I always debate with myself on World Mental Health Day whether I should say something. There are others whose stories are so much worse than mine, so I should just let them go ahead and do it, right?
Well, there are two thoughts that oppose that:
The more we all talk about it, the more conversations about mental health are normalised and the more we prioritize it.
Men STILL struggle to talk about it. Some don’t even realise how much they need to.
So - here I am, smiling and happy. Unfortunately though, that doesn’t just happen. Oh sure, I smile and make jokes and work hard and try my best to be a good dad, while being what I hope is generally friendly and approachable. The thing is, for the longest time that was a mask I put on every morning to hide the deep self-loathing in my mind and the cement brick in my stomach that carried around with me every day.
This had to get really bad before I was forced to admit how bad it was to live in my head.
Obviously the first person I had to admit that to was myself - it’s hard to accept that you are depressed when you are the fun guy, the approachable guy, the cheerleader. I had to admit that it wasn’t normal to have a constant stream of hate being directed at me. (If someone else said the awful things to me that I said to myself everyday, I’d be horrified - but somehow I thought it was fine that I thought of myself in that terrible way.)
I had to admit that suicide ideation was not normal because I had somehow fooled myself into truly thinking the world would be better with me not in it.
Eventually, I had to completely fall apart before I accepted that this was NOT healthy, and that I was mentally and physically paying a dire price.
I was fortunate to have a massive amount of support come around me as I started on antidepressants and therapy - which is a privilege that many men don’t feel that they have.
I’m not going to lie...it took work, YEARS of work, to get to the point where I am today. Today is still a struggle - but one that I can face because I am able to see it for what it is, without fear, and with tools learned through therapy to cope and deal and thrive.
Here’s the bottom line: I often get asked how men can learn to be better fathers, partners, husbands and people, and my answer is always the same:
Even if you feel mentally healthy, just go for a few sessions, talk about yourself and your past and about all the things that you’re ashamed of and angry about and secretly wish for. Get it out, and start working out who you are and what you are all about.
Ultimately, we need men to be bravely vulnerable. To have the courage to get the help they need to be better for themselves and the people in their lives. I know it’s scary, but you are NOT going to be able to do it alone.
And even if you could...why would you? Life is better when we do it together.