A lot of people my age, 20-somethings, are afraid that dating with Lyme disease is impossible. It’s not, but I get it. You feel like a leper and all your friends are partying. Why would someone pick you over someone like you but.. healthy?
Love is blind at the beginning of every relationship. So I don’t think the problem is finding someone. You’re worried about keeping someone, right? All honeymoon phases end and we begin to see clearly and realistically. Honeymoons end even faster when one of you is sick enough to pull you two out of your dreamland and into a heavy, heavy reality. What happens at this point when your partner realizes how much work you are? How hopeless your situation sometimes seems?
I am going to be harsh here; a lot of people won’t want to stick around. But it’s not just Lyme. In this scenario, it may be your attitude.
The fact that you are asking yourself who would ever want to be with me is a sign that you should not be dating right now. Sick or not, this is a red flag that your relationships will all sit on a foundation built of insecurity. If you ask yourself this question often, then you may either keep up an act for as long as you can or constantly dissect your love until it is no more.
I think that being afraid of dating with Lyme disease may also indicate that your recovery progress is going slower than you’d like. If you are so worried about what a hypothetical partner would think of you, I am guessing you need validation from your peers. And well, sometimes when we care what our peers think, we push ourselves too hard to be what we are not. Stress can make anyone sick, let alone someone with a compromised immune system.
My friend has her own health problems that, like Lyme, are misunderstood. She ignored her doctor’s remark, “you’re going to have to be a part-time person” for a long time and crashed over and over. Her doctor’s words finally rang clear to her recently. “I have to mourn the life that I thought I’d have and love the life that I can have and actually enjoy,” she told me. She is in her grieving process now, but also excited thinking about different out-of-the-box ideas that would make a more suitable career for her while staying in the field she loves.
Don’t be ashamed of who you are. I have a good feeling you didn’t choose to be sick, even if you kick yourself for making choices that led up to a state of poor health. I bet you have even learned a lot about life that people your age just dun even know. I have met healthy, beautiful people who have body image issues, insecurities, petty values and fear of judgment from others. These fears, superficial acts, and apologetic behaviors almost insist that others view them this way. Sadly, this means they may never express who they truly are.
We humans like to compare ourselves to ideals. I don’t think being sick justifies this comparison anymore. When we hold ourselves up to these standards (standards that are not even objective) then we make it really hard to be unapologetic and genuine, and these are some of the most attractive qualities a person can have.
I’m really good at not giving a f*** because my family is pretty unapologetic. I am shameless when it comes to letting people know who I am, what I think, and all the not-so-sexy aspects of my illness. But it doesn’t really push people away. It kind of draws them to me, actually. It’s not just sick people who hide behind self-representations. So, my Lyme may make some people uncomfortable, but my shamelessness makes a lot more people put me on a pedestal.
I am high maintenance. My health is a full-time job. It is not my partner’s responsibility to tell me I will be okay, but my own. And I do take that responsibility seriously. I once had an idea of myself where I would be travelling the world and living a modest grungy life, but I am happy that I picked adaptability over romantic notions to guide my life. If I use Lyme as an excuse not to love myself, then it would be selfish for me to want anyone else to love me. Love should not be exchanged for self-esteem. Love should not be exchanged for anything.
If you are worried about dating with Lyme disease, or if you are having any issues at all with the mind-f**k that chronic illness is, then I encourage you to look inward and find a reason WHY you deserve to live well, not just how you can, for the sake of standards and other-validation.
And by the way, not everyone is compatible. Someone who cares a lot about vanity may not want to date you. But you may not want to date someone who hasn’t faced adversity and who values appearances over genuine connection. There is no right way to love. The only thing that needs to be there at the very least is self-love. Express yourself, scare away most of your options, and attract the few that deserve it (they deserve your self-disclosure, too). If you can’t stand yourself, it will be hard for others to stand you. Find a way. Sometimes it’s as simple as being kinder to yourself and acknowledging your strengths.
Dating with Lyme disease is an issue far beyond developing relationships with others. It’s more – so much about developing a relationship with yourself. And this applies to healthy people, too. It’s easier to delude yourself when your life is pretty easy. Living with Lyme disease, we kind of hit rock bottom and are forced to face ourselves more often than your average Joe. Lyme can be hell, but facing it and knowing myself to this extent is one of the few reasons why I’m happy that I got sick.
Dating with Lyme disease, at it’s best, means that you can experience a relationship where gratitude, self-validation, wisdom and optimism in the face of adversity create the foundation of your relationship.
So do some soul-searching, watch some Ted Talks like this one, and take advantage of Lyme’s life lessons before you ask that negative question.