Posted in Mental Health

Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

Hey fellow males, I want us to be honest with ourselves for a moment. Looking after ourselves – we don’t do it enough, do we? I don’t mean we let ourselves go, put on weight, stop showering now we don’t have to impress anyone and generally slob around, being the archetypal media “lazy man”. No, I mean genuinely take care of our own mental well-being.

I mean we’re too busy trying to be everybody else’s rock, everybody else’s backbone (partly because That’s What Men Do) that we sometimes let our own physical and mental health fall by the wayside. I’ve been very guilty of this the last month or so and I know there will sometimes be repercussions for me.

My girlfriend started a new job in August and though she hasn’t struggled in the job, she has been anxious and found it all a little too much to learn so much much in such a short space of time. She has a learning difficulty which means the change of environment has affected her performance and her mood. Luckily, she has got one of the major government-sponsored disability employment organisations in the UK involved to help her through the coming months. That meant I travelled to see her earlier than expected this month at a time when I have been concerned about another lull in my own work schedule.

She has been up early and fidgety when sleeping, and she has been short fused and emotional. That means I haven’t slept well, have struggled to concentrate on my own work and have been stuck in her rented accommodation most of last week trying to drum up some work living on coffee and little sleep and feeling my mood sink, pulling myself back to my feet long enough to hope her anxiety did not get the better of her today and that she’s had progress with Access to Work.

The real clincher came this weekend when we both went to have a professional massage. I struggled to relax and just as I did when I first started the mindfulness course over a year ago, I really came to understand once again what a noisy place my brain can be as I tried to go with it and enjoy the environment and the masseuse’s very relaxing techniques. Yet what was going through my head was not how calming it was but: Work. Tax return (oh, I’ve done that – cool!) I wonder how she is? I wonder if this weather will keep up? I wonder how much work I will have next week? I’ve got some new stuff which is great, but I need more. I need to write something for my blog. Should we go out for lunch? Can we afford a holiday next year? Can we afford to move in together? I hope she has a better week next week. She seemed happy to bump into her old colleagues, I hope they all manage to find a date for a convenient night out. I hope I don’t miss my train back. I wonder when we’ll see each other next? I wonder what we’ll do for Christmas?

That’s when I realised that in my support of her over the last few months, I have paid too little attention to myself, to what is going on in my own mind. You know when they go through the safety briefing on an aircraft, that in the result of de-pressurisation you should secure your own mask before attempting to help anybody else with theirs? That’s the bit we miss in doing our boyfriend/husband duty – to take care of our own mask first.

It’s easily done because of the expectations placed on men – to take every challenge on the chin, to be the strength in the relationship, to never show fear, anxiety or weakness but when you do you should quickly “snap out of it” and “grow a set”. Trying to be strong for everyone around you is exhausting and we need to acknowledge that sometimes. We also need others to understand, acknowledge and accept that too.

So what are you going to do about it? I know what I’m going to do, or at least try to do, to help cut through the fog and clear my mind of clutter once in a while. I need to stop making excuses and use some quiet time to work on some mindfulness techniques. They’ve helped me in the past and I have valued them too little as a preventive measure – that needs to change… I need to include them in my daily exercise routine.

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Author:

I go by the name of Frank Speaking. My blog "In the Mind of Men" (former name Chin Up, Chest High) started out as a chronicle of my mental health recovery. Now it is a forum where I discuss issues related to male mental health.

9 thoughts on “Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

  1. Guinan – Whoopi Goldberg’s character on one of my all-time favorite TV shows – Star Trek: The Next Generation – once said that while it is good to think of others, there are times in life when we have to be selfish and think of ourselves.

  2. It’s true, we (men & women) tend to put ourselves last. When I was married, I often put my ExH’s needs before my own but since our divorce, it’s pretty much all about me. Ha!

    In terms of finding quite time being mindful, I’d like to share a story.

    Two years ago I met a neighbor of mine who is a Buddhist. She is originally from Taiwan. Her American name is Jasmine. How we met is we both walk to/from the train 5 days a week. As we became more comfortable around one another and began sharing more details of our lives, Jasmine shared with me that she is a Buddhist and that she chants to Amitoufo believing when she dies she will go to the Western Pure Land. Fascinated, I wanted to know more. One day, as I was sharing my own beliefs and feelings about things, Jasmine stopped me on the sidewalk and said, “You were a Buddhist in a past life and I am here to teach you in this life. This is why we met.”

    The first time Jasmine invited me over to her home to “chant” I was enthralled by her minimalist lifestyle. No TV. No Radio. Just her laptop, sparse furnishing and a huge altar in her living room to Amitoufo. The minute I stepped into her home I felt at ease and relaxed. Jasmine has a chanting machine that plays 24/7 on a very low volume, just enough to hear without being intrusive. So, for the past 2 years Jasmine has been teaching me Buddhism and chanting.

    A few months ago Jasmine was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. The cancer was caught in time but Jasmine took that as a sign that she needs to slow down. Jasmine quit her job as a head research scientist a big pharma company, gave away what little belongings she had and moved to North Carolina to chant and meditate full time. However, before she left, she gave me her altar as well as her chanting machine. I cleared out one room in my home to place the Amitoufo altar and like Jasmine, I have the chanting machine playing 24/7. Already the energy in my home is different, more peaceful and when I sit down at the altar to chant, my mind completely clears and everything seems to melt away — no monkey mind as the proverbial they say in meditation. It is the most incredibly restorative experience I have ever had. When Jasmine first introduced me to chanting, I had my doubts about it’s benefits, but now I am sold.

    If you have the opportunity, I recommend chanting.

    1. Thanks! I am an atheist so shy away from anything remotely religious. I understand that meditation and mindfulness are similar, but the latter removes the mysticism that turn many people off (myself included).

      I guess we’re saying the same thing, just coming at it from different ends πŸ™‚

        1. I understand, but I see anything with mysticism, the afterlife or anything including the metaphysical as being a religious belief.

          1. I can understand that. I mean, Buddhism is centered around the life and teachings of Buddha. Christianity is centered on the teachings of Jesus. Buddhism is nontheistic religion (does not believe in a supreme creator: God). Christianity, for example, is a monthesitic relgion and believes that Jesus and God (Big Guy in the Sky). Ha-Ha!

            What I like about Buddhism is Buddhists do not believe they will be “saved”.

            More importantly, the main focus of being a Buddhist is letting go of attachment and desires. To practice the 4 noble truths in order to become enlightened.

            I don’t think becoming an enlightened soul, letting go of judgments of others, letting go of attachments, believing in many lives, karma, etc is a bad way to be. Whereas, I see NO value in practicing Catholicism (I was raised Catholic).

            Just sayin’.

            1. I know what you’re saying, but karma, reincarnation and other tenets of Buddhism are metaphysical, unproven and unproveable which is why I still see it as a religion πŸ™‚

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