This is a guest post by Christopher D. Marshall
A man’s livelihood often lies within his ego, his pride. Therefore, there are times when pride can cause many of us to hide certain things about our illness from people, especially from those we love. It’s not out of deceitfulness or malice but in our own weird way, it’s out of love. We want to remain strong for our loved ones for as long as possible. Chronic illness often comes with a bag of burdens, and this is one way – though not the best way – we try to lighten the load. If there is a special man in your life who is living with chronic illness, you may wonder at some point why conversations can seem short, evasive or uninformative. The following is a list of things that a chronically ill man in your life may be hiding from you and the reasons behind them:
1.Whether it hurts or not
One of the worst feelings as a man is appearing weak in any way, shape or form. A man’s ego relies heavily on our sense of strength. So, when our symptoms begin preventing us from doing the things that we used to, our ego can take a hit and we’ll pretend things aren’t bothering us for as long as we possibly can.
The best way to handle this: Go with us to our appointments and hear what the doctor says first hand. Better yet, listen to what we tell the doctor. This will give you the best chance to find out what we’re really feeling like inside.
2.That we’re really afraid… really
Fear of our illness, fear for our families, fear for our lives, it all causes us to be afraid of what may come. A chronically ill man is in fact human, after all. We don’t want to be sick. We don’t look forward to the progression of our disease. We don’t want to burden our families. We don’t want to suffer. The prospect of all of this happening, terrifies us.
The best way to handle this: There is no perfect way to deal with a frightened man, because just like any animal, we may shut down and close our self off or lash out at those around us the moment we feel threatened. All anyone can do is to simply follow the instructions of the doctor and support us through every step of the journey.
(Whatever you do, don’t confront us about the fear itself. Most of us will never admit to it.)
3.What our doctors actually told us
We’ve already established that your average chronically ill man will downplay how he is feeling and is in fact afraid of what his condition means for him and his family. To go along with that, men typically tend to try and sugar coat the things the doctor tells them.
The best way to handle this: If going to our appointments with us doesn’t work, ask to see test results, labs, or any other paperwork from the doctors. Familiarize yourself with the medical terminology that surrounds our condition. Learn all you can, the more you know, the more you can help.
4. We wish for nothing more than patience and understanding…
We will never, in a million years, tell you this. It’d be ego-suicide. But it’s true. If all we want is understanding, why cover things up? That goes back to the fear for our families along with protecting our ego. So, we lie. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve compassion.
What can be done: This one is rather simple. Try to put yourself in our place, with our condition. What would your fears be? What symptoms might you have that you would hide from others so as not to worry them? If you can put yourself in that place, compassion and understanding will flow.
5.Why we really won’t mow the lawn
Everyone knows that most husbands can be forgetful when it comes to household chores. It happens. But if it is happening a lot with a man who has a chronic illness, there may be another reason. That’s probably why we aren’t doing it. The task might cause physical pain, or may be unsafe for us to do. (i.e.- If a man’s condition causes him dizzy spells, it’s probably not a good idea to ask him to clear the gutters).
The best way to handle this: BE UNDERSTANDING. I can’t emphasize this enough. But do so in a way that will not hurt his ego or pride. Try paying somebody else to do it or do it yourself when you have time. Tell him it’s an early birthday or anniversary present. Make something up that will allow him to retain his dignity.
As we’ve seen, most of the things a man won’t tell you stem from his attempts to protect his ego. So, do us a favor, be there for us, stay updated on how we are doing (hear it from the doctor, not us), and be understanding.
And stay tuned; I will be writing part two of this article soon, entitled “5 Things You Should Know about Chronically Ill Men,” which will expand more on our motives, feelings, and actions.
About Christopher: Christopher D. Marshall is a 32-year old freelance writer based out of the state of Washington. He has a background in Creative Writing, Politics, and Digital Marketing. He is currently going back to school for a degree in journalism.