This I Believe

AshleyJane - Chichester, New Hampshire
Entered on May 6, 2007

I am a single woman surviving a chronic illness and I believe that self-pity and low self-esteem are a deadly combination.

At age 21 I was walloped by Lupus. During the first two years of my chronic illness, I had to trade an independent lifestyle in Washington, DC for a family-dependent lifestyle in rural New Hampshire. Numerous career plans were deferred and then demolished. My relationship with a boyfriend of four years could not withstand the stress. It seemed that chronic illness had pretty much destroyed my dating potential. Who would want me? I sure didn’t.

I’m now 24. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Talking too much about your illness is unattractive:

Oh, I saw that movie – it reminds me of my most recent hospitalization – I have Lupus. Are you familiar with the disease? It’s an autoimmune condition…

Being too vague so as to purposefully avoid mentioning the illness is sketchy:

Why did I quit that job and move back home? Oh you know…wow, did you just see that cat walk by?

Daydreaming about stealing the wonderfully supportive boyfriends of other chronically ill women will not make you feel better:

How about you leave her and take care of me instead?

Dwelling too much in your healthy past does nothing to help your image now:

Oh yeah, I’m definitely up for that! Wait, well, I use to be…Never mind…

To sum up: If you don’t think you’re worth hanging out with, no one else will either.

After having taken these lessons to heart, I recently met a marvelous guy named Russ. He was smart, attractive and fun. I was feeling pretty confident he felt the same way about me. That is, until he told me all about how, due to a harsh and recent breakup, he was not interested in starting a relationship.

I admit, I went to bed devastated that night. But the next day I had a realization that made me literally laugh out loud – this particular rejection had nothing to do with me, my immune system, my fatigue, or my medications’ side effects. After all my worrying that chronic illness had stolen my youth, sanity and desirability, he was dumping me as if I was a *healthy* person. Before I got sick, I never would have believed that rejection could feel so good.