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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Social media, the anxious trap

I feel really overwhelmed with social media right now, I’m not feeling ignored, in fact, I’m getting love and support than ever and it’s much appreciated, it’s surreal actually to feel like my words and thoughts are resonating with so many people in a such a positive way.

But with all that, it’s tiring, maybe it’s me sharing my brother’s story about suicide live or maybe it’s me posting too much and relying too much on the validation of other’s ( it’s so easy to get hung up on likes and comment and then place your self-worth on that) Maybe it’s seeing post after post where everyone seems happier and more productive than I ( Who isn’t running a group and making live videos these days?) And I know it’s a facade but it still causes anxiety. I also have my own successes but I still can’t help but compare to others in a negative light, I’m never good enough despite my best efforts. Maybe it’s the fact that I never see the posts from the people I care about the most and they never see mine ( or so they say, they most likely skipped through my posts on their newsfeed). Maybe it’s desperately wanting to reconnect with people who don’t want to reconnect with me ( that hurts,)

And some of this is my anxious thinking, it’s hard to tell what is anxiety and reality at times. I just know social media is getting old and very frustrating. I am focusing on my groups at the moment but not on posting or scrolling through my newsfeed ( what an awful waste of time that is), maybe this will help my anxiety. But the worst part is very few people will bother to read this whole post, they make skim it but not absorb the message.

It seems to be that the more connected we are online, the more truly disconnected we are in person, life is funny that way. Sometimes I wish I could throw my computer and phone in the ocean, move to a tropical island and liberate myself from this digital prison, it’s a trap, a crutch and it’s doing harm to us all. 📱😥😒

God saved my life

I want to tell a story. Around 2002, I was a new driver and I was following a friend and I failed to stop at a left turn signal, as soon as I turned, I had no time to react and a car smashed into to me at about 45 mph from the drivers side. My car spun and I end up on the median, the car was completely totaled but for some miraculous reason, I didn’t lose consciousness or have any injuries, aside from a sore neck and the shock of the accident.

 

I was in the hospital and I was really dazed and out of it. But I remember talking to the doctor and him telling me how lucky I was to make it out of there, without a scratch, in fact, if my foot had been a few inches closer, I could have lost it and been disabled for life.

 

I truly believe God saved my life that night, I don’t know why he did, because I should have been seriously injured, given how fast the other driver was going and the fact that I ran a red light during heavy traffic. Yet for some reason I was spared harm. I believe God spared me because he had a purpose me, to help others, spread compassion, help the disabled, and try to make a difference.

 

At the time, I didn’t believe in God and it just hit me as I was commenting on someone else’s status. But it shows to power of God and how much he loves me. I can’t tell you how many situations I have been able to escape from by the grace of God, there’s just no other explanation beside God’s grace.

 

Sometimes if I’m laying in bed, that feeling of that car speeding towards me will hit me and I will jump in fear, like my body never forgot that moment. I am grateful of God’s love for me and am so happy I have him in my life again.

 

Just wanted to share that with all of you 🙏 ❤

Depression in men

A short and sweet blog post today

 

Depression in men is so overlooked. There are much less resources for us, most articles I come across are written from a female perspective with little input from men. I have even read articles that say men suffer from depression less. Bullshit! We are less heard and there is a much stronger stigma for us for reaching for help; somehow seeking treatment makes us less than men. When women speak out, they are brave, when men speak out, they are complaining, they need to be strong and keep it together. It makes me feel frustrated and angry at the time; as if our pain is less. We are in pain too, you know, we just aren’t allowed to express it publicly. I’m trying to change that. I want to encourage other men to speak out about depression and I hope some day to maybe create a support group for men with depression or a website or something because we need help too

Facebook mental health group

I was thinking about advocacy and social media and I realized that I really wanted my followers on wordpress to k now about Facebook mental health group, it is called Beautiful minds and it is my first facebook group. Some people encouraged me to create and I created it a few days ago. So far it has been great and I have connected with some passionate people who also want to advocate for mental health.  I am hoping some of you who Facebook can join my group. I encourage people to post about mental health and I hope they can get something out of it. Here is the link

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/270465390575783/

Why I believe women

This has really been a rough week for so many; with the Kavanaugh hearing; a lot of people are triggered and emotions are running high.  I actually have to admit I don’t have cable news ( or even a TV for that matter) so I miss out on a lot of the details; I read headlines on Facebook and hear people talking about it but I don’t get the full picture.  The news is just so negative and full of drama that I have a tendency to just shut out the news because it’s too much; too many players; too much arguing back and forth; it’s not good for my mental health. That being said I have jest of what these hearing is about; Judge Kavanaugh is being accused of attempted rape at a party in the 80s in high school  ( a pretty serious accusation). A lot of people these days are being accused of sexual assault; it’s seems like a celebrity or politician is being accused of sexual misconduct each day; and a lot of them have surprised me (Charlie Rose, really?)  And while I am shocked and have empathy for these women that are accusing these men; I don’t know them personally so it’s easy to not get emotional because I am looking at as outsider who has never been sexual assaulted and can’t fully understand that pain; but a lot people have   ( as I have been finding out recently)

I find myself to be a very sensitive man and have met so many caring women who have been there for me in my life; I admire their strength and courage. I admire how they express their feelings ( some not all); how they show empathy; how they are usually to ones who speak against the injustices of the world..  So when I hear about men who abuse women; my heart breaks because I can sense the pain and anguish the actions of these men cause; the trauma inflicted on these women is life long. I understand trauma in my own way and I have empathy for them because i am a human being who cares about others; but there are so many others in this world that are insensitive; they can listen to a woman describe unbelievable trauma while recounting being sexually assaulted; hear her voice quiver; hands shake and tears rolling down her eyes and not blink an eye.  To them it’s all in act to smear the name of good family man; it’s scam; a political ploy; instead of a woman speaking her truth. And then I hear some say “Well why didn’t they come forward earlier?’   Well who wants to relive that trauma in front of a courtroom ( mostly made of men ); have your sexual history on display; be called a liar and told that it didn’t happen and  say that you just want money or attention? Why go through all that; especially when you are a teenager.  Being bullied as a kid I can remember being ganged up on and when I told the teachers; they told me to just ignore it and it made things worse. I learned not to speak up because it didn’t stop the bullying and no one was going to help me anyways; so I just learned to put up with the bullying because i had no choice.  I use that as an example of trying my best to understand why women take so long to come forward ( if they ever come forward at all). Just typing this now makes me feel angry; I feel angry so many men doubt women; so many men say so many disrespectful things towards someone who has been through sexual assault; why are they so quick to judge?. And do so few men stand up for women? That’s my question.

For a long time I didn’t speak up because it wasn’t personal but last year after the allegations of Harvey Weinstein were brought to light; I started seeing all of these statuses from women that said “me too”.  I had no idea what that was about; I later found out it was women sharing that they had been victims of sexual assault and harassment; and all of sudden most of my female friends were making “me too” posts; it became personal. These women who were my friends and who I loved were sexually assaulted or harassed at one point by men in their lives; that hurt deeply; I really felt for them. Soon some of them started sharing their stories in more detail and I started to realize how many women were affected by this and how so few of them ever came forward and their seemed to be a recurring theme: fear, fear fear.  Either they were threatened  or didn’t want to get his male in trouble so they held it in for years and years. Now by sharing this they have nothing to gain; they aren’t taking these guys to court; they are speaking their truth so other women don’t feel so alone; and they’d have no reason to lie.  I thought about that; a lot of these accusers are coming forward 15-20 years later; way past the statute of limitations; so they can’t charge this guy. Why would a woman put herself through that trauma all over again; be called a liar in front of everyone; have her sexual history questioned and gain nothing legally from it; if she wasn’t telling the truth, right?.  I don’t know; I don’t have statistics and figures; I can only speak from the heart and I believe a lot of women coming forward and I commend them for being so brave; because it takes guts to stand up against powerful men who think they are entitled to sex and see women as solely sex objects with no feelings or worth.

I want to finish this post and talk about a family member who I have not seen since she was a little girl; we actually share the same birthday; she is exactly 6 or 7 years younger than me.  I don’t talk to that side of the family so I don’t know about any of them.  But I was told that this member in the family was sexually abused at a very young ( 7 or 8) and it was shocking; especially since I had met the boys who had abused her for years.  I just felt so furious and had so much hurt in my heart; knowing that cute little innocent girl who was funny and who i went to the pool with and talked with her  had been through unimaginable abuse. I can’t describe how it makes me feel except sick. Even though I have no contact with my family; I do love her and she crosses my mind from time to time. I caught up with her on Facebook about a year ago. I messaged her a few times and I could tell she was struggling; she didn’t work; had ptsd ( related to the abuse); and it wasn’t like talking to an adult; it was like talking to a little girl. I realized that the abuse was so bad that emotionally she remained 7 or 8 years of age.  I didn’t think it was appropriate to be talking to her; even online so I cut off contact with her and any other family I had on Facebook. But when all this talk of sexual abuse comes up; she does cross my mind. And she’s isn’t lying about the abuse and didn’t tell anyone for years; long after it had ended.  I tend to believe most women who come forward because in a  rape culture such as ours; I believe that there are many more men out there capable of sexual abuse than I had previously imagined.   I hope to continue to be the kind of man who speaks up for women; comforts women; is friends with women; and never stops believing women

Thank you

Dave

 

 

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