Men, mental health and stigma

I have been doing mental health advocacy online for a long time now, it’s been almost 3 years, I am most active on Facebook but in the past wrote a lot in this blog about mental health as well. I also make note that the majority of the support groups are geared toward women, they tend to be the most active in self-improvement and mental awareness, I don’t mind that, in fact, the majority of my friends and supporters are women, they are amazing and I learn so much from them.

But talking about gender roles and how men are perceived in this society is something that is a part of my advocacy and something I think about a lot of the time. I think how a lot of men are perceived as unemotional, detached, expected to be the strong ones, they don’t open up with their feelings and don’t show their sensitive sides. I think most people would say that men do have mental health struggles but choose not to talk about it.

I think about it in a different way, I think men can be just as emotionally ( maybe more so in certain cases) open as women, they can be sensitive, they care deeply but they are told to be more open with their emotions, they are dismissed or shamed for being so open emotionally or struggling with mental health, Many people see that a man who is highly sensitive and emotional is weak, which is far from the truth, men who are open with their emotions are the strongest of them all. . So when men feel shamed or unheard, they stop speaking out and keep their struggles to themselves. This leads to worsening mental health issues, which can lead to breakdowns and even suicide.

I myself, don’t feel comfortable in men’s groups because I always get the sense that the unspoken message is ” I have depression or anxiety, but I’m still a man, I’m still tough” and that message bothers me. It makes me feel as though I’ll be judged with this type of thinking so I continue to seek support from my female friends.It’s a contradiction with me. I want to break the stigma of men and mental health and yet I find myself not relating to a lot of men and that is frustrating. And I don’t blame men for being the way they are, it’s the society that raised that, I see it everywhere, especially in the media. Men play sports, they love cars, they never talk about their feelings, they are in control and it’s a tiring message to me because many of us aren’t like that and even within the mental health community, I see men being labeled that way, and it’s a terrible stereotype that keeps men from getting the help they need.

I remember whenever I was in a college classroom and we would have a discussion about men and women and how men never opened up, all they did was drink beer and watch sports and everyone seemed to be in agreement, while I could not relate and I just rolled my eyes because it sounded like every dated comedy routine from the 80s and 90s, like Home improvement, total nonsense to me

I don’t know, it’s an uphill battle because these messages are ingrained in our society and it genuinely bothers me and it was tough to grow up and feel so alienated from that culture, I couldn’t relate, I had guy friends but I never felt a part of things and I much rather have been by myself or talking with my female friends, I just felt so different and when I just started struggling with mental health, I noticed the stigma about how men were treated. Women are freer to talk openly about their emotions while men were laughed at for being too sensitive. All I can do is write what’s in my heart and lead as an example. I hope this post can make somewhat of a difference and maybe give you a different perspective of the need to break the stigma of men and mental health.

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Gender roles

I just want to share two status I made on Facebook related to gender roles and masculinity and femininity

 

I think men who are more interested in traditionally female traits like the arts like writing and music and who are expressive with their feelings and able to relate better to women than men are seen as different in a bad way. A lot of men will wonder why this man can’t make friends with other guys. And they make assumptions about this guy’s masculinity or lack thereof. Because femininity in men is seen as a weakness and I think some women believe this as well, depending on how they were brought up. There is so much stigma about men and sensitivity, The patriarchy hurts us all. it is a constant battle but I do my best to talk about these things openly because I know there are men out there like me who feel the way. And as a man who is sensitive and expressive and hates toxic masculinity, I want to lead by example

 

I stand up for women because they have been always been my biggest supporters, the ones who accepted my sensitivity, the ones who have been there for me when I struggle with mental health, the ones that help me advocate and who inspire me with their writing and support my writing as well.

I hate how society treats women, it’s unfair and they deserve better. I try to be a man who speaks up when I see things are wrong and am facing my fears by speaking my truth.

I say this often but thank you, women, for all you do, for putting up with how some men treat you and for continuing to overcome obstacles and break barriers. You always have my support

 

 

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Why are men afraid to talk about mental health?

Today I made another video. I’m taking some time to talk about the stigma of men and mental health. It’s time we as men are more open about struggles with mental health, stop shaming men who talk about mental illness openly, as males we should support one another not tell other guys to “man up”. I call this suicide prevention because the suicide is high among men, mostly due to stigma. I am hoping to connect with other men on social media who are willing to advocate for mental health and spread awareness because some days I feel like I’m the only one speaking out.

 

Author’s challenge 2019

This is my a bio I am making for the Author’s challenge of 2019

 

Hello #writingcommunity I’m doing the #authorschallenge2019 today. David is a yet to be published author and mental health/disability advocate. He has been blogging for almost two years; writing on subjects ranging from disabilities, mental health, grief, suicide, poetry, social justice, Spirituality ( as opposed to religion) and gender roles. David uses writing to uplift and encourage others who are suffering from depression and other mental illnesses and hopes to spread a message of love and acceptance. The goal is to continue to advocate for marginalized people and to publish his work in the coming years. David is looking forward to connecting with others positively in the writing community.

My bio for 2019 😀

 

 

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Can I sit at the girls table?

I know most guys don’t want to sit at the girls table but do you mind if I sit here? I’d like to sit with the guys but they never talk to me; I try to be friendly but they just ignore me and I’m not really interested in sports or cars and that’s all they seem to talk about. I try so hard to relate those guys but I just can’t and so I stopped trying long ago. I accepted most of my friends are women and I’m OK with that. I don’t want to hit on you or ask for your number; I just want someone to talk to; I’ll ask you how your day was and we can talk about music or art or even writing; I’d love that. I love talking to the girls they are always more interesting than the guys and a whole lot nicer.   So can I sit here with you girls at this table? Thanks

The messages we send boys

Today was my day off and I decided to have breakfast at the diner close to my house; it’s really good and I can’t resist ordering pancakes.  I have noticed that everywhere I go; there is always a television pinned the wall and more often than not; it’s usually tuned into a sports channel; I seem to one of the few Americans not enamored with sports; it just doesn’t seem to interest me.  Even though I tried to ignore the television; I couldn’t help but look at since I was bored; I was alone; I had no notifications on my phone and I needed to be constantly entertained.

I glanced up and saw some segment about male solders coming home after battle and being greeted by their families and another one where families (women and children) are standing for the national anthem ( I never got the connection between the military/patriotism and sports).  I admit I am not the most patriotic person in the world but at the same time I appreciate the sacrifices that our military makes in making the world a safe place; I’m just quiet about it; I don’t believe in spectacles; in fact I see it as propaganda.  It makes you feel guilty if you aren’t constantly waving an American flag; with a support our troops stick on it.  As a male; the message seems to be you are less of a man if you aren’t in military and if you don’t support them; you are a horrible American.

A commercial break came on and mind you the TV was silent; I saw an ad for a cable company and it showed a few women; one of them was cooking and the other was shopping; it then showed a male watching sports on TV; with the text that read “TV for everyone”.   I shook my head in annoyance at the subtle and outdated messages about gender that media portrays; it has very narrow views of what it means to be a man where it gives women a lot of more roles.  Men are expected to be tough; non emotional and given roles such as military soldiers, sport stars and police men/firemen. I never see male artists or writers or activists being celebrated in the media.  And it makes me so sad because we forget about the sensitive men in this world or make art and make a difference in others lives; men who care for their children; men who stand up for the disenfranchised; men who help the sick and the disabled; they aren’t celebrated because having empathy for others is a considered a female trait for most.  It really bothers me because as a man I made to feel weak for being who I am. I try to be kind and gentle and am proud I write; just once I’d like to turn on the TV and see someone like me; someone I could relate to. I’m sure there are a lot of males who feel like I do; it’s a very lonely feeling and all you can do is slump back in your chair and continue eating your pancakes.

So while I was looking at the TV; I noticed a father and his son having breakfast  the kid was probably about 11 or 12. And it’s great to see a dad take his soon out for pancakes; that was so important to me as kid. But I thought about how this kid was interpreting  these messages at his age. Maybe he’s sensitive; maybe he likes to express himself and talk about his feelings. But he looks at the TV and sees that males don’t talk about their feelings; they are supposed to be tough; never cry; fighting in battle is something all men should do.  So he downplays all of those traits that aren’t masculine and emulates what a male is based on those subtle message radiating from the glow of the television.  I just think boys only get one image of masculinity and it creates this culture where if you are a boy and don’t fit in with what most people’s views are as a male; then you get ostracized and our culture at large and media plays a big role in that.  I think young males should learn that they should be able to have any interests they want ( even its considered feminine) and express themselves how they want without their masculinity being called into question.

I tend to read too much into things but I thought I myself as a young boy and I always liked girls; I had crushes with them at 6 or 7; never a cootie phase.  But I liked talking to girls more than boys; I thought they were nicer.  I remember talking to them on the playground more than males and sitting with them at lunch. But somehow down the line I got bullied by a lot of the boys in my class and I realized that hanging out with the girls; being too sensitive; expressing myself too much would make the bullying worse. So I tried to hid all of those non-masculine traits and I tried to be tough; I tried to play sports and not talk about drawing or writing; in hopes that they might accept me but they never did.  If I could I would have just been myself and try not to buy into the idea that boys should be this way and girls should be that way but I was kid; what did I know?  I hope we can get to a point where we as adults stop dictating to boys what a male is and let them choose their own version of masculinity.  So if a boy wants to be tough and play sports; great but it is equally important to let a boy be sensitive and creative and express him openly without telling him that only girls talk about their feelings.   I think there is room all sorts of roles for males. Don’t you think?

 

Men have feelings too

Written as a facebook post

 

I hear some women say that men don’t have deep feelings or aren’t as emotional as women; men are less sensitive. I think that’s total bullshit. It’s not that men don’t have feelings; it’s that they are taught not to express emotions openly unless it’s anger; if a man is open with his feelings then he considered weak; so he represses all of those negative feelings; to keep up a front and appear tough even though he may be hurting inside. At times I wish wasn’t so open about my feelings and I could be tougher but I am who I am and I try to be proud of the fact I’m sensitive; I can cry in front of people and it’s ok. So it’s a pretty hurtful statement when people say men don’t have feelings. On one hand if we express our emotions openly including hurt and sadness; we are considered weak ( especially around other guys) but if we don’t talk about our feelings; we are deemed to be emotionaless; lacking sensitivity and compassion. Emotional unavailable they call it. Either way as men; we can’t win.

 

How men talk to women

I have noticed when it comes to approaching women; most men are not like me; they have far more confidence. I’ve seen men just walk up to a beautiful woman and start up a conversation and immediately she is interested; within minutes and it’s always amazing; I am at awe at something I find so difficult. But I also notice some men are extremely aggressive when it comes to approaching woman; particularly in public and it always bothered me. There is this 7-11 that I go to every morning on my way to work and the clerks are all young attractive women; which is a rarity when you go to 7-11. Anyways I am always nice to them and they are polite to me; like you know how you are supposed to act in public. One morning I was there and some guys walked in; I think to replenish the drinks. They went past the clerk and said something like “Hey babygirl” or Hey Sweetheart” She kind of laughed and said hi. She then gave me this look like she had heard all of this before and wasn’t too happy. She looked at me said “Not this again” I responded with ” I guess it’s going to be a long day”. I tried to make a joke of it and left realizing it wasn’t funny.
They have to put with this shit everyday; all they are trying to do is do their jobs and get a paycheck; not be harassed by every random dude that walks into the store. I mean the men weren’t overtly rude but it really helped me to see the subtle way men talk to women; always in a demeaning way. Did this man think by calling someone babygirl; she would give out her phone number? Did the men see it as a compliment because she giggled and didn’t respond back angrily. I don’t know why this bothers as a man but it does. So while I am shy; I’d rather not know how to approach women than to harass them and make them uncomfortable. I’d rather see women as friends with personalities and feelings than see them objects. I do my best everyday to treat people with respect and it hurts to know that women get harassed so much; maybe women I know and that really upsets me. So I can’t control how other men act; I can only be aware of my behavior and hopefully be an example.
Thanks for listening
Dave

Understanding my feminine side

I tend to be someone who overthinks and analyzes every thought that comes to my head; lately I been thinking a lot about how I relate to others. I know it sounds incredibly self-centered to think about yourself so much but I think we are all guilty of that from time to time.  This is a subject I have talked about a lot but it’s the issue of gender and how I see myself in regards to that.  Whenever I find myself in group setting ( work included) I find myself gravitating towards women and not in a “I’m going to flirt with them” kind of way but more in a I just feel more comfortable with women; I am a pretty expressive person and I love to talk but I can’t find myself relating to men.  I don’t enjoy the banter ( why would you call someone by their last name?) and sports are boring to me. I’d rather talk about politics or my favorite album or movie and I question why I am the way I am. I feel this is deja vu because I have talked about this so much but it has been on my mind a lot lately.  When my brother died; I found it was the girls who listened to me and were concerned about how I was. It was almost a maternal thing or a sisterly kind of thing; I didn’t plan it like that but that’s the way it happened. And it is interesting; I have never had any sisters and wasn’t close to my mom; so I wasn’t surrounded by a female presence. I have told my female friends why I am this way and they say it’s great and it’s sweet etc; I appreciate it but it sets me apart.  When it comes to making female friends it works quite well and even online about 90% of people I talk to are women; I take pride in being able to relate to women.

I relate much less to men.  I am a very sensitive person; I like to write and talk about my feelings. I feel like when I am with other men; they are judging me; making assumptions and there are times where I wish I was just like them.  I wish I didn’t take everything to heart; I wish I had more male friends ( and saying just be more masculine is an idiotic statement and doesn’t work).  I also feel being overly emotional is disaster when it comes to dating; I can’t tell you how many women I have been hung up over the years; how many times I expressed too much of how I felt; misread signals; ended up hurt and unable to move on. I think women love sensitive men as friends but never want to date one; these thoughts run through my head all the time. I work in a warehouse in a department store and the men know their power tools, car, watch sports and I just stand in the corner with nothing to say; in a sense hating myself.

When I was younger I used to be sort of jealous of women; in the sense that had closer relationships; they talked more; spent more time together. These are not normal thoughts for a little boy but I had them. I wanted to have close guy friends but its girly to just sit around and talk and even writing this sounds so feminine and I cringe at my own words.  And I tried to play sports and be tough but I couldn’t be that; it never felt right.

And some may be reading this thinking maybe I’m questioning my sexuality; I know very well who I am and I have always liked women. I am just trying to understand why my brain works the way it does; why is my feminine side so much stronger.  I always feel that some look at how I relate to women as suspect when in reality there is no ulterior motive; those who know me are aware that my intentions are always good. I will say this that I didn’t always embrace my sensitive side but once I did; I felt a lot happier; I felt I didn’t have to suppress my emotions anymore and be someone I wasn’t. I just wish I could find more of a balance between the masculine and feminine side of me.

Thanks for listening

Dave

Is sensitivity a gift?

I struggle with the idea that I am considered to be sensitive person; it is not something I embrace entirely It’s tough to be labeled as a sensitive man in a society where men are required to be tough and hide their feelings. Sensitivity is considered a mainly female trait. I want to be like every other guy ; I don’t like talking about my feelings so much but at the same times it’s who I am; and I have to be true to myself; even if it alienates me from some people. At the same I want to fit in and I know that being so sensitive and open with my feelings makes it hard to relate others; I oftentimes feel disconnected and unable to find common interests; most guys like sports and cars; I am focused on writing or art or social causes; things that aren’t usually associate with guys. i work in a department store with tough guys who love power tools and football; if they knew that i wrote poetry and talked about my feelings so openly i would be a laughing stock; I see myself at times as weak in comparison to them.
 
When I was younger ( 8 or 9) I was a target of bullies because I was so expressive and couldn’t play sports; I was just different because I had learning disabilities.. So I mostly hung out with girls because they listened to me and never bullied me; I felt safer around them but hanging out with the girls made me an even bigger target; so I just ended up being by myself with no friends. Later on in High School I had guy friends but was never close with them; the only friendships that I had at time that I remember fondly were with girls. After my brother died they were the ones that were there for me. I don’t think any of my guys friends gave a shit; I think they just wanted me to shut up about it and move on ( which is probably still the case today)
 
As I am writing this I’m at work right now on break huddled in a corner writing on my phone trying to drown out all the noise. I read sensory overload (overwhelmed by too many sights and sounds) is a trait of highly sensitive people as well. As hard as I try I can’t drown the sound of phones ringing or music blaring; or babies crying; it makes me exhausted and every day I have to go and sit by myself for an hour and process all the chaos I to put up
 
Sometimes i cringe at the things i write; i mean them and i am sincere but i am embarrassed at how sensitive i am but i cant help it. i feel things more deeply than a lot of people and i am always lost in my thoughts; and it can be distracting. I could be at work and I’m thinking what I am going to write next or thinking about something that happened 15 years ago; going over a scenario in my head. I tend to think a lot; about how I am feeling and how others are feeling too. I really care for people and pride myself on being someone is a good friend and willing to listen to other’s troubles. I worry though a lot of about how I am perceived; which is think is another trait of a highly sensitive person.
 
I also thought that while most guys are loud and boisterous, I’m timid and quiet unless i with someone i am comfortable with ( which is rare). I don’t know how to talk to someone like that, you know. I can sense they see me as weaker; they are saying to themselves; oh he’s not a man like me. And maybe not and I guess that’s ok People have said to me oh you are so emotionally strong or i love your sensitivity; i appreciate it but a part of me remembers how i was shamed because i expressed my feelings so openly; its such a conflict for me. This struggle with my own feelings seems to be a constant theme in my writing. I often wonder why my brain is the way it is; i feel like I have female brain and let me clarify that i tend to express, write and think in a more feminine way. And it has nothing to do with sexual preference because I like women. I just relate better to women at times; they are usually the ones who respond to my writings and listen to me when i need to share my feelings. a lot of men see that as totally weak; beta male. Someone told there was no reason to be friends with women unless you want to date them; well is total bullshit. Its strange that i get along better with women yet dating has been difficult; i don’t get it; maybe its due to my sensitivity; i get overly emotional too quickly; ruining an potential relationship. that is really painful; and I take that pain and internalize it to the point where I am terrified of dating because I was hurt in the past. Why am I so self conscious and awkward? Why can’t I keep my emotions in check? I don’t know but it’s something people don’t understand about me and I don’t understand it either. I used to stay up at night asking myself those very questions and I still haven’t figured it out. I am working on becoming more confident and embracing my sensitivity; every time someone gives me encouragement i become less scared of writing my feelings with the help of my friends. That’s it for now; I hope you understand that it is never easy for me to honest and open about my feelings but i appreciate everyone who allows me to be who i am. Thank you