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Why Online Dating Was Part of My 'Healing Protocol' With Chronic Illness

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I’m not exactly sure what came over me. Earlier in the year, I signed up for an online dating website. Not to date. Obviously. I’m stuck at home with barely enough energy to eat my breakfast each day. But after working some new brain retraining and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques into my meditation and inner work healing protocol, I wanted to up my game in terms of self-belief and future self-visioning. Online dating seemed like the perfect way to do just that.

Let me explain.

Chronic illness can change the way you see yourself. Managing day to day symptoms and associated issues, it can become difficult to ascertain where you as a person begins and the illness ends. I believe that separating the two and establishing your own identity is an essential part of true and lasting healing.

So my objective with the online dating website thing, was to just be myself. Well me, minus illness. Judged on my own merit not on my backstory. Anonymity would allow me to “role play” my future self ideal and enable my mind to sync into how being “just me” would feel. Say “hi,” make conversation and connect with others in ways that were not associated with my current circumstances or health status. Friendships born from that place would be a bonus, I thought.

I met a few interesting peeps from all over the world. Intermittent chatting, curiosity and questions. Just lighthearted interaction. But enjoyable and therapeutic nonetheless.

I must say, it felt really good to be viewed in a new light. It suddenly felt like a level playing field. Even liberating for a mo.’

My personality began to stretch its wings. And I was feeling hopeful that I could once again fly.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a profile that caught my attention immediately. I was a little taken aback by its synergy with my own life mission and sentiments. I said hello and a lively conversation soon followed. I wasn’t expecting to meet someone like this via my online experiment. But this was my kind of human. Potentially a great friend indeed.

After a few days, his inquiry turned to my personal story. I froze. I retreated. That night I sleep barely a wink.

Nothing I had written or shared was untruthful. I spoke from the heart and meant every word. I was me in every way I could be. But now the moment required I share more.

I knew exactly what I had to do. But I didn’t want to do it.

If I shared my identity, it would be a whole two seconds before everything was out there on the table. My personal journey through illness. The works. With a digital footprint revolving around this topic. Cover stories, media interviews and photographs etc… there was nowhere to hide.

Some people will never see me for who I am because they get stuck on appearances. I have experienced that before. So I was afraid if I shared my whole story with this person I had just met via the online dating website, that would be all they would see in me. And I’d never hear from them again.

Did I mention, I already knew exactly what I had to do but I didn’t want to do it?

It was with absolute clarity that I knew. This was a life defining moment. Every person that enters our life provides us with opportunities to go to the next level of our personal evolution. They can be a mirror reflecting wounds that need healing, a catalyst for new realizations or a reminder to honor our boundaries or reaffirm the soul based contracts we have made with ourselves, especially those that serve as testaments of self-respect and self-love.

Part of me wanted to shrink back into mediocrity, play it safe. Couldn’t I just be someone else? But the timing of the Universe is always perfect. Each lesson, always divinely orchestrated.

I’m always telling others to be themselves — to not feel ashamed of what they’ve been through or what’s happened to them in life. So now I had to walk the walk. I had to rise up and own my story. I had to be myself and trust that everything would be ok.

More than one person has broken up with me due to my health status in the past. Many life long friends have disappeared into the distance too. I won’t sugar coat it. That stuff hurts. For the longest of times, I believed that no one would ever love me or want me in their life because of my health challenges or what I was going through.

I could hear the negative self-talk sneaking into my brain cells…

“If you tell him, you’ll lose him.”

But the truth is, illness doesn’t make you any less lovable. It doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to be happy.

And as quickly as I heard the mean girl talk in my head reminding me of the heartbreaks of my past, I heard another side of the argument…

“Amelia, what kind of person do really you want to be? Well this is your opportunity to be that person. Right now. You are not broken. So don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be proud of how far you’ve come. Because your authenticity and your willingness to back yourself is the ultimate act of self love.”

And you know what? I hadn’t come this far, to simply come this far.

During this healing journey of mine, I have proven to myself many times over that I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to not only heal from illness, but to grow through this whole experience as best as I can and be a better person because of it.

I have been through the toughest of circumstances, dug deep into the corners of my soul and done the inner work required to merge with my true identity.

I have atoned wounds of the past. I have shared my story in the media and come up against all sorts of criticism and insensitivity in the process. I’ve lost friends and career paths, opportunities and life milestone moments all while trying to find just the right words to inspire others to find their own inner strength and courage. Because that’s important to me too.

You see, what I’ve learned, is who I am is much bigger than the circumstances of my life. Illness maybe be an obvious visual marker right now, but test results and symptoms don’t determine my value, worthiness or suitability as a friend or partner. My true identity does that. Because that’s what really matters. That will always shine brighter.

My ability to be present, kind, warm, funny, affectionate, see the inherent good in others and my desire to make a difference in this world is what’s most beautiful about me. I’m compassionate, loyal, honest, optimistic and relentless in my capacity to give and receive love. All these things are the real me too.

It’s taken me a long while to arrive at a place of self love and acceptance. And you know what? I have earned the right to be me. I’ve fought hard to be the person I am today and I can say this without hesitation: I quite like her too.

So, I finally did what I knew I had to do all along. And as I typed the sentences that revealed all to that particular human being on the other end of the keyboard, I took a deep breath for I knew that it was a game changing moment.

But because I had chosen to back myself, own my story, love who I had become and trust in the Universe in spite of the heartbreaks of my past and the possibility of rejection in the present, I knew, whatever happened, I would be ok.

My self-love was intact. My intrinsic value as a human being would remain unswayed by the approval or disapproval of others.

So I was happy that I undertook the online dating experiment, because it gave me a chance to see myself from a new perspective. And the brief collision with a total stranger, I was grateful for that too. For it reminded me I had no reason to fear being de-robed of anonymity, because I knew my true self and what beauty resides in my heart would always be visible to those who had the eyes to see it.

Follow this journey on Amelia Hill

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s a dating story related to your disability and/or disease that made you laugh, roll your eyes, cry or was otherwise unforgettable? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 25, 2016
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