It’s International Men’s Day on the 19th so in honour of celebrating men, this month’s podcast theme is men living with chronic illness.
It is widely thought that men are taken more seriously and are more likely to be believed by the medical profession when it comes to illnesses. Fact or fiction I don’t know, but I do think that men don’t receive as much support as women from the wider community when it comes to health. Particularly mental health.
I question whether it’s because men in general don’t seek help or open up about their thoughts and feelings or whether it’s due to the societal perception that men are strong and don’t need it…
Let’s be real, most of us have grown up with a perception of what men should be like and their role; lifting heavy stuff, doing the DIY, are unemotional, are the main breadwinners etc.
As well as society having those expectations, men often bear the onus themselves, so when they find themselves in a position of not being able to live up to those expectations due to pain or anything else, it can have an immense impact on their self worth.
On speaking to several men who live with chronic illness, I’ve found that many have experienced situations where they have been unable or felt extremely pressured to be a certain way or do certain things, whether it be in employment or everyday life.
One guy in particular stands out in my often foggy memory; a strapping 6”3 marine who -
when he started to develop symptoms of Fibromyalgia and hEDS - found himself feeling vulnerable, frustrated and stressed. Not only due to the pain, but mainly due to the expectations and pressure from his peers and commanding officers. He felt he had to keep up a tough guy act; couldn’t show that he was in pain for fear of losing their respect and even his job.
None of this is to say that men have a harder time than women. I think it’s about putting things into perspective. We all have challenges and expectations thrust upon us, they often just differ depending on circumstances.
On the flip side, society has changed in many ways and some have left behind the old perceptions, expectations and traditions making way for new and different ideas.
On social media I’ve seen many disgruntled posts about men being believed and diagnosed more than women, which is often used as a beating stick for all men. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very unfair and frustrating (I say this as someone who was dismissed and undiagnosed for over 20 years). It’s important to remember that it’s not the fault of men, but the fault of the medical profession and society in general.
As individuals we have a propensity to focus and care about what affects us personally, which is a natural thing to do. However, in the spirit of progression, support and inclusivity in the chronic illness community let us acknowledge the challenges that men face, the collective similarities we have and encourage men to speak up, reach out and embrace support.
So I’ve shared some of my opinions and would be really interested in knowing yours, so feel free to comment.
To get an insight from those living it, I have two fantastic guests on this month’s podcast who share their experiences of living with EDS and M.E.
Part 1 Sunday 14th November with Simon Burnham
Part 2 Sunday 28th November with Nathan Horek