Last night during my Gen Lyme women's meet up we talked about adaptability and how that word relates to living with Lyme. One of the women asked how others are navigating the dating scene. Now, honestly, I've barely dated. I had one really long relationship from high school that lasted 8 years. And then I married someone who didn't give a shit about me. Also my generation has no idea how to date, so it was an interesting chat.
Many people did not know I had been dealing with health issues from Lyme almost my whole life. I didn't have a name for it until 2019, but I had the symptoms telling me something was wrong for about two decades. My entire life has been about adapting. Even aside from the illness I've had to adapt, I mean we all do, right? Being a Black Latina I feel like every situation I have to see what version of me needs to come out. - And don't come for me saying I can just be myself in any situation, cause we know that's BS. *Cardi B enters the chat.*
Anyway, when it comes to dating, the question of when do you bring up your illness was a big one. On the first, second, third date? When is the right time? Nobody wants to have chemistry and build up a relationship for it to come crashing down when you tell them you don't have the energy for an amusement park, or you can't eat gluten or much sugar because it causes inflammation, or that you take 25 pills a day to be a half functioning human being. It's tough. What do we do? Now majority of the people I know with this illness are women. Not that there aren't any men, because there are, it's just women go to the doctor more, so of course we are diagnosed at higher rates. -This goes for most illnesses too. What I've noticed in many of the support groups is that women take a lot of the burden when it comes to being sick. It's as if they feel they have to be perfect always. I mean society has a million products telling us what we need to improve - skin, hair, shape, etc. Another thing I've seen are many women who are left by their husbands because they are told they are faking being sick or the husbands just don't want to deal with it anymore. It becomes too much for them. That was one of the things I felt in my marriage. It was just too much work for him. "In sickness and in health" went right out the window.
What kills me is how much we want to be chosen, and I'm guilty of this too. We want to be the one that stands out, that he picks and loves unconditionally, and we imagine this perfect life with them. Then when that doesn't happen we wonder what we did wrong or what we are lacking, when in actuality we all have shit we need to work on, that can literally be worked on. Chronic illness isn't something we can fix with the flip of a switch. I closed out the convo telling this group of women about my experience in my marriage. I will always tell people there were some red flags that I should have addressed, but I mean I'm sure many of us have ignored things about other people because we didn't want them to be true and the big one - denial, right? My health had been deteriorating that entire relationship and he seemed like he would be there for the ride. That rollercoaster drop happened QUICK! It was completely devastating. I tried to make it work because I thought, "if my own husband can't deal with this, who else would?" I felt that there was no other person in this world who would want to tolerate my health issues. Who would want to start a relationship with so many bullet points on how I need to live to function?
But to answer that - there is someone. Not everyone is complete trash, though somedays it definitely feels like it, I know. I'm not saying to sit down to dinner and scream, "I'm chronically ill !!" That might be a bit jarring to someone of course. But I think for the most part you will realize people who are genuine. If there is one thing this illness and my experience over the last two decades has taught me, it's that the real ones stick around. You don't have to question their intentions. They truly care, they want to learn, and be supportive. Everyone else will fall off, and that's a good thing. You don't need those people around you, whether it's dating, friendships, or even relatives. You matter and you deserve a love so perfect they won't ever make you question that they will always be there for you through it all.