I find the concept of masculinity rather fascinating. To paint it in broad strokes you could say it all amounts to feats of strength and attaining positions of power. But another way you measure your manliness is by comparing yourself to women. “Don’t be a girl” is often a standard insult to make towards a male who would be in any kind emotional distress. Men don’t talk about their feelings because it’s a purported sign of weakness, and what is a man if not strong?
Frankly my friends that is a load of toad shit. True strength lies in an ability to stand tall against anything, and that includes talking about your feelings. I’ll be honest, I’m very bad at doing this. In fact, many people in my life didn’t know I was fairly depressed until I started writing this blog.
For the longest time I’ve been a relatively unhappy person, and through my perception of what it means for me to be a man, I let those feelings of ill intent eat away at me from the inside out. It may be alarming for me to say this, (and I must admit it is hard) but there have been times in my life when I have been very close to self-harm.
The sad part is that often I have found myself consumed with inconsolable melancholy, yet not been able to speak openly about it. Partly for the sake of my own pride but mostly because revealing this about myself would make me appear weak. I have family and friends who want me to talk to them but the sheer weight of it keeps me from doing so.
To be honest I’ve often considered myself to be the runt of the litter (which is sort of true considering both of my younger brothers are taller than me). Throughout my life I’ve found myself outdone physically, outsmarted academically and outshone socially by other men. So feeling inferior is nothing new. But then you add on the anxiety and countless shitty situations I find myself in and heartbreak, and it’s a god-damned recipe for disaster.
There have been a lot of studies on how depression works, but this is how it feels to me. I can be standing on the train, cooking my dinner or even be in a social situation with friends or work colleagues, and the sensation will hit me out of the blue.
It’s this feeling that there is someone crouching in the periphery of my vision, yet if I turn around I can’t get see what it is. But I can always feel the menacing glare on my back. I feel like I’m boiling and freezing at the same time. My stomach will feel both full and empty. Everything slows down, and there’s a voice in my head. It tells me that I have amounted to nothing. That nobody has ever really cared about me. That my life never had any purpose to begin with. That when I die nobody will remember my name.
It’s hard to talk about when your mind becomes so compromised. Putting it into words is just as painful as the actual depression. I understand why many people don’t, after all when you’re sick in your head and your heart talking to people seems impossible.
For men, learning how to accept their own emotions and their mental health as a part of their masculinity is essential for living a healthy life. When I was a kid there was a perception that talking about your feelings made you a girl. Boys were tough. They would play in the mud and swear and keep their shit to themselves. Any exception to the rule and you were marked as a lesser man, and those who branded you as such wouldn’t let you forget it either.
A real man is open about how he feels, even if it doesn’t align with what his mates or anyone else thinks. Courage is a rare thing, especially when facing your own demons. Speaking out and seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but a testament to your own strength. Embrace it and when you do you’ll realise what kind of man you truly are.
Far too often cases of severe mental health is degraded by being called the ‘blues’ or just ‘feeling down’. These feelings aren’t something anyone should ignore. I won’t play the hypocrite and say you have to talk to someone, but I urge anyone who feels this way to express themselves in a way that is comfortable for them. Keeping it to yourself is not an option, because if you do that depression will corrode you until there is nothing left.
I’m telling you all about this because this November I’m taking part in a great fundraising event called Movember. Along with some brilliant colleagues of mine, I’ll be growing my mo in order to raise funds to aid men’s health. Not just for mental health and suicide prevention, but also for projects focusing on prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Any donations, big or small, would be greatly appreciated.