“Men suffer too. I wonder if either culture, American or Mexican, will ever get that?” writes Fibromyalgia patient Doug Bower – a journalist from Kansas transplanted to the center of Mexico. There he makes a living writing informative books for others who may want to relocate. His newest title, co-authored with wife Cindi, is Guanajuato, Mexico: Your Expat, Study Abroad, and Vacation Survival Manual in the Land of Frogs (See others at http://my.lulu.com/mexicanliving )
Here is Doug’s take on the downside of his life as a male FM patient in Mexico, and the benefits that keep him there.
Life With Fibromyalgia Syndrome
By Doug Bower
The number-one question posed to my wife and me when strangers find that we live in Mexico is, "What made you decide to move to Mexico?" The answer is painfully simple.
"I am afflicted with an incurable pain syndrome that tortures me night and day. The treatment was too expensive in the United States. So we had to find a place where we could afford to treat the disease and move there."
Immediately, these tourists look at my wife with a look that says, "Oh, surely this guy, this man, the one who is supposed to be the strong one - the provider - can't mean that he is the one suffering night and day with pain, fatigue, and a sleep disorder?"
Somehow, even with all the so-called advances in liberal progressiveness…both sexes are supposed to be equal…American tourists who find out the information about our expatriation to Mexico can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that I have an illness for which there is no cure, and that my wife has to take care of me - a lot.
I never dreamed how much more difficult this would be to explain to people in Mexico than in the States. It was hard enough, humiliating actually, to tell people at a dinner party that I was handicapped. The American men, my Lord, the men, were especially hard on me. I was always asked, "What do you do for a living?" When I told them the truth, "Oh, I can't work because of my illness," they would actually have the gall to say, "Well, you don't look handicapped to me." I once asked if it would be more convincing if I had my legs chopped off and sat in a wheelchair. We were never invited to that couple's house again.
It is worse in Mexico. Still in this culture, the men are the dominant sex. It is still a male-driven culture. It is not expected for a man to give in to any illness. He always has to be the macho guy who pushes on no matter what. There are sick men in Mexico. I have known some. And tragically, they wait until it's too late before going to the doctor to find out what the symptoms they've been hiding under their macho disguise mean.
They often die.
I have to hide my illness, too, but I do it much differently in Mexico than I did in Kansas. I took up writing when we began our expatriation experiment. I have managed to get three books out on the market (on Amazon.com) with more on the way. When the locals ask, "¿A qué se dedica?" - What do you do for a living?" - I can answer that I am a writer.
That is my Mexican macho mask under which I hide.
The central Mexican town in which we live does offer a better environment for people who suffer from this illness. The symptoms: pain, fatigue, and the sleep disorder can worsen because of frequent changes in weather, cold, frigid winters, and lots of rain. Here, in the city of Guanajuato, almost the exact geographical center of the country, the weather is stable with a short rainy season.
I have three months of symptoms as opposed to 12 months of symptoms in Kansas. You do the math.
Meantime, I get along fairly well in Mexico with my illness. I worry my wife. I tend to fall, a lot, when walking alone. She takes care of me, no matter what anyone bothers to think, and our life goes on.
Men suffer too. I wonder if either culture, American or Mexican, will ever get that?
Will they ever allow us to suffer in dignity?
- September 24, 2006