Leslie at Getting Closer to Myself just wrote an interesting post on disclosing her illness. I had, coincidentally, been planning to talk about the same thing this week, and Leslie's post has given me some perspective on my own recent disclosures.
Having two very different health issues to explain can be challenging. After I've gotten one out of the way, I often feel like launching into the other is just too much. Either I've explained my RA and the prospect of doing the same with a genetic heart condition is exhausting, or the other way around. And sometimes I worry that getting both out of the way at once makes it sound like my life is a neverending succession of doctors and treatments. Of course it does feel that way at times, but that's not the whole story.
My first date with the person I'm seeing was less than two weeks after my surgery (I still have no idea why I did that), and the heart thing came up fairly naturally. My incision was bright red and visible above the neckline of my shirt (frustratingly, it still is), and I was keeping my left arm pinned to my side, so it wasn't something I could hide very easily. I explained the surgery and the reasons for it, and that was that. It went well.
But I left out the RA. I'd dumped so much information on this guy who'd never even had blood taken, and who was clearly trying hard to understand and ask the right questions, that I couldn't think how to begin telling him about everything else. "While we're on the subject of medical problems, guess what else I have?" just didn't seem right.
I finally told him last week, after almost two months of dating - partly because I wanted to, and partly because my Mom said I had to do it sometime. To tell the truth, I'd been enjoying not having to tell him. My joints have finally been feeling really good, and there's been no limping or flinching or obvious swelling to encourage him to ask questions. So I told him in my usual stumbling, blurting way, in an icky scene in No Country for Old Men (TERRIFYING) during which he betrayed a fear of needles. "I give myself three a week!" I said, extremely unsexily. Nevertheless, it did the trick, launching a discussion of my RA and at the same time mercifully distracting me from the movie.
So when Leslie says there is no book on disclosure, she's right. In the past I've wished I could come up with some failsafe formula for explaining everything, but that just doesn't exist. Every relationship is different, and I'll just keep feeling my way forward with each new person who comes into my life. Maybe I should have told him sooner, but maybe his reaction to my surgery and recovery told me everything I needed to know at the time.
Now, seriously: if you haven't seen No Country for Old Men, bring something to hide under for, like, the entire thing.