Author and American expat Doug Bower writes about his life with FM in Mexico

“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 )

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 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

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2 thoughts on “Author and American expat Doug Bower writes about his life with FM in Mexico”

  1. missmrs says:

    I have Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrom and I am Bipolar.

    I would like to move to New Mexico. My Aunt and cousin moved here and they say the weather works well for them. My cousin suffers from Chemical Sensitivity and more. My Aunt has a lesser senitivity but the climate and fact their is little foilage and industry has also helper her.

    I realize health care is less expensive in Mexico but being single I feel more comfortable staying in the U.S. Plus I now have relatives on New Mexico. I am not certain I will ever get there but it is a goal I would like to reach.

    I am thankful Mr. Bower wrote this article. Not as many men have this illness especially to his extent.

    I have been fighting a disability case for years. My doctors and lawyers are persistent. My lawyers have taken on the Judge and are reasoning with Social Security with great vigor. My Judge, which I had three times is brutal. My first appearance before her she was yelling at both me and my Lawyer. Even if she did not think I was disabled you would think she would have been easier on a person that is ill.

    And yes, I know what it feels like not to look or seem ill. People do not see you when you are not able to bathe, dress, or think clearly as you stay home when this happens.

    My friends, congregation and family are sympathetic to me even though most do not really understand the illness.

  2. ninaytj says:

    I have had Fibromyalgia since 1993, and just recently moved to Panama highlands to get away from the foothills of Colorado, where storms and cold weather are the norm. The changes in barometric pressure that came with the storms where debilitating for me. I always felt better in the summer.

    I have never heard that rain can effect Fibromyalgia like the cold and barometric pressure changes. I was surprised when I saw that in Doug’s article. Has anyone else experienced that?

    The reason I ask is simple. Panama has 2 seasons; lluviosa and cena (rainy and dry). The rainy season last from April until mid December. The dry season is the rest of the time. I noticed recently (these last 2 weeks) that I have been much better. I don’t know whether its that the rain stopped or the change in my medication which occurred about the same time. I would love to know what other people have experienced.


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