It’s the wee morning hours as I write this, the first hints of light peeking over the horizon. I have my usual cup of tea beside me (an Irish Breakfast Tea if anyone was wondering).
This post will be shorter, and it won’t contain much research, links, or words of advice. It’s meant to serve as a beginning as opposed to something that stands on its own.
There aren’t a lot of topics where I struggle to put words to paper, but this is one of them. What is it like to live with mental health issues as a man? I struggle because there is a theme that you’ll see throughout much of this series that runs through the experience of many people dealing with mental health struggles, but in a slightly different way: Shame.
Shame at struggling at all. Shame at not being strong enough to brush off the challenges that life throws at us with a laugh and some boisterous comment. Shame at having been a victim. Shame at admitting a problem. Shame at the tears. Shame at the lack of tears. Shame at lashing out, and shame at staying silent.
Shame because of a widely known, but not talked about secret. Society, American Society, in particular, has no acceptable way for a man to struggle with mental health. They aren’t supposed to struggle.
Men are meant to be strong, but not too strong. Sensitive, but only to those weaker than them. They are never meant to be a victim, and should never be an attacker either.
Men should inspire those around them, but never need inspiration themselves. Lead, but never ask to, and definitely never follow. To be independent, but not stand out from the group.
There is a perfect way to be a man, and few can measure up to it. But one thing is certain in the male experience: you. Cannot. Struggle.
I’m not sure how long this series will be exactly, but it’ll be a longer one. The struggles that men face in mental health are unique and troubling. That isn’t to say they are worse, or better than the struggles that women face, nor society at large, just unique.
I’ll be covering topics such as all the weird societal pressures, self-judgment, unhealthy coping mechanisms and more that me and other men I know have gone through. I’ll cover the stigma of victimhood and how men’s mental health pressures translate to self-harming behaviors. I plan to cover PTSD and how there are more ways to experience it than going to war. Mix that in with a healthy dose of sarcasm and a bit of research and there are the makings of at least 5-7 articles, probably more.
Today’s post though is more of a hello. A push back against the shame society told me to feel when I felt weak. The self-judgment and hatred I felt every time I cried. 5 years ago when I really started my journey, I never would have sat and declared to the world that I struggled with mental illness. That sometimes I felt weak. That sometimes I cried and didn’t know what to do. So that’s what I’m doing today. The biggest way to combat shame is to act opposite to its urge to hide and stay silent.
I’m a man and I suffer from mental illness. There are millions like me, and we all have the right to be men in whatever damn way we please.
Not quite sure, what I’ll be covering next in the series, but be sure to tune back in for part 2 in the coming weeks.
If you are a man struggling with mental illness and would like me to address any particular topic, please be sure to reach out to the team here at Defying Shadows, or you can always find me personally as well.
Caleb is a Storyteller, Marketing Expert, Business Owner, Husband, and Streamer. He has a B.A in English and Creative Writing from Augustana University in South Dakota, has successfully graduated from DBT Skills group and has become a Twitch Affiliate. After being diagnosed with genetic cancer at age 10 he ventured down a path of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a myriad of surgeries, that culminated in brain surgery and full mental breakdown in September of 2015. This led to his journey in self-discovery, DBT, solidifying his love for his wife, and growing into a better man and husband than he thought was possible.