Real Men get Real about Their Mental Health

No one likes being truly honest about the reality of a Mental Illness. Progress happens when we get real and learn to understand what truly is going on.

John had been to see the psychologist for some personality tests for upcoming career changes. When the psychologist just dropped into the conversation that John had depression, it landed like a hammer on a small toe.

It hurt, but he didn’t want to show it. Men don’t express feelings. He stayed in control, and that’s what real men do.

The thought of having depression knawed away at him.

Depressed people are always sad, lethargic and never really achieve much.

That wasn’t him, though he did get down now and then, but a few ‘Pull yourself together John’ pep talks, and he was ok.

What he didn’t know about was the creep.

The Creep

Over the next couple of years, depression crept over him without him even realising.

Life just got harder, he was moodier, had anger outbursts, sleep difficulties and then the thoughts came of hopelessness. The inner critic became more assertive.

The creep silently crept over him like an all-engulfing dark cloud. 

Well the hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows
It’s no stranger to you and me. Phil Collins (Air Tonight)

He went to see his doctor who explained to him what depression was all about. He went on some medication and learned some new ways of handling life, and slowly the cloud lifted.

He then realised that the cloud had been there much much longer than he would like to admit. Maybe even since being a teenager.  What had he missed out on from not knowing about his depression?

The He-Man

Why aren’t we truly honest about what is going on inside?

Perhaps we have been sold a lie, and we still keep buying into it.

In every comic, I read as a young guy was this ad.

It was a great ad if you wanted to sell lots of fitness equipment.

A man was defined regarding

  • physical strength
  • dominance over wimps
  • getting the girl
  • having a ‘real’ body
  • violence
  • payback

We still do it today. Start naming the superheroes of the movie world and notice how they are kind of indestructible, they get the girl, and crucially they get respect.

The struggle of truly ‘Real Men’

Terrence Real in his book ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ writes these insightful words.

We tend not to recognise depression in men because the disorder itself is seen as unmanly. Depression carries, to many, a double stain –  the stigma of a mental illness and also the stigma of “feminine” emotionality. Terrence Real

The struggle is that we don’t want to be Mac on the beach. We don’t want to be considered as being weak in the mind, and we certainly don’t want to be considered a girl.

Men will do anything to avoid the feeling of being flawed. If we are flawed, we like Mac on the beach and are unworthy of respect.

It’s all about respect. 

Men will do just about anything to get the respect of others. The thought of losing it can be unbearable. Shame, the loss of respect, is a haunting ghost for a man.

Men have been designed by God to move into their world, whether it be the workplace, the family, or their spouse and bring something of the character of God into those places.

The moving is rewarded with respect. Self-respect and the respect of others.

Moving into the reality of your spouse, now that is scary, high risk and being truly vulnerable. Will there be a growth in respect? We don’t know, but a brave man moves anyway.

Real men move into themselves.

They face the shadows of the past. They explore the facade they have been wearing. They are open to talking about their flaws, fears and failings.

They have respect for themselves as a person in their own right and desire to become whole and real in their manliness.

Have you become real about your reality? 

Quotes to consider

  • Reality is unforgivably complex. Anne Lamott
  • Reality itself – my limited and sometimes misinterpreted experience – is the revelatory place for God. But for some reason, we prefer fabricated realities to the strong and sensitizing face of what is. The spiritual life begins with accepting and living our reality. Richard Rohr
  • A man’s deepest terror is weightlessness, the absence of solid substance that others recognize and appreciate. Larry Crabb

Questions to answer and leave a comment below or anonymously

  1. This post is primarily aimed at men, but it also has crossover to women. What applies to women as well?
  2. For Mac, it was having a well-built body. What other examples can you think of that men use to get respect from that are false and flimsy?
  3. What does ‘moving into your world’ look like for you?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Jared Sluyter

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