I started putting this post together just a few weeks ago but a recent post about male suicide on insideMAN about men, anxiety, depression and suicide has spurred me on to finish it off.
In the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed my increased anxiety and mood swings. The economic and political situation here in the UK has not helped but I don’t think that is a cause. It’s certainly not helped that this government is determined to flog the country to the highest bidder and destroy the NHS, but it hasn’t triggered the mood. I get anxious and depressed and express my anxiety by swearing in frustration and raising my voice. I do not and have never been violent except in my tone.
So when my girlfriend told me recently that she found me “terrifying” when I’m in that sort of a mood, I was both distraught and annoyed. I was distraught to think that she could find me scary and in fear of her safety when I have never been angry or violent towards her and would rather cut off my own arm than hit her. When I shout and swear, it is into the air and inanimate objects not at her.
But I was annoyed because still, despite the amount of time we have been together, and for somebody who also suffers from anxiety and depression, she still does not seem to understand that this is how I let off steam. She cries when she’s anxious and depressed and I shout and swear.
Why is hers acceptable but mine is not? Why should she be encouraged to let it out and I should control myself?
I am not upset with her for not understanding, I feel it is symptomatic of how society and women view male mood swings. The expectation that we are self-sufficient, stoic and emotionally repressed is and will continue to be harmful to the male psyche. Women won’t get it until men are allowed as much of a voice to express ourselves as women are presently permitted and until voices such as Jess Phillips STFU for a moment to listen without feeling the need to shriek about how women have it harder by default.
It’s incredibly fucked up that we expect women to be emotionally expressive, encourage it even. But when it comes to men, we are expected to repress those same emotions even when we feel just as anxious, afraid, frustrated and concerned for the future. It’s as though our own feelings do not matter, or that we should only express ourselves with the permission of others.
Be a real man, grow a set, don’t be such a faggot/poof/home/queer. Repress those emotions. Women won’t want to have sex with you if you cry. Control yourself, repress yourself. Show that you’re a “real man”. Don’t put your own feelings, thoughts and anxieties first. Massage the female ego about how a man should act. Toe the line that society dictates or we’ll ostracise you as a weak person or a lesser human being. Go on an anger management course. What do you have to be anxious about? You’re a man, it’s easy for you.
This is the reality that men live with every day. The insideMAN article linked at the top shows that despite having made great inroads in the last 18 months, the growing positivity of International Men’s Day and the royal trio of Prince Harry, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has and will continue to fight against mental health stigma for men. People are Googling “is it ok for guys to be depressed?” Of course the answer is “yes” but it shows how far there still is to go.
I am proud to have supported Mind, Calm and the Samaritans and will continue to raise money for them. But we are far away from a world where men have equality on this. We need to change our thinking in how we deal with men who get angry and anxious instead of self-congratulatory and unhelpful labels such as “Toxic Masculinity” and by not derailing discussion of men’s issues to talk about women’s issues. Instead of seeing him as a problem, try to understand that he might have a problem that needs and deserves attention. Instead of being scared of him, be scared for him.