Several months ago, I was working with a client diagnosed with diabetes. The client was recently discharged from the hospital after having a below the knee amputation (BKA), due to uncontrolled diabetes. The client was in his/her early 30′s,single, with no children. During our meeting the topic of dating and marriage came about. The client tearfully expressed insecurities related to body image issues and decreased self-esteemsince the BKA. The client felt that the recent amputation would interfere with the ability to date and find a long-term partner. The client requestedguidance as it relates to disclosing a medical illness during dating.
The subject of disclosure with a mental or medical illness has been raised during sessions on several occasions by patients/clients seeking to re-enter the dating world. Clients diagnosed with diabetes, chronic pain, chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, cancer, and other mental (internal)and medical (external) illnesses frequently express feelings of self-doubt, fear, rejection, and anxiety as it relates to dating.
Clients with mental illness may not outwardly exhibit symptoms, but have the same concerns as individuals with medical challenges.
Clients wonder how and if their interest will be able to deal with episodes of depression, anxious mood or panic attacks.
Questions that frequently arise include:
Can I have a long-term, fulfilling relationship?
Will I be accepted?
How will the person handle my physical limitations?
Should I disclose health challenges prior to the first date?
Here’s a few factors to consider when navigating the dating world.
- Love yourself! Self-acceptance should be your number one priority. Embrace and understandyourself before you invest time and energy in developing relationships with others.
- Gain an understanding of your medical or mental health condition. Know your limitations (if any), accept any challenges you may have, embrace them. Note, acceptance will not happen overnight.
- It is always best to be transparent with a potential interest, but the right timing is essential. It may not be appropriate to disclose your illness during the first date, there may not be a “love connection“ and disclosing your illness to an interest, who is not interested in you, may leave you with feelings of rejection.On the other hand, if you’ve dated your interest for some time, avoiding the subject will only lead to mistrust.
- If your interest rejects you after disclosure, they are not the one for you. Move on, don’t blame yourself. Remember relationships are not easy for the healthiest of persons.
- Have fun, trust and enjoy the process.
- Lastly, you are not your illness. You are more than your mental or medical health condition. You are a unique individual, who deserves love and happiness.
The recommendations listed above or general in nature. Therapy is catered to your specific concerns and issues. If you need additional education and support, give me for a call for a free 15-minute consultation at 424-226-8052.
Angela Bōdy, MSW, LCSW