Men Have Feelings Too
‘’Let women feel, you do’’
I am going to start this off with a couple of stats. More men than women commit suicide. However, only 36% of therapy referrals to the NHS are men. Do the maths….
For far too long there has been a stigma about men speaking out. At university, when a couple of guys cleared their throats on my door, as I lay there in my room- I was more worried about what these guys thought about me than how I felt at the time. As I went into work at my old employee, having worked until 1am for no extra pay for eight weeks in a row- my thought was not my incredible resilience that allowed me to get through it, but the fact that I was going to be shouted at for coming into work 45 seconds late. Of course, these feelings were a product of toxic environments, but it also made me wonder why I did not look out for myself, speak to someone or just pat myself on the back.
It struck me- men have been programmed to act ‘manly’ and essentially not give a shit about their feelings. We must grill the meat, but not bake the cake. We sink the beers but stay afar from a mojito. We must ‘suck it up’. You read on relationship websites all the time ‘Women like a man who doesn’t show emotional weakness’’. Women of course face different, and if not more challenges- but this blog is more on how society has probably shaped my ways of thinking and contributed to my anxiety. In all honesty, I think society has improved, and there are several charities, that focus on mental health for males- and these have certainly helped me relate and get help.
I listened to an amazing podcast run by my friend, called ‘JustAnotherIllness’ whereby a speaker named Angelos spoke honestly and eloquently about his struggles with anxiety. I was awestruck. It was not as though I was against speaking it- I am not afraid to tell people about my anxiety, but the means by which he revealed his battles really inspired me. He spoke at length about how this can also manifest itself into physical symptoms. I fear that many people only start taking their mental health seriously after a physical episode kicks in. I certainly did. Society had taught me that those with an XY pairing keep things under wrap. I had no idea that I even had anxiety until I was clutching my chest in Johannesburg Airport, thinking I was having a heart attack. Turns out that it wasn’t, and a warm tea and a hug from the lovely South African nurse calmed me down and allowed me to fly back home. This leads me to a point. To a plea. If you feel anxious, you probably are. Please speak to someone. Some people will have the worst anxiety and never feel anything physically, but that does not make things any better! If you read somewhere in a bullshit testosterone filled article written and read by a bunch of red necks that it is a ‘sign of weaknesses. Just know that caring for your mental health is the strongest choice you can make.
I remember amid our work (former employer) ‘busy season’ two years ago, we were told from the beginning- if you make one significant error, you get a low rating. A 4 out of 5. Honestly, I was more concerned about avoiding a 4 than I was about remembering to eat. I would work until 1am every night and come in on the weekends. I would console my team-mates, who were far away from their families and be accused by my managers for ‘wasting time’. Ultimately, if they saw this as a waste of time, and it was their job to also look out for me, who else was going to look after me? My peers? Some did, but some played the game. We are not measured at work by how much we care about other people. We have margins. We have budgets. So, can I really be bitter about these managers not caring? Probably not. We all face our battles, we all have bills to pay after all.
This was the point where I thought ‘’You know what, I cannot see my family or friends because of work. My peers and managers are by in large bound by the system. I have to help myself.’ This where the corporate, male stereotype melted away and I felt more like a human again. I took pleasure in helping others. I did not care about my rating. I looked after myself. I looked after others. My mental health improved. Did I get a 4 rating? Yes, I did. Did I pass my ACA after and leave the environment that I found toxic? Yes, I did. That 4 means comparatively nothing because I know I performed well and helped others. If some senior manager deemed that a waste of time and preferred watching colleagues suffered, I was happy to leave with a clear conscience. I don’t remember my 4 rating, but I remember taking time out my day to have a homemade Pakistani Kebab with a homesick colleague and turning some tears into a smile.
Even this week, I have had a close family member in India be diagnosed with cancer. I have stared emptily at the walls in my house, knowing that there is absolutely nothing I can do. I cannot visit my parents to console them, my other half lives in another country and my sick relative is in India. The feeling of entrapment is pervasive and choking. However, I spoke. I cried to my relative on the phone, I cried to my Mum and I got out the photos and went through some memories. I did not force myself to tell anyone I do not want to. Nor did I stop myself from telling people I wanted to. It helped. These are extraordinary times that we live in and surrounding yourselves with good company and doing away with toxic company will give us the best possible chance to get through this.
The moral of that story is that we have our friends, and we have our family. Of course, they love and care about you, and they will do absolutely anything to help you. However, we also have ourselves. We cannot ignore the power that we have in improving our own mental health. We cannot ignore that and expect our friends and family to do it for us. Nor can we ignore that because society has told us to behave like ‘stereotypical men’. Society does not write your script, you do. So please, reach out and talk to someone. Please get help if you need it. Do not be scared of not being a ‘weak man’ because the respect you earn when you show your true colours, your deepest insecurities is far more than scoffing your worries away to try and fit a toxic stereotype.