Mental health is a bit of a myth, isn’t it? I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, but nowadays people seem to throw the term about for every little problem. Years ago, people had more backbone. Nowadays, anything out of the norm is given a medical name or a number on a spectrum. We used to be able to keep calm and carry on, now we need pills and a group hug. Men in particular need to pull themselves together and Man Up.
Or so the narrative goes.
If you’re a Man, you deal with problems and shrug them off. Talking about problems makes you look weak, a bit of a wuss. Feel a bit down? Get down the pub and watch the football. Have a few drinks and take the piss out of your mates. Banter clears all your cares away. But what happens when you get home? When the banter stops and the hangover starts to kick in? When doubt seeps out of your pores and vulnerability taps you on the shoulder? When you were a kid, you were not in any position to shrug off the attention of the family friend. He was stronger than you, and threatened bad things to happen to your Mum or Dad if you said anything. Keep calm and carry on? He did not give you any other option. In addition, at School, you were told not to approach strangers in the street who offered sweets and puppies. Nothing was mentioned about friends of the family or family members.
However, that was years ago. Put it in the past and move on? The dreams and flashbacks that envelope you during the day or while you sleep, that make you anxious and bring on dark thoughts and feelings, they will not let you move on. They have been going on for years and become what you see as normal. Meantime, it is eating away at you day by day, week by week, year by year. Those demons that belong in your past are gnawing away at you like an untreated wound but all you need is beer and banter?
The kid above did not have Child Line or CAMS. But as an adult, he did find a GP who listened and offered support and empathy. The walk of a thousand miles began with that single step – seeking and accepting support. The road was bumpy and full of potholes and yes, the journey was painful at times. Is it ok to confess to tears being shed? If you can cry when Brooking scores in the cup final or when your kids are born, then yes, you can cry when you are taking on unwanted demons.
Want to Man Up? Pick up the phone and make that call. Football and beer will still be available when you come out the other side. And yes, you WILL come out of it. It may not disappear – the metaphorical scar may always be there. But the skills you learn will allow you to carry on and keep calm. Your demons will behave like well-trained pets. Mental health is not a myth. However, with support, even a Man will find it easier to deal with!