A couple of blogs ago I talked about how sad I feel it is to hear from old friends who have found this blog and they tell me, “Not many people know this but,” and they go on to explain that they too have experienced crippling depression in their lives. What I didn’t mention is that in each instance, the person who relayed stories like this to me were men.
And I know that more men who suffer from depression kill themselves than do women with depression.
And I’ve been noodling on all this for a few days now and I have to say, guys, enough with the tough guy bullshit, time to man up and admit when there’s a problem.
It’s like when I was trying to find the courage to go into my first AA meeting in my home town. I was seriously thinking of just putting the car back in drive and taking off rather than have people who know me see me walking into that meeting.
But then it occurred to me, what should I be more embarrassed about, people seeing me, once again, stumbling blind drunk out of the local bar or walking into an AA meeting because I want to get my life back?
That’s what got me out of the car and into the meeting and 17 years later, I still haven’t had a drink.
So men, I really think you have to ask yourselves, does it make you more of a man to keep your mouth shut and suffer in silence under the yolk of this unbearable disease until death seems to be the only way out? Or does it take an even stronger man to admit that he needs help so he can get his life back?
No one wants to admit defeat. But If I hadn’t finally admitted that alcohol had thoroughly and repeatedly kicked my ass to the point where it, rather than I, ran my life, I would probably have died about 17 years ago.
And if I hadn’t finally, broken and in tears, gone to my boss at work and told him I had to leave that instant to go see my doctor, I’d probably have died even sooner because my depression had invaded every corner of my life, every nook and cranny of my mind and it was picking me apart, piece by piece.
It was only when I finally understood that I had lost the war against these two brutal killers that I was able to start getting my life back.
I feel for men, I really do. Since primitive people began forming societies men have been raised to be tough, to be fighters, hunters, providers, to be strong, to protect the women and children.
And somewhere along the way it was decided that men shouldn’t cry and if they did, they should feel ashamed. Men shouldn’t show weakness. Men should hide their emotions so they could get on with the job of providing for their families.
Maybe that’s why we developed into such a war mongering people. All those men out there, not allowed to express how they truly feel, no allowed to have to many feelings at all – that’s got to lead to a whole lot of pent up frustration, anger, confusion, rage. It really does make me sad.
That’s not to say that it’s easy for women to talk about having depression. I was always very open about what was happening to me, my diagnosis and the treatments I was trying but my family seemed extremely uncomfortable with all that openness. I come from a long line of people who tend to try and sweep uncomfortable events and topics under the rug. And that too makes me sad.
But for women, at least, we have our girl friends, the ones we get together with now and then and gab for hours with. We have this amazing safety net that men don’t seem to have in their relationships with other men.
It’s so incredibly wrong that so many people think it’s not okay to admit to being affected by a disease that can and does kill a lot of people. Do you really think that a mother and child burying a husband and father who’s shot himself in the head, or hung himself, or driven into an overpass are happy that he chose not to talk about his depression? That he “toughed it out”? That he never complained? Because all that manly man stuff got him was dead and it left his wife and son alone to fend for themselves.
That’s what not talking about depression can do. So it’s a disease in your brain not your body, so what? Would a diabetic cure himself by refusing insulin, toughing it out until he made himself better? Not even a little bit.
Clinical depression is a physical, measurable condition. Its effects can be seen in how the synapses in the brain are firing. That wouldn’t be possible if it were “all in the mind”.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to get rid of this disease by just ignoring it, by toughing it out. But I know that doesn’t work. When I try to pretend everything is normal, even decide I’m doing so well I can go off my medication, I am very quickly reminded of the power of this very real disease.
If you’re struggling with the dark, male or female, believe me when I say you need help. And when you open up and admit that and ask for help you will be amazed at the number of people and resources there are out there to support you. That’s where you will find your strength and be able to be there for the people who need you. That’s where you will find your way back to your happiness and health.