‘Manning Up’ is Endangering Men

men black and white

Trigger Warning: Frank Discussion of Mental Health.

About 10 years ago I had a breakdown. A culmination of unfortunate events slowly ebbed away at my mental state for a while. The two people who I regarded my best friends betrayed me. I lost the place I lived and ended up in a horrid one room flat. I dropped out of university, I would wake up, and go work a job I hated then come straight home, drink about 8 cans of lager a night, turn on world of Warcraft go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. I’d been there about 6 months when I started getting really sick.

One day I had a rare day off and my mother decided to come round, I quickly tided the room and tackled the mountain of washing up. Ma saw how ill I was and convinced me to go to see the family doctor who I hadn’t seen for about 7 years. He did the usual, “you’ve got a chest infection, here’s antibiotics.” Then he asked me how I was doing. Now I probably saw thousands of people a week in my work and they all asked if I was ok, my colleagues asked me regularly and so did my family and ever shrinking circle of friends. I always fobbed them off, made up some bravado convinced people I was great (or so I thought.)

The Doctor asking me just sent me over the edge. I briefly remember a short questionnaire he filled in with me. Long story short; he revealed that he suspected I’d had a breakdown and was severely depressed. He asked if I wanted medication and if I wanted counselling. I declined the former but took up the latter. I went to see a lady for an evaluation and she said yes, you can see someone.

But even when I went to see her I clammed up, I just wouldn’t talk to her. In my mind I had had my diagnosis, I knew what was wrong and some quack couldn’t fix me only I could. I was ashamed to be seeking help for something that I thought was utterly ridiculous. I honestly thought I was fine. My own stubbornness and determination could help me change my mind set, and so with this toxic view point I stopped seeing the counsellor and went about fixing myself. The circle of people I hung around with were very macho, at school I’d never been accepted by the “Kool Kids” so for once in my life I was loving belonging to a group, made up of mainly men, where I could just drink and be a man. No one talked about how they were really feeling.

After a while I pushed myself to make some new friends and get out doing different things (discovered a love for table top gaming which is where I met my love), I moved out of the place I was living and back in with mummy so she could “look after” me. Eventually I felt a bit happier and I thought I was “fixed”.

A few months ago I felt that creeping sensation of isolation again. But with a much more mature attitude and being a bit more aware of how destructive mental health issues can be I sought help. I spoke to my partner, I spoke to my mother and my friends. And most importantly I found another source of counselling, I didn’t take it up, but I know it’s there and if I do feel I need to use it I will.

But as I said that’s because I feel more comfortable talking about my own mental health, knowing the signs. I will admit I do still get bad days, even bad weeks, where I feel nothing I can do feels right that I’m a massive failure, but I can manage it, now.

I can fully see how someone who doesn’t know how to manage themselves can find themselves isolated (especially men sometimes, where talking about your fee fee’s is a bad thing, because you’re a manly man who doesn’t have feelings or emotions). I wish I could go back to my younger self and say; “Azz, you Norris, stick out the counsellor, open up, talking helps. Stop being so stubborn. See your doctor. And don’t be ashamed.” In fact, that’d be my advice to anyone.

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