Wyatt Barris is a freshman at Butte College, studying bio-medical engineering and genetic engineering. He was diagnosed with non-communicating hydrocephalus at eleven days old. He has had three shunt revisions, two of which happened this past year. He is a proud member of the Teens Take Charge (TTC) Advisory Council, has walked in three parades for HA, and talked to his peers about the condition during health classes at his high school.
Dating and hydrocephalus is a tricky subject. This is due to the fact that, when confronted with the news that person they are dating has a medical condition that they have never heard of, someone can become quite dumbstruck. The person can take the news very well…or not so well. For the person with hydrocephalus, there is also that looming question of “when do I tell them?”
In my experiences, I initially did not tell the girls I was dating about my condition. I was truly afraid that they would reject me if they found out that I had hydrocephalus. The first girl I told about my condition was a girl named Courtney. She was a good friend of mine when we started dating so she already knew of my condition. But I felt more comfortable sharing the details of it with her because, after a horrible car accident where she suffered a broken back before we started dating, she had a greater understanding of going through intense medical treatment. This, and the fact that we talked nearly every period at school, helped me reveal my true self to her. She allowed me to be “me,” and it was the first time I was myself in a relationship. Sadly, we broke up. My relationship with Courtney, though, gave me confidence to talk about my condition with other girls I would date and not feel ashamed about it.
From that point forward, I told every girl I dated about my hydrocephalus. The sad thing was that they seemed not to care about it. It was good in that they did not hold it against me, but it was sad in that they weren’t more curious or sensitive to my hydrocephalus.
I eventually became a Teens Take Charge Advisory Council member, and in the summer of 2012 I attended the 12th National Conference on Hydrocephalus. I spoke, and met so many great people, but the most memorable person I met was a girl by the name of Dara Tannariello.
It was love at first sight. She was so funny, so beautiful…but she lived so far away. We decided to just be friends after the conference because of the distance. I started dating a girl name Melanie. I fell in love with Melanie over time. I told her about my condition. I actually tried to get her more involved in helping me raise awareness, but to no avail. She was not interested and didn’t understand. I had two revisions during our relationship, but it seemed like it was more about her then it was about the surgeries at that time. My revisions spurred me to start my own awareness page on Facebook. She had no faith in the page and didn’t really support me with it. I eventually broke up with Melanie due to these facts. I just could not be with a girl that couldn’t support me or my condition, and who would not have anything to do with helping me spread awareness for it. We just did not connect.
I did have that connection with Dara. It had never faltered as we had stayed in touch since the conference. A few weeks after I broke up with Melanie, I confessed to Dara that I loved her and we have been together ever since. She is supportive, caring, and knows exactly what I go through. We connect.
In my opinion, with hydrocephalus and dating, you just have to be yourself. You should not be with a person that doesn’t support you or the fact that you are living with a chronic medical condition. That is why I left Melanie. You have to find someone that will accept you for YOU. In my experience, I also feel that the best time to tell someone is on that first date. You have to be upfront and honest with them.
The best advice I can give is this quote: “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and we know we cannot live within.” – James A. Baldwin