Fibromyalgia From a Man's Point of View By Bob Hall (Taken from FMAware.org) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Men can have heart attacks, broken legs, the flu, chicken pox, the mumps, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, and other illnesses. Heart attacks are very acceptable in men. Everyone knows the heart attack is the result of a "manly life." But for a man to have an illness that 1) has to be explained, 2) does not show up on x-rays or in blood work, and 3) is not universally accepted by the medical profession, is really taboo in our society today. Fibromyalgia (FM) is becoming a little more accepted, but not in leaps and bounds. One has to understand what FM does to a "person" before one can understand the man's point of view. Fibromyalgia leaves one in constant pain, and that pain varies from person to person. Some can continue to work, while others are left almost helpless with the pain. FM is not a new fad disease. It has been around since the 1800's. It has been called an "invisible disease" because there is no noticeable visual impairment to the "victim." If there were cancerous sores, open wounds, a cast...some visual evidence for the chronic pain, it would certainly help the disease be accepted by so many people. Men are no different from women when it comes to the disease. They have most of the common symptoms and they certainly have the pain. Many studies indicate there is a difference in the pain levels between men and women. However, most men do not agree with those findings. They have the tender points, the irritable bowel syndrome, the chronic fatigue, the fibro fog, the aches and pains, the emotional and physical drain, and the sleeping disorders. Yet some of these studies indicate the women have the more severe forms of pain. "Shake it off" is taught to boys from a very early age. "Be a man, and take it like a man" is often instilled into the minds of young boys and young men from a very early age. Men can have broken arms and that is OK; but it is not OK for a man to have to go to bed because of a headache, or over-all aching and stiffness, or some of the other severe forms of pain FM produces. It is just not a "manly" thing to do. Young men are raised with super heroes: Superman, Batman, and the list goes on. Kryptonite will disable Superman and remove all of his super powers. This is acceptable. It is not acceptable for men to be disabled by some invisible disease. It is often hard to leap tall buildings at a single bound when one cannot even get out of bed, much less walk...and leaping is the last thing the world one wants to do. Fibromyalgia does not "shake off." It is Kryptonite to all that have the disease. Male or female, FM makes no gender preference when attacking the body of its victim. Fibromyalgia is like some arch villain - some evil super being reeking havoc where ever it goes. It is a very destructive force to be so unknown to much of the medical profession. It is true that it is becoming more accepted, but considering it has been around since the 1800s, it is alarming to realize the medical profession knows so little about the disease. Fibromyalgia causes more than physical pain in men. It also causes emotional pain, and even fear - fear of losing ones spouse or loved ones. Fear of the loss of friends, family, co-workers, and even jobs is a constant thought in the minds of men with FM. Is the fear men perceive greater than the fear women with FM perceive? No, it is not. If a divorce is the result of years of dealing with fibromyalgia, it doesn't really matter whether it was the male or the female who suffered the FM, the pains of a divorce are equally felt by both individuals. The results are the same. Typically men do not open up and discuss what is going on in their minds, their lives, and especially what they are feeling. Some men are fortunate enough to have a friend they can talk to about FM and how it feels, but most men tend to bury how they really feel when faced with the disease. Women do the same thing. It is basic human nature. More men are being diagnosed with the disease as time goes by. There is little information on the topic of men and fibromyalgia. It has not received as much attention as women with FM. It is true there are more women with the disease than men. That could be partially due to the fact men are very stubborn. They do not and will not go to the doctor for what appears at first to be minor aches and pains. One can ask how do men deal with fibromyalgia? How do they deal with the fact they can no longer play with their children, do things with the grandchildren, go hang out with the guys, and even do minor things around the house? They hurt. Inside. Way down deep. That is how they deal with it. They hurt just like women do when they are faced with the same identical issues. How do they feel when they get fired from a job because they cannot do it anymore? They hurt. Inside. Way down deep. They feel identical to any woman who gets fired because FM has stolen her ability to provide for herself or her family. That is how men deal with it. The expression of those feelings is where we see some differences, many men bottle up those feelings and keep them deep within...which cause stress...which makes FM worse. Many become angry and bitter...again, making the disease worse. They tend to want to blame something or someone for the disease, so often they lash out at those around them. Explosions of pent up anger are quite common and they are not by any means gender specific. Women often act in the same manner. Men lean towards solving the problem themselves. They are accustomed to "fixing whatever is broken." When they discover they cannot "fix" fibromyalgia and they have to live with it, they undergo the very same feelings women do when they make that final decision to learn to live with FM. The world of men with fibromyalgia is literally filled with true super heroes. It is filled with men who get up every day and do the very best they can to live a normal life; men who try so hard not to show the pain that they often over-extend themselves just to have a few extra moments with their loved ones...to have a tiny miniscule portion of a normal life. They try to hold down the position of "head of the household" the best they can; however, they cannot do it alone. They must have the support of their family and friends. The same is true in the world of women with FM who try to be the wife and mother. These heroes find a good attitude, a good sense of humor, a good doctor (which is difficult to find), close friends, and close family ties to be their tools of the trade. Humor can be a very effective tool to get one through the day. Even with these tools, it is very difficult to "keep on keeping on." But the true heroes just keep going. Be it man or woman, fibromyalgia does not really care one way or the other. It shows no mercy. So many times it seems as if FM has one function - to produce as much pain as possible - physical, emotional, and mental. It seems to attack one area of the body, then move on to attack another. So who has the most difficult time - men or women? That is almost impossible to answer. Fibromyalgia. It hurts. Inside. Way down deep.