Opening Up, Part Three: Dear Red, I'm Single and Sick

Dear Red,

Four months ago I was a happily single and mostly carefree twenty-something. To make an incredibly long story short – I now have a rare and painful disease that has the potential destroy one of my limbs despite the fact I’m still, you know, using it. While I’ve got a good shot at beating this into remission, I’ve also developed several complications that will make it a long road to recovery no matter what.

Thanks to the amazing support of my family and friends throughout this clusterfuck, I’ve been able to put my personal and professional goals on hold while I focus 100% on my emotional and physical health. I know one day I’ll be able to pick those things back up, but I’m afraid my love life isn’t recoverable.

I’m not a damsel in distress itching to bust out a sob story on the first date (in fact, I’ve struggled to tell even my closest friends what’s going on, because nothing brings a party down like the words “chronic and incurable”). I just can’t imagine a guy would look at someone with my physical limitations and uncertain future and say, “Yep – the gimpy one totally looks like girlfriend material.”

What do you think?


Handicapped and Anonymous

Dear Handicapped and Anonymous,

First, let me just say that:

1. I am not an expert. I give advice more like you'd want to get from your best friend. So, there may be times I'll give what advice I can to a reader, and then recommend that he or she still reach out to someone with the education, experience and credentials for continued help.

2. If you read here enough, you know I don't sugar-coat. I won't be unkind, but I may "cut to the chase", so to speak, to really address the heart of an issue.

All that to say: I think you're an incredibly brave woman. I am not sure how I would react in your situation (clearly, from yesterday's post, you could assume I would panic...and then fantasize about my hot, fictional, married doctor), and I hope I would handle it with the grace and humor you seem to be exhibiting. This is not to say that I think bravery indicates the absence of fear. On the contrary, I think the bravest people are often the most fearful, but the reason they are brave is because they push through their fear anyway to achieve a desired end or result.

I think it's also awesome that your family and friends are supporting you so fully through this time. Not only are you brave (remind yourself of this fact daily), but you are incredibly lucky/blessed/fortunate...whichever word you'd like to choose. Many people don't have the kind of support you do, and it's really cool that you have the opportunity to lean on amazing people while you recover physically. That is amazing-sauce.

These two facts alone (the bravery you possess and support you're getting) will I think be more limiting to you than your physical state in finding love, because it takes a very, very secure person to love a person who is as secure as you are...and as you may know, those are not so easy to find.

I think relationships are about whole people (or as this post puts it, "real fucking people"). Despite your current physical circumstance, you seem to me like you're striving to be a whole person...which means you're also a whole person who has an incredible support system. That means that whomever comes into your life and has the potential to share it must be comfortable enough with himself that he is not intimidated by your strength and wholeness and support.

And here's where the truth comes in...

...a lot of guys our age (25-35ish) are just not there yet. This is not to say they don't exist, but I think the mid to late twenties are the new teens for men. They're "settling down" later and later, and yes, the honest truth is, many of them are looking for surface-type things first before looking at the heart. We all do it. It's biological...ingrained into our genes and code for years and years.

But here's where the good news is. I think you have a shot at it, but I really think it's going to be completely unexpected, utterly non-traditional, and surprising in every way. I just read an amazing New York Times article about illness, and the last portion was dedicated to two people who fell in love while ill. Here's how the individual said it happened:

“Fully embrace the vulnerability of the situation,” she said:

I would never have gotten through it if I hadn’t allowed people in.

So, keep doing what you're doing, be you, embrace the support of your family and friends, and use the time they're giving you now to continue to focus on your emotional and physical health. Maybe even be more open with your friends about what you're going through. Because this is "whole person" time for you. The cool thing about being a whole person is that you will inevitably attract other whole people.

And that is just pure awesome.

Much luck to you, my brave friend, and a very speedy recovery, too.



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