Having anxiety & depression doesn't make me less of a man

As a man, admitting to having a mental illness is still seen as a 'weakness'. The stigma still remains. This week, a post I made on Twitter regarding anxiety (#anxietyepidemic), received a lot of feedback, including from men who engaged in the conversation. This has encouraged me to write further about my own experiences, and hopefully help men to talk.

My story in short, is one of depression and crippling anxiety, which began in my early 20's. After years of partying, drinking and basically eating rubbish, I piled on the weight. My self-esteem plummeted, which in turn fuelled my growing mental health issues. My anxiety was so bad at one point; even travelling on public transport was a challenge. I knew I needed to seek help and was placed onto a distance-based CBT programme via my GP. Combined with improving my diet and exercising; my condition improved, but never went away.

9 years later, I sit here knowing my depression and anxiety issues will probably never leave me. Some days I wake up and feel like I do not want to get out of bed. The mental strength I use to drag myself up to face the day can be exhausting. On such occasions, I am noticeably quieter. Sat trying to put a front on, and function as a 'normal' member of society, when all I want to do is shut myself away and sleep, can be draining and frustrating at the same time. The days when I feel good, I feel like I can conquer anything. The days when I feel low, I feel like the most abject failure this world has ever produced.

Anxiety can manifest itself to me in various forms, be it generalised, health or social. The panic attacks I suffer when my heart beats a little funny or when I find a random lump which turns out to be nothing, can be debilitating. Every headache is a stroke, every ache is cancer. I laugh at myself when not in the moment anxiety has me gripped.

My social life has certainly suffered, where years of closing myself off from friends and the outside world has resulted in lost connections. Most people probably thought I was just ignorant or uninterested, when the reality is whilst I wanted to socialise; my social anxiety prevented me from doing so.

In 2016, after being made redundant, I was unashamed to admit that I needed help again; and talking with a therapist was such a helpful process for me. However, not many people know of my struggles. Not even my parents. I mentioned to an employer once I was having a bad period of depression, which was why my performance had dropped slightly. This was met with the supportive comment of, "if I had known you had depression when we employed you, I wouldn't have'. No wonder people, male or female, feel like they can't speak up about their struggles.

 Just this week, I have been the subject of what society feels a man should be. A jovial dig about me not being a 'real man' because I have never put up some shelves got me thinking … I would happily describe myself as a thinker, a dreamer, someone who is more at home reading political blogs and football analysis than fixing a car or putting up shelves. I don't go to the gym (I prefer running); don't have bulging biceps and these days, barely even drink. But why does any of this make me less of a man?

This all feeds into the 'weakness' stigma of mental health. If I broke my leg, would I be less of a man? No. I am the same person, just wearing a bandage. Ditto my anxiety, which is just an illness which affects my brain.

I am so scared of others reading this (thanks society), but I feel it is important for other men to know that they are not alone. There must be so many men who are scared to admit they have a problem, because they don't want to be seen as weak, to the point where some feel their only option is to die. This has to stop.

My name is Adam. I have mild depression and utterly frustrating anxiety. So what? I’m no less of a man.

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Comments

Adam's Story

I've just read Adams's story, an it was such a mirror image of my own journey. I have a few close friends that have been through similar, but it really would be great - an Make a Change for so many if you organised an actual even (outdoors) to enable us to show a united front, raise awareness, form friendships and support links, an feel at ease with ppl that that are in 'our boat'

Well done!

Thank you for writing this blog! I am a fellow anxiety sufferer and know how hard it is to come forward and try and explain to others exactly how you feel. Don't be ashamed..be proud of yourself...I have had anxiety since I was 11, tried various therapies such as CBT, hypnosis, anti-depressants...you name it and I've tried it! I now know when I'm going to have a bad day from how I feel on waking until bed but then the next day could be completely different. You have shown others that there is a way though it albeit hard but you can do it! I also know after speaking to others over the years that there are far more people suffering than I would initially have thought and also suffering in silence. You have made a start to help others!

Adams blog

Hi Adam, thank you for your honesty. My name is Ady, 47 and I'm totally with you. I've suffered with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Reading how other guys feel the same is sad yet selfishly, comforting. I hope you learn to overcome these illnesses. I try daily and finally feel I'm moving forwards with the help of articles like yours. Thank you and good luck.

Depression

Thank you for sharing. Your story is important. As a nurse for 37 years, I have seen so many people that feel inadequate. So many are just on bandaid of meds. Therapy is hard to find, hard to afford. Still such a stigma.

Thank you Adam.

Thank you Adam for sharing this post. Feeling like this does not make you any less of a man, or any less of a person. We need to speak up loud and clear about these illnesses, until people who feel like this are not described as 'weak' or 'over sensitive' when they don't process a situation the same as someone else. Keep pushing forward and take each day as it comes.

Adam - just read your blog

Adam - just read your blog and I LOVED it! Kudos to you. What makes a modern man? Having the balls to be honest. THAT takes courage! Gaz

Depressed

Hi, id like to say i have related to your blog of the struggle to stay strong day after day which is a constant battle. And not being your self on days, i.e very in to my slef and quite which is noticeable to people that know me. I lost my dad six months ago and iv been struggling to say the least. I have a miracle baby boy on the way so there are happy times on the way.

Great article. Once I was

Great article. Once I was diagnosed with depression and told people it felt like a weight lifted of my shoulders. I find it hard but I'm beating my depression! Because I got help. Just talk to people

Wow

Adam, it's so wonderful you have stood up like you have and shared so openly and well. I really DO hope men sit up and listen. Society is ignorant and cruel. You have helped to turn the tide for men. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for your honesty.

Thanks for your honesty. Having anxiety whether you're male or female leaves you feeling inadequate and a failure in a world that expects you to be in controlled and enbolded at all times. Being a man in our culture, I can see that there is the expectation of being able to be the "head of the house" strong and courageous. I am not a man, but a women who held a responsible, public orientated, professional job. Who spent all day leading, guiding and encouraging people. My loss of confidence, and consequently anxiety and finally depression robbed me of so much of my life. Whether male or female anxiety is real, not something to just "get over". Openness may leave us feeling vulnerable to some people's unsympathetic opinions (they will walk their own path one day) but I believe honesty is ultimately the only way mental health will break through the wall of fear and silence and be accepted as part of life's rich tapestry.

Well done for the courage to be so honest!

Thanks Adam, your honesty is so brave and, I hope, healing. I think that being totally honest about ourselves and finding that we are loved and respected can really change things for us. I am 52 and while remaining relatively stable for long periods, I have experienced anxiety and intrusive thoughts since I was 18. I am currently off work due to stress and heightened anxiety. My mistake was not really facing my anxiety squarely/dealing with it and I functioned by going into denial. I have been through a very dark few weeks. I have had to be completely honest with my wife and adult children about my anxiety and how screwed up I can get. Their love and support has been so healing. I now have to stop denying my anxiety and deal with it honestly. Best wishes and hope for your on-going healing journey, Mike

Mental health

Thank you Adam for sharing your story, i could relate to this so much. Im 31 and have been suffering with depression for 8 years now. I have been on medication all that time just so i can keep myself on an even keel. I don't think ill ever come off the tablets.

Snap

Excellent post and great for sharing this. I could write exactly the same things about myself. It's a little comforting to know I'm not alone in dealing with this and by sharing and taking we can help each other to beat the stigma around mental illness.

You are a real man

Dear Adam, Thank you for sharing your story. I can definitely say that as a female, as another stranger in London - you are in no way less of a man. Society can make us feel all shades of confused. I have recently realised that I have symptoms of mild depression and its a relief to be able to understand the chaotic feelings that I have been having for a long time, all separate it seemed at the time but can now see that they are symtoms of depression. Im not really sure where Im going to go from here, but coming on this site and reading honest, frank and life-changing stories like yours is a great comfort. I wish you lots of love. x

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