TW: Mentions of suicide and self harm.
It's the time of year when everyone starts getting sick...
I blame it on the fact that the kids have gone back to school and we all know how gross kids can be...sneezing and coughing all over each other in the classroom and then all over the place at home, on the bus, in the super market. YUCK.
Someone needs to tell these gorgeous but icky little creatures that sharing isn't always caring.
You could also put it down to the heating going on, people staying inside more....I don't really know but anyways, the cold season is on its way if it's not here already.
We can all exaggerate sometimes too. We can all play up the symptoms of a relatively common and temporary illness (like the common cold for example) if it's going to get us an extra cuppa, a lie on or some peace and quiet. Sometimes we just like to wallow in our bunged-up and sore eyed-ness. We're all human and I'm guessing we all do it.
Our acting chops might not up to scratch and so it doesn't always work out, or (a lot) more often, our feeling like shite makes not one jot of difference cos the demands of life don't give two hoots and we have to just soldier on and get shit done regardless.
Like I said, we're approaching peak 'Cold Season' and so also, peak 'Man Flu' season.
I could be wrong about this, but I most often hear men being diagnosed with Man Flu by the women in their lives when we assume the man in question is doing the aforementioned stuff...exaggerating, wallowing, playing it up. We get irritated seeing someone else trying to worm their way out of 'life stuff' that we weren't (and probably won't be) able to. Why are they letting their eyes hang like that? Stop the sniffing and get a hanky, WE GET IT....YOU HAVE A COLD!
"Uh, don't mind him....he's got MAN FLU".
The problem is, and again I could be wrong (God forbid), this phrase undermines men's health and their ability to confide and talk about it both to the people in their lives or health professionals which is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing....what we should ALL be doing.
If every time a man declares they feel unwell, be it physically or emotionally, we roll our eyes, snigger and diagnose them with 'Man Flu'...well wouldn't you start feeling like an idiot? And an idiot that no one will listen to or take seriously too. Also, remember there's lots of boys watching the way the men around them deal with their health...kids are ALWAYS watching, and taking mental notes.
And so what happens when these fellas get *really* sick...they're more likely to keep schtum for fear of either not being taken seriously, or out of fear full stop. Fear that they don't feel able to share with anyone cos that'd make them weak.... (Oh god, traditional gender roles really are shit, aren't they?).
Often, being *really* sick, starts with being *a bit* sick and how can this worsening ever be prevented if the small things are disregarded and laughed off. Of course, illnesses will develop and get worse if not dealt with...my own dad didn't go to the doctor for years and well, it didn't end well. I have to live with the knowledge that if only he'd dealt with the small things, the big issues that caused his death more than likely wouldn't have happened and he'd still be here now giving out about something.
In a country where there is such a high rate of people dying by suicide, as someone living in Co. Cavan where 80% of people who die by suicide are men, I just can't help but be aware that there's an obvious correlation here. The article linked there is from a couple of weeks ago; here's another about the suicide and self harm crisis affecting the Traveller community in Ireland from just yesterday.
This whole 'Man Flu' thing is about so much more than just #bantz about men being irritating when they get a cold. It's about slowly undermining men and their health. Both mental and physical health.
When people are scared to talk about something, they take baby steps...they want to test the reactions of those around them, subconsciously I'm sure, but they can only decide whether it's safe to open up more, if they have received a welcoming response previously.
I really worry that by making jokes out of the little things, an atmosphere is created which leads to avoidance, self neglect and fear, basically.
Fear of being ridiculed, not taken seriously and fear of not being able to talk about fear.
This year and from now on, my house and my conversations are going to be Man Flu free.