Online support is great, and often times can be easier and more fulfilling than in-person; support groups that don’t meet regularly, etc. But there is definitely something to be said for in-person support when it comes from family and friends. When I first got sick, it was really difficult for me to know exactly what I needed from people.
One thing that I have found extremely difficult as a 20-something, is how to navigate having a serious chronic illness while dating and early on in relationships. I created a rule for myself, that I call “The Third Date Rule”. In other words, I made a pledge to myself that by the third date, I would disclose my illnesses, regardless of other circumstances. This didn’t always work. And it has been frustrating when you really like someone, and worry that their reaction may be the end of the relationship.
What I’ve come to realize is that, ultimately, if the person cannot handle the situation, you should not be in a relationship with them, anyway. I’ve literally had guys tell me, hypothetically, that if I was feeling bad, they would “throw a blanket over my head and go to work.” I’m serious. I’ve heard this multiple times for multiple men. But I’m happy to say that I’ve been dating a great guy for eight months now. And he’s very attentive to my needs, health- and otherwise. But it hasn’t been easy. I had the period of him getting used to me doing injections, then being off of Methotrexate, starting the Humira, dealing with all of the craziness around that, having a major flare that lasted for over a month, being taken off of the Humira, and now am in medication limbo. And he’s been there with me, through it all, battling the insurance company, battling bullying nurses, and injecting (no pun intended) good into days that have otherwise been pretty dark and dismal.
To me, even now, it seems like a lot to ask of another person, though. On the other hand, he has faced adversity in his own life, and while I don’t wish what he has gone through on anyone, I think it has made our relationship a lot easier, but most of all, stronger. Based on that, I have commonalities with him that I’ve never had with anyone else I’ve dated. And he is physically and emotionally present in our relationship. And I’d like to think that we are pretty evenly matched in terms of who does what in terms of our two households. I think this helps, too. If I’m not feeling well enough to cook, he does. And it’s not just PB&J sandwiches. I do worry that this will get old for him some day. That the constant state of flux will just become too much, as sometimes it is too much for even me to handle. When I started out, I thought this was going to be a really easy post to write, but as I sit here, I can’t exactly put into words exactly what this relationship means to me. It’s different for any other I’ve had before. And it’s real in a way that no other relationship has been.
In previous relationships, I’ve really hedged about my illnesses and put on a brave face the majority of the time, even when I was crumbling inside, physically and emotionally. But here, now, I put it all on the table, and have been really honest and upfront about it all. And not only is he caring and supportive, his family reads my blog and are always concerned about how I am doing. Not everyone has this. I know that. And I feel super lucky and grateful, not just to him, but to all of them. It’s funny. When you’re playing the field or serial dating, it’s so frustrating. The litany of one and two date relationships, which are exhausting enough when you’re not chronically ill. But it all seems worth it when you meet someone and it just seems to work, despite the baggage that you are both bringing to the table. And I guess that’s the thing that I have to keep reminding myself. This isn’t a one-way street. His baggage might not be lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, like mine is, but he has his own. And I’m okay with that.
When we talk about the future, we know it’s not going to be easy, like it is for our “normal,” healthy 20- and 30-something counterparts. But as long as we have each other, we should be okay, right? I take comfort in knowing that we’ve faced a lot in these first eight months, especially where my health is concerned, but we’re still standing, and right next to each other, too. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I got sick, it’s that what really matters in life aren’t the things you have, but the people around you and the relationships you cultivate. Some relationships are easier to sustain through illness, others are not. But the important thing for me, is that through it all, and through all of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions about my illnesses, I haven’t shut people out. And even when I’ve had experience after experience with insensitive, jerky guys, I didn’t give up until I found a good one. And I’ve got a good feeling about this one, but I don’t want to jinx it.
Published On: November 19, 2012