Looks can be deceiving.
Dating was supposed to look like the rom-coms I loved growing up. I wanted my foot to pop like Mia’s in “The Princess Diaries.” Maybe the popular guy would actually notice me and we’d fall madly in love, like in “A Cinderella Story.” I wanted to love and to be loved unconditionally. Yeah, I’m one of those people.
At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell I have Type 1 diabetes. I’m pretty slim, I eat like a 6'4" quarterback and I live a perfectly normal lifestyle. Unfortunately, my illness takes up a big part of my life, which can be hard to explain to a newcomer in my life.
I was diagnosed on November 19, 2009. At the time, health was the farthest thing from my mind. What other health thing besides her period would a teenage girl need to stress about? Instead of crying at the hospital because of the reality that I now had a chronic disease to control, I sobbed because I was being held overnight and there was a possibility that I would not be able to use my pre-purchased tickets for the premiere of “New Moon.” What can I say? I was a teenage girl. My priorities consisted of two things in 2009: “Twilight” movies and boys.
In high school, I didn’t tell many of my friends about my diabetes because I didn’t want anyone to suddenly feel sorry for me. I’ve always been relatively shy and wanted to fly under the radar. To this day, many of my family members and friends still don’t know.
It wasn’t until I started dating that I began opening up about my illness. I felt that if I wanted to be open and vulnerable with someone I was dating, I needed to reveal this big part of my life. I prepared myself for any questions a possible suitor might have: “No, it wasn’t because I was overweight or had too many donuts. Yes, I have to stick myself with needles three times a day. No, it doesn’t hurt.”
Being the optimist I am, I was hoping to find a boyfriend who’d embrace me and my illness. It took a while for me to find a great boyfriend who actually helps with my diabetes and genuinely cares about my wellbeing, but it was definitely a long journey. In a lot of cases, people found my invisible illness to be extra “baggage.” But in all reality, it’s just a part of my life that I can control, but not change.
Here’s why dating with an invisible illness sucks sometimes.
“Eww…do you have to take your medicine right now?”
For some reason, one of my ex-boyfriends thought that my illness was gross. If I had to take an insulin shot and wasn’t able to go to the bathroom to do it, he would freak out and start acting squeamish. I get it: Some people have a fear of needles. At one point in time, I did, too. But if you’re in a relationship with someone, don’t make a big deal about something they really can’t control, like how they’re instructed to take their medicine.
Because I was young (and very, very stupid), I stopped giving myself the shots during this time. Consequently, I landed at Children’s Hospital in the ICU.
Moral of this story: Don’t jeopardize your health to please someone else. Also, don’t date them. They’re not worth it.
“But you don’t look sick…”
After I had moved on from that jerk, I started getting to know a guy I had previously worked with. We would always take lunch breaks together, but had never made any advancements. Finally, he asked me out. A few days before our date, I started feeling very sick. I ended up postponing our date and went to the doctor’s office. Initially, my doctor assumed I had kidney stones and wanted me to get a sonogram to make sure everything was normal. I kept having to postpone dates to get sonograms and MRIs, but I explained to my would-be suitor that I’d be ready to go out whenever the mysterious thing making me sick was gone.
On Valentine’s Day 2012, I found out I had a tumor on my liver the size of my fist. I texted my new flame a long paragraph explaining my tumor and apologizing for having to miss our proposed dates. His reply? “Sure, yeah right.” I was so confused. Did he not believe me? Did he need a doctor’s note? Had I somehow violated his trust? I asked him those same questions and never received an answer.
For some reason, when you have an illness and try explain that to someone, a lot of people assume you’re supposed to show very obvious symptoms. What was I supposed to do, wear a T-shirt that said “Diabetic Diamond” or “Tumor Temptress” so potential suitors knew my situation upfront? I think not.
Your loss, pal. I’m now tumor free and cute af.
“Do you need anything? Are you sure? Are you positive?”
Once I got older, I started only dating guys I viewed as mature. Only mature guys wuld understand the complex world of invisible illnesses and would understand how to be a supportive lover. Finally, I met someone in college and thought I had hit the jackpot.
Unfortunately, the person I found was a little overbearing. I was very thankful to him for being there and sticking with me even when he knew my health required a little more attention. But it became frustrating when he started treating me like an actual baby. I’m talking cutting up food for me and trying to help wipe up any accidental spills I may have made. I get that it’s the thought that counts, but please don’t put too much thought into it, buddy.
I’m a big girl?—?I know how to cut my food and wipe up wine spills. The last thing any adult wants is to be treated like an infant. You can bet your butt that relationship ended quickly.
“So…there’s been something I’ve been meaning to tell you…”
After these trainwreck relationships (or lack thereof), I started becoming very guarded. I know, I know: That’s a big no-no. I didn’t want to set myself up for the heartache I would encounter whenever a guy mistreated or misunderstood me because of my illnesses. I had a new dating mentality: Keep your illnesses a secret.
The plan worked until one date thought I was trying to run out of the date early when he saw me take my purse into the bathroom with me. I took longer than usual because I couldn’t find my insulin needles in my cluttered bag, and that made him think he had done something wrong. That’s when I realized that my insecurity affected those around me?—?including the guys I dated.
I couldn’t let the issues I was internalizing prey on someone else’s insecurities. I realized that not telling someone a big part of my life was selfish on my part. Like I said, I’m a big girl?—?I know how to recognize my faults and own up to my errors.
Of course, some people just aren’t going to get it.
And that’s okay! If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years from my dating life, it’s that not everyone is going to understand your lifestyle with an invisible illness and not everyone is willing to be patient with you. The people like that are just not meant for you, and that’s okay. As the great philosopher Jay-Z said, “On to the next one.”
There’s someone out there who will love you with your “baggage.” All those other lame-os can kick rocks with open-toed shoes.