Growing up, living with my family – 3 brothers and parents – it was a very macho household. As I got older, I got louder and more bubbly, which was weird because I was never like that; something changed and, looking back at it, I can see why.
Growing up we didn’t talk about emotions, feelings or even a very simple “how are you feeling?” My dad is old school – just deal with your problems. In fact, I remember him once saying, “just sort out your own problems”. His mentality: “I’ll put a roof over your head and food on the table”, and that’s it. This is very much an Asian mentality that men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings, which is still the same now.
So, I have kept my emotions and feelings to myself from a young age. I kept quiet until I was around 20-21 when I started to become more outspoken, bubbly and vibrant. But this was only in front of people; when I was alone I was a sad little boy who felt so empty and didn’t have anyone to talk to.
Over the first 4-5 years, I trickled along with life feeling this emptiness and loneliness but was a completely different person in front of people. At this point I was around 24, working for the government which was very well paid. I hated it. I hated waking up every morning and thinking, ‘is this it?’… day in day out, week in week out. I felt useless.
Over the next couple of years it got worse, feeling alone, useless, a waste of space, a mistake. I would cry for no reason. This was around the time when Gary Speed took his own life and for the first time ever suicide drifted into my mind. I sat in my room, looking outside and thinking of the ways I could do it. I had written letters, I had planned it so many times, but when it came down to it, thankfully, I couldn’t do it.
This went on for months and months, this mindset, this… process. 2014 was my worst year. I was so miserable that I couldn’t perform at work, so I left and did some freelance work to keep me busy. I started self-harming. All down my arm, every day. The pain was a release. It would make me feel at ease for a few minutes, but then I’d need more and more and more.
Then there was a moment, where I was self-harming, where I saw my reflection and what I was doing. That woke me up. I had to battle, I had to fight through. I told the only person I could trust and she was taken aback, but she was able to help me. She got me to go into therapy. She would check up on me every day. This was the turning point.
We men need to understand that it’s okay to feel crap, it happens. BUT, not talking about it is where we go wrong. If I had never spoken to my friend, would I still be here? HELL NO! I was on the brink. I felt so alone, useless, a complete waste of space, a mistake, a nobody. If I hadn’t spoken up I wouldn’t be here. Going to therapy was hard, but we got to the root of the problem little by little, week by week.
Every day, week, month that has gone by I’ve gotten better and better. I’ve gained control of myself. I’ve got my career back on track. I’ve got a wife and a baby on the way. This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t spoken up and realised that it’s okay for a man to feel sad, upset and to speak about how we feel.
Most of us guys don’t feel comfortable speaking to another guy about our feelings. I did and he also helped me. We think they won’t care but believe me, how bloody wrong we are! My friends still asks me how I’m feeling, even now.
There will be days where those feelings will come back. I still have them. I still think about self-harming. I still think about suicide but… I take a moment, I sit back and think about the progress I’ve made. I remember that I’m in control and it’s okay to feel sad. I call my wife straight away and we talk about it. There will be triggers and we put things in place to deal with them.
It’s actually okay to cry, let it out. I do still. We men don’t always have to be the strongest people here. We can let our guard down and open up about how we feel because it will make you better. It made me better.