In the past year, I graduated from college at the top of my class, had four hospitalizations, two surgeries and countless missed life experiences. I am 22 years old, and I have Crohn's Disease.
Had you asked me a year ago if I would write about my chronic illness on the internet, I would have laughed out loud.
For the first five years following my diagnosis, I went to extreme lengths to conceal my disease. I did this because I did not want to admit a "weakness" or feel like a burden to others.
I had a hard time accepting my disease in the beginning and, therefore, did not expect others to accept it. Not to mention that symptoms like urgency to go to the bathroom, painful leg swelling, arthritis, fatigue and a suppressed immune system aren't the easiest topics to discuss.
After finally getting over the embarrassment factor of my disease, I decided to share my journey publicly with the goal of helping, informing and inspiring others. It took me years to achieve this level of acceptance, but since I have been more open in discussing my chronic illness, I have never been happier.
People ask me a lot how my disease affects my love life. How do I tell my dates about my disease? Isn't it awkward to talk about poop with your significant other? Am I undateable?
Believe it or not, I am not different than your average 22-year-old. I may spend more time in hospitals, take more naps and swallow more medication, but my baggage is not any heavier than yours.
I have had no problem in the boy arena. I've been on good dates and bad dates, none of which were influenced by the fact I have a chronic illness.
I do not always choose to disclose my health problems to men I am dating unless I see a relationship in the realm of possibility, but sometimes the topic is relevant and needs to be disclosed sooner.
Overall, I have received only positive responses when sharing my illness with the opposite sex. In fact, within the past few months of posting about my disease on social media, I have received messages from men who want to get to know me better. This was shocking to me at first, until I realized these few things:
1. Guys love a girl who is bold
Speaking so bluntly about the most private part of my life is apparently a turn-on. It is not easy to be open about a sensitive subject, and guys realize this. Taking risks is attractive and shows that you are not afraid of the unknown.
2. He doesn't want a perfect girl
My guy friends always tell me one of the top reasons they do not approach a girl is that she is intimidating or seems too perfect. Men have insecurities and weaknesses too, and they feel validated in knowing a girl can reciprocate their imperfections. This may sound ridiculous, but think about it: Perfection is too hard to keep up with.
Weaknesses make us real, interesting and unique.
3. Confidence is sexy
One of the many lessons I have learned from my disease is to embrace who I am. If I act embarrassed about my disease, guys assume there is something for me to be embarrassed about, and that really isn't the case. Showing men that I am secure with who I am has only served to benefit me.
4. Telling the truth is contagious
If you share something personal with a guy in the early stages of a potential relationship, he will feel comfortable confiding in you. In my experience, after I share about my disease, men feel they can trust me enough to reciprocate my openness and share more frequently and honestly about themselves.
5. Secrets don't make (boy)friends
After years of hiding my illness from others, I realize now that life is easier when I am honest. Once a few dates with a guy turn into something more serious, he'll find out if you are hiding some big secret that affects your daily life. Why not just be upfront right off the bat? In light of my "single and ready to mingle" relationship status, I plan on testing out this theory for myself — updates to come.