The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
It’s no exaggeration that dating is stressful for literally everyone. Sure, it’s great once you finally find your person, but taking the time to go on date after date to find that person is an ordeal. Sometimes that ordeal can be spontaneous and fun, but other times it can be an
f**king train wreckinteresting. Regardless, dating is more difficult for some of us, especially for those of us who have an invisible disability. Whether you have anxiety, depression or ankylosing spondylitis, your disability isn’t typically the first thing others notice, which might seem like a positive attribute to anyone who has never been disabled. Like everything in life, having an invisible disability has its downfalls.
Being that I didn’t become disabled until the day after I turned 22, I’m essentially the ultimate before-and-after poster child for invisible disabilities. I’ve seen a clear difference of what it’s like going on dates now that I’m disabled, which naturally means that I handle and prepare for my dates a bit differently now knowing about my arthritis.
1. I'm transparent
At times, I have to be brutally honest about my disability, because many people have this misconception that people with disabilities (invisible or not) are somehow a burden to everyone who encounters them. Clearly, that’s why that one girl in my study group failed her first quiz. Obviously, she sat too close to me in class, and my invisible disability had a negative impact on her learning environment. I’m a monster. All jokes aside, a lot of the people I’ve gone on dates with think the fact that my disability doesn’t come with a warning label — like a wheelchair or a literal sign — somehow means that I’m cat-fishing my poor, naïve date. Because how dare I refuse to tell my dates the second we match on Tinder that I have a disability.
Because I’ve already experienced several past Tinder dates go AWOL because I opened up to them about my arthritis in an untimely matter (whatever the f**k that means), I try to bring up my arthritis on the first date. This might not be the most graceful approach, and it’s probably considered as “rushing” the conversation a tad. But the topic usually comes up naturally in my case. Seeing as they inevitably ask “why are you still an undergrad, if you’re 24,” to which I explain truthfully that I’ve had to take a few gap semesters off, because of my disability. Honestly, though, I don’t give a crap if I tell my dates about my disability too "soon". If they decide to ghost me because I was truthful and told them that I have an invisible disability, then I clearly don’t need them in my life.
Nevertheless, it’s up to every individual person to decide when the best time to have “the talk” with their bae is.
2. I plan ahead
My pre-date preparation can vary. Sometimes it’s as simple as going on a practice date with a friend. Seriously, nearly everyone has been to a mock interview, so why aren’t mock dates a thing yet? Seeing as my immune system didn’t feel like attacking my joints until two years ago, I used to feel less nervous about going on dates. Practice dates make me feel significantly less anxious. Other times, my preparation requires me to rearrange my typical schedule. Personally, my disability requires quite a bit of medication. While my medication makes me feel better overall, it can make me feel sick anywhere from a few hours to a few days after taking my medication. If I’m planning on meeting a hot date at a restaurant, I might opt to postpone injecting myself with biologics, at least until after the date. I’d rather not potentially puke all over my date (if my rheumatologist is reading this, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry). However, if you need your medication to function, don’t wait to take it.
Being that my invisible disability is sometimes visible, I get a fair amount of anxiety before a date, especially if I have to use my wheelchair or cane that day. If I need to be in my wheelchair during a date, I’ll take some time to “warn” my date ahead of time that I’ll be in a wheelchair. Likewise, I’ll make sure the restaurant we’re going to is wheelchair-friendly because you wouldn’t believe how many bars and restaurants aren’t actually ADA compliant in my area.
Regardless, coping with my impending date requires more prep work than showering and finding a cute getup. Preparing for a date should never be overlooked by anyone, especially those of us with disabilities.
3. I remind myself that I'm still a catch
Okay, well, I might not be a catch, because I’m still a self-proclaimed petty bitch. But I’m definitely not somehow an inferior suitor because of my disability. Everyone gets a healthy amount of jitters before a date, but nobody should ever have to doubt their worth before going on a date. Regardless of your disability or lack thereof, you are dating material and you deserve to find your person (unless you’re Nick Viall).
Nobody with a disability, invisible or otherwise, should ban themselves from dating because they think their potential partner is going to reject them because of their disability. Your disability might make you different, but that just means you need to handle dating differently, not forego dating entirely.