Today happens to be World Mental Health Day, as suitably hashtagged with #WorldMentalHeatlhDay all over social media. I’ve seen plenty of posts and blogs from all over the twitterverse, and mostly from ladies. As we all know, men are typically useless at sharing their feelings. I know, I’m one of them. Here we are, here’s the meme that fits me so well…
I’ll get to the point.
Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a 42 year old photographer, sometime poet and writer, I’ve got most of my own teeth left, a fantastic head of hair, and I don’t think it would be going too far to say I’m well liked. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve done stupid things, but haven’t we all?
Everyone knows I am a miserable misanthropist. Maybe I am, maybe that’s the facade I hide behind on social media. My resting emotional state is best described as 'melancholic'. My Facebook posts are known for semi-comedic rants and reposts of the Nihilist Memes Facebook Page. This isn’t the post to start on about how everything is fucked up in the world, save to say with the American election imminent, the current political and economical situation in the UK, the rise of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc etc… need I go on? We live in some pretty miserable times.
I partly want to express my feelings and experiences with mental health, both that of my own, and that of others close to me, but as stated above, men are reluctant to talk about it, me included. Why is that?
I’m a white, heterosexual, masculine, lower middle class, creative man, with no disabilities (short sightedness and a propensity towards alcoholism don’t count), and we don’t like to whine and moan. I saw a post today on Facebook about how a white, straight, Republican, Christian, millennial chap in America had his feelings hurt, because he felt that he was to blame for all the world’s evil. I’m far from Republican/Conservative, and religion doesn’t even enter my sphere of influence. I can’t say I agree with everything he said, but I can see where he’s coming from with his post. I’m a CIS gendered man, which in itself has become a term associated with bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. I’m a white British man, so easily mistaken for the racists and bigots that cause so much heartbreak and grief for the Polish and Muslim communities here in the UK. More and more it seems that my opinion doesn’t count, because as a white man, I am the same as Trump, as Nick Griffin, as the white men who tweets threats of rape to anyone who has an opinion that differs to them.
I see the fear in the eyes of every lone woman I walk past, of every Muslim/Asian person I pass in the street. I feel their uncertainty. It saddens me immensely. I'm a man of maybe imposing stature, I have been told I'm intimidating. There's little I can do to alter how I look, as a large white man. Ok, the big beard doesn't help, but my build and ethneticity is not really by choice, and I have felt the atmosphere that can create in these uncertain days. It unsettles me. I don't like it.
Unlike the chap in the Facebook video, my feelings aren’t hurt. But the feeling of helplessness increases. The general opinion of that if you’re not out on the front lines fighting the good fight for a feminist, multicultural, equal society, then you are part of the problem.
The thing is, I’m fighting, daily, for the battle for myself. To quell the arguments I have in my head with myself. And the more it feels like my opinion doesn’t count, the more I withdraw, the more I hide my problems.
And let’s face it, no man wants to share his soul, to wallow publicly in despair. It’s just not the done thing! It’s seen as a sign of weakness, it’s seen as a flaw. And then there’s the fact that I have a roof over my head, I may not earn much, but I am in full time employment, I’m in good health (well, mostly), basically I have heterosexual white male privilege, and I know it. I’m reminded of an ex-employer who was complaining about how much he had just spent on four new tyres for his Aston Martin, a car that cost more than my apartment, while I was worrying about if I could afford bus fare to work that next week.
When there are so many people in the world with so little, when there are so many people with incredible problems, so many people forced out of the homes due to war and terror, so many people victimised due to their gender, or their sexual preference, those desperately fighting poverty, what right, what fucking right do I have to start moaning that I feel shitty, that I’m sad, that I’m depressed?
What right indeed? Any of those people could turn to me and say, ‘But Chris, look at your life, look at all the pretty girls you take photos of, look at all your friends, and your lovely home, look at that amazing head of hair!’ etc etc….
I write this now, and I think, well, what right do I have? And my immediate conclusion is none at all.
And that’s wrong. And that’s what’s wrong with a lot of people’s thinking, be it the man who isn’t coping with life very well, or the man for whom life is just peachy. I realise this is written rather male biased here, but I can only write from a male perspective. I would not dare to assume on the part of anyone else.
As for me, I handle my own mental health with various remedies. Friends will say I drink too much. I know I won’t find the answers in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. I dwell on my own thoughts and mind and failures far too often. Death is a recurring topic on which I ponder, not suicide, but death. I fight almost daily to Just. Keep. Going…
I’m shit at talking about it. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want, and don’t feel I need advice, possibly for the fear that said advice will be ‘oh cheer up’, the equivalent of handing a drowning man a glass of water.
I try to channel my thoughts and feelings in to my writing and poetry. Motivating myself to do so can be as much of a battle.
Generally, I end up just annoying myself even more. I hide so much anger (and to those who think ‘you hide it?’, you have no idea how much of it I hide away), and 99% of that is turned against myself.
It’s a daily battle.
This post is NOT anything but one man’s experiences, I’m not looking for advice or help, but I want to give an opinion on why men are terrible at talking about their own mental health, and for those who do admit and express their depression and anxieties, they are taking a much bigger step than maybe you realise. They are not looking for pity, or innocuous ‘there, there’ platitudes, but they should be welcomed, and made to know they are far from alone, and that they do have every right to express themselves.
And the words I know I dread to hear... 'do you want to talk about it?' No, I don't. I don't want to be treated any differently, I don't want you walking on egg shells around me, and I don't want to regret admitting I have problems. If I want help, yes I will ask, but more than anything at times likes that, I just need a friend, maybe company, and some nice distraction to take my mind of things. I'm sure most men feel the same, the last thing we want is friends who suddenly only look at us with the sad face, the 'aw, are you ok? Do want to talk?' face. We don't want to feel patronised. We don't want to feel pitied. Not that either of those things would be your intention, but the male ego is a fragile thing.
As for me right now? I'm ok. Nothing to complain about, nothing to shout from the rooftops about either. I'm fine. And like Freud said, 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar', sometimes 'I'm fine' is just that.
Ok, I’ll stop rambling on now. I need a drink.