In my wildest imagination, I never would have predicted that I’d be in my 50s, single, living with Parkinson’s and living on long-term disability. Nevertheless, here I am. I was diagnosed in 2008 and became single again in 2015. That same year, I relocated my newly single self to a new state. I had family nearby, but otherwise, I knew no one.
Determined that my life would not be defined by Parkinson’s, I set out to live the best life I could. My priorities were to establish a community of friends and a new team of healthcare providers, to get my finances in order and to create a full and happy single life.
I socialized and made friends, but I specifically avoided group or one-on-one settings that hinted of dating. I wasn’t yet comfortable enough with my new single life.
While all of these priorities require ongoing attention, after about a year I felt sufficiently comfortable in this new life to consider the possibility of dating. I was feeling happy, and that set the foundation for me to enjoy romantic companionship as a nice addition to my life.
While online dating was unfamiliar territory, it seemed like the most straightforward way to meet someone. When I set out to compose my dating profile, I considered starting with,
“Unemployed, single woman with an incurable,
progressive neurodegenerative disease seeks……”
I decided that wasn’t the way to go, even though I got a good chuckle out of it.
When I met the first compatible guy, I had some genuine discomfort with not knowing exactly how or when to share my diagnosis. I felt vulnerable laying out my cards like that, but I also knew that avoiding vulnerability wasn’t an option if I wanted to live my life to its fullest potential.
So having Parkinson’s became just one of many things I’d share. One more “are we compatible” question to be answered in time. Mr. Compatibility never blinked when our plan to walk around the park became a walk to the nearest bench. And he was understanding if I canceled our plans because I was hit with a bout of fatigue. When we stopped dating after a few months, it was not because of Parkinson’s.
Since my re-entry into dating, I’ve had a dozen or so coffee or happy hour first dates and a couple of months-long relationships. I learn more about myself with every coffee, chat or relationship. People are endlessly fascinating, and each guy I meet teaches me something.
Because I believe that a relationship could enhance my life, I’ll keep at it. My father taught me that there are four relationships states in reverse priority order: Unhappily coupled, unhappily single, happily single and happily coupled.
I’ll admit that I still occasionally wonder why anyone would choose to be with someone who has Parkinson’s. Fortunately, the times I’ve asked that aloud have been to my therapist, family or friends. In other words, people who know my inherent worth. I believe that all human beings are worthy of being loved even though I, too, need a periodic reminder. Fortunately, I also know that everyone, without exception, suffers from their insecurities and that those come front and center when dating.
Over time, I’ve learned the value of packing up my insecurities and choosing to play the game rather than taking my ball and going home. After all, dating is just that. Dating. I don’t go on a first date thinking this is my next husband. I agree to go on a date because I think I might enjoy this person’s company.
My plan, for now, is to continue dating as opportunities present themselves, and I’ll remain open to the possibility of being happily coupled while continuing to live the life I love and enjoying my “happily single status.”
Interested in learning more about women and Parkinson’s?
Join us in Portland on Saturday, June 23, 2018, for The Victory Summit® Parkinson’s Symposium where we’ll be launching our new session – Finding Your Community: Women with Parkinson’s. Registration for this free, one-day event is now open.