Dating, especially in the early stages, is full of emotion…excitement and nervousness is sure to abound. However, with IBD patients, there’s a bit more hiding beneath the surface that the other person usually does not yet know about. How do you tell your significant other about IBD? How does one explain something so complicated? How do you work it into conversation? When is the right time? One of our new PAC members, Samara, recently started dating and has personal experience to share.
It can be easy to hide your disease from people in your life, but there is only so long one can go without having to share something that is a dominant part of your daily life. Just recently, at the age of 20, I began going on dates. It has been exciting, fun, and nerve racking. I knew I would eventually have to share about the important things in my life. I was never very insecure about having Crohn’s disease. In fact, I would talk openly about my illness to friends if we came upon the subject. It has been a good way for me to spread awareness for the almost two million people with IBD in America. But this situation – dating someone – felt different. I felt ashamed and different. I gathered that the reason I was so hesitant to share this personal detail was that I was scared that he would not like me anymore because there is something “wrong” with me. It took me awhile to realize that if this person decided to end things because of an illness I cannot help having, then he is certainly not the person for me.
I chose to share about my health concerns over dinner on our third date. I didn’t have a choice anymore. I had already slipped and mentioned things that probably didn’t make sense to him, and in those moments I would say: “I’ll explain another time.” I began the conversation by referring to a prior discussion when I mentioned that I get sick a lot lately and take a lot of medicine. And then I came right out and said: “I have a disease called Crohn’s, have you heard of it?” He had and followed up with a few basic questions about my diagnosis and lifestyle.
I do not like it when people feel bad for me, and I appreciated that he did not make a big deal out of my announcement. The thing is, it is a big deal. A much bigger deal than he knows. He doesn’t know that I have another disease called Polyarteritis Nodosa. He doesn’t know that I put shots in my thigh every week and I hate it. He doesn’t know that I struggle to pay my medical bills. Eventually, I may have to share all this with him. But in the meantime, I am happy I got this one large detail off my chest and walked away with self-confidence from this experience.
As Samara and other PAC members have shared, forming relationships with people who accept your disease, and who understand that it is just one aspect of who you are as a person, is important. The timing of when you decide to share your diagnosis, how much you choose to share, and how you share it – is a matter of personal preference. However, we all agree that it is important that whomever you are with understands and accepts that IBD can throw big twists into your life.
Don’t let IBD hold you back from anything in life, including dating. If anyone has experiences they want to share or is looking for someone to talk to on this topic (or any topic), please feel welcome to reach out to the PAC! We’d love to talk. We can connect on Twitter or Instagram (we are @ICNPatients in both places) or you can send us an email at email@example.com