In September last year, I turned 30. My younger self always thought I’d be married by now. In my mind, it was just how life worked. I would finish secondary school, then university, after which would come building a career, buying a house and somewhere in between all those milestones Mr. Right would appear, eventually followed by children and we would be set. Funnily enough, a complex medical condition, multitude of scars and an extra kidney did not feature in my life plan!
With a few minor exceptions, as soon as I got sick, I took dating off the table. I filed it in the back of my mind as “That’s too difficult right now, I’ll think about it later, maybe when I get better.”. I had no idea that “when I get better” would never happen. Life never went back to how it was before, it just changed. My plan for marriage and children was no longer so clear cut. I now had “issues”. Extra things to think about, to consider, to hide.
Sometimes, my mental state and self image have been so low I just haven’t bothered. The extra weight, the problem skin, the thinning hair, the scars, the random bruises, the unpredictable days when I’m too tired to move; all of these things can easily make me feel like “Well I wouldn’t want to date me, so why would he!? He can do better than me.” The familiar voice of criticism is very loud at times.
Listening to this voice lets the worry creep in. What if I did meet somebody? What if he liked me as much as I liked him? When would be the right time to say “I have kidney disease, I’ll need a transplant one day”, “I’m on dialysis and under my clothes there’s a permanent tube sticking out of me” or even “I’ve had a kidney transplant, I’m mostly totally fine but I still take fistfuls of drugs every day and I might need another kidney in ten years time”. None of those are brilliant pickup lines and I always imagine them being closely followed by a polite excuse and a swift exit. It’s not him, it’s me.
I know people often say things like “Just be honest, if he’s the right guy he won’t mind, and if he’s the wrong guy, well it’s an easy way to find out!”, but really, it’s not that simple. I’m certainly not ashamed of my illness, I know kidney disease isn’t a character flaw or personal failing. I didn’t cause it and it doesn’t make me any less worthy or deserving of meeting the right person. It’s just one part of me, but many days it still holds me back. As confident as I sometimes am, I’m also very much not. I can write a public blog, but not a dating profile. I can speak to a group, but not to that attractive stranger opposite me on the train. None of this makes sense, but there you go.
I can’t even put my finger on exactly what I’m worried about. Maybe it’s the simple fear of rejection. Of everything going well….until it isn’t. I guess I don’t want to be seen as anything other than an equal partner. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to be responsible for me, or look after me, or even donate in the future (!).
I know all of this is inside my head and not really even about finding The Right Man in the first place. It’s actually about me becoming The Right Woman. I need to reach the point where I’m ok with how things are, where I can acknowledge that my health condition is just one aspect of who I am. Yes, it exists, yes it impacts me, and yes it will have some impact on my future partner too, but overall there’s a much bigger picture, and to someone who can see it, all the medical stuff really won’t matter all that much.