Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chronic Illness and Dating

Since I became ill at a young age, I never had the chance to date before I was ill. While I cannot actually compare how these things may be differ from when a person is healthy, I think it is safe to say that illness complicates dating and relationships.

Becoming ill before my first date was tough. Breaking the awkward silence of a first date is especially difficult when you are completely lost in fibro fog.

I often wondered if I would ever be able to get married. Who would want to spend the rest of his life with someone who was sick? Not to mention dating itself was energy intensive. And how was I supposed to meet anyone when I barely had time for a social life?

I didn’t date much, and I’ll spare you the details of my unsuccessful attempts. Let’s just say that fibro fog and leaving my dates to carry all the weight were the biggest problems.

Ready for the story with the happy ending? 

I met my husband through mutual friends at college. For awhile, we were just friends. With chronic illness, friends are hard to come by and even harder to keep, so I was just happy to have another friend.

We remained good friends for a couple of years. He was laid back and didn’t mind just hanging out and watching an old movie. He found out about my illness and was actually interested in learning more. He thought I was amazing for sticking it out; I thought he was amazing for believing me and showing interest.

I think having mutual friends and knowing each other for awhile made things easier. We trusted each other and he knew that I made the most of the energy I had. As we got to know each other he realized that I wasn’t the type of person who was lazy or would try and get attention.

He finally asked me out after we had been friends for almost two years. Since we had been friends for awhile, there wasn’t an issue with awkward silence. He already knew about my illness and was used to the fog. Of course it wasn’t a perfect relationship--it is always going to be hard when one person is never feeling well, is always out of it, and can become crabby at times (that person being me of course, in case that wasn’t clear…I admit it--I am not always a bowl of sunshine). It took some effort to make things work and I had to learn to communicate better (still learning, actually). With a little work, things turned out well. 

He proposed after I graduated college and we have been married three years now.

So, it is possible to meet the one even after becoming ill with such a debilitating illness. I won’t lie--it’s not easy. Meeting someone, having the energy to date, and being able to make it work can take a lot of effort. It can be hard for both people.

I know it is hard for my husband, especially since I have become sicker since we got married. He now has to take care of me, and I honestly didn’t think my symptoms would ever get as bad as they have. 

Sometimes I feel terrible, thinking I ruined his life. I wish I had known more about this illness before. But I try to remember that marriage is for better or worse. This is the worse, and if we can get through this, we can get through anything.

Do you think it is harder to be single or in a relationship when living with chronic illness? Do you have any tips for others in either situation?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stuck at the Fair

Living with these illnesses can be like being stuck at a bad fair.  We want to get off of the wild rides, and we are tired of playing the games.  The smell of the food makes us sick, and the music hurts our ears.  We want to get out, but we can’t find the exit and get trampled by the crowds. 

The ups and downs of the severity of our symptoms is a roller coaster.  We are strapped in our seats and we just want to get off the ride.  Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, yet we never get used to the ride and still want off.

Trying to judge our limits is like trying to hit a moving target in one of those fair games.  We keep playing and thinking we surely have it this time, only to find out that we overdid it again, and missed the mark. Symptoms change frequently and it may feel like we are constantly playing a game of Whack-a-Mole.  Every time we get one symptom under control, another one or two pop up.

Suddenly we find ourselves in the House of Mirrors, lost in fibro fog.  It is hard to find our way out and everything seems distorted.

We may get stuck on the Tilt-a-Whirl, spinning around and around.  But the dizziness doesn’t subside after we get off.  Minutes go by and still the world is spinning.  For those of us with orthostatic intolerance, it may feel like we live on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Somehow we end up in the side show acts and find ourselves lying on a beds of nails, only it really is as painful as it looks.  And we find ourselves with swords down our throats, which are already sore and raw.  The pain pierces through us.  Maybe we find ourselves the unwilling assistant to the magician who puts us in a box and puts swords through it.  Unfortunately, we feel each blade as it painfully penetrates us.

It is like we are trapped on the ferris wheel and every time it goes to the bottom, we think we may finally get off. Instead it keeps going, like the many hopes that we may finally get better...finally find a treatment that works...finally get to live our lives.

Do you have a metaphor that you like to use for your illness or symptoms?