Dating is hard enough by itself and having a chronic illness adds an additional level of complications. So yes, I’d like you to accept my normal “crazy girl” stuff, but I also need you to understand, accept, and deal with the chronic illness I face everyday. That’s a super awesome elevator speech for dating if I’ve ever heard one (…by the way: sarcasm is required when you are told you have a joint crippling disease at 18).
I’ve been on a lot of dates, mainly for the free food and drinks, and I have learned that your special someone is going to love you for you, chronic disease or not. The shiny fish I will eventually find in this overwhelming ocean of options will get over the days he has to carry me to the bathroom or let me cry on his shoulder. But for your laughs and my therapeutic writing experiment, here are some of my favorite quotes from guys I’ve dated in reaction to finding out about my chronic illness.
2. “I underestimated your issues.”
Now this one is my favorite. Listen dude: I laid it all out there for you, how do you underestimate what I bluntly told you? For this one, I decided to disclose it all out on the first date: Hi, I’m Elizabeth, I have rheumatoid arthritis, depression from my life changing disease, frequent panic attacks, and I often drink too much wine on a Tuesday night. Surprisingly I even got a second date and “I’m falling in love with you,” after stating all my “issues.” But when life gets a little tough, you underestimated these issues and all the sudden they are too much? Cool, man.
3. “Once I broke my leg and couldn’t play rugby for a while; I get it.”
No you don’t get it because you broke your leg. Your leg was put in a cast for a couple months and now it’s okay. My body? It’s still attacking myself and will for the rest of my life. The only way for it to stop is for me to inject myself with some crazy drugs and feel like I want to throw up every other day. But thank you, your broken leg makes me feel so much better.
4. “The RA was fine, I can do that, but the depression is just too much for me.”
So that fact I can’t walk sometimes is cool, but I’m not allowed to be sad about it? I wasn’t like “Oh hey body, on top of not being able to feel my legs for 15 minutes every morning, can you also make me super sad?” Do some research my friend, depression is a mental illness and I can’t just wake up and say, “hey me, be happy; just do it.” Yes I can try my best to be a glass half-full person, but some thoughts I just cannot control.
5. “Now that your parents know how bad it is, I think it’s best if I go.”
Now that my parents are aware that I’m a total mess and super depressed about this chronic illness, you peace out? Okay, I’m a little salty about it still, but really? Fellas, if you know you don’t like someone, leave. Don’t lie to them because you think they need you.
6. “So, like, your knee hurts sometimes? That’s the big thing you had to tell me?”
When I finally work up the courage to tell the guy I’ve been on a couple dates with that I have this chronic illness, it’s kind of a big deal for me. And he doesn’t even let me get to the part where I explain it’s an autoimmune disease where my body literally attacks itself for no reason. Instead he plays it off like it’s nothing. It may be nothing for you, but for me it is a big deal. And dating someone is about listening to them and at least pretending you understand. So next time a girl wants to tell you something that’s important to her, just shut up and listen.
7. “We can like just smoke all the time if that will make the pain go away.”
…This one didn’t make it past the first date. But no, this wouldn’t work because I still have to be a functional human being and I prefer not to smell like weed 24/7. Also, RA is not one of those diseases that get medical marijuana.
8. *Uncomfortably stares at me…*
This is a solid response. The “I don’t know what to say or what this means, so I’m just not going to say anything” response. This one is okay, because you know what, I don’t think I would know what to say if a guy told me he deals with something I don’t know how to relate to. So, I suppose this response isn’t all that bad.
9. “That must be really hard, I’m here for you.”
Now, this is a nice refreshing change of pace. Rare, very rare, but it’s out there. Believing it is the challenging part. Because he may say he will be there for me when I’m sitting at the bar in my “date night” shirt with a flirty smile. But what really counts is if he is actually there when I can’t get out of bed because of the pain, or when I’m acting out because of the steroid I have to take for a week, or when I need him to brush my hair and cook for me. The one’s that are worth your time will be there for you no matter what.
Elizabeth is a recent college graduate. She’s getting ready to move to Long Island, where she’ll start grad school and clinical rotations at Stony Brook University Hospital. She plans to become a dietitian. Her hobbies include taking naps, practicing yoga, and reading with a hot cup of tea in hand.