With the difficulties we have staying employed and keeping long-time friends, many chronic migraineurs believe dating is simply out of the question. The pain, nausea, fatigue and trigger-laden date-time hot spots just don’t seem to add up to super-sexy-fun times. Besides, we may think, who wants to date someone who has to watch what they eat and drink, can’t stay up late, and routinely cancels plans at the last minute?
The answer, actually, is a lot of someones.
Despite what you might think, it isn’t impossible to date with chronic migraine. You can enjoy the occasional night out while having migraine disease. You can even (gasp!) find love if that’s what you’re looking for. You just have to know how to handle it.
Here are a few tips to help from someone who’s been there:
Tip #1: You don’t have to mention your illness on the first date. (No, not even if a bad attack makes you reschedule said date. Simply saying “I’m not feeling well” should suffice.) You do, however, need to bring it up if and when you feel the relationship changing from casual to semi-serious. Obviously, there’s no set timeline for that – you just have to go with your gut. It’ll still be scary, but at least this way you’ll know the other person already knows you well enough and is invested enough in you to hear what you’re saying without judgment.
Caveat: Do not, however, wait until you’ve moved past semi-serious to out-and-out serious. It isn’t fair to the other person. It’s kind of like kids. If you feel really strongly about having them – one way or the other – you should mention it before things get too intense. That way, each person knows what he or she is signing up for.
Tip #2: Once you decide to talk about your illness, keep it simple. There’s no need to go into the nitty-gritty of each attack unless your partner asks for specifics. (I, for example, didn’t tell my husband about my bizarre Alice-in-Wonderland auras until after we were engaged lest he think I was a raving psycho.) Instead, simply share that you have migraine disease and be honest about how often you experience attacks. This is also a good time to talk about triggers and explain why you steer away from certain foods, drinks, or activities. If you need help figuring out what to say, read Teri Robert’s 10 Things I Want to Share About Migraines.
Don’t stress too much about this. The truth is, no matter what you say, your partner isn’t really going to understand the severity of your illness until he or she sees you sick over and over again. My husband and I have been together four years, and he only just recently started to understand what I meant when I first said I had “chronic migraine.” As he told me just the other night: “I really had no idea what I was getting into.” Lest that scare you, his next words were: “But, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Tip #3: Don’t let an inability to get out much keep you from meeting someone new. In today’s Internet age, many people meet friends, lovers, and even spouses online. (I have at least four such couples in my close circle of friends.) As long as you play it safe and follow some sensible guidelines (e.g., never meet someone for the first time in an isolated area and always tell a friend when, where, and with whom you’re meeting), the Internet is a fantastic way to get to know people without having to endure much of the outside world. It also makes it easier than ever before to meet people who share interests with you – something that’s unlikely to happen at all if you only make it out of your house every week or so.
Tip #4: Take risks. Don’t be so afraid of triggering a migraine or of getting hurt by falling for someone who ends up being unable to handle your illness that you keep yourself from having any fun. You’re tougher than you think. Besides, as Kerrie so succinctly put it, “sometimes you just gotta dance.”
Tip #5: Stay confident. Yes, you have chronic migraine. Yes, you may spend a large chunk of your time lying in bed nauseated and in pain, but remember – you are not your disease. You are a fully developed, multifaceted person with countless good qualities who has much to offer to the world. Don’t let migraine rob you of your self-confidence, and never let anyone make you feel badly about yourself for being sick. You rock – migraines and all.