For a while now, Aysh and I have played with the idea of me writing about a blog post for her about male mental health and with another high-profile suicide in Mike Thalassitis, now seems as good of a time as any for me to do it. He was a man that on the surface had so much, women fancied him, money and a former semi-professional footballer but it’s now quite apparent he didn’t have it all. Male mental health is clearly a massive issue that could never be spoken about enough. I have heard on the news that it’s the biggest killer of men under 45 and that three in four suicides are males. Does this really surprise me? No, not really. I am someone who, although is in a good place right now, has been in some very dark holes mentally in my life and have had multiple bouts with both anxiety and depression. Did I look to get help? No. And there lies the issue. I and so many others who have suffered from similar problems have tried to take them on by themselves and although I was successful in learning to cope with my mental health on my own, some people never come out the other side and decide that they need a permanent solution to what could be a temporary problem.
The Stigma around Male Mental Health
My personal feeling is that a big cause for why so many men feel as if they have to face mental health issues on their own has a lot to do with toxic masculinity. A lot of men feel as though they can’t show any form of weakness. They want to be looked at as a sign of strength and unfortunately, a lot of men see showing any kind of emotions as a weakness. This is just so wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing emotion or struggling with your mental health. It is, in my opinion, the complete opposite. It takes so much more courage for a man to admit that they are struggling and look for help. For me, I think you’re more of a man to be able to admit that you’ve got a problem to the world and saying if you’ve got a problem with that then you’re not worth my time, far more rather than bottling everything up and pretending that you’re ok when you’re not.
Whilst looking into male mental health I have also seen that the two biggest causes of male mental health issues are breakups and employment. These are actually the root causes of two of my worst bouts with mental illness, so I feel it is important that I talk about my experiences. Hopefully, if I can manage to get just one person to relate to what I went through in the slightest, or at least help people to get a better understanding, then I will consider writing this well worth my time. Some people may think that I shouldn’t be talking about my ex on my current girlfriend’s blog. Well, the whole point of this post is the exact opposite of that. I should be able to talk about anything,
So, what happened? During University, I had a relationship with what I consider my first proper girlfriend. Now, this was a relationship that broke down due to faults on both sides. This is something that I can now see, but when we broke up I blamed myself for absolutely everything and carried the full burden of blame on my own back. Now, this was someone who I was in love with and breaking up with them was painful, causing me months of depression. It wasn’t a straight forward “I’m breaking up with you, bye” it was a horrible drawn-out process of breaking up, starting to miss each other and then getting back together, before both of us realised why we broke up in the first place and one or the other would cut it off again. Both of us were guilty of this and round and round the goldfish bowl we went before the plug finally got pulled for good. Now when I look back to that time I felt alone, I felt like other people didn’t understand what I was going through, I felt unwanted, unattractive and worthless. Me blaming myself caused a lot of self-loathing and I was so desperate to get out of the hole I was in looking for a quick fix.
So, what did I go and do? What most people end up doing, going on the rebound. I’d be going out with my Uni friends to try and go on the pull. Now I think my intentions here weren’t bad in the fact that I was just trying to rebuild the self-esteem that had just been so forcefully crushed, but it ended doing me more damage than good. I would end up going back with people who if they walked past me in the street today I probably wouldn’t even recognise them. I was nowhere near ready to be putting myself back out there and I would be sat there wishing the person that I was with was someone else which would make me feel like a user. Now, this is something that I’m still not proud of today as it’s not me at all. I also started to drink heavily. I would use the term dependant but in fact, all me getting that level of drunk would only ever make me feel worse whilst also give me a kick in the wallet. What I was doing was looking for a quick solution. Before this, I was someone who would go out and drink, probably a bit more than I should as a student, but was in no way addicted or dependent on alcohol. I’d always go out and have a good time and this was what I was searching for but was never found. I’d think ‘One more drink and I’ll start feeling better’ but then that point would never come and before I knew it, I was in a horrendous state being propped up by my mates who were quickly getting sick of my behaviour and some of these friendships never fully recovered. I was miserable during the day and a liability at night. Now I do feel as though they probably should’ve been more understanding and supportive of me during this time but I understand why they felt like this. I was miserable all day every day and started to become self-centred and selfish because I was so desperate to stop feeling the way that I did.
This pattern of self-destructive behaviour carried on for a while but eventually, I did manage to get over the breakup and this is how I did it. As with most times you need something to change, the first stage was acceptance. What I did was I accepted that we couldn’t be together and that us remaining apart was for the best. And this isn’t just saying it, this is saying it and meaning it.
The second stage was doing something positive with my time. During this period my mediocre Uni attendance had dropped to non-existent and I would just sit around my Uni house moping and playing PS4 feeling sorry for myself. What I did was I started focussing more on my Uni work. I thought if I’m going to feel like shit then I might as well go and feel like shit doing something productive and eventually this helped me to start getting out of the hole. I felt as if I had some sort of purpose again and wasn’t the waste of space that I felt like I was. I started to remember that I was good at things and would come back from the library feeling as though I’d done something with my day rather than wasting it and gradually my mood started somewhat improving.
The final step was getting my self-confidence back and learning to love myself again. I think this was just something where time was the master healer and along with my more positive outlook, eventually I was going on nights out and actually enjoying myself more and more. Time had allowed me to take off the rose-tinted glasses that I’d been wearing and I could actually look back at what had happened and rationally assess it. Yes, I had made mistakes but it wasn’t all my fault. This just helped me come to terms with what had happened and helped me to realise it was something that just wasn’t meant to be. Then it clicked, I was happy again and I had finally moved on.
Although it was painful I was glad that it happened because it was a massive learning curve. I had learnt so much from it. I learnt more about love, I learnt more about me as a person and how strong I could be when I needed to. I learnt what I did and where I went wrong. I also learnt what I was really looking for in someone and importantly I learnt that you should only be in a relationship that mutually benefits both of you. These are things that I believe has allowed me to be a much better boyfriend than I was and maintain a healthy relationship. It was only once I started to remember my self-worth and things started to get better and before I knew it, although I had a few scars from it, I was back.