only thing that really made me realize I am enough was when I was there to be my own superhero. Men who thought I was too much to handle taught me not only that I had to become self-reliant, but I deserved to treat myself kindly. There are days when my illness forces me to depend on others because I am too sick to do it myself, but just because I don’t have a spouse to go through this part of my journey of life with me doesn’t mean I’m less of a person.

The painful but most rewarding lesson I learned from this all was that my chronic illness has weeded out the men who are not compatible for me. It may take time, but it will lead me to a man I can love freely and unconditionally. My illness may cause me to be weak at times, but it’s through my times of growth that I have learned I am capable to giving myself to someone who is willing to stay when the going gets rough. I see many stories of couples who grow stronger through their illness, but I also see those who have been left heartbroken during their most painful trials.

At the end of the day, having a chronic illness leads to being a more vulnerable person. It’s the people we surround ourselves with who have the ability to take our vulnerability and foster a loving relationship or tear us apart. One of my favorite poets once said, “Any man common enough to coward at the depth of his love for you was not meant to walk behind you.” I don’t believe we are promised to find a specific person who will love our whole selves, but that doesn’t mean chronic illness has made me too much to handle. I may not dream like the hopeless romantic I used to be because my illness has taught me to be more on guard than I used to be, but that doesn’t mean I am not capable of loving someone.

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Thinkstock photo by Tinatin1

Originally published: November 11, 2017
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