Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keep Calm and Gutsy On

I recently met a girl who has IBD who said that only a few people in her life, outside of her family, knew about her diagnosis. She is wonderful and amazing and a good person, and it is absolutely her choice who she wants and gets to tell. But it made me think, who in my life doesn’t know I have IBD?

To answer my rhetorical question, there’s virtually no one that doesn’t know about my IBD. I guess that’s what happens when my profile picture is of my ostomy (sarcasm implied), but seriously, the people that don’t know I have Crohn’s are probably the same people that don’t know my last name or things like that. 

Gut Inspired’s topic of the month is relationships - so I thought I’d take a gander at a post on that, since my posts rarely (if ever) revolve around acting my age and thinking about boys (unless, of course it’s Patrick Dempsey than I talk about this all the time). So here goes - deep breath!

I just read a research article about social competence and kids with chronic illnesses. I wrote to the author (my friends know I’m a researcher groupie and if emailing people were a sport, I’d be a record holder) and we were emailing back and forth. His interest was more in children who had neurological damage and social competence, my interest was more in socialization with chronic illness. I was saying to him that I went from being a 12 year old to being 80 years old and that I largely missed out on interactions with my peers. And because of this I straddle the line of young person/old person and perhaps even the socially unaware person. By socially unaware I mean that I have absolutely 0 skills in flirting or being able to recognize flirting (I don’t just write this because my parents read this - hi Mom and Dad!), and not that I stand in the middle of the grocery store aisle unaware of the passing carts. 

At heart I feel like I’m still 12 years old and waiting for junior high to begin, when I thought there’d be boys asking me to dances and so on an so forth, all of those things that you see in the movies. But life isn’t a movie and the only men in my life have been old guys in lab coats. Maybe also in part because of the nature of the illness, it’s a private part of your body that suddenly everyone in the medical world has access to just because of their profession. 

This is likely an unfair statement - however - I think there are a lot of great men, but not as much great young men, it’s a growing process for all of us. It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy of love or some other Oprah/Dr. Phil segment, but being in a relationship where a partner has a chronic illness is something to consider. Even though I’m doing great right now (knock on wood), we all know the pendulum swings at will and we don’t know we’re sick until it’s knocked us flat on our backs. And I don’t care about the ostomy, it’s certainly the kind of thing that you’d need to show someone to explain it, but that’s fine with me, as they say, those who mind don’t matter, those who matter don’t mind. Yet - it doesn’t make it easier finding that person.

Step number one is finding a good guy. Clearly. I can’t have this imaginary conversation and be accepted if there’s no one on the other end. And part of the vacant boyfriend position is residing in the hospital for so long - and unfortunately I don’t consider the old men on the floor as part of my dating prospects (though in that case it could be like the Medical Bachelorette). I think honesty  in the best thing - but with that said, dosing is important (aka I will need to restrain myself from explaining a protocolectomy on our first date, whoever this poor soul will be!). I so desperately want someone to say to me that it all doesn’t matter, but I know it does. I would never want a relationship - of any kind - to be focused on being sick. Because I am not sick. I have a chronic illness, but that’s not who I am. 

I want the whole thing - the white picket fence, the five kids, the dogs playing in the yard. But whoever I’m supposed to be with is out there somewhere in this big wide world, and who knows, maybe he’s even reading this tonight.


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