As I sit here, watching every inch of concrete slowly be covered once again with the thickness of white, I realize, I sit here alone.
Winter has come with a force this year, and tomorrow is technically the first day of the season. Although it does not feel like that. I can't even recall how many winter storms we have had up unto this point. I just know that Winter has been upon Spokane for a few weeks already. Countless events of wintery wonder. Left with unbearable temperatures. Locked indoors. Unless essential or demanding needs are asked.
So needless to say, I should be used to this by now. The monotony of winter. The isolation of the season. The replayed playlists. Endless reruns. To the boredom that leaves you taking a few too many naps. Winter brings upon its own challenges for someone living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Winter is a season for endless flus within the community. Germs spreading like wildfire. And that alone can be a fight having a weaken immune system. Then there are the cold temperatures, intensifying our pain levels. From the dry skin to the lack of movement. Winter bring a different kind of chronic pain to life.
I have lived in my current apartment, alone, for the past 2 1/2 years. Every winter, my loneliness intensifies. I find myself leaning on my family a lot more for reasons to get out of the house. And I can't imagine that I am the only CRPS patient that feels this way.
During the warmer seasons here in the Pacific Northwest, I find myself able to get out a lot easier. Finding excuses to explore when I can, let alone go on back road drives, just to battle the isolation of my four walls. But during the winter, everything changes. My energy quickly depletes. My pain level rises. My depression intensifies. My self worth struggles. I feel winter in every inch of my life.
So almost every year, around this time, December especially, I have to give myself a little break. I have to tell myself, its okay, to: take two baths a day, to take naps, to binge watch TV while snuggling my heating pad, to eating more accessible meal options. I have to tell myself, this is how I can help be my best friend in a season of unavoidable struggles. I give myself self talk dusted in sugar. I tell myself, this too shall pass, but until then, I am giving myself all the tools I need. Which sometimes, is giving ourselves grace, to just not do as much. And sometimes that is enough.
When I began the process for disability, my partner at the time, understood. Or so I thought. We had been together thru so many emergent health crisis's and also the placing and removal of the NG feeding tube. We had been thru me quitting my career in the service industry together, which was hard on us both. But none of that made us secure in our futures together. And I soon found that out.
Dating with a persistent chronic pain disorder has never been “easy” for me. In most of my relationships I had hid the true depths of the disease I was living with. From the pain to the inabilities. But my ex, saw every little thing. Every emergency room visit. Every call to cancel my work shifts. To watching me fully loose myself to the depths of the condition nicknamed “the suicide disease.” We were together in the thick of it. Or so I thought.
Sickness can make or break a relationship. This, I have learned. That really is the truth. And it did…break us. Our foundation was not strong enough to face the things we needed to. Which showed in the end.
Fast forward to today. 2022. I have been single now for four plus years. I was awarded my official disability status after we had called it quits, back in 2018.
From the social outings to the intimacy… we honestly struggled. I transformed from an extremely dedicated worker, to a very ill CRPS patient. I lost my ability to believe someone could love me despite my personal challenges.
But here I sit, only 34 years of age. Single. Something I don’t want to be for the rest of my life. But now the question is…. How do I date? How do I explain my life to a new person? Will it scare them off? Will they still see me as an equal?
The term disability has such a strong stigma. And I don’t know if I am enough of a person to break it. When you hear that term, you think unable, incapacitated, permanent…You hear the negatives before you can hear the positives. It is an intimidating term.
You see…I recently started to get to know someone. Someone I feel is kind of special. Who might be a fit, for me specifically. But fear is taking over. As much as I know I need to give him a fair chance of answering the question himself…I can’t help but worry what he will think when I tell him I am on disability. Will he disappear? Will he think my personal strength is weak? Will he, think less of me? Or not at all once he knows my truth.
I am a person who is very big on honesty. Especially in relationships. And every day, he texts me…”How is work going for you?” I reply, “my day is good”… no lie. Just no omission. I am fearful. Of losing the opportunity to get to know someone, based on a truth in my life.
How do you explain to someone, new? How do you begin to tell them about CRPS and all of it’s complications? How can I tell him of my past and not scare him of the future?
I have lived with a CRPS diagnosis since 2005. Almost 18 years long. But my fear of telling people about it, never disappears. Telling someone that I care about, that I have an incurable nerve disease, which has a mind of its own, and that I can't fully predict what my future holds, is ----- HARD! I know that. But I do know, there is still a possibility of finding someone who can see past it. Someone who can still see me despite it all.
My question, is how do you find that? How do approach the situation with someone new? With someone you care about? How do I tell this man, I am still everything I have told him I am, but I also have a disability?
For the very first time in my dating history, I cannot hide my truth with CRPS. I cannot work. And I face unforeseen challenges from time to time. Yet, still I can love unconditionally. I am an avid outdoors girl. And am capable of still being the woman I say I am.
So here goes dating with a disability.