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Why It's Exhausting to Be a 25-Year-Old Man Battling Chronic Illness

It’s not often you hear about young males with chronic illness, but I am one of them. As hard as it is to be a woman with chronic illness, it can be just as challenging for men of my age. Here’s why.

Almost every day I watch male peers my age practically run circles around me. They’re usually able to maintain full-time jobs and still manage to “party” on the regular. Just one night out of drinking late and I can find myself in bed for the entire following day. Even sleeping for most of the day doesn’t guarantee I’ll have the energy I so desperately crave. And if that’s not bad enough, it gets worse when your friends and family cannot empathize with your plight.

How often have you heard “why do you have to sleep all the time?” or “how come you can’t just exercise?” and “it’s just stress, it’ll pass.” Although they mean well, this can cause additional undue stress on the part of the person already dealing with a debilitating chronic illness. I’ve lost friends and partners because I couldn’t keep up with them. I’m also continually worrying that one day my illness could cause me to lose a job I absolutely love. Some assume I’m lazy while others assume I just simply didn’t have any interest. In reality, that’s far from the truth.

You might be asking yourself what chronic illness I have – a question I, unfortunately, have myself. My symptoms often include anxiety, chest pain, migraines, joint pain and the inability to get restful sleep and even sometimes fall asleep (and stay asleep) when I’d like to. I’ve been struggling with these symptoms for as long as I can remember, and based on this experience, I can feel my symptoms worsening as time moves on. Most concerning as of late is the extreme fatigue I get after eating any type of meal. Eating at my desk at work is usually followed up by an in-office nap. I have coworkers twice my age who come in early, stay late, take care of their kids and don’t miss a beat in between.

Finding a doctor who will even take a 25-year-old male seriously about chronic issues is a challenge within itself. If I’m fortunate enough to find a doctor sympathetic to my illness, they never seem to know where to start and often aren’t abreast of the necessary tests and steps that need to be taken to identify the root cause of the symptoms. This leads to many appointments with many different doctors only to be told they don’t know what’s wrong and they suggest I see “a specialist of some kind.” When asked what specialist that would be, I’m often met with a blank and unsure stare.

My goal in writing this is to hopefully assure other young men my age living with chronic illnesses that they are not alone. Thanks to The Mighty, there is now a platform of support for many of us and a place to safely share our stories. The articles and stories I’ve read on this website have resonated with me so profoundly that it led me to tell my own story, especially since stories about men my age are far and few between and a topic seldom discussed.

Keep up the good fight my friends!

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash