Dealing with IBS: A Male's Perspective
Last updated: June 2018
Many times we hear people say, “Be a man!” or “Man up!” What does ‘being a man’ really mean though? From my personal experience, it meant never complaining, tolerating or straight-up ignoring pain, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. This is just what I was taught and how I was raised by society- to always be ‘machismo’ in a sense. For example, as a kid, if I were to cry for any reason, crying for too long would be inappropriate. If I were to complain about any kind of pain, my aches would be belittled and I would be expected to suck it up and move on. If I were to suffer from anxiety and stress, then I would also be expected to hold myself accountable for the reasons why I would feel such ways, and again, move on. From an early age, it seemed as though ‘being a man’, was never showing any sign of weakness. During my teenage years, if I ever got into a confrontation, then it would easily escalate to a physical altercation because, well, in my eyes at the time men didn’t verbalize their pain; we fought it out. This kind of conditioning became impossible to deal with when I started developing a chronic illness in my early twenties.
When I began feeling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, I was totally unwilling to open up about my condition to anyone. I had dealt with men in society, including doctors, who continuously demeaned my pain. Some would say something along the lines of, “You’re a big boy. You’ll get over it”, as if being a male makes you some kind of superhuman and you can magically cure yourself. As I got older and independent, I continued to find it difficult to talk about my symptoms to any doctor because, again, I’ve been conditioned to not express any kind of weakness. So I stayed quiet, suffering in silence. I figured, as always, I would suck it up, continue to go about my business, and eventually it would go away or “fix” itself. Over time, I found out this kind of habituation can lead to negative psychosocial factors, such as feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that could have led me down a dark path. Can you imagine what this can do to one’s psychology? Being on the brink of depression due to suffering in silence as opposed to being open about one’s issues is not healthy for ANY person to bear!
My point in all of this is that if us males keep being silent about what we deal with, then people will assume we’re not suffering. We must open up and be willing to talk about our issues, both physical and mental. Being a man does not mean suffering in silence, it means standing up and advocating for yourself, even at the most vulnerable moments. Let’s not allow ourselves to go down a dark road because we were not willing to express ourselves or reveal that we are not physically or emotionally invincible. We have to get rid of the stigma that showing weakness is unacceptable as a man. We’re human, and that’s all we can be. So if you’re a male and you’re hurting, then please talk to someone about it. We need more men less afraid of seeking help and showing that caring for themselves IS, in fact, courageous.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?