When I hear the word manly or macho, I tend to think of a guy, muscular, wearing a sports jersey, sitting on a couch surrounded by friends, chips and dip on the coffee table, watching football. I probably got this image thanks to numerous commercials depicting this. Some people may have a different image. Some tend to think of a tall lumberjack in plaid. Some may think of a fireman running through flames or a cop rescuing someone. Still others may think of a soldier in uniform fighting for his country, saving innocent people caught up in a crossfire. My point to this is no one thinks of a guy laying in bed double over in pain who has to jump out of bed to run to the bathroom. Then on his return trip to the bed, picks up a garbage can to vomit.
Sadly, that is what a lot of us go through with Crohn’s Disease. Growing up in the 80’s I was what we would now call a nerd. I was into video games, Dungeons & Dragons, playing with GI Joe figures and spend my Friday nights at Boy Scout meetings. I would watch some sports (Go Yankees). I never liked alcohol. I also was not a ladies man. I was never macho..but I was still a guy and acted as one. When I was 15 I got sick with Crohn’s and it would forever change me.
For about 2 weeks I was so sick I would stay in bed all the time. I lost a lot of weight and eventually ended up in the hospital where I got diagnosed. I was put on Azulfadine and eventually got better. When I was 16, I came down with pneumonia and this caused me to flare. I would not recover and missed my junior and senior year of High School. I was growing up, starting to form the person I would be and this was all taken away from me. I would spend my days in bed watching TV. I also started to learn to cook and do laundry since I was home and had nothing better to do. Let me tell you…this does not make you feel manly or macho.
Flash forward 23 years. I am now a grown adult still battling with Crohn’s. I have found my way in the world. I met the woman of my dreams. I do feel like a man now. I still love my Yankees and try to go to some games every year. I still cook, but that has become a man’s job now (Bobby Flay, Emerel Lagasse, Guy Fiere, Mario Batalli just to name some). I like beer (miss my Sam Adams now that I am gluten-free).
But I still have my pains. I still run to the bathroom. What my point is, as a guy, we can’t worry about image. We don’t have that luxury. Guys…you can feel weak. At times you will get depressed. You will have pain. You will have a fever. For some of us, we will spend time in a hospital unable to control anything. None of this make you less of a man or a person. Do not let social media tell you how you should be. You are a man no matter what. You are strong and can get through anything. If anyone tells you otherwise, then they aren’t worth your time.
It is not week to break down and cry sometimes. It is not weak to have pain and suffer from depression. It is human. We all go through it. You are not alone. You are still a man…no matter what.