Real Men, Real Tears

“I felt so utterly lonely.. and I couldn’t reach out to explain to people”.    

“I didn’t have a name for it, I didn’t know what it was”.

“It was terrifying .. I couldn’t get across how I was feeling”.

“I could walk into a room full of people and it was like I was the only one there”.

“I lost interest in the kids and my missus and doing things that we used to do. . . they’d ask their mum, ‘Why is Daddy not getting up?’ ‘Did we do anything?’ They didn’t do anything to me. I just didn’t want to do anything with them. It was like being behind a wall and no-one could reach me”. 

“I was able to pretend I was okay for short periods of time. But it would take all my energy and would leave me totally drained every time. I  got tired even doing simple jobs. I can’t explain it. I always did a million things at the same time, for 12 hours a day. I was a “high performer”… now I can’t get out of bed”.

“They say you need to talk about it, but I had no words, I had no desire to communicate.    Ask me a direct question. “Are you feeling suicidal?” “Yes”.. I could answer ..but sort of saying.. “How do you feel?” I couldn’t do that”.    

“I told myself to pull it together.  Typical tough guy. I didn’t want anyone to know in case they thought I was crazy”.

“Every day I’d shower in our upstairs bathroom, sit on the shower floor, water pouring over me, and burst into tears.  I hid the breakdown from everyone and cried alone so my wife and children didn’t hear”.

“I didn’t know anything was wrong.  I thought everyone felt this way – life sucked and that was it”.

Depression affects both men and women. But men are less likely to seek help – and when they try to kill themselves, are more likely to succeed.

It’s not entirely surprising. Being a man is hard work. Real men are tough and self-reliant, right?

James Bond, John Wayne, Don Draper. They don’t cry or talk about their feelings.  They down a scotch or seven and pepper their enemies with bullets. But you can’t see depression and you can’t shoot it either. If that’s a man and you don’t fit – you’re stuffed.

What’s wrong isn’t the men themselves.  It’s what we think they ought to be.

Here’s what Terry Real says about why men struggle so much with depression:

‘The main point is this: men are just as feelingful, just as relational, just as connected, just as dependent, just as needy, as women are. The idea that women are relational and men are rocks is just nonsense. I don’t believe that men are from Mars and women from Venus. I think we’re all from the same planet. What’s going on is that men had been coerced since boyhood to forego these relational qualities and skills and squeeze their sense of membership and self-esteem through performance. I believe that in this culture neither girls nor boys are taught healthy self-esteem. Girls are taught to filter their sense of self-worth through connection with others, and boys are taught to filter their sense of self-worth through performance. That’s a very vulnerable foundation for one’s sense of self-worth.

…Girls know what “feminine” is. Boys define “masculinity” negatively, by what masculinity is not. It’s not, “I am strong,” but “I am not weak.” It all boils down to “I’m not a girl.” You’re not worthwhile simply because you’re here, you’re alive and you’re breathing. You have to prove your worthiness. That’s a very insecure basis for a sense of worthiness. Underneath this esteem issue it’s really about love. It’s about wanting to belong. It’s no different for men than for women. Why men are motivated to kill themselves by working themselves like dogs, is love. They want their boss to love them. They want their colleagues to love them. They want their families to approve of them. That’s our ticket to relational connection.

…The very phrase “be a man” means “disconnect.” Disconnect from your own feelings and play through the pain. When I’m dealing with a depressed man, I’m dealing with a man who has been cut off … the excruciating dilemma is that you either join the culture of masculinity by being contemptuous of vulnerability and connection, or you risk getting raped yourself. You’re either a guard or a prisoner. You’re either a hammer or a nail.”

From an interview published in Vol. 1 #3 (Summer/Fall 1998) of Men’s Voices: see link here. Photo source :here.





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