When Men Are Sicker than Chronic Pain Patients

When Men Are Sicker than Chronic Pain Patients

By Katie O’Leary.

“You’re ruining the best thing that has ever happened to you.” – guy I hung out with.

Let me give you some context: I had been hanging out with this man for a few weeks. We weren’t dating. We had no intimate relationship beyond friendship, at my insistence. Although I am sick I try to be social. I like meeting new people, and I am not opposed to going out. However, I do not commit to anyone (ever since my last breakup which ended horribly and left me with the realization that my life and illness were just too hard for most men to handle) and I find it very difficult to date. When I vocalize this to men, many disregard it as a hurdle they hope to jump and persuade me to reconsider. And it is not for the sake of a relationship, no, it is for the sake of a physical relationship. It is for what they want. What they need.

Katie O’Leary

They see me, not as I am, but as a woman who they want to hook up with and have fun. They don’t see the invisible illness. At first, I don’t blame them. How could I? It’s hard to tell. But when I cancel hang outs, or tell them “No” too many times, they start to get angry. If I don’t respond immediately to a text message, or if I fall asleep from the sheer exhaustion of trying to control my pain all day and I miss their message – I get nasty messages in return.

Is it rude of me to fall asleep? Yes. It is. Do I apologize? Of course I do. Do I explain and am I up front about my illness and what happens beyond my physical control?


But it is never enough. I cannot control my body, I am so exhausted by what my body does to itself, and sometimes I do not want to leave the comfort of my home and go to a guy’s house just to assuage his anger. That’s not fun and it’s not healthy for either of us. So when I received that message, “the best thing that has ever happened to you”, I laughed. I laughed for a long time.

The best thing that ever happened to me wasn’t a guy.

I make mistakes. I miscommunicate. I don’t always know what to say. But I try to be upfront. I try to explain myself. But I have NEVER tried to make a sick person feel guilty for being sick. I have never tried to manipulate a sick person into having sex because I care more about myself than their pain. I have never tried to convince a sick person that I am a good person because I cook for them and expect nothing in return (side note: he did).

Luckily, none of those things happened to me in my case. I didn’t let him manipulate me or pressure me into sex or anything physical (I didn’t see him that way). But do you know what the worst thing about this is?

It’s that he truly believes that my disability and illness means that I am not worthy of love or a healthy relationship. And by stating he is “the best thing” I could hope for, I can’t possibly expect to be loved or appreciated by someone or anyone else but him. And that is the most disgusting and horrific thing of all.

And so here is what I have to say in return: You are sicker than I am. And I hope you get help before you cause more damage than you realize.

Katie O’Leary lives in Los Angeles. She has CRPS (from a sports injury in college), knows the entertainment industry well and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Katie O’Leary

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katie i’m an disabled real chronic pain patient,who been alone since my chronic pain started in 2003 broken neck,i know i’m a very needy person,and since it took till 2015 to find even an rx doctor ordered opioid to help me,and i’m glad i hate to say,because with this opioid lie crisis,s it’s about the money they can make,these person who don’t have great real chronic pain,so they are addicted to money,if they could be honest with them self’s,they could see that their action’s are torturing,murdering real chronic pain patient’s,sorry back to you,i can only say what i feel,since they keep lowering my medicine’s pain medicines the one’s that were working after year’s of trying every thing doctor’s could do they they tryed high mg’s of opioid medication which gave me i/2 the pain relieve i didn’t have,now their lowered that from 2015 and i was given i dose for the whole day,i started being bed ridding,my health got really bad, next i was begging doctor to stop the pain,they laughed,i have enough medical proof of why i ‘m in very great pain,the thing’s that been said to me,one er doctor said he didn’t care,than i said why are you a doctor for if you don’t care for your patients enough that their leaving and go home and kill them self’s don’t you fear GOD my point is for me i’d have to work on the issue of being tortured by these pain nazi’s before i’d every be able to be with an woman,for in my case,it seems you might be more healthy and ready you know us men are butt’s for give us and wait for the right one,GOD has him waiting for you,one that will love you,for all you are,it will be worth it,good luck dennis.


It is NOT rude to fall asleep, even if you are NOT sick. That’s just ridiculous. People need to disconnect the umbilical that attaches them to their phones. Not answering a text right away – or even EVER in many cases – is also not rude. People need to get over themselves. Send me even ONE nasty text and I’ll block you permanently. As well one should. Life’s too short to waste time with mean people.


It’s funny. I said those exact words to my husband of 30 years in Jan 2017. We got married at 17 & had 3 babies by the time we were 25. We were madly in love for a long time. We struggled a lot. Money was tight more years than it was comfortable. We did have a serious separation 25 years ago but we worked thru it & recommitted. I loved him so much more when he supported me thru all the years of complicated medical issues that eventually left me a different person. I tried to tell him often how much his support(physical & emotional) meant to me. Our sexual relationship definitely suffered. Between the pain & medications, I didn’t feel so sexy. Those last 3 months were pure hell. Not because of our relationship but medication changes that caused hallucinations, weight loss & not capable of caring for myself. I was finally starting to feel better. That New Years Day I cooked us dinner. Which was a big deal for me at that point. I wanted to surprise him & I had so much hope in those few hours before he got home. New Years Day 2017 began a kind of hell that almost killed me. I never expected him to tell me he wanted to separate immediately and file for divorce. He told me that these last few months had shown him that I would never get better. We had lost the intimacy in our marriage. There would always be another surgery, another problem. When he said those words, I hated him. He was throwing me away. All I heard in that moment was he missed having sex. After pleading and then yelling every curse word I could think of. I told him he didn’t deserve me & he would regret this moment. It has taken me many months to recover. Thank God for my family & my children(they are all adults). I did not think I would survive. But I did. I never realized how strong I am. All these years of chronic pain, suffering but still living has given me a backbone of steel and the heart of a rhino(yes, I stole that last part from comedian Bill Murray). I have to laugh sometimes. Even if it’s through tears. God, I wish it was all different. I miss having a partner. But life is complicated. None of us get to live the perfect life. I don’t regret my marriage and impending divorce. He is not the bad guy. He just doesn’t deserve me. Now I know that I deserve someone who will love all of me. The whole enchilada. All the kit and the caboodle. So do you Katie, so do you!


I can’t even get a second date. And these women don’t seem to want to make anything happen sexually, either. Women are always being pressured to have sex. At least you have the luxury to say no, and complain about not having a normal relationship. At least they still find you attractive. I don’t even get that chance. There’s something wrong with people these days. Nobody connects anymore. I dealt with a bunch of women on line that only wanted younger guys because they know they can always get laid by them, get an ego boost. They’re twice as demanding if you’re their age. And I’m twice as ill. But I keep trying. You’ve got no idea how bad it can get, Kate. At least they go out with you, even if they don’t understand.

Lisa Shuman

I’m also in the same situation..im 54 and I’ve had 2 failed spine surgeries and really can not walk..i can get from point A to point B and that’s about it.i have severe pain from my lower back down my left leg into my foot..so severe that I really don’t want to be in a relationship..people say who you gonna have when you get old..no one to grow old with..ive tried..and I can’t expect no man to live how I have to live..it wouldn’t be fair..i can’t except the fact I need a wheelchair..i will not get one..im so determined to beat this pain..and Drs just keep throwing the ax by cutting back on pain meds..so so sad I have to live this way..im hoping one day they will develop some kind of surgery to help me throu it all..i don’t go anywhere except Dr appt..nothing for fun because I know I can NOT walk so why bother..yes I scream and cry..and constantly think WHY me..im depressed..nothing I can do..i have my 2 pugs that love me for who I am and wouldn’t have it any other way..they are my life right now..NO ONE UNDERSTANDS THIS LIFE I LIVE..if you don’t have pain…there is no way anyone would understand..its sad to say but I can’t be in a relationship in this condition..i can’t even help myself..im miserable..im hurt..im depressed..i couldn’t help a man out..yes the company would be nice..i will grow old alone..all because an unlicensed drunk drive rear ended me doing 60 mph and I was stopped waiting to turn..and he has $ a day insurance which don’t pay hardly nothing to the other car..they should not have dollar a day insurance if they don’t stand behind it..so basically my life is over at 54..been living like this since 2013..my heart is broken ..my life is boring..and I’m so very angry that my life turned out this way..but grateful I have my pugs and a fenced in yard..

Alice Carroll

I’ve met a couple decent guys since my failed back surgery and subsequent chronic pain for the past 15 years but have not been able to commit to a serious relationship. The deal is I have no sex drive! It really never crosses my mind, seriously. I would have to somehow force it into being and it’s just not there. This is due to the medication I must take. I’m not willing to stop medication and live in pain in order to change this. Anyone else dealing with this?


The worst is having a beloved child who rejects you because she doesn’t see or understand the pain.

Kip W

Katie O, I’m sorry to hear of men trying to be controlling/involved in your life. They do have needs as I do with chronic lumbar spine damage. I have had spine surgery and 28 RFAs 60+ injections and trial spinal cord simulator(faild) and now a spinal pain pump that has been the only thing that has brought me mentally out of a tunnel vision of severe pain. I have been so lost in relationships and with loss of my wife because of doctors lied about my condition in a wkcomp case that is gone bad. She didn’t understand as I didn’t. Now, I have been at this for 8 years and I have given up hope of finding a equal women to share life situations with. To find someone to understand truly of my struggles. Women think they can fix me and don’t understand why I can not change a light bulb. I have given up hope on finding a women to share time with. Anyone being involved with a disabled partner needs to be fully aware of what other is struggling with. They must be brought to our doctors to have them explain the situation. To have a unconditional love of the other to make a relationship work with space to grow and truly love the other for what they are and dealing with.. So, this is just not a man or women issue. It is all of us dealing with a chronic situations that can not be fixed. It is as life as we know it. Coping to have love in our lives. Love

James Thorne

No you absolutely should not be extorted to do anything you aren’t comfortable and happy to do. And the men you are describing are so insensitive and misguided for treating you like that. I can see how you would be discouraged. But anyway you can. Survive. And never pretend that there is anything in this life more important than love. When, in those little hours in the middle of the night, there is someone there to comfort your heart and soul, you will see what I mean. They will help you when you fall. Life is full of pain and suffering but love is the sweetest thing of all. Please know that and give it another chance. You are a survivor, give yourself the gift of finding someone to love. I don’t mean lowering your standards or accepting the first jerk that looks your way. I mean find a quality man who sees that special quality that only he can see in you. The one not even your mother can recognize. HE is there. He will find you if you only make yourself available. Please make this gift to yourself. I know you can do it. If I could you can. It won’t be easy but it is possible if you make it a priority. Do so.


Lets get this out of the way – I am a 64 male and have suffered with chronic pain from the age of 24 till the present.
I sympathize with you and all the other women and men that have encountered relationship problems due to their chronic pain. During my early years of CP I was able to mask the pain and do all the usual things, like have a job, get married, raise children and so on. By the time I turned 35 or so I was forced to alter my lifestyle to accommodate my battle with CP. There were some relationship issues like decreased libido, fatigue, soaring medical cost, but since I could still work and provide, I and my partners were able to work around the negatives. As I approached the age of 48 the pain and mobility issues began to affect my earning ability and the issues I mentioned above became increasingly difficult to overcome. As a male we are expected to perform sexually on command. It has been my experience that when a mans libido falls short of his partners there begins to be a building of resentments that can be fatal. I have had more than a few women accuse me of not being attracted to them when I tell them I hurt too much for an encounter or that I am just to exhausted. I have been screamed at and cheated on just because I declined a sexual overture. Their resentment list grows and grows and as my ability to earn income decreases the chance for any meaningful relationship approaches zero. The women in my life have had little empathy for my CP and as they experience the dwindling of my ability to cater to their wants and needs, they begin to lie and exclude me from their life. The relationship then dies an undignified death.
It seems to me that it is not just men who try to take advantage of CP patients sexually, or become angry when their manipulations do not bear fruit but that on the whole these defects of character exist in both genders. The end result is that a large number of men and women that suffer from chronic pain finish their days alone. Loneliness kills people in good health, the emptiness is even more potent to those of us that suffer pain 24/7.
In spite of my experiences I still hold out hope for a loving and caring relationship, what I have to do is temper that expectation with acceptance for whatever comes my way.

Denise Bault

Sadly, I have to agree with you…at least with the men I have known. My ex-husband said he “just stopped caring about me once I started getting sick.” His words, not mine. And it showed! Now you know why he is an “EX.” Guess he forgot about the “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” part of the vows we took. Guess what. HIS LOSS. Even disabled, I can do more than he ever did. And I don’t miss him a bit. Not one bit.


My wife and I have been married for 40 years, this year. I was forced to try low back surgery 23 years ago for relentless pain. It was the only chance I had to remain a self provider for my family and self. My wife and I are in our late 50;s now. She has been right by my side for every surgery, mri, ct, infusion, steroid shot and every visit to pain management. She has never….let me or our two sons down. She has always put other peoples situtions and issues right along side of our family issues. NEVER, me too, or me first.

She was diagnosed 10 years ago wth fibromyalgea and lymes disease. I go with her to every pain management appointment and since I can no longer work steady with the “opioid crisis” policy forced on all patients with lifetime pain I attend her needs when she is having a bad day and she attends me when the circumstances are reversed. It is not that I am trying to repay her for her loyalty through 23 years of dealing with lifelong pain with me but, when she began feeling the hardship of her illness, it was time for me step up, be a man, a husband, a friend.

Dear Katie, I’ve been in your shoes more than once. It’s been a very long time since I’ve even been on a date. Between 1998 and 2004, my husband asked for a divorce for Christmas, after that three boyfriends whom lied to and used me. The last tried to kill me, all because he had a bad day at work.( I jokingly now am able to refer to them as the deadly four.) It serves as good reminder. I told God I would be very patient until he sent me someone that would love me forever, that I could love forever, that loved Him also. I waited and waited and waited but never gave up my faith. In 2012 here came my little niece, her mother died shortly before her 2nd birthday. I told her how I thought God would send me a boyfriend but sent her instead. She looked up with those beautiful brown eyes and said, am I better than a boyfriend? My reply, Oh honey you’re better than all the boyfriends in the whole wide world! That’s the God’s honest truth too, she is! She’s absolutely my world!! I’ve never known such a love as I have for her. I always had so much love to give, but no one to accept it. I decided a long time ago Katie I would never again settle for second best. I’m kind, I work hard when I’m able, I have a good sense of humor, in my opinion the whole package. That is with the exception of the chronic pain I live with that keeps me from doing the things I would love to do. Though like yourself the men were only interested in part of the package. You’re a beautiful young woman, pain and all. Never forget that and never settle for second best because you, myself and all other women deserve to be treated as princesses. Chronic pain or not. Perhaps one day you’ll meet someone who knows pain their selves Katie and the amount of energy it robs one of. Someone who loves you for who you are and not for what you can or cannot do. Be patient Katie, I know it’s not easy. To this day I still don’t have a boyfriend and people think I’m crazy. It’s just that Mr. Right hasn’t come along yet. I know in my heart if he ever does, I’ll just know it. Since that day in 2004 when I had that long talk with God, I haven’t even looked for anyone. You take care of yourself and know in your heart Katie that you’re very valuable and deserve only the best. I will pray for you. I will pray Katie that God send you that perfect someone that you are to grow old with. Just keep the faith. Thank you for sharing your story, I don’t feel like I’m the only one now.
Sincerely, Terri James

Virginia null

Amen, sister. I mean, a men also are of the many out there!! Thank you for putting into words, in public, what I’ve always had such a hard time, at the right time, telling my man of the moment, how I am truly wanting and needing to say and why.
Yes, I’m fully aware and right there with you, my dear, and have been in so many relationships which end on that exact note. It always breaks my heart. Not because I’m so hurt over losing them (God forbid!), but that I’d done such a crappy job of communicating well enough.
And for letting them get their hopes up in the first place. The question I had to ask myself is: have I really accepted this cross I bear? Because if I have, then I should be able to put it into words others can grasp if I have, right?


Isn’t possible that this particular guy meant that he could handle your illness, love you and take care of you? Obviously, you didn’t have the same feelings, but his intent with the statement “the best thing…” could’ve been altruistic and selfless? I don’t know – you are the one living your life and know better what this guy meant.

13 years after my accident, I ran into a girl who was 2 years behind me in high school. I was at the point where I knew “dating” was over for me at the age of 30. But this woman and I spent some time together and, for the first time in 3 years, I laughed and had some fun. It continued for several months and turned into a deep relationship. I realized that I was asking for her to potentially live a life that she really didn’t understand. She didn’t know how difficult it would be on her. At least, that’s what I thought. I decided to “protect” her from herself by committing to me, so I explained my thoughts and told her we should stop before getting too deep. What I didn’t realize was I was selling her short. And she flat out told me so! I wasn’t giving her credit for knowing what she was doing and that she’d seen me in my worst pain, and she’d stayed right beside me.

We’ve been married for 22 years now. I just knew I was doomed to a life of solitude – except for my “relationship” with unimaginable pain. I thank God every day for her refusal to accept that I didn’t think she could handle it, or should have to. She’s my best friend, my caretaker, my sounding board, my everything. And, to be honest, I’m not sure I would have survived the last 25 (out of 27) years without her – no, I KNOW I wouldn’t have.

If you want it, I hope you find what I found, Katie O’Leary. There are some amazing people out there. Even men!

Jennifer Price

Many men are are going to feel that way, and are selfish to think that way. I met and dated and hung out with men(boys) that did the same thing. Know what you want in a relationship and know yourself and what you are able to give in return in a relationship. I had to give it up to God. It took 8 years of single life, then I met my husband. From our friendship we built a bridge towards each other and I told him right away that I had CRPS. He didn’t let my permanent disability stand in the way of getting to know me.

Jon Morgan - Parker

Men are so contrived. As well as controlling. They want, what they want, when they want it. It is very difficult for them to be understanding, patient and caring. But by God when they are poorly or suffering? They expect to be treated like royalty. An ideal partner thinks first about you if you’re a person who suffers with chronic illness or pain. He should consider what you have to deal with. He should not be afraid to ask you if you need help or to do something for you that helps you with your routine and pain. From my perspective. If you love your partner who is suffering? They come first before anything. Consideration, love, care and compassion for some men are difficult to be. Shame really, because they will find happiness in their lives when they are not just thinking about what they want. Giving is more powerful and makes every effort worthwhile. Eventually becoming caring and helpful for the people who you love and cherish will make both people feel happier and loved.

Fortunately not all men are like that. And also its not because you’re female. Its because you have an illness. I run several men only groups for men with fibromyalgia and other chronic and invisible illnesses. They too have relationship issues. I know a guy who’s wife beat him because he was ill. He suffered this and other abuse for years until it dawned on him it wasn’t right. She stole all his money and kept him locked in the house. I know many more men that worry their partners will leave them. I know many men that have lost their partners whether they were married or just newly dating all because they have an illness the partner can’t deal with or doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong at all. We can’t say it’s a Male or female thing. It’s how a person is with illness and disability that’s the problem.