Dating with a Disease - Part One: Can/Should I?
OK, with everything I’ve written about over the years, you had to know I’d cover this part of my life too. Not because I enjoy talking about me, but because I know this is something on the minds of many people who battle Multiple Sclerosis. Regardless of their age or the severity of their symptoms, everyone is entitled to and usually desires love. I’m no different, and as I recently said, despite some less than great experiences, I very much believe in love. So I figured I’d tackle this subject in several parts and talk about experiences and thoughts I’ve had on the subject. Some of the first things that come to mind when I think about dating with my disease, are the questions “Can I?” and “Should I?”. For people like me, those aren’t as easy as they sound.
Can I really consider dating with MS?
Depending on your level of progression, that’s a legitimate question. Can I logistically date with MS? This is a disease that is infamous when it comes to mobility issues. Many people use wheelchairs, canes, or walkers to get around. Even those without a mobility aid can have difficulty standing or walking for long periods of time. I’m supposed to use a cane, but, wrongly, I try to get by without it a lot (wall walking, sitting a lot, leaning, etc). So it may not be apparent at first, but getting around is extremely difficult for me (even when I do use the cane). The fact that my issues are not that visible causes its own brand of awkwardness. “Wanna take a walk in the park?” “Um, no thank you, how about we, uh, sit here, yeah, sit here?” Along with that, many of us don’t drive, which makes even going to meet someone near impossible, regardless of the activity.
Mobility isn’t the only issue, temperature is a big problem too. “Let’s go to the beach!” “ Um, let’s not.” “Wait, so what about talking on the phone, that’s a thing that people that date do, right?” “Um, well, we can try, but I’ll be very uneasy about it.” Even having a simple conversation with a new person can be difficult depending on my level of cog fog. Making and keeping plans is a notoriously big problem for those with MS too. People tend to frown on you when you cancel a lot, especially early on in a relationship.
How can I get them to know me?
When I list off all the potential issues, it seems pretty crazy to consider dating someone, right? Even the most understanding of people might have trouble with any one of those issues. That’s a fact, because I’ve seen it with plenty of understanding friends and family, who actually know all about my struggles. Explaining those struggles to someone new is tough, not to mention, who wants to say they can’t do this or that because of their disease? How would that work out for someone like me when there are already a lot of able-bodied folks out there in the dating pool? Sure, despite my issues, I’m a pretty decent guy, but the scary and hard part for me, is how can I get them to know me, and know me for more than my disease? It’s possible, but it certainly isn’t easy.
Should I date with this disease?
This sounds like an easy answer, right? Of course I should, everyone deserves to find love and happiness. That is great in theory, but, I admit, I hate relying on people. Realistically, as I get older, I’ll need to rely even more on people. While that’s true for everyone, it’s a bit more sped up for me. More than the feeling of having to rely on someone else, I fear being a burden to others. When I was married, that was a constant struggle for me. My marriage ended for a lot of reasons, but me pushing her away was certainly one of them. It’s easy to feel like a burden even when you aren’t one. One of the biggest issues for me, is if I really begin to love someone, why would I want to subject them to all of this? All of these problems that can arise from my disease. It’s not a pity party, it’s that when you genuinely care for someone, no matter what they say, you don’t want to subject them to all of that, you don’t want to burden them. That’s a big issue I have.
OK, so what are the answers?
The easy thing to say, is that of course I can and should date. I respect my audience too much to just make that blanket statement though. I think regular readers know that I’m not a sugar coating/forced positivity kind of guy, I try to be more realistic. If you really want to find another human being to be with (and believe it or not, there are many people who are very happy without that), then yes, you should do it. It is not going to be easy, but everyone can date. I really do believe there is someone for everyone. Just as it does with everything else, MS will make it a bit more difficult. That’s ok though, because if you battle this disease, you’re already used to things not being easy, so in the long run, you will be fine. As for the “should you?” question, of course, you should, it’s ok to be doubtful at times, but remember that no matter what is wrong with you physically, you have a lot to offer. Just fighting this disease makes you a stronger and more interesting person than a lot of people out there, always remember that. So if you want to find love, go for it. As I said earlier, there is a lot more to cover on this topic, so please look out for future chapters of this! (Check out Part 2!)
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We want to check in. How are you feeling?