Depression…*sigh*… This is where some people, in fact everyone I work with, would write some witty remark about how depression, and mental health in general, is a ploy for a ‘get out of work free’ card by lazy people. True story: I was once told to my face that I was making things up to avoid going to work. I have visible scars on my arm and a mind so messed up I genuinely have no idea what to do when faced with two positive options. Instead I shut down, crawl into a dark corner and do nothing. Skipping work sounds a fair trade for this hassle, right?
I get that it is an invisible illness, but it’s not imaginary.
I decided I would stop arguing the other side when people made comments about mental health not being a real issue, thinking that if I kept my opinions to myself, I would feel better. It turns out that being forced to listen to such nonsensical and ill informed opinions without defending myself, and people like me, is a much bigger issue.
So now I am “that guy” at work – the guy who is broken and acts like a teenage girl. Yeah, I’ve had that one thrown at me many times as well. Apparently mental health issues, self harm and the general world of depression is not for men. I need to “Man Up” which to me is balderdash but for many people it’s how they actually think. This offends me, since last I checked I am, indeed, a man but I also have this problem. Does that then mark me as a failure, as a ‘woman’ (not just offensive to me but to women too. Nice!)? Does that make me less of a man? On their logic, it does. On the plus side, would that mean I get to lower my car insurance?
What people don’t understand is that when you tell someone who is depressed to “Man up” the result will not be that they suddenly snap out of it. In my case, it made me want to end my life even more as it was clear that no one understood what i was going through, and if I ended my life then I would no longer be a disappointment. That said, I once heard a work colleague, when hearing of a suicide, exclaim “What a loser!”…No joke. And that was from a middle aged woman. Old enough to know better… (I really need new work colleagues, anyone got a job going?)
Telling people you have suicidal depression is no walk in the park either. Two years ago I told my best friend of over a decade that i was feeling suicidal, after a pretty forceful intervention on her part. Her reaction? I got deleted from Facebook and cut off after offering her congratulations on getting engaged. Yeah, I’m puzzled too. Her state of happiness and me suffering with depression wasn’t going to mix well with her status quo, so she cut me loose, complaining that I was a burden. That sucked. What I learned from that is to tell friends just enough so that they don’t get annoyed with your “grumpiness, emo-ness and need for isolation”. I see friends on Facebook posting slogans like ‘depression isn’t a weakness, it’s a sign of trying too hard for too long’ but a huge number of people in the real world don’t view it that way. I have been told again and again that it’s fake and an excuse not to do things. What I learned is that whilst talking to friends and family is important, choose carefully who you tell. Don’t tell them everything. It’s tough to hear a mate or a son or a brother telling you they are feeling suicidal. It’s scary. Their problem then becomes your problem, and with that comes responsibility. I get that, and trust me, and part of me doesn’t blame them for running! Talking to professionals or support groups like CALM is the way to go for the dark stuff. They don’t judge and most importantly, whilst they won’t be able to give you a magic ‘cure-all’ solution, they will do the most important thing of all. They’ll listen.
Oh and Men, this isn’t a female issue despite what some people will tell you. This is a human issue that effects us all, rich or poor, life of the party or the invisible one in the corner (me). You can’t help it if you’re suffering, just don’t do it in silence. Enough of us men are dying by suicide because we feel the options aren’t there. I have been very close a few times myself, but i’m asking you right now – pick up the phone, it might just save your life…