As many of you know, I got my third article published on The Mighty recently, and will be writing more about my chronic illness for that. I followed their Facebook page, and I will occasionally read some of the posts that especially catch my eye.
Last week I read one that made me tear up. It was titled, Dear Future Husband, From Your Chronically Ill Wife. Before I even clicked the link this article resonated with me because as goofy as it may seem, I have been writing letters to my “future husband” since I was a young teenager. I love to write, and I am someone who thinks letters and cards often mean more than extravagant gifts. I got the idea because of conversations we had at church about marriage, sex, and dating. I’ve always been a free-thinker and enjoyed spending time contemplating what people discussed, and forming my own opinion after thinking it through. Writing has been a great outlet to express myself as well as figuring out why I feel the way I do about important things in life.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was a late bloomer and wasn’t particularly interested in dating until I was in college (And was too shy to talk to the guys I did actually like in high school). This gave me time to think about what I wanted in a partner, as well as some difficult times being the only single one in some of my friend groups. Even as I’ve grown older I have kept in the back of my mind that I will be getting married one day, and thought about the way I hope my future husband treats the girls he dates before me. I have tried to keep him in the back of my mind with decisions I make, as well as my future kids. I know it seems weird that I was thinking about these people I hadn’t even met when I was so young, but I have always been someone who is very conscious about others’ feelings and I think pretty far into my future and know what I want it to look like.
This article choked me up because my life is not the way I want it to be; I’m not always the person I want to be. Having a chronic illness is the one of the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my short life and even though I’ve been sick for almost 4 years now, it still so often feels new to me. I’m not always okay with missing out on things I want to do, I still often wonder why God lets us feel pain, and I can’t do all the chores and work that a normal twenty-something can. I don’t talk about what I’m missing out on very much, as I like to be as positive as I can, but I do wish I could travel more, I wish I could write more, and I wish I could have the kind of adventures that I used to enjoy so much. I wish I could serve those I love more — I wish I could contribute to helping my family more, and I sometimes feel like I’m a burden. There’s a lot that I can’t do but rarely talk about because there really isn’t much of a point in harping on it.
Something I loved about this article is how much it talks about the love we still have to give, despite everything we are unable to do. As much as I sometimes feel like I am an incomplete person because of my illness, when I take the time to sit back and really look at myself the way Jesus would, I realize I am so much more than my physical body. I am kind and patient with others. I am a giver, and often offer much more than I really am able to in order to make others happy. I am thoughtful and genuine, which makes for a very loving heart.
As much as I hate my POTS and I hate that I can’t give every single thing in a relationship that I ordinarily would have been able to a few years ago, I also realize what a valuable gift my chronic illness has given me. I have become more resilient, I am much more empathetic than most people who are even twice my age, and I have new experiences under my belt that have been able to help others through hardships of their own.
I have a small binder of letters to give someone on my wedding day, and even though I am nowhere near perfect, that will be perfectly okay. The cool thing about marriage is that you are accepting someone for who they are — flaws and all — and promising to love and care for them for the rest of your life. I don’t know how much better I’ll get with my illness, but I do know that I have a heart that is equipped to love someone completely. I know that I will be a loyal, caring, thoughtful, and trustworthy companion, regardless of how my body is acting. When it comes down to it, these are the qualities that really matter in a relationship — not so much whether or not I can do the laundry or cook an extravagant dinner. I’m still learning to accept myself fully with my illness, but I have come a really long way from where I began.