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A Male Perspective on Fibromyalgia

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At 56, I’ve been married 36 years to an engineer, managed to get two children out of the house on their own, have a wonderful Australian terrier, have had fibromyalgia for more than 15 years, and of all things, I’m male.

Fibromyalgia has been a severe challenge. It’s not only women who have trouble with people believing they have a chronic illness. I’ve run through many doctors, starting with the one who declared that I couldn’t have fibro since it was a woman’s issue. And who could forget the doctor who told me men just have to “suck it up” and get on with our lives; no meds, no treatments.

I was a true type-A personality. Busy all the time, always had projects waiting to get started. Always outdoors with the family hiking and canoeing on weekends, and I even constructed my own hovercraft.  It began after we remodeled our first home, with chronic migraines, and degenerated into fibromyalgia. 

I’ve pretty much lived with fibro by doing as much as I could when I felt able, which wiped me out for the next couple of days. Repeat endlessly… I finally started taking care of myself as best I could, and tried to find ways to “fix” my environment to allow me to achieve some level of comfort. I was fairly successful. I found body pillows that actually fit a man’s body to help me sleep at night. I had hypersensitive skin at night, and found some bamboo PJs for men from Australia. Sex was painful, so we found Liberator Shapes, which improved things immeasurably. If you tour our home, you’ll find all sorts of small changes designed to make my life less difficult. Men have to “fix” things, right?

man sitting on recumbent bike with dog on lap
Christopher and his three-wheeled bike, which offers a solution to his lack of balance.

In the past, I refused to allow my wife to help me. I took care of myself, and felt it was my job to take care of her. I’ve mellowed quite a bit, and now she’s assisting when she can, and I accept the help gracefully. My neighbors are also helping me out quite a bit – I’ve been able to let the “I’m perfectly fine” pretend mask slip a bit more.

I sincerely wish that there were more products for men with health issues. You can’t imagine how difficult it was to find summer PJs that could handle hot flash sweating (testosterone therapy), or winter PJs that were soft enough to tolerate. All these kinds of products are available for women, but products for men were few and far between. Whatever happened to the concept of unisex products?

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to live without pain. If I sleep more than three hours, I’ve had a good night. I remember all the things I used to do, and it hurts not being able to function at that level anymore. But I have a wife who loves me and wants me around, and I find I can manage if I just deal with one day at a time. The key to surviving a chronic illness is to keep busy, whether mentally or physically. At my age, I’ve built a 3D printer kit, a new thing to learn, and I hope to keep learning… 

And of course, on a good day, I’m outside working hard, but only for a few hours at a time. Really, I do learn!

Originally published: November 18, 2016
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