About four years ago, in May 2016, I had the first inkling that there is something wrong going on in my brain. A vein on the left side of my brain was pulsating, and I was having a severe anxiety attack. That was the start of my Fibromyalgia.
At that time I didn’t know what I was suffering from, I just knew that something was wrong. I went to some doctors and was told that it is nothing. According to them I was just overreacting to stress. It took close to one and a half years for me to look it up in Google and schedule visits to a lot of doctors to finally figure out what I had.
I would skip the part where I tell you about the pain and suffering and would move on to a lesser talked about topic in Fibromyalgia circles: Men also suffer from this disease. On an average, every Fibromyalgia meeting that I went to and every support group that I joined had mostly females or all females. In a total of four years of knowing and interacting with people, I’ve only ever interacted with one other male.
According to an article by (Sheehan, 2012), over 90% of the diagnosed cases are related to women, and only 10% to men. This leads to two conclusions, that either the male hormones and men’s bodies are built in a way that the disease has lesser impact on men, or that men are not coming forward to talk about it because “men are not supposed to feel pain”.
It’s true that the pain symptoms are known to increase because of a higher level of estrogen presence in the female body, which in turn makes it more susceptible to the feeling of pain in Fibromyalgia, but that doesn’t make it any less of a possibility that a man cannot have the same. This only leaves space for one conclusion – men have the disease, but they’re either just not coming forward or are not being heard enough by the communities in general.
There’s a thread on quora.com, which goes like this:
This thread sheds light on two certainties: One – if there was enough awareness about gender roles like Fibromyalgia, this question might not be even asked by anyone, and two, which is even more disturbing, there is very less awareness about the disease, as there are only five answers in total!
If this was not enough, even the medical community and doctors are not immune to ignorance and sometimes act in the same way. In my journey of diagnosis, I consulted four different doctors for the disease, and two of the doctors said they do not believe in Fibromyalgia! This can also be seen elsewhere in the world and not just in India. One of the answers written on quora.com reads like this:
YES! Men can get Fibromyalgia.
YES! We need to eliminate this notion of “Grow a pair and get over it.”
All of this seems quite disheartening, but there only two main things that we can do:
- Spreading awareness – It is being tried constantly by organizations like Chronic Pain India to make the Indian government consider pain related diseases as a disability.
- Breaking stereotypes – Encouraging men not to hide their pain and asking them to consult a doctor if they feel any chronic pain. It is better than someone saying: Be a man.
All I would say in the end is – There are many people who are suffering from Chronic Pain illnesses. We can make an effort to make sure that all of these people with invisible illnesses are heard and are put on a path of betterment.
This #FibromyalgiaAwareness Day, let’s take a vow to not let anyone suffer in pain. If you know someone who complains of chronic pain in his body, ask them to get a proper diagnosis for the same. Or you can direct them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An early diagnosis may just save his life from a lot of misery!