Once I was out of college and starting my career I did feel close to ‘normal’ and most people I met had no idea what I’d been through, and that’s just how I liked it.
So… I dipped my toe into the dating world.
Starting slow, I went on a few dates.
I tried it all…
Online dating still had a stigma attached to it at the time so I mostly avoided that.
But, I may have made an appearance on Match.com about a decade ago.
One thing I never shared right away though was my health status. For a while I would wear long sleeves or sweaters to hide my AV Fistula (a vascular access point for dialysis treatment- mine is in my right upper arm, which makes hiding it slightly easier when I want to). I gave up on that pretty quickly because after all I do live in California where it is pretty much warm and sunny year round. And I love a tank top!
I wouldn’t share my health issues right away because the worst is when someone finds out, they hear my history, and they give me “the look”.
The look of pity.
The look of sorrow.
The look like I’m going to break.
When I see that face it’s a struggle to keep my composure and NOT cry.
I still struggle with talking about the last 18 years without crying.
I work so hard at blending in. Handling my shit. Living life to its fullest.
I don’t want to look back and focus on what I missed.
I want to look forward and all that is left to enjoy!
I had changed so much though over the past years that dating was really difficult. I no longer worried about the little things in life. I had fought for my life and won! I wanted to chill out and enjoy life. But, I could never quite find someone who had the same worldview that I did.
About 13 years ago I started peritoneal dialysis and had a lovely catheter coming out of my abdomen. That lead to its own set of self-esteem issues. I felt gross, like a weirdo with this thing sticking out of me. Sure that thing was my lifeline and kept me alive every night.
Try explaining that to a new date though. It’s pretty weird and definitely freaks people out.
When you are not feeling comfortable in your body you don’t want to let anyone else close to you. I cut myself off from people. I withdrew into myself. Nobody understood what I had gone through.
It always comes back to that nasty habit of comparing yourself to others.
I wanted to be ‘normal’
I wanted to date and work and live on my own
I wanted to ‘adult’
Not being able to do that is scary.
It makes you feel like you somehow failed.
It forces a divide between you and your support system of friends and family.
They would always try to empathize, but you really have no idea what it’s like to fight your body and feel so incredibly lonely in knowing you are ‘different’.
It really wasn’t until I turned 30 that things started to change for me.
I reached a point in my life where I was starting be more comfortable in my own body.
I started to own my story.
Instead of seeing it as a bad thing… I started to see is as a BAD ASS thing!
Yeah, I’ve had two kidney transplants.
Yeah, I’m on dialysis.
Yeah, I have a career in politics.
Yeah, I have awesome friends and family!
Yeah, I’m happy!
At that point dating became difficult for an entirely new reason.
I was happier. I wanted to share my life with someone and found that most people were too pessimistic for me. They focused on the negative. They complained about life’s struggles.
I was happy to deal with the regular struggles of everyday life.
When you go from hospital stays, dialysis, surgeries, struggling to get out of bed to ‘normal’ life you welcome the everyday issues that come up.
I loved focusing on small problems.
I felt free.
It was the reason there was rarely a second date.
I always tried to look at it like, I’d rather find out right away that they can’t handle my health issue, rather than get involved and have it hurt more later.
If someone is scared by a weird arm, then the rest of it would be too much for them to handle. So in the end this disease ended up saving me from a string of broken relationships with men who are to scared to handle me and all the issues I come with.
I never gave up though. All the dates that didn’t work out helped me recognize when I found someone who accepted me. It doesn’t mean he’s not freaked out about losing me ahead of my time. He still gets scared when I head off the dialysis.
Which he likes to call “LIVE-alysis”. Because it keeps my alive!
Not “DIE-alysis” which just sounds so sad.
He’s getting used to my ups and down.
He’s getting acquainted with life with a “spoonie”.
I wake up everyday appreciating how lucky I am to have someone so willing to try and understand this way of life.
A partner who is willing to see past the disease, see past the arm, see past the scars and see Bridget