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.
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.