Dating these days in general is HARD. Just watching Love Island is enough to put you off for life.
But what about dating with a disability?
I personally don’t classify myself as having a disability – for the most part I am lucky to be able to live a relatively normal life. But to the average Joe in the street, I am disabled because of my epilepsy.
Until I met Tim, I had limited luck with finding nice genuinely guys in real life, but my experience online will hopefully show some insight into what it’s like to say ‘I have epilepsy’.
Firstly, when is the right time to tell someone?
I personally am quite open about having epilepsy (hence the blog!) but I appreciate that that’s not the case for everyone. Especially if you’re just going around telling randoms about it. However, my general opinion of men at the time of online dating was substantially low (sorry guys) so I decided I had nothing to lose.
Now of course, depending on your disability, it’s not just the daily impact of that, but also whether you want children etc, so these conversations are probably best to touch upon at early doors (I don’t mean ‘I want 4 children, will you have them with me?). For me, epilepsy is genetic and even to this day we are still trying to suss out a plan regarding the babies, but at least Tim knew what he was signing up (and fortunately is also on the fence for his own reasons).
What I ended up doing was at the point of arranging a date, I would casually state that I don’t drink (they will always ask why) and it gave me an opener to drop the bombshell.
I soon discovered that that sorted the men from the boys. Some of them just stopped messaging (after all what have they got to lose), and some would come back with a comment. I remember one guy in particular (who was an online journalist for the Guardian) saying ‘oh well we can’t go to the pub for a drink then’. Now whether this was an issue with me being tee-total or having epilepsy, or a combination of the both, we will never know. But I did politely respond that in fact pubs do sell non-alcoholic beverages so the pub would have still been an option, but that I no longer wanted to meet up with him.
When it came to telling Tim, I didn’t even have to try that hard as the conversation of drinking naturally evolved. I had been out ALL night (you know when you end up somewhere random) and got the tube back home at 7am – I had been bored out my brain since about 11pm but everyone was drunk and I was too far away from my bed to leave alone. Anyway, I was telling him about it and he was like ‘oh are you a bit of a party animal then?’ HA!
I informed him of my non-drinking status where he proceeded to express his relief as he hates drinking alcohol anyway. I then saw this as my opportunity (we still hadn’t met yet by the way). He was as cool as a cucumber. He proceeded to tell me about ill health in his own family and we just chatted in general about illness and disability. It has since transpired he went away to google the ins and outs of epilepsy. God I love that boy sometimes.
Was I worried I wouldn’t find anyone?
Hell yes. At the time of my diagnosis I was half seeing some tool (weird situation) and he LEGGED it – granted I was a bit of a mess, but still. Not a keeper.
But I had to remind myself that I was (and hopefully still am) a good person. I focused on my good qualities and just remembered that no matter what the situation, it’s their loss. What people don’t appreciate about any disability is that life in general is just a little bit trickier (I’m not even talking about the functional difficulties of the disability). For me, the amount of forms you fill in where it asks if you have epilepsy – my lord. Went to get my nails done… there’s that little tick box; go to join the gym – get ESCORTED off the premises; hearing things like ‘omg she was having an actual fit’ about someone losing their temper and feeling a mini bubble of rage; the amount of questions people ask about what it’s like having a ‘proper fit’. It is hard work.
So yes I felt the odds were against me. But I focused on the fact that if I could find someone that would love me in spite of my epilepsy – that’s all I needed. I’d like to think that in 7.4 BILLION people, that one person might be able to look past it.
But this is one of the reasons I want to spread the word about epilepsy, and encourage other people with disabilities to continue to speak up – our disabilities do not define us. We are not possessed, we do not need locking up; we are just regular people with malfunctioning brains – just like people who have dodgy hearts, kidneys, livers, hearts, skin (the list could go on).
If you’re feeling nervous about dating – that’s understandable. But just make sure you’re feeling nervous for the right reasons and not that people might judge you because you have a disability.