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 and university. Then I would build a career, buy a house and somewhere in between all those milestones Mr. Right would appear. He would eventually be 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 “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. Nobody should feel like they have to be responsible for me, 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.
Holly thank you so much for sharing such an honest account of your journey with kidney disease. I would love to share this on the Kidney Health NZ page if you are OK with that, I think it is worth sharing. Let me know if that is ok with you.
Thank you for raising awareness and telling your story.
Thanks for your comment, I’m really glad people are finding it valuable! Yes, you’re more than welcome to share it on the Kidney Health NZ page!
I felt like I wrote this myself!! So true and yet so hard for “normal” people to understand. Thanks for writing this, fellow warrior!
Holly, thanks for writing this wonderful article. I would like to add that it does not only apply to dating but to just about every relationship including family, friends and work. Everybody has “issues” and all we can do is be open and honest while we are trying to achieve any of our goals. I believe diabetes, dialysis and transplantation has given me greater insight to myself and others and therefore made me a more compassionate person. Good luck in all you pursue.
What beautiful insight. My 17 year old daughter was just transplanted 2 weeks ago. She refuses to even consider dating or marriage someday. This gives me some understanding.
Wow… as if u read my mind. Going through exactly the same phase .its actually not at all normal for others to take it normally . Still trying to figure out how to accept this myself.
I would like to say well done, I have a similar story impacted upon by looking after my 95 year old mum with dementia which did help my case for dating, I was looking after her when my condition (hereditary ckd) grew worse due to high blood pressure and I started dialysis in earnest but couldn’t cope looking after mum as well, I now am a transplant recipient and mum is no longer around, thats another story, but still find like yourself being body conscious that i am not right for female companionship let alone a proper relationship. I think you have just touched the tip of the iceberg for others and not only Kidney patients either.
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