A Tachy Heart Isn't an Empty Heart
Dating as a teenager can be confusing to begin with, but when one of the persons is sick with an illness like dysautonomia, things get much more complicated. The important point to remember is that having dysautonomia does not mean that a person has to give up having a social life, or a romantic life either. It just takes an extra amount of flexibility, understanding, and adaptation to make it work. Every dysautonomia case is unique, and likewise each relationship will be different. Nevertheless, if you want to date someone with dysautonomia, here are some general hints and pointers on how you both can get the most out of it.
- Learn as much as you can about dysautonomia. Being sick with a chronic illness often consumes a large part of a person's day-to-day life, and if you want to become a part of that life, it's essential that you understand what he or she is dealing with. Not only is it important so that you're able to be a support system, but also so you can decide if the relationship is even something on which you are ready and willing to embark.
A good place to start is by reading through the DYNA website. However, you will get the most valuable information just by asking the person that you like. Your date probably will be happy to explain what kind of dysautonomia they have, what symptoms they experience, and how the illness impacts their life. Keep in mind that the physical components of being sick (like fainting and feeling tired) are only one part of the picture; their implications (such as not having the energy to go to school) are equally important to understand.
- Try to allay her or his concerns. Many people with dysautonomia are very reluctant to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, simply because they think that it will be unfair to the other individual. However, everyone has some kind of baggage, and dysautonomia just happens to be the hurdle that your date is bringing into the relationship. Make it clear that you know they sometimes may be too sick to go out, or will have doctors' appointments at inconvenient times, but that you both can work around that.
It's up to you how involved you want to be with the medical side of things, but what's important is that your date knows you'll be there and care about her or him. By the same token, don't be afraid to express yourself honestly. As long as you are tactful, voicing your own worries and fears about dysautonomia is fine.
- Get creative with dates. Typical date activities such as going out to eat or going to a party often just won't work for someone who has an illness like dysautonomia. However, there are so many other ways you can spend your time together that it doesn't need to be a hindrance at all. If your date can't make it to the movie theater, rent some DVDs and have a movie night at home. Spend an afternoon playing video games, or even old-school board games. Order takeout food and have a picnic on the living room floor.
There are so many possibilities, and it's up to both of you to come up with fun ideas. If your date ever does need to cancel plans, or asks to end a date early, don't take it personally; dysautonomia symptoms are impossible to predict and may come on suddenly.
- Lighten up. With an illness thrown into the mix, the dynamic of your relationship will be affected, but that doesn't mean that it needs to be the focus of your attention. Dysautonomia does not make your date a porcelain doll and he or she won't break, so one of the best things you can do is just always try to have a good time. Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend can't participate in all of the "normal" activities you do, it doesn't mean that she or he doesn't want to hear about them. And what they say is true, laughter really is the best medicine!
- Know that no means no. Everyone is comfortable with different levels of intimacy, and while it's never okay to pressure your significant other, this holds especially true when the person has health considerations. Like other aspects of a date, an individual with dysautonomia may feel well enough for some things one time, but be too sick on another occasion. Also, never push drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse is not a smart idea to begin with, but it can cause very serious complications for someone who has dysautonomia. No means NO.
Many DYNA members have had very positive dating experiences, despite their constant health battles. As long as both of you are open minded, you can have a happy and successful relationship, and hopefully will stay a couple for a long time. Not only will you gain a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you will probably also derive a new perspective and insight into life. Good luck!