The Phoenix Zine

Coming Out of the Closet: Telling Your Date About Your Chronic Illness

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Time after time, I find myself confronted with the same question: how do I tell the guy I’m interested in about my medical issues?

Valentines Day is three weeks away, and as the focus shifts to hearts, flowers and finding or celebrating the love of your life; I struggle again with how to answer my own question.

In the past, I’ve always been upfront. First date = full disclosure time.

This approach has lead to a variety of reactions. Highlights include one date disclosing his own invisible chronic illness. A lowlight was when another date reacted by saying at least I still had my health, a clear sign he wasn’t really listening to what I was saying in the first place.

Even if I tell my date about the fundamentals, meaning the liver transplant, the heart problem and the Glycogen Storage Disease, I still feel like it is not enough. The early disclosure is more for me than my date because if I am going to be rejected by the guy I’m interested in for medical reasons, I would rather it happen sooner rather than later.

However, I’m often not sure if the guy fully understands what the fundamentals really mean. Therefore, further disclosure involves connecting the dots for my date. Heart problems lead (in my case) to heart failure and as a result having a baby carries great risk for me. However, talking about future children you and your date may or may not have is not exactly the best conversation starter.

The whole situation feels like an elaborate poker game. I’ve been dealt what I think my date will consider to be a losing hand, and instead of trying to bluff my way through I simply lay down my cards and let my date conclude what he will.

In seeing a new relationship this way I forget two important things. The first is everyone has unfavourable cards to lay on the table. Although it may be difficult to believe, everyone has something about them they feel makes it impossible for others to love them. Just because having a chronic illness is more evident than other problems does not make me unlovable or not worth loving.

And second, a guy who rejects me because of my medical problems and the consequences of those problems is not a guy I should be in a relationship with anyway. What I need is a guy who realises I am more than my illness, and that because of my illness I have a greater sense of empathy and a bigger heart (figuratively and literally) to love with.

What irritates me most are commercials seeking to convince me if I don’t have my health, I don’t have anything. I don’t have my health, but my life is blessed with family, friends, love and continual opportunities to learn and grow despite and sometimes because of that fact. Those are the things that make life worth living and in the future I will look for a man who feels the same way.

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