Dating with an Invisible Illness

In a perfect world, dating, maintaining relationships, being social and making new friends can be a challenge. When you suffer with an invisible illness, these challenges are magnified a hundred fold. If family and friends don’t understand what you’re going through, how will someone new be able to?

Dating is all about first impressions, keeping the conversation flowing, expressing interest, and finding commonalities. Let’s take a look at how invisible illness affects these components of dating:

First Impressions – When brushing your teeth or hair is a physical challenge, it’s impossible to put forth the effort needed to look stunning for a night on the town. If your body is attacking itself, “looking good” is not high on your list of priorities.

Keeping the Conversation Flowing – You’re out of the loop on current events, couldn’t care less about who was just voted off the island, and don’t remember the last concert or sporting event you’ve attended. Your illness consumes your life, and your quest for diagnosis, treatment and understanding don’t rate highly as date conversation topics.

Expressing Interest – Even if you enjoy the companionship and find your date intriguing, expressing interest is a challenge. You simply don’t have the energy to be interested in anything or anyone outside the realm of your diagnosis and healing.

Finding Commonalities – If you’re having trouble keeping the conversation flowing, it’s not likely that you’ll discover what common interests, dreams, and goals you share with your date.

While dating with an invisible illness is certainly possible, building and maintaining a relationship while starting at ground zero often poses insurmountable challenges. Remember, family and friends “knew you when” and have a vested interest in your life. It’s hard for someone new to see the real you – especially when you’ve lost sight of yourself.

What were my personal experiences?  I was unable to sustain any relationship past the third or fourth date.  My energy was zapped and I just couldn’t focus on anything else but getting well.

What challenges is your invisible illness presenting for dating and relationships in your life? Share your comments, or email me at info@goodhealthcoach.com. I would love to learn more about you.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Week Intro

The Not So Invisible Costs of Having an Undiagnosed or Invisible Illness

The Great Divide:  How Undiagnosed, Misdiagnosed and Invisible Illnesses Effect Family and Friends

Employed with an Invisible Illness

Employed with an Invisible Illness

If you’re suffering with an invisible illness, the effect on your career can be devastating.  Being sick takes its toll on your wallet, too, and before you know it you’re caught up in a whirlwind of co-pays, prescriptions, supplements, or alternative treatments, making your need for an income more vital than ever.

The problem is that it’s a challenge to will your body to cooperate each morning when the alarm makes its presence known.  You feel as though you haven’t slept at all, and greet the day with joint pain, cramping, nausea, or a blinding headache. You literally force your body from the bed, and then ask its permission to function.  Something so simple as brushing your teeth or combing your hair can be quite a challenge.  For me, taking a shower was like living a nightmare.  The hives and subsequent hours of itching made me dread the shower like the plague.

And what about actually interacting with your coworkers?  By the time you get there, you’re exhausted from the morning fiasco and it takes all you have to start working.  I was unable to focus and found my mind wandering to the time when I could finally escape and go home.  Each minute seemed like an hour.

Lucky for me, I was able to get by and keep my job.  I became a master at making it appear as though it’d taken me weeks to finish a project when in actuality I’d buckled down and completed it in a few hours.  What did I do the rest of the workdays?  I took stolen naps whenever I could or started at my screen and pretended to work.   I can only imagine what would’ve happened if I’d ultimately been unable to perform.

How is your invisible illness affecting your career?   Have you been unable to attend work regularly?  Or perhaps you’ve endured comments from your coworkers about how good you look (translation:  you don’t look sick….yeah, right).  Share your comments, or email me at info@goodhealthcoach.com. I would love to learn more about your health journey.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Intro

The Not so Invisible Cost of Having an Invisible or Undiagnosed Illness

The Great Divide:  How Undiagnosed, Misdiagnosed and Invisible Illnesses Effect Family and Friends

The Great Divide: How Undiagnosed, Misdiagnosed, and Mystery Illnesses Effect Family and Friends

Familial relationships and friendships can be a challenge to maintain even when your body is functioning at peak performance. So, what happens to these relationships when your body becomes ravaged by the symptoms of an invisible or mystery illness?

Your Symptoms are only the Beginning

Initially, family and friends offer sympathy. They believe that you are suffering, and provide comfort and support. With good intentions, they pay a visit laden with casseroles, heating pads and analgesics – all short-term remedies designed to help “until you get back on your feet.” During the early stages, missing social functions, taking a few days off work, and having a messy house is totally acceptable. In the beginning, family and friends wait with bated breath for the results of your latest medical test, or for news of your latest office visit with the specialist. What happens when the results are inconclusive, or there’s simply no “news” to share? Onward, to the next phase…

Advice from Family and Friends

During the middle stages, family and friends adopt a new mantra: “The doctor can’t find anything wrong, and your test results are all fine.” Family and friends lose heart along with their desire to believe. While you’re still invited to family functions and social gatherings, no one really expects you to attend. Your unkempt home and absence from work begins to be perceived as laziness. At this stage, family and friends feel free to dole out advice such as:

  • “Why don’t you start taking vitamins?”
  • “You probably just need more exercise. Why don’t you buy a treadmill?”
  • “You need more sleep. Start going to bed earlier.”

Or, offered with pure intent from Christian friends:

  • “You need to have more faith.”
  • “You need to pray more.”

Experiencing Isolation

During the latter stage, you become isolated from family and friends. More often than not, this isolation is self-inflicted. You begin to lose the desire to make your family and friends “believe”, and start turning to the Internet for solace, reaching out in cyberspace to connect with others who are also suffering silently. In the latter stage, you may feel like you’re a bother to family and friends, or like a tiresome broken record that’s continually recounting symptoms and failed treatments.

Getting Your Life Back

During the final stage, you rediscover hope. You’re reminded of what your mystery symptoms can’t take away and you make the decision to be proactive and take control of your health. Here, at the final stage, you regain freedom and control over your health challenges.

So, what stage of your health journey are you in? And, what are you doing about it? Share your story, and post a comment.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Intro

The Not so Invisible Costs of a Having an Invisible or Undiagnosed Illness

Invisible Illness Week is Almost Here!

This year, when the dog days of summer wind down and advertisements for back to school sales begin to fill the airwaves, I ask you to consider taking part in National Invisible Chronic Illness Week on September 14th – 20th. Founded in 2002 by Lisa Copen, author of “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend”, National Invisible Chronic Illness Week serves to increase awareness of those who are suffering with an invisible illness.

So, what exactly is an invisible illness?

Wheelchairs, walkers, portable oxygen tanks, hair scarves and turbans, seeing-eye dogs, and hearing aids serve as tangible indicators of chronic disease or physical disabilities. Invisible illnesses, on the other hand, carry no such calling cards. Sufferers of invisible illnesses may “look fine”, and often bear no outward indicator of their illness. (In fact, if you’re reading this at an Internet café, it’s likely that you’re seated near someone – or may have even been served by someone – who is suffering with an invisible chronic illness!)

Invisible illnesses cross many spectrums, but most can be categorized into the following groups:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Neurological Illnesses
  • Psychiatric Illnesses
  • Autoimmune Diseases

Examples of invisible illnesses include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Migraines
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
  • Most autoimmune diseases
  • Thyroid disease
  • Heart disease

(Depending on the type and treatment regime, even cancer can be “invisible.”)

This list is composed entirely of diagnosed invisible illnesses. So, what happens if your invisible illness is undiagnosed?  Trust me when I say, that’s even worse!

For the next 5 Wednesdays I’ll discuss the effect of invisible illnesses on your finances, relationships, family, and careers. I’ll share my story along the way and encourage you to share yours.  Together we’ll fight to bring more awareness to invisible illnesses!

Next week:  The Not So Invisible Costs of Having an Invisible, Misdiagnosed, or Undiagnosed Illness