Dating can feel like a wasteland of hookups, insincerity, miscommunication, and ghosting. It’s sometimes this vicious, disingenuous place where something as delicate and personal as cystic fibrosis doesn’t quite fit in. After a slew of terrible dating experiences and an awful boyfriend, I had a moment where I decided that I wasn’t going to date. Instead, I was going to be genuine to myself. This would require a lot of self-growth in realizing and acting on what I valued most.
I ended up continuing to go on dates, but I no longer put up with the BS. I was myself, unwavering and candid, and CF is a crucial part in my genuine self. These are my takeaways in my journey so far.
On being open and upfront about cystic fibrosis
This is the vetting process; the ultimate, quickest test to determining whether someone will invest in you. Their response to the disease is also a reflection of how they view themselves.
Revealing CF is an incredibly vulnerable thing to do, and people can react in many different ways. Some people won’t understand or even try to understand, and other people will be dismissive. Some people will ghost you. Some people will find it an appropriate moment to share vulnerable information, sometimes too much information, about themselves. It’s not a bad thing that people react in these ways because the reactions help you determine if you want those types of behavior around you in the future.
Then there are people who ask you questions and research cystic fibrosis. Keeping you away from smoke becomes second nature pretty quickly. These people are special, and from my experience, they’re few and far between. Ultimately, I’ve learned not to waste time with anyone who doesn’t immediately recognize, validate, and keep in check with my CF.
On fear of rejection and self-love
People keep CF to themselves for a variety of reasons, but if you find yourself doing this, perhaps it’s a good idea to unravel why.
I think one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had on my dating journey is the amount of self-reflection it’s offered. With it came the recognition of the necessity to love myself as I am and where I am at the moment. All parts of myself, from my stubborn lungs, to the intervals of depression, and my knack to wait until the last minute to fill my gas tank. And while I can probably wait till the last minute to fill the tank, filling my “cup” is something that can’t wait.
By sheer virtue of existing, you are valuable and worthy of love, especially your own love. Loving yourself cultivates confidence and trust in yourself to grow. As corny as it sounds, you become a light for yourself and those around you. Remember how awesome you are, as you are.
Of course, it will always be a little daunting to share CF with someone, especially someone you’ve started to like. But, the fear of rejection won’t cut you down as far if you hold the above statements to be true.
On feeling like a burden
Those qualities about yourself that you like, that others enjoy about you? Perhaps it’s your quick wit or that you’re the person friends and family feel comfortable with, whatever. Those qualities that you love are just as inherent and a part of you as CF is. They are all a part of who you are, and what ultimately makes you, you. I couldn’t be Luisa — mothering and nurturing, with a fiery passion for life — without having had my CF experiences. My disease is part of the whole package.
If someone deeply enjoys and loves certain parts of your being, then CF won’t cross their mind as a burden. Of course, CF will be an ongoing challenge, one that can’t be minimized. But one that is worth it. They’ll know you have to take an extra hour on trips to do treatments early in the morning or that you’ll stay in instead of going out dancing. They’ll not only get it, but they’ll also encourage you to take care of yourself while being at your side.
If anyone in your life makes you feel as though your CF or chronic illness or depression is something they put up with, or that they are doing you a favor by “loving you,” that’s not love. As my friend, Allison Miller, said, “When dating with CF, it’s important that you don’t view yourself as an emotional risk. Otherwise, it’s easy to end up with the kind of people who treat you like your disease is something to make up for. You are intrinsically valuable, and love is not a favor.”
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.