This one is about the fellas, as 75% of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are women. Although both men and women are afflicted, the mental effects for men can be significantly different for various reasons. Most men are taught things like “Don’t you cry, boy!” or “act like a man” or other excessively masculine directives as they grow up. These comments sit with us deep in our psyche as we try to fit the societal role appointed to us as we enter this life.
So my feeling is that men with MS are affected differently when our bodies do not cooperate, as this requires us to ask for help. Some of us feel like it shows weakness in the eyes of others when we cannot do the basic things we once did. It is devastatingly discouraging that I have had to call that triple-digit rescue number many times as a big bad US Marine. When I call, I am pleading once again for help off the floor like a newborn baby who can only crawl, so my pride takes a hit. So, people need to understand that multiple sclerosis is demoralizing, dehumanizing, and demasculinizing. The crushing mental aspect of MS can make a man feel less than the man he once was, negatively affecting his attitude, personality, and demeanor.
I was always an extremely active young boy from an early age, playing outside until the streetlights came on. We did not have video games, computers, or cable tv to keep me in the house all day. Instead, I had a bicycle, an imagination, and a neighborhood to run and play in to keep me active. In addition, my dad had a garden full of vegetables like cherry tomatoes which my friends and I could eat when hungry. Filling our tummies with tiny tasty tomatoes from the garden made for a refreshing snack, letting us get back to playing quickly.
At ten and a half years old, I joined an extremely active Boy Scout troop. We camped one weekend every month, one week in the summer, and had two-hour Scout meetings every Monday. I began a five-year career as a Boy Scout camp counselor four years later, working six weeks every summer. A year after my summer camp job started, I went on a hiking trip with twelve boys and four adult leaders. We backpacked, hiking 100 miles in 12 days with full packs in the southern part of the Rocky Mountains. All the while, I was always helping people when needed and always doing things for myself, like cooking, bike repairs, and anything else required.
I quickly became good friends with Mike from my Boy Scout troop. We went everywhere on bicycles, tracking more miles on a weekend than many people did all week. I even got a job at a local McDonald’s, just over four miles away from my house, and I rode my bike to work, rain or shine. I was on the wrestling team for a while, but my Boy Scout life took precedence because I was too deep to stop and soon became an eagle scout. During my senior year of high school, I pre- enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and regularly exercised with the other enlistees. Three months after my high school graduation, I shipped off to Parris Island, South Carolina, for the USMC Bootcamp.
During my time in the Marine Corps, I learned what hard work was while I trained in many aspects of my Marine job. After the Marine Corps, it was more of the same running for cardio and weight lifting for muscles. Helping people move, maintenance, and lawn care for my house were the two main things that never seemed to stop. At 26 years old, my friend Mike began training me to run my first marathon, as he was sure I could run one as he had run eight marathons in total. Like a shark who needs to swim to stay alive, I was always active throughout my life.
However, that all changed at 27 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and my life was never the same. This illness eviscerated my manhood like a hungry lion taking down a gazelle on the Serengeti. I fight every day to hold on to any shred of dignity and masculinity not taken from me, yet sadly, losing this battle is not uncommon. This ailment is not for the faint of heart as it can easily steal every ounce of your physical, mental and emotional well-being. MS takes these things without regard for anything I care about, like my health or comfort, and it disintegrates my abilities.
I do not want to speak for other men, but this lack of ability to help others and do many things for myself tears me up inside. I live alone as independently as possible, and I have had people tell me it is incredible that I live on my own and do as much as I do for myself. I know men with MS who do the same thing, and I applaud us all. However, I die a little inside every time I give up another inch of ground against this brutal beast that battles me daily. I believe men do as much as they can because of the teachings from childhood, but it is a tough life to deal with MS. Life dealt us a hand that is an immoral illness that often makes us feel inadequately inferior. It is not right, but there is nothing we can do but continue playing the hand dealt to us.
On an emotional roller coaster for a Horror Story illness.