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Physical weakness does not reflect your masculinity

talmandantalmandan Posts: 2Member Listener
edited March 18 in Guest blogs

Daniel Moore is a farmer's son from Northumberlandand has worked in the fields of fostering and children's disability. He has a multi systemic neuro-immune condition called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) He has lived in Nottingham for the past 17 years and enjoys photography and writing blogs and poetry.  

Growing up on a farm is a unique experience. There are so many advantages. We now know that giving children the opportunity to explore nature is hugely beneficial to their cognitive and social development. I think perhaps the great outdoors speaks to our deep inner self and is a great mechanism for children and adults to become more centred, mindful and embodied. Before I became ill at age 10 I remember ‘looking the stock’ with my dad and trying to keep up with his long purposeful strides and believed that I would perhaps one day be a farmer on the land I loved. All that changed when I became sapped of energy and largely confined to the farm house. My body inflicted me with migraines, light and sound sensitivity and cognitive impairment. I remember on some days looking out to the fields with longing until eventually my desires had to be minimised to such an extent that my hopes had to fit within what I was capable of.  

Now, a quarter of a century later, I find myself faced with similar challenges as my body, once again, is out of line with my hopes, plans and the things I love doing. Two of my favourite things are going to gigs and football matches. ME is a cruel condition where one of its main defining features is something called Post Exertional Malaise. It sounds like something you might feel after a Sunday afternoon country walk but I prefer to call it ‘the aftershock’. Any activity has an exhaustive effect and if you have enough energy to do something you love, then it's likely that doing that thing may mean you won't have the energy to do it again for a long time. Consistently doing that thing may even contribute to you being confined to your bed on a permanent basis.  

 black and white image of a man in glassing smiling

When I became a social worker I learned about the importance of the social model of disability, whereby society itself is disabling and needs to adapt to allow disabled people access through physical changes to the environment and engaging minds to help society to empathise and take action to become more inclusive. Often this is about simple language. The difficulty with ME and this model is that ME doesn't fit the narrative. Often my legs don't carry me far before they become wobbly and I'm close to collapse. It isn't though, as simple as rocking up to the football in a wheelchair (although I understand that often this isn't simple at all!) The exhaustion and sensory overload that comes with ME means that just the thought of being at the football is exhausting. Even if I did have the energy to go and enjoy the match at the time, and it was a rare day where noise and busyness weren't too over-stimulating, the impact on me could set my energy levels back for weeks.  

When something seemingly as simple as going to a match is out of reach, as a bloke you start to analyse your own masculinity. The farm is a very physical environment and if I'm not careful I can start to carry guilt for not being able to support my Dad in his work. The other day some sheep escaped and I naturally started chasing them but very quickly my body caught up with my brain! My head started spinning and my heart was racing. One of the biggest challenges for me in living with ME, is being secure in my own masculinity despite my physical weakness. This means deconstructing traditional narratives of masculinity, especially the feeling of responsibility to provide for the family. I find mindfulness is really helpful for being in the present and allowing me to accept my limitations. Celebrating small achievements and practicing gratitude are also beneficial. Once this frequent hurdle is passed, I'm more able to enjoy being a nurturing father and know that my value is found in who I am, not what I do.  

Men, please know: any physical weakness does not reflect your masculinity. Your strength is not found in bench presses or the speed in your legs. 

 

What does masculinity mean to you whilst living with a disability? How do you manage feelings of failure and are there things you do regularly to practice positive mental health? Let us know in the comments below! 

Replies

  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,569Administrator Scope community team
    Thanks so much for sharing @talmandan :)
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 4,649Community champion Disability Gamechanger

    Hello @talmandan ; Thank you for sharing with the community.

    Please can I first add what is important in any condition illness or disability is to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses .

    We as gentlemen or men do not wish to say what is wrong. Keep it bottled up do not discuss and think less of being a man.

    The fear and insecurities and the total horror that you can not deal with simple problems or issues.

    I my self have mental health and with a disability.

    Discussing how we are as a  male species is so closed and not important to being sensitive to thinking about feelings and emotions.

    One of the big hurdles to cross over when anything like an disability or illness become a problem.

    I am very open about my issues but other men I have met are not. To the extent especially those I know have addiction related mental health and consider them selves not a problem.

    Had joined many men's support groups where the emphasise is on masculinity  and not admitting anything. Even the leader of the group not talking about issues and problems here not wanted.

    Yet I had met many alcoholics who had a drink issues but would not admit any of it at all. To me yes but not to there own families and other members. I became a keeper of secrets. Many of which came with its own problems.

    Too much to bare, emotional and very much intimidation from them.

    Also had have fair weather friends call me to ask for advice and support. In reality having some mental health issues but will not admit it at all. Use the phone call to seek my advice. I try to be supportive.

    What does not help is the demeanour I am OK. I am a man nothing wrong here yet he needs help I know this so does he but lack of movement and recognition means he will not help himself.

    Understand it is all sad and tragic so I have to say the truth and it might get through. Usually ends up shouting at me he is . He is one crying but will not admit this and so I have to put a block on my phone.

    What does not help is the stigma. If I admit am a failure then can not provide for my self.

    Had this before when my own support worker finding me eating crispbreads and crackers.  Because felt to proud to admit can not have and eat breakfast today.  Having issues coping. Need some help here .

    What did help was being in a mental health charity and finding solace and the required support to move on. Consider options, strategies and coping methods to help my self.

    Having implementations and some guidance to deal with this trauma.

    We all have our bad days. So do have breakfast make a plan for it . In fact use my tools I have learnt from various charities over the years to try to deal with anything.

    There are days many too many where I do not understand my self and have those identifying times.

    I can not deal with things going wrong. All the days have attached labels.

    Monday Manic why it starts. Especially the modern world we live in.  Computers any modern technology because a burden a heavy loads some day.  Can be electrics in the kitchen or any appliance .

    Come Tuesday becomes Tragic because of Manic Monday. End up getting massive guilts and why was I getting angry at Monday.

    Weepy Wednesday same as Tuesday.  Get emotional and upset lots of dark days and terrible isolation, loneliness, sense of dread. Usually over Start of the week.

    Terrible Thursday nearer the end of the week same as the start plus get these down days. Lots of minor incidents.

    Freaky Friday all surreal and up and high and certain feelings emotions what I how and why survived another week.

    Weekend have certain names as well.  Wish not to share but anyway only thing keeps me going is trying to motivate myself if I can.

    Being here supporting the community to offload and to share and care helps.

    Sometimes I feel like Frank Spencer or Victor Meldrew is that the right thing to admit being a gentleman or a man is it OK to admit failure and admit mistakes.

    Be honest and open.  Always.

    Thank you for reading.

    Pleasure to meet you.

    Take care.

    @thespiceman




  • talmandantalmandan Posts: 2Member Listener
    Thanks for sharing  :)
  • WildheatonWildheaton Posts: 2Member Listener
    Thank you for sharing you are what you are stay positive 
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Posts: 2,957Administrator Scope community team
    Thank you for sharing this @talmandan. It was a really interesting read and has such an important message about masculinity.
    Senior Online Community Officer
    Scope
  • LifeOfPippaLifeOfPippa Posts: 6Member Connected
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