A man needs to have the courage to do what is hard, even talking about your pain. For decades we have been faced with the image of a man being the ‘strong silent type’, but what truly makes a man is his courage to do what needs to be done, and to speak up when he needs to be heard.
Last week a friend of mine committed suicide. He was a late-twenties, middle-class, man with a large network of friends and family, all of whom would have dropped whatever they had going on to lend him a hand. He was loved, respected, and is sorely missed.
As another friend wrote in his post, Dan was simply overwhelmed by his own thoughts. After fighting against his own mind, his depression, for his entire adult life, he decided he was done with the battle.
It’s not just okay to talk, it’s required
Men, especially men who struggle to feel confident, dominant, and ‘manly’, avoid talking about their emotions, their pain. I’m one of them. We tend to view talking about, or even displaying, our emotions as a sign of weakness. It’s not hard to understand why so many of us feel this way, when we look at how society reacts to men displaying emotion. Just look at these common sayings, all of which enforcing the behavior of hiding what we are feeling:
“Don’t be a pussy.”
“Crying like a little bitch.”
“Boys don’t cry!”
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that every man needs to become meek. I’m saying that you need to acknowledge the fact that you have emotions, and that emotions need to be dealt with. I’m not just talking about depression. Men struggle with anger, fear, and doubt, each one being as exhausting as the next.
Like a slow leak in your car these things often seem manageable, but eventually you run out juice and things start to break down. The point of this article, and a lesson I sincerely hope we can spread, is this:
You need to deal with these issues before they become critical.
No matter who you are, or what your history has been, every single person would benefit from talking to a therapist. If you acknowledge you’re struggling with any of these emotions, then it shouldn’t even be an option. Being a man is having the strength to do what needs to be done, and that includes talking about your pain.
If you simply can’t, or won’t, talk to a therapist, then call a friend. If you have no friends you trust there are countless services and places where you can find someone who’s willing to listen. But for most of us, all it takes is having the courage to sit down with a friend and say “I’m struggling dealing with [your fight], and just wanted to talk about it with someone I trust.”
Chances are whomever you choose will empathize, and will have feelings similar to yours.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you have accomplished, or how you have failed
We are all dealing with the same issues. One of the best quotes I know of is, unfortunately, a perfect example.
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” – Robin Williams
It’s proof of how difficult it can become when we fall to our lowest points, that even Mr.Williams was unable to listen to his own advice.
The only solution there is, is to reach out to someone (or multiple people) and ask for help.
It’s never wrong, it’s never weak. Everyone needs help from time to time, the only mistake you can make is failing to ask for it when you do. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by having a conversation.
Be prepared to listen when someone comes to you
On the flip side, if someone reaches out to you it’s your responsibility to listen. No matter what your own issues are, don’t try to be funny, don’t put up walls and belittle the topic. Having someone confide into you can be scary, it can make you confront things about yourself you’ve been avoiding. But you need to remember that in this moment it’s not about you. Your job is to listen, give support, and if they need it do what you can to have them talk to a professional.
It’s not your job to fix people, and it’s not your responsibility to save the world from themselves either. But it is your job to do what you can, and more often than not all it takes is actually listening to someone, and letting them know they have been heard.
Life is hard, for all of us. But that is never a good enough reason to give up.
Written with love,