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Why Chronic Pain Feels Like the 'Other Person' in My Dating Life

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I was in a relationship for almost five years. During that time, my chronic pain got much worse. I went through two surgeries. I spent two summers sitting on my couch not being able to go anywhere. I lost days of my life to my chronic pain and my joints. I never even realized that my chronic pain was causing me so much distress.

My pain hadn’t played such a great part in my life when he met me. It was a thing, but it wasn’t obvious. So I never encountered having the “awkward talk” about my chronic pain. I never had to mention to someone what to do if my knee dislocated. I never had to bring up the awkward discussion that if it did happen, they’d have to call an ambulance. I thought having those conversations would put them off me, for life. Those relationships, though, didn’t grow with me, so my chronic pain was never too much of a thought for them. They never asked about it or worried about it. So it was never mentioned.

the author sitting in the fall leaves, smiling

When I started dating, it opened a whole can of worms I had no idea existed. I had to actually tell people this time; I had to explain what it was. I prayed to God that it would not put them off me. My chronic pain feels like this massive cloud over my head. Some days, it hangs around and it’s just there. Other days, it’s raining on me. Sometimes, there is a ginormous storm, with a chance of much crying.

It’s really hard to explain chronic pain to someone. I think it’s the kind of pain that would send people to the doctors if they had it. For me, it’s my pain. And sometimes, it is so bad that I go to bed at 7 p.m. and lay there until I can finally get some sleep. I’m typing this at twenty to midnight because my pain is still there; it won’t go away.

Dating is awkward enough, but the scars on my legs are a totally different story. I have worn shorts to nightclubs, and someone once tried to chat me up while I was using crutches. “Hey, I’m using crutches too, broke my leg…” Yah, great Bill, but your leg will fix itself; my legs will just stay messed up. My crutches are not your fetish.

Additionally, how do I chat someone up while holding crutches? I used to find that so awkward when I went out using them. Sometimes, they make me feel like I can’t do things. Obviously, though, we are no different to anyone else. However, my younger self was very naive, and very keen on impressing men — cue the cute guy in my life who constantly tells me men are trash, and then tells me I’m a Queen… he may be a keeper.

I quickly found that chronic pain really is a b*tch when it comes to dating. How do I bring it up when we get to the bedroom? How do I tell them that, yes I am bendy due to my weird joints, but also that certain positions really hurt? Sometimes, I have woken up in the morning, dying from the night before. It is like my body is trying to punish me for wanting a normal sex life. I can’t go on date night without the aching in my back, or the cramping in my legs. How do I tell him that my back is killing me after our date yesterday, but it’s nothing to do with him? How do I tell him that I enjoy spending time with him, and I never want him to leave?

Dating with chronic pain really makes you feel alone. And I mean alone — not lonely. I feel alone even when he’s in bed with me. I feel alone even when I’m snuggled up next to him, and his arms are wrapped tight around my body. Maybe he loves what he sees, but not what my chronic pain really does. I imagine what my chronic pain would look like if you could see it. It is a monster. It is a monster that I don’t want anyone in my life to ever have to see, or ever have to feel. I would not wish this on someone. It’s a sad fact that even when I am feeling loved by those around me, my chronic pain does not make me feel like it.

the author looking into the camera

It puts me in terrible moods. I try to be happy all the time and I try to mask it, but sometimes it is difficult.

How do you explain to someone that you are prescribed painkillers, and not look like a wimp when you take them?

My body feels like it is on fire, but I don’t want to take what doctors give me because I might look like I have an “issue.”

I can physically feel my bones actually aching, but I still don’t take painkillers, because I want to look strong.

My life is a constant three-way between me, him and the chronic pain. Even watching a film, in the comfort of my own house, I have to move constantly to keep comfortable, because sitting in one position for too long hurts my legs. How do I say that and not look high-maintenance?

Chronic pain is constantly the “other person” in my life. I can’t feel secure when there is this constant worry that someone will not accept me for who I am.

The chronic pain in my life was never a worry until I started dating, but now I have to “figure someone out” before I even mention it to them.

I mean, will they stick around once they realize the real me?

Originally published: August 23, 2019
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