Recently, I was a guest on the Let’s Get Men Talking podcast.
Let’s Get Men Talking’s aim is to ‘change the narrative surrounding masculinity by enabling men to engage in open and honest conversations surrounding their mental health and their emotions.’
I opened up about my traumatic experiences, ranging from domestic abuse, to drug dependency to homelessness. From PTSD to depression to suicidal thoughts, my mental health story has shaped who I am today.
I spoke about how the Samaritans saved my life, my coping techniques, and I shared some key resources, and made a statement for the social changes I would like to see in the world.
Here are/were my key takeaways:
There Are Two Types of Trauma: Emotional Trauma And PTSD
Unfortunately, everyone on the planet suffers with some level of emotional trauma, even if it’s minimal. For instance, if you were bullied at school, those experiences may have affected you in some way, and they may stay with you. This is where our ‘issues,’ come from.
PTSD, however – is your body’s response to extreme circumstances, such as car crashes, witnessing or being exposed to violence, or being a victim of a robbery or a break-in, etc. Unfortunately, no one is immune from getting PTSD, and more awareness is needed, as PTSD isn’t limited to war or soldiers, as the movies often depict.
Communication Is Key
We can build rockets to go out to space, yet most people struggle to find a healthy way to communicate, either because they don’t know how, or because they’re either not in touch with their emotions, or they don’t know how to control/manage them in difficult conversations, and so it’s easier to resort to ‘surface-level’ conversations, or to push difficult topics under the rug, or to keep our emotions to ourselves in fear of being judged or attacked.
And this is where preemptiveness can come in handy. Instead of saying ‘why did you do x, y, z (which can give the other person the perception that you’re attacking them)?’ why not try ‘I’d like to have an open and honest conversation with you about this without either of us feeling like we’re attacking each other…’
The Ego Is The Enemy
Again, due to a lack of knowledge, or a lack of emotional intelligence, most people don’t know the difference between, pride, the ego, and genuine self respect.
Pride is that feeling you get when you win an award or a gold medal. Often people confuse ‘pride’ with their ego.
The ego is the part of your brain that sometimes overrides your ‘human,’ and makes decisions for you, such as whether you should get revenge on someone, or whether you should break up with that partner to ‘win’ in a situation, or whether you should apologise or not about something you may have done wrong, without necessarily seeing or believing it.
True self respect-based decisions can only be made when the ego and the illusion of pride are dormant. So for instance, ‘this person was nasty to me, so I’m going to retaliate.’ In most cases, that’s your ego talking, which is why we should wait to respond to hostile situations. Maybe what’s best is, ‘this person isn’t healthy for me. I’ll leave it here, politely.’ That’s self respect.
Masculinity Is Not A ‘Thing,’ It’s A Spectrum of Behaviour
People often talk about masculinity like it’s a ‘thing.’
‘Oh he’s very masculine, isn’t he?’ The problem is, masculinity isn’t a black and white thing. It’s moveable and interchangeable. There are different types of masculinity. Nice guys and bad guys are both masculine. They just behave differently to each other and sit in a different place on the spectrum. Neither are more masculine than the other, they just behave differently.
Fool’s Gold: Physical Strength Doesn’t Mean That You’re Strong
If you go to the gym 3 times a week and drink protein shakes, that doesn’t mean you are strong. Physically strong, yes. And in some cases, physical strength will serve you in a positive way, such protecting yourself, or through heavy lifting.
But how often do you do heavy lifting, and how often are you attacked? Probably not very often, unless you work in physical labour, or are a professional fighter. So really, the key is to have mental strength as well, because this is the part that keeps us alive. It keeps us going during difficult times, and is the key to our survival.
Being ‘Alpha’ Gets You Nowhere
Men often aspire to be ‘alpha males,’ and they try to position their own masculinity within that area of the spectrum, and in some cases, women are attracted to this type of ‘man.’ But in my experience, most alpha males:
- Aren’t willing to compromise.
- Are poor communicators.
- Don’t truly understand their partners, and are ‘emotionally unavailable.’
- Never experience true connection.
- Will never change.
- Are more at risk of suicide.
Is that how you want to position yourself? Or is there a different way of achieving your goals?
Opening Up And Telling The TRUTH Is Key
The one thing we fear more than anything, is opening up, telling the truth, being honest, having difficult conversations, and making ourselves vulnerable. The truth is, we can’t achieve truly meaningful relationships and connection without it. So everyone should aim to work on this area of their lives, because the rewards are worth it.
The Key To Beating Depression Is Consistency
There’s a huge misconception that if you take medication, or work out three times a week, that it’ll cure your depression. In some cases, this will work, but in my experience, beating depression is achieved through the combination of the small, medium and large things you do every day over a long period of time.
For instance, the combination of eating healthy, getting a good night’s sleep, meditating and seeing a therapist, daily.
Calling The Samaritans Actually Works
It sounds cheesy doesn’t it? ‘Call Samaritans when you’re feeling down.’ Well actually, it works, and I am proof of that. Often, Samaritans have experienced depression, hopelessness and suicidal tendencies, themselves. Don’t be too ‘proud’ (remember that word from earlier?) to take control of your mental health and call the experts. It works. And it’s what it’s there for.
We Need To Get Women Talking, Too
During the rise of the discussion of mental health, and in particular men’s mental health, women have been forgotten. We all play a part in this. If a man is going to take responsibility for his actions, behaviours, and views, then women need to spend some time learning to understand these issues better, as it may help them, too.
You can find out more about Let’s Get Men Talking here.
And you can check out the full podcast episode here.