Since I’ve lived just outside of the New York City area, I’ve always thought of the New York Times as my home newspaper. And while I will not be getting into any political discussions about the NYTimes, I am going to discuss a recent advice column that basically said a young woman should be very hesitant about dating someone with a chronic illness, specifically my main chronic illness called Crohn’s disease. And in many ways, some of her words go passed hesitant, to the point of someone like me only being a burden to a future caregiver.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth for so many reasons, and I’ll be sharing a few reasons why, plus one HUGE piece of advice for anyone with a chronic illness that is confronted by someone not continuing a relationship because of their illness.
Above is the question by a young woman. But before I get started, I just want to say how distasteful the artwork of the NYTimes is. Especially given the current climate and life being harder than it normally is, it depicts a helpless man with an IV being dumped. Waving goodbye while his heartbreaks. I’m even finding it hard to put my frustration and disappointment in the NYTimes into words. So maybe I will just leave it at that for this POOR choice of graphics.
Here was Kwame Anthony Appiah’s response to the question in his advice column.
So, now I’ll jump in more. Life with a chronic illness can be managed, it can even be very very good. Instead, this response painted those living with inflammatory bowel disease, and any chronic illness for that matter in a negative light, like there is no hope, and that there will likely only be one outcome in that person’s future, caregiver. It makes it sound like there will never be ANY good days and only continual bad days when the sunrises.
First, living with a chronic illness is tough at times. I will acknowledge that because it’s something that can’t be ignored. But that doesn’t mean the people who are living with a chronic illness aren’t tough also. Many times those with a chronic illness have grown invisible muscles to deal with adversity throughout the day. Muscles to deal with the pain and still push through to enjoy life.
I know that my days right now are okay. We’re living through a difficult time and I would be lying if I said I was doing great. But even at “okay” I’m still going about my day it isn’t impacting my life or my wife one bit. There are an incredible amount of Spoonies out there who have developed these invisible muscles as well, and it makes them very dateable.
Additionally, my chronic illness didn’t impact my dating much at all. Why? Because I was positive about it and had a positive approach to taking care of it. My wife and I had a conversation early on in our relationship about why she’s able to date me, a guy with severe Crohn’s, asthma, arthritis, and an ostomy.
Her answer was simple, she knew I was always going to do everything I can to take care of my body and mind to overcome the challenges I face, in order to make them easier for us to face them together. She witnesses me putting in the time every day to manage my illnesses. She watches me go through my nightly routine every evening to set up the following day for both mind and body. And watches me wake up early to get ahead of my illnesses and go through my morning routine to start the day off right.
Since she’s seen this from the beginning, she knows that whatever our future holds, I will have done everything I could to give us the best shot. And in reality, that is all we can do. One of my best friends, a former competitive triathlete with sponsors, and a model of perfect health was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It kept me up all night when she told me and I’m heartbroken about the fight she has ahead. In some ways, maybe a chronic illness is a good challenge because you know what’s ahead at least. But my point is, none of us know what is ahead, whether we have a chronic illness or not, just be with someone you love because there will always be challenges.
LASTLY AND MY BIG TIP TO ANYONE WITH A CHRONIC ILLNESS.
Right before my ostomy surgery, I went out with a good friend of mine who actually happened to be a casual X too. She’s a genuinely amazing person and I could always count on her for honest advice while not holding back details on a question. I told her that I was about to have ostomy surgery and how scared I was that it would change my life forever and no woman would ever date me. I told her everything.
Brian, your Crohn’s disease. Your ostomy. Those aren’t going to keep you from being with the “right” one. Your Crohn’s disease. Your ostomy. They will keep you from being with the “wrong” one! And that is so much more important.
That always stuck with me and even after everything my Crohn’s disease put me through. After everything, I had to learn about living with an ostomy. After all the hurdles I had to jump through to get to this point in my life. I can say that I’M NOT A BURDEN. I’M ACTUALLY QUITE THE CATCH!
And so are you. If you’re reading this and you have any chronic illness, know that you matter and you will matter to someone (if you don’t already have that special someone). Not someone who will think of you as a charity case or someone who made a poor decision that they now have to live with.
You will be with someone who loves you for everything that you’re. Love you through the good and the bad. The healthy and the sick. The rough nights at home and the even tougher nights in the hospital. And along most of the journey, your chronic illness will not take over your relationship and it will be filled with smiles, laughs, and love the entire time.