I’m not embarrassed by it.
Of course, I’ve had relationships – my longest lasting 8.5 years – but for the past four, I’ve been on my lonesome (three-month dalliances hardly count.)
I’ve always subscribed to the motto that I’d rather be single than in the wrong relationship. And while most of the uncouplings have ended amicably – I’m friends with nearly all of my ex-boyfriends – I have endured some dating disasters along the way much to the amusement of my friends.
“I usually go for trophy girlfriends but I’m trying to change my ways,” announced one chap within minutes of rocking up to our first date.
“Why can’t we go for a walk in the woods? I don’t believe you’re outdoorsy. Women always lie on their profile,” accused another on our first encounter.
In fact, my love life has been something of a hot topic among friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers over the years.
I’ve had everything levelled at me:
“Are you ridiculously fussy?” (Um, no.)
“Why are you single?” (Um, I’ve not met the right person yet.)
“You’ll be left on the shelf.” (Er, thanks for that.)
“You never give anyone a chance.” (Um, I do. I date. Heck, I even went on a second date with the walk in the woods guy!)
“You go for the wrong type.” (Not intentionally. I promise.)
You always put up barriers” (True. One of my exes called me ‘The Great Barrier Reef’. It’s something I’m addressing after discovering the Psyma app)
“You need to get a move on if you want to have children.” (Don’t get me started on this one. It’s just insensitive on SO many levels.)
“You work too hard. You’ll never meet anyone at home sat behind your desk.” (True.)
“Is it hard being single at your age?” (Hmmm, let me think about that.)
Ordinarily, my stock answer would go something like this: “Why on earth would it be hard? I’m not defined by my marital status.”
Don’t get me wrong, of course it would be fan-bloody-tastic to meet a kindred spirit to make wonderful memories with, share special moments, look after and cherish. No-one can deny that blissful feeling of being in love. It’s the best.
But my philosophy has always been it will happen when it’s supposed to so. I’ve always channelled my energies into making the most of my life now, enjoying precious time with my friends and family rather than dwelling on what I don’t have.
Except, last night my thoughts turned to being single, most unusual for me.
Because my autoimmune symptoms have phenomenally flared up. It’s not easy when you’re battling an invisible chronic illness that makes you feel utterly dreadful and requires every ounce of energy just to make it through the day, especially as I naively assumed I was on the mend.
I’d been making SUPER progress and even went on a ski trip for work last month, something I would never have envisaged 2.5 years ago when my health started acting up (Read the night it all began here)
Because I’d been feeling much better I pushed myself and, approximately two weeks ago, decided to go swimming (the type of activity I’d do on a ‘rest’ day when I was well). Except on the evening in question, my body wasn’t feeling quite right.
My legs felt heavy as I walked to the pool. But I ignored the signs.
I ADORE exercise. It’s something I’ve missed hugely since my health took a nosedive – activity and heat can set off my tongue swelling reactions – and I was thrilled to be doing something I enjoy.
I swam one length, then two. As many as 14 laps later, I hauled myself out of the water very much swept up in the delightful endorphin-triggered buzz that exercise brings.
Boy, did it turn out to be a mistake
Over the 12 hours that followed my body crashed. And for the past 14 days I’ve been hitting the hay around 7pm most evenings to try and get a grip on episcleritis (painful inflammation in the eye), stabbing pains, and dreadful fatigue consuming my body.
On the outside, I look normal. Somehow, I’ve been summoning up the energy to work news shifts but inside I’m permanently exhausted.
I’d forgotten how awful it is to feel like this…to wake up from ten hours sleep, feeling utterly unrefreshed and as though you’ve only had two.
But what does this have to do with being single?
Well, so far I’ve mostly survived this 2.5 year journey on my own. The uncertainty, the gazillions of hospital appointments, and generally feeling like crap.
*Disclaimer* I’m very blessed in that I have a wonderfully supportive family and good friends around me but more often than not I hide how I’m really feeling because I’d hate to burden them any further. I also appreciate that I’m one of the lucky ones – I can still function when many others can’t – plus I’ve also learnt a lot about myself along the way.
Nonetheless, this battle is exhausting. Sometimes you can’t put on a brave face. And sometimes you just need a big MAN hug.
So, as I lay in bed last night feeling thoroughly rotten, a thought popped into my mind for the first time in my life.
“Being single with an invisible illness really sucks.”
At that moment I just wanted someone to hold me close and say: “Don’t worry, you’ll be okay. You will feel better. Everything will work out I promise.”
Or, at the very least take the P out of me and make me laugh hysterically!
Of course, I’m in a much better frame of mind today. That out of character thought was fleeting.
But that’s the thing with chronic illness. It affects you in all sorts of ways you’d never think imaginable.
Can you relate? Are you single? What do you like/dislike about it? Do you have an invisible illness that you’re dealing with on your own?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Please do share or tag someone in this article if you think it might help them. Thank you!