Finding a decent date can be challenging for anyone, but throw in a chronic illness like fibromyalgia and you can feel that you are always at the back of the line. Quite possibly you may be hiding there thinking, "Who would want to date me and get involved with all my problems?" Well, many people, actually. You may have a chronic illness that puts various restrictions on what you can and can't do, but that shouldn't define you—and it doesn't stop you being a beautiful, lovable human being that others would appreciate getting to know… if only you would give them the chance. And don't forget that whoever you meet is likely to come with his or her own bag of problems, as people are rarely baggage-free. Also, having lived with fibromyalgia is likely to have made you a more accepting and open-minded person who is ready to give others a chance, so don't let FM be a barrier between you and finding love.
Having FM can put you at a slight disadvantage when it comes to meeting new people simply by restricting your social contact. Many of us no longer have the workplace as an option and can find social activities difficult and tiring, especially in the evenings. Obviously, some effort needs to be made and taking up a new hobby or joining an adult education course could offer those new opportunities to increase your social circle. Often though, hobbies involving creative crafts and daytime adult education courses tend to be predominantly full of women or people at retirement age; no problem if you are a man who like ceramics or are of retirement age yourself! But what if you don't fall into these categories?
One option nowadays is Internet dating. Often people's first reaction is to recoil in horror at the thought of displaying themselves on a web page, or to protest that it is an artificial and impersonal way of meeting somebody. These were certainly my thoughts when I first considered this option, but there are distinct advantages to meeting people this way if you have a chronic illness. Firstly, you can interact with people at a time of your choosing, and you don't have to go out when you are feeling tired. You can simply go onto the website when you have sufficient time and energy and write to the people who appeal to you. Secondly, you have the chance to get to know someone and for that person to get to know you before fibromyalgia even enters into the equation. You can share information at your own pace and in your own time without the other person being able to make prejudgments from any mobility equipment you may use or things you can't do for yourself. You can let him or her know your situation gradually and have the opportunity to judge their response before you meet face-to-face.
I was convinced that I would hardly get any responses to my Internet profile when I defiantly mentioned the fact that I had a chronic illness and used an electric wheelchair. I couldn't have been more wrong. I had countless messages from men who seemed totally unconcerned by any illness I might have and who simply wanted to get to know me as a person. At first, I remained suspicious and dropped in many comments about using my wheelchair for daily trips out and mentioning things around the house I couldn't do, but to no avail—they kept writing back! I have even met up with several people for dates and had one relationship, and although I have yet to meet the man of my dreams, Internet dating has opened up a whole new world of opportunities.
That First Date
A first date can be both exciting and terrifying. What to wear? Where to meet? Will he/ she like me? These are questions that go through everyone's head and add to the thrill of the adventure, but if you have FM other questions might arise: Will I be too tired? Can I eat the food in that restaurant? Will the chairs be comfortable? If you find these questions whizzing round your head then I think the best thing is to take control and offer to organize the details of the date yourself. If you plan to go out for a meal, choose a restaurant you know, where the chairs are comfortable and the food won't aggravate any symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome; if you don't drink alcohol, arrange to meet at a coffee bar where they have a choice of drinks you like; if you don't want to be out late, meet earlier in the evening or go out for Sunday lunch and choose somewhere near your home so that travelling is kept to a minimum; and, of course, don't forget to rest up beforehand.
If you have been chatting on the Internet then the person will know quite a bit about you and may already know all about your FM and the various limitations you face. However, if you are chatting to someone properly for the first time then don't forget that it is up to you how much you tell them. You don't have to give them all the details, you don't even have to mention it, as one advantage of FM in this situation is the appearance of glowing health. If you don't need to use any mobility aids that evening, then—unless you tell your date—it is unlikely he or she will guess there is anything to know. You can choose to get to know your date first and to let that person get to know you before you start sharing the more intimate details of your life, as you would in any other situation. I have found that the majority of people don't care about illness as much as I think they will. If someone likes you, he or she likes you and will be keen to get involved in every aspect of your life.
YOU ARE A PERSON WORTH LOVING, so get out there and enjoy the dating scene. You just might find that ideal mate you have been searching for.