Dear Daisy: How Can I Date & Meet People When I’m Chronically Ill & Living At Home?

Dear Daisy: How Do I Date When I'm Chronically Ill?

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by Grazia |

Dear Daisy is our agony aunt column, where Daisy Buchanan answers all of your big questions, from how to be more assertive to how to move on from sexual assault. Daisy's first job in journalism in her twenties was on the problems page at Bliss Magazine. This week she tackles dating when you're chronically ill...

Dear Daisy,

**Two years ago I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis - it was hard to come to terms with and my life changed drastically. My relationship broke down (I am no longer able to have sex), I spend a lot of the time feeling depressed and in pain (both of which I am being treated for). I had to give up work and now survive on benefits. I have few friends as I had to move back in with family so they can keep an eye on me. I’m 45 years of age and feel like my life is over. **

I long to meet a good guy and settle down but internet dating and Tinder is not for me. I’ve been on a few dates but the minute they find out about my illness (which isn’t curable by the way) and the fact I can’t have an intimate relationship, they can’t get away fast enough. I’d love to snuggle up to someone and spoon, enjoy fun days out and laugh again but how can I?

Nicky

Dear Nicky,

Firstly, I’m totally in awe of how proactive you’re being. I’m terrified that I sound horribly condescending, but you have more to contend with than almost anyone I know, and you want to make your life better. You must be mentally and physically worn out, but you know your life isn’t over at all. Even on the worst days, there’s a tiny seed of hope there - part of you that knows you could be happier and that you deserve to be and you’re going to make it so. That means you’re astonishingly strong, and the strong are the ones who change their lives and make things happen (I think that was the take-home message from The Terminator.)

I have friends with chronic conditions or health issues that mean they spend a lot of time with doctors, or in hospital, and the point they all return to is that the whole process is completely dehumanising. They stress that the medical professionals who treat them are incredible - but to a point, you’re reduced to numbers on a chart. You’re the sum of your blood pressure, a reading on a machine, and you’re poked, prodded and wired up. You forget yourself - and who’s going to remind you?

You deserve nothing less than a loving, funny partner who adores you, understands you and is prepared to embrace every part of your world - the wonderful bits and the tough bits. You must long for touch that isn’t practical or professional. When you write about spooning, the yearning is palpable. But before you look for love, I think it would help you to widen your social circle.

It sounds daunting, but I think you need some friends who will help you figure out who you are and what you love, and how to rediscover the parts of yourself that has been buried since your diagnosis. To remind you that you’re not Nicky-With-The-Incurable-Medical-Condition, or Nicky-Who-Lives-With-Her-Parents. You might be Nicky-Who-Secretly-Loves-Home-And-Away, or Nicky-Who-Is-Discovering-A-Surprising-Latent-Talent-For-The-Ukelele.

Tinder can be great if you’re dating casually (or barely dating at all) but I don’t think you can find what you need right now by swiping. However, please don’t be put off the internet - there are warm, welcoming corners of it where you’ll discover communities of like-minded people and start to build friendships. Social media has a terrible reputation, but I have found it invaluable when I’ve experienced periods of personal isolation and needed human connection. People on Instagram will be friendly and chatty if you simply take a picture of some pasta and tag it #dinner. (If you’re on Twitter, say hey! I’ll follow you and send you my very best puppy gifs.) Online, I’ve made friends I would have never encountered ‘IRL’, and we’ve bonded over shared passions and jokes in a way that means as much to me as it does when it happens at work or at parties.

Sometimes I meet people offline (I married one of someone I met IRL) and sometimes I just check in with them over the internet on the regular. There are definite drawbacks to meeting people via a screen, but there are advantages too. The biggest one being that you can let your personality shine and meet whole groups of people from your own sofa - people who will take you as you present yourself. You can let them know your whole story if and when you’re ready, but for now, focus on having fun and rediscovering what it feels like to be carefree for a moment.

As a dating writer I talk to lots of people who are looking for love. Their personal circumstances are hugely varied but the advice I give is broadly similar. No-one will ever complete you, or fix you. You have to love your own company before you’ll find anyone who will love you properly and truly. If you feel like you’re not enough on your own and you’re searching for romance, you’ll still attract people, but they will be the wrong sort of people - the ones who want to bring you down instead of building you up. The moment when we’re actually ready to fall in love always falls the very second after we stop feeling like we ‘need’ it.

I promise that there’s someone, probably several someones, out there who are ready to fall in love with you and strong and smart enough to find joy and contentment in a relationship without penetrative sex. I know this because you are strong and smart enough to identify what you want, and look to the future. You deserve someone who is incredibly special, and wise. They’re going to be hard to find. They should be. But if you focus on your own happiness and fun, I’m sure you’ll draw them near.

With lots of love and luck,

Daisy X

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