Fibromyalgia affects Men & Women, of all ages.
Gary Cote shares his 20 plus year journey thru Fibromyalgia with us!
1. When did you first realize there was something different about your health as compared to others your age?
My health seemed mostly normal until my lumbar disc injury at age 30. That seemed to set Fibro in motion along with some pretty high life stress. In comparison to my peers, however, I’d say I had slightly lower overall stamina but otherwise no signs of early fibromyalgia.
2. How long did it take you to get a valid diagnosis of fibromyalgia?
Less than 6 months. I was fortunate to be seen by a young internist who learned about Fibromyalgia in medical school.
3. What are some of the greatest misconceptions surrounding Men with fibromyalgia?
Do people think you’re:
Weak? – No.
Lazy? – No.
Addicted to Drugs? – No.
Mentally Ill? – No.
Pretending? Perhaps one or two early on. But I have taken the time to communicate with those who are important to me. (And most of my friends have been witness to the many, many times I attempted to go back to work, pursue activities, etc., and inevitably failed. The proof was in the pudding, you could say.)
4. Mental fatigue can make a person with fibromyalgia present as though they are drunk or mentally challenged. Has this happened to you? If so, how have you dealt with it?
Once again, I communicate with those important to me and mention that at times I may be processing information very slowly and may take longer. I don’t make it a center-stage focus, but I do bring it up if I think I could be misunderstood.
5. What makes being a man with fibromyalgia more challenging than being a woman with fibromyalgia?
Well, I can’t answer for being a woman with fibro. I was in my early 30’s when fibro hit, and so that was a huge bust to my self-image and somewhat to my self-esteem. Being a gay male, I did not grapple with thoughts about missing out on raising a family like I am guessing a straight fibro guy just might. But the financial worries were overwhelming at times, though I can’t say that wouldn’t be something a fibro lady wouldn’t grapple with as well.
6. Fibromyalgia can cause depression and anxiety. Do you struggle with these? If so, what do you do to keep your mental health balanced?
I have struggled more with what to do with myself at times, I guess that’s the anxiety side of things. But as I’ve become older (I’m now 51) I am getting much more relaxed about everything. Aging helps you realize that the whole world isn’t looking at you, as the younger person’s mindset might have him believe.
7. How do you balance your illness with your personal and professional life? Do you prioritize with lists? Take it day by day?
Basically all lists are in my head. In addition, I have only a few main priorities and they are very clearly in order (family, friends, and the rest). I have not worked in ten years due to fibro so no worry there.
8. How does the weather affect your condition?
I seem very affected by humidity and barometric pressure shifts. Pain and a general sense of disorientation always seem to ramp up in those conditions. My Raynaud’s and temperature dysregulation go crazy whenever it’s humid and warm or very cold outside.
9. How are you treating your condition? (Medications, supplements, diet, meditation, etc.)
I have taken tramadol for pain for ten years; adderall for fatigue and concentration issues; ambien periodically for sleep; and diltiazem for palpitations and autonomic issues. No special diet. I keep making excuses for not trying meditation (like the fact that my brain seldom works well enough to remember to practice it!).
10.What advice would you give to someone who is romantically involved with a man with fibromyalgia?
Taking one day at a time is very important. Symptoms and illness course can change over time. With that said, I am a firm believer in putting all my cards on the table. If I was a single male with fibro, I would want the other person to know about me upfront. What I would ultimately stress, however, is that if you meet a guy with fibro and are worried about the impact on your relationship, you need to decide where you are in your own sense of self and security. Do you have any experience with chronic conditions? What is your own level of emotional intelligence? The better your own insight, the more likely you can gauge the fit with a fibro guy.
11. What words of encouragement do you have for your brothers out there who are living with fibromyalgia?
Do whatever it is that you can to remind yourself that you are not alone! Connect with others who get it. Celebrate the simplest of plans that work out. Keep your expectations on the smaller side and then build from there. Don’t let others’ opinions mean more to you than your own. Find a creative outlet for release, like journaling, music, etc. Oh, and last but maybe most important to me- whether outl oud or in your head- talk to yourself a lot! Learn how to be your own best coach and friend and eventually the habit will stick.