(What it’s like being single with a chronic illness)
Every once in a while I come across someone or the other who would ask me questions like:
“Why are you still single?!”
“Have you seen yourself?!? You can find anyone! Just go out! Go online! Why do you want to be alone? ” (that’s really beyond the point)
“How are you managing without a partner?”
“Isn’t it better to have someone around at least?”
“Don’t you get bored alone?” (I honestly don’t)
“Don’t you want someone to help you get out of bed?”
“Why don’t you just go out and see what comes to you!?”
Here’s the thing about dating and chronic illnsss – it’s not straight-forward. It’s not ONLY about feelings and love anymore. Living with pain 24/7 and dealing with an illness that’s going to be with you for the rest of your life (well, till science finds a solution or a miracle takes place) changes your perspective about pretty much everything. Every day is a new day and life is as predictably unpredictable as it can get.
What is considered rather “straight-forward” in the context of dating now involves much more complicated factors like compatibility in terms of lifestyle and practicality of the relationship. Often, these are also the topics people prefer not to discuss in detail — who wants to talk about how it is like to wake up and sleep with so much pain?
Who likes to talk about guards, slings and tapes?
Who wants to run through your pain management programme?
Who wants to know what it’s like to have to take a break during showers because of fatigue?
Who wants to discuss how to deal with an arm that sublaxes? Or what to do when your back flares up and gets you bed-ridden? Who wants to listen to your prognosis?
Who actually wants to educate themselves about someone else’s health?
Who wants to know what it’s like to make a different career choice not because you are incapable, lazy or not ambitious but because your health must be your priority? (I believe it’s a choice I’ve made for my health not because of it)
Who wants to know what it’s like to pretty much build a life all over again from scratch?
Who wants to understand what it’s like to be hopeful, grateful and practical at the same time?
Who’s willing to talk about responsibilities? Partnership? Who wants to talk about hospitals, bills, insurance and disability aid when there are so many other fun things to discuss? Right?!
Who’s willing to see what an invisible illness really looks like?
And most importantly, who’s going to be able to look past that illness, despite it being a major experience for you, and realise that it’s just one aspect of who you are?
Unfortunately, the things that people usually shy away from are exactly the things that need to be talked about. That’s the case with all of us but even more so when you’re dating someone with a body that doesn’t function as per “normal”.
From the last so many years of literally dating myself, hating my body (for a while) and now respecting it so much has taught me such valuable lessons which I wouldn’t exchange for anything. I’m very happy that I chose to give ‘me’ all the time I deserved. Somewhere I had forgotten how much I needed it.
There’s no going back for me anymore. I don’t regret choosing to date myself. I don’t regret deciding that it was time to be on my own and manage with whatever support I had and to make the best out of it. It was painful, every bit of it and yet I say this – i absolutely don’t regret experiencing loneliness and realising how amazingly freeing it actually is. It has brought me closer to who I am as a person, who I always was and has opened doors to so many opportunities.
I couldn’t quite have imagined sharing my story with everyone and being of help to some people had I let things happen the way the old me thought they were “supposed to be”. I wouldn’t have been here feeling somewhat at peace with everything. I wouldn’t have been able to grow out of fear, trust myself and be grateful for all that I have without leaving a few things behind.
Dating myself for years altogether has only taught me patience (what’s an empowered patient without patience anyway?) and the need for acceptance of self. If I hadn’t learned to accept who I was becoming, I wouldn’t have become so clear about my wants and needs. If I hadn’t learnt to let go of the things that no longer served me, I wouldn’t have been able to embrace my new reality. I most definitely wouldn’t have been able to create space for anyone else in my life.
I couldn’t have imagined having someone else with me through the last few years. I don’t think it would have proven to be helpful for either of us. In some ways, I’m grateful that I spent those years alone, figuring so many things out all at once. Now that I have enough space to embrace who I am, I have enough space for someone else too. Keeping that in mind, no matter how sad it can sound to some people, my full-time job will always be self-care and I can’t be with someone who wouldn’t see that.
It’s really ok to be single and deal with a chronic illness AND it is ok to be sick and be in a perfectly healthy relationship. What matters ultimately is whether you get to honour your health.