The Unromantic Side of Chronic Illness
Many of us (including myself) deal with an array of chronic conditions, in addition to chronic hives. This is more often than not tricky, and sticky (and ITCHY!), and generally quite unromantic. Then we come to February and Valentine’s Day, which begins to shout “Romance” from the back corner of Target as soon as the Christmas/Hannukah section is taken down in December.
From the boxes of preservative-filled chocolates, to the scented lotions and polyester PJs, we’re told we must partake in order to fit in with the masses. It’s typically overwhelming to live with a chronic condition on a good day. Throw in a Hallmark holiday and you could have a recipe for disaster.
An exciting future ahead
2023 marks 20 years since my husband and I went on our first date– February 14, 2003. We were young, infatuated with the idea of each other, and wrapped up in the possibility of an exciting future stretching far ahead of us. Those of us who have been in this situation never fully imagine the challenges in those moments.
We don’t foresee the drudgery of attending endless doctor appointments, tests, procedures, trialing medications, and the list goes on. We see love, and happiness, and a fuzzy, not-really-possible-possibility of hardships in our old age. My husband and I were no different on that first date 20 years ago.
Health challenges over the years
Since then, we’ve journeyed through thyroid cancer, two traumatic births and PTSD, postpartum depression and anxiety (in both of us, thankfully not at the same time), Lyme disease, a daughter born with a large tumor, various surgeries in our children, surgeries for ourselves, neurodivergent children, the loss of grandparents, losing my dad to early-onset Alzheimer’s, and the complex medical situation I’m currently living with.
We know a lot about rolling with the punches and less about being romantic than we could have ever imagined. We’ve spent some Februarys on romantic dates at expensive restaurants. We’ve spent some at home waiting for a baby to be born or cuddling a newborn. This year, I took two of my children to their pediatrician where one received her formal autism diagnosis. These challenges don’t take away from the beauty of loving another, but they do sometimes complicate it.
Love and partnership
To use a cherished cliche: love isn’t always sunshine and roses. It evolves over time– just like chronic illness. It takes patience, determination, and sacrifice for love to not be squelched amidst challenges. This isn’t always easily doable, which is why love must be a partnership. When we partner with another, they can support us in those difficult seasons. In its most commonly-used meaning, the word “partner” is used as a noun. “Partner”, though, is also a verb– an action word, if you may. It’s a decision to do something.
I don’t have any life-changing advice, per se, or a list of how-to tips in this “month of love”-- those definitely have their time and place. Living with chronic illnesses and conditions is messy and our bodies don’t know that February is when we’re supposed to be sexy. Our bodies, for whatever reason, don’t behave themselves.
So if that bath bomb on the end-cap at Target is screaming at you that you “should” be able to enjoy a fizzy, fun bath, but your brain and body are screaming the opposite, remember that by walking away you are showing love to yourself. And whether you have a partner or not, that is one of the best ways to celebrate this month of love.
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