June 11, 2013

PaulIt’s time to save your fellow man.

As a 33 year old modern man who owns his own home, drives a nice car, owns a successful business and on paper, an exemplary role model, I know only too well how fortuitous life can appear to be.

But there is one question which has intrigued me, how would it be possible for someone who lives with a serious mental health condition to live a ‘normal’ life.

A question which plagued me for many years and up until 5 years ago I believed, as many do, those who experience mental health difficulties cannot possibly lead purposeful and enjoyable lives.

I received a clinical diagnosis of Bipolar Type 2

That was until I received a clinical diagnosis of Bipolar Type 2. I was one of those people who became typically typecast by society, pre-occupied with suicide, lived in daily terror of my mind and feared everyone and anything around me. I never believed I was good enough to walk the land upon which I was born, and the happiness which others spoke of was pure fallacy.

My family and those who showed any affection would be better off without me, after all I was slowly killing them through my presence and they would eventually move on and forget my tortured existence. I did not know or understand a life of recovery nor did I wish to, my preoccupation was to die. It was the only reality of which I knew and the one exit strategy for escaping this living nightmare. My world had become an incumbent one consumed by feelings of suffocation, excruciating pain, debilitating inertia, crippling fear and horrific anxiety which fuelled my living nightmare.

Some believe that men should maintain a stiff upper lip

I know from my own journey and through talking to many other men the extreme darkness many of us experience and the fear we hold on what our family, peers or society may think of us. I also understand that certain elements of society still maintain the powerful adoption of beliefs that men should be strong, capable and able. They should maintain a stiff upper lip no matter what is thrown their way, especially in reference to signs of emotional expression. Many argue it conflicts with our identities as Alpha male’s and our capability to fulfill the strengths shown by our fathers & grandfathers’.

How dare we be open to the explorative pathways, which in essence make us stronger and more purposeful men. It’s extremely difficult for us to acknowledge our thoughts especially during times of distress as they make us feel vulnerable, scared, weak and sometimes feeble. We feel out of control and fear where these disturbing thoughts may take us.

Mental illness is serious

But let us not forget mental health is a serious illness and if untreated can and does destroy lives. Unless we take the courage to open up talk and break the cycle we will continue to suffer an arduous journey of fear and misery. Surely, the perceived fear of others’ castigation is not as hard as the torment of our mind. Mental health holds no contempt for man or woman and affects millions of people from all walks of life. With one in four people experiencing mental health problems, you are not alone.

Would we condemn our wives, children, friends or colleagues who suffer a debilitating illness? Would we judge those who suffer the trauma of cancer or Parkinson’s in the same view, no. So why would we willingly persecute ourselves or those who experience mental health difficulties?

In the height of my illness I was dissociative, non-engaging and despondent however, through talking and opening up to family, friends & medical practitioners’ I’m now able to lead a fulfilling, happy and successful life, one which is full of purpose and fulfilment. Accepting and gaining insight of my illness has enriched my life. I would not change my journey were I to walk that path again.

Don't be afraid to talk about mental health

It’s time to end the ridiculous discrimination and stigma surrounding mental health. Be a man, stand proud and don’t be afraid to talk about mental health.

If I had not taken the courage to talk I would not be writing this blog today.

It’s time to talk, it’s time change.

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