Thursday, February 16, 2012

Illness Doesn't Rhyme With Romance

Another failed romance just in time for Valentine’s Day…

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that one thing I really struggle with is relationships with men.  I really didn’t start dating until after I got sick, which I think has caused the two things to become inseparable for me.  It’s like I can’t look at one without examining the other.

For me, graduate school has been overwrought by my health issues.  Plain and simple.  How could I fully enjoy grad school when my entire time here has involved re-inventing my life?  It has been a constant struggle, but I’ve managed to stay afloat.

I can’t really say that as far as romantic relationships are concerned. 

I met a guy at a friend’s party.  We met within the first five minutes and literally spent the rest of the night talking.  I’ve never had such an instant connection with someone before.  And it was really nice to meet someone in-person first and not online.  And we began what would turn out to be a very short-lived relationship.  He was the first graduate student I’ve ever dated, which I guess is kind of weird.  It was nice to feel like we were in the same place in our lives. 

And I had a moment with this guy.  A moment of absolute truth.  I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my whole life.  And I’ve never voiced these feelings out loud to anyone before.  It was me, completely laid bare, laying it on the line, and having to be okay with the results of my brutal honesty.  “I’m so pissed off right now.  This fucking sucks.  Why can’t one thing just be normal?  Am I really worth all of this effort?”

I said it, and didn’t want to eat my words.  I said it, he listened.  And comforted.  And that’s not why things ended. 

Getting hurt hurts.  It’s not fun to realize that you just entered that conversation.  That things are ending.

A loss is a loss.  You’re brought into someone else’s world, if only for a brief moment, and then that’s it.  And what do you do with the thoughts and feelings that occurred during that time?

Since my ex-boyfriend dumped me a year ago, for me, dating has been a series of missteps after missteps.  What if I’m alone forever?  What if my ex-boyfriend was the best, closest thing to love that I am ever going to get? 

I realized something recently.  At one point, I would be intimate with someone only after they knew about my illnesses.  Maybe I feel this way because I’ve shared something so deep about myself, that it’s okay to bare it all.  But what happens, then, when you want a relationship to move forward, but you don’t feel like disclosing?

That’s not really the issue here because I got a call from my doctor when I was with him.  He could tell that I was distressed by the phone call, which was to tell me about abnormal labs.  So the circumstances required that I be honest with him. 

Again, I’m reminded that just because a guy is okay with the illness baggage, for one, it doesn’t mean he’s the one, and two, the relationship has to last long enough that that treatment turns into behavior and action. 

I think a lot of people look at me and see someone who is fiercely independent, that doesn’t need a man.  And the truth is, I guess I don’t need one.  But I want one. 

But the reality is, I cannot be spontaneous in the way that other 20-somethings can.  I have meds to take and things that I have to think about that take precedence over movies and dinner dates and sex.  I talk more about this in my HealthCentral post this month, on Sex and RA. 

All that said, I celebrated the single girl’s Valentine’s Day, complete with chocolate, strawberries, and the usual side of meds. 

But I am more than this moment.  And I am more than these illnesses.  And someday, I will meet someone who sees me and loves me for me.

(As for the most recent labs, my rheum thinks that it’s because of when I had the labs drawn and when I had taken Methotrexate.  I honestly don’t believe that theory because of how high the liver enzymes were, but if he thinks I’m fine to stay on MTX for now, I’m not going to argue, because it’s working.)


  1. i'm so glad i found your blog! i don't read a whole lot and skim most that i do, but i actually find myself connecting with you and where you're at which each post i've read. i started reading last week and with each post i read i find myself being encouraged about how open you are here and for saying things that i've never been able to talk about out loud. it's hard to find a listening voice that really "gets it". anyways, just wanted to let you know i'm listening and supporting from a far

  2. I agree with Jamie! Leslie, thanks for doing this blog. I connect to every post I read (and I read them all). Personally, I have kind of surrendered to illness. Its just temporary..I just got so sick of busting my ass and not getting I'm taking some time out from the stress and pressure of making plans (and most of the time needing to cancel). Too many people were disappointed by my bailing too many times..although I'm used to it, its hard on them and thus unfair. So instead I've let these relationships dissolve. Its lose-lose really. I have intentions to try to revive them at some point but for now I surrender to the isolation and am reconnecting with peace, working on acceptance. You're awesome, Leslie. Dating blows. I've often wondered if the last, and truly only serious, relationship I had was the best one I'll ever have...the planets were aligned and somehow everything just worked despite my illness... Now if I do the online dating thing I feel obligated to divulge my illness right off the bat, which is why I haven't been on those sites the last few years. I have nothing going on..just getting through each day, how attractive is that? Frick. Oh well.. things will get better. Hang in there.

  3. I got dumped two weeks before Valentine's Day. I'd love to find a way to make a relationship work despite my having lupus!

  4. You are right. Someday you will find that person who sees you and loves you.

  5. Great post, Leslie.

    "Again, I’m reminded that just because a guy is okay with the illness baggage, for one, it doesn’t mean he’s the one, and two, the relationship has to last long enough that that treatment turns into behavior and action." Exactly!

    You absolutely are more than your illnesses, and keeping true to that is so important.

  6. Such a meaningful post, Leslie. Thank you, once again, for baring your soul and sharing it with all of us.

    Everything I'd like to say about dating is negated by the fact that I was with my husband for over a decade before I was hit with a significant chronic illness. But here goes: My romantic history taught me that it's better to be strong enough to be alone than to settle for a bad relationship, and that eventually we usually meet the right people. You're an amazing young woman, Leslie, and you deserve an equally amazing partner. They can be few and far between, but I believe you'll find one.

  7. "And I am more than these illnesses. And someday, I will meet someone who sees me and loves me for me."

    Absolutely agree. Only time will tell and your illness has a reason that only time also can tell.:)

    Take care,
    Peny@medical uniforms