I don’t want to go over old ground too much. I mentioned our first date in Dear Diary, I’m going on a date!
Our second date had to be slightly unconventional too, just as our first time meeting had been. I wasn’t well (well I never am but hopefully you get my meaning.)
We’d met on the Monday for the first time, and he wanted to see me again on the Friday. He wanted to take me out for a meal. How to come across as keen to see him too but simply unable to do?
I was obviously experiencing ‘payback’ or Post Exertional Malaise after our first ‘date’ and driving myself home from his house afterwards; the furthest I had driven in years.
I was largely housebound, perhaps leaving the house once a fortnight/once a month for a maximum of a few hours. So to be seeing him twice in one week was not my normal level of doing things.
You know what? I went for it. I properly threw him in at the deep end. If he really was keen to see me, the real me, then it would have to be on my terms. I simply was not well enough to go out for a meal. I could not leave the house or drive to see him. He would have to come to me. And in doing so, he would have to witness some of the Post Exertional Malaise I was experiencing as a result of being out the house on the Monday.
Sink or swim time, so early on!
The relationship had no future if I wasn’t myself. If I pretended I was fine (which I was too unwell to do) at what point would I come clean and end the pretence?
I lived at home with my parents and although he knew that, I was reluctant to have him come over while they were they. I felt too much like being a teenager again. I was 26. My parents were going out (to a fancy dress party of all things) and so it seemed like a good evening to have him over.
I remember my parents running late and really hoping they’d have left by the time Mr Tree Surgeon knocked on the door. Meeting the parents is a big thing, but to do it so soon and while THEY WERE IN FANCY DRESS was not what I planned. Luckily the planets aligned and they’d just left by the time he arrived.
I was still in my pyjamas. True story. They were decent ones, but still. Talk about a baptism of fire. I’d text him to ‘warn’ him that I hadn’t been able to get dressed and that I was still wiped out after Monday. And you know what, he brought his pyjamas to put on so we could be the same. Pizza and pyjamas. Probably a dream poorly-person date!
We watched Dreamworks Puss in Boots, like the overgrown children we apparently are. He seemed completely unfazed by my apparent poorliness.
My temperature regulation has been an issue throughout my M.E. experience. I remember, having had to take my socks off because my feet got too hot, that they then got really cold (burning cold I call it because it hurts!) A pivotal moment, for me, was that he put my socks on for me because I couldn’t bend down or muster the strength/energy to do it.
Our third time of meeting was the first time we had a more conventional date.
For our first real date (as in our first date that wasn’t me in my pyjamas and us watching a children’s DVD!) we met in town for coffee, my parents having dropped me off as close to the meeting place as possible. (It was a big deal for them to be letting their 26 year old daughter go out with anyone other than a close friend or family member.) And then, my now-husband, declared that he knew a great place to eat that we could go to for lunch.
“I can’t walk very far” I said. (He knew about my health condition from the get go, but I thought I’d better reiterate this part!)
“It’s really close don’t worry.”
Google maps now tells me it was 520 yards/0.3 miles/480 metres. He learnt that day that that distance was exactly what I’d meant when I said “I can’t walk very far.” It was out of my range. Whilst I did make it to the pub, my battery was drained by the time we got there. As we’d walked, I’d got slower and slower and slower. I wasn’t embarrassed and he wasn’t fazed but he felt awful for not quite grasping the severity of the situation. “Oh she REALLY can’t walk far. At all.”
Perhaps I downplayed things a little in the hope that he’d stick around, but truth be told it simply wasn’t possible to pretend I wasn’t as unwell as I was. Of course I ran on adrenaline at times, just as I’d do when enjoying seeing my friends. And although my M.E. was ever-present we didn’t really discuss it in depth each time we met in those early weeks and months. It came up constantly “I can’t drive that far.” “I can’t drink alcohol.” “I’m not able to go to the cinema just yet.” Sounds terribly miserable doesn’t it. But it was my truth. I just tried to own it and be as upbeat about it as possible.
The key was communication, and there being a level of trust from him that I know my body, my health and my limitations far better than he did. (Initially at least. Mr Tree Surgeon is now a pro at seeing the signs I’m flagging while I try to kid myself that I’m fine.) Had he disregarded, even kindly, what I was saying about how much I could do, I simply don’t think it would have worked. In the same way I trust that he knows far more about trees and knots and which rope to use in a tree, he trusted that if I said I wasn’t yet well enough to take a train to Cambridge or to spend more than a couple of hours together at a time