Article by Gavin Levy (Fibromyalgia Online/NFA Newsletter)
As young boys growing up, we are taught by society not to cry when we scrape our knee. If we bruised a knee when playing football, we learned how to hold the sensation of pain on the inside. In England you’ll hear the expression, “Grit and bear it,” and this is just what we did. So it can certainly knock a man’s ego when you cannot “grit and bear it.”
When the cycle of pain goes on every day, week, month, year, it makes the “If I just ignore it, it will go away” approach seem ridiculous. It is tempting for a man who has fibromyalgia to see himself as inadequate or not manly anymore. I am going to put it to you that we are the iron men of men, the strongest of the strong, and I’m going to tell you why.
If we think about the toughest men in society, we might think of those in the mafia, or boxers, or the Navy SEALs. These men know how to inflict pain on others and endure large amounts of pain themselves. And yet, yet, there is a reprieve from their pain. A boxer has to last the fight and can then recuperate over the next days or weeks. A mobster may inflict a great deal of pain on someone, but this is usually going to happen in an intense period of minutes or perhaps hours. It is only perhaps the likes of a Navy SEAL who will come close to our league by having to potentially endure the torture of months or even years of pain.
This being said, men with fibromyalgia are keeping good company. The difference for many of us is that our pains have been unrelenting, unyielding, uncompromising, ruthless in their execution, and for many of us a continual daily companion. And yet through it all, we manage to keep on smiling, keep getting back up, and refusing to give up this dream called life.
It is also worth noting that we get no sympathy from those around us because most people have no concept of what we are living with. I have found that I will get more sympathy from having a common cold than from fibromyalgia. Remember, people can relate to a cold—they can see a cold—but not the roaring tiger within us.Of course, we are all working towards relieving our symptoms sooner rather than later—only a true man could do that—and with new knowledge comes new hope. Only a man of iron strength could look pain in the eye each day and say, “You will never conquer me, for I am stronger.” How many men could deal with the numerous challenges of this complex condition? Perhaps only a certain type of man—a real man!
Forty-four year old Russell Brooks adds in his letter Not Lazy-Not Crazy, "Fibromyalgia symptoms are the antithesis of so many masculine attributes, strength, stamina, etc. Without strength and stamina, it's been my experience that I'm seen of less than a man. I look forward to recapturing my strength and stamina again. Through NFA's great efforts, I'm confident that I will. In addition to all the wonderful things it's doing, NFA will, at the end of the day, help me once again be seen as a respectable man, not lazy, not crazy—just a man with a real illness who wants to get better."
The article, along with Mr. Brooks' comments sum up my feelings and (admittedly) my frustrations quite well.