Something said to me “Go for it.”
That was the first thing that I thought when I came across the Man Up post on Facebook.
The shadowy subject of how men deal with their masculinity and mental health has always meant something to me as I’m not what might be considered to be a traditional type of man, not really interested in the expected goals and aims that men are supposed to be driven by. I’m far more interested in people and why they do the things they do, what makes them tick and what they care about.
Add to this my own experiences surrounding mental health, through personal issues and voluntary work, meant that the prospect of finding out more about an organisation that wanted to look into all three was too good a thing to pass up on.
From first walking in through the door on that Saturday afternoon, I knew I’d made the right decision to follow the voice that told me to “Go for it.” The whole thing felt right. There was, of course, initial trepidation and that uncertainty that goes with a new experience but it soon became evident that I was amongst likeminded souls who wanted to take part in this new and exciting adventure. And that’s the thing about Man Up, it is an adventure.
When I first started to write this, I wrote and re-wrote because nothing sounded right.
I couldn’t find a way to really express how I’ve felt about the whole experience so far so I got wrapped up in the detail and it stopped me in my tracks, I tried to write in a different way that I usually do and it wouldn’t work. That in itself, I suppose, is related to the Man Up ethos.
It’s OK to be yourself.
Over the last two group sessions, I’ve met so many different people, who also want to find out about the okay parts of themselves a little more, who also have different ideas about being a man, what that means and how to fully express that in their own ways. We’ve talked, drawn, written and taken part in activities that have taken away that self-consciousness that can hold us back from getting involved. We’ve shared things that mean something to us, shown each other belongings that are important to us for a hundred different reasons, we’ve laughed and even sung Ukrainian folk songs.
The harmonies are a killer.
Some of the people there have shared life changing experiences that have taken a lot of courage to talk about in a big room full of people they know very little about. Hearing their stories has inspired and humbled me in equal measure.
So, where does the adventure take us from here? Well, hopefully, it’ll take us forward and show us that it’s OK to be unsure about who we are at times, that it’s fine to be fluid in our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and our roles in life. Personally I’d like to think that this is the start of something bigger for myself and others. Something we can come together on and create, share and develop ourselves further through more interaction, discussion and performance.
Somewhere we can support, challenge and encourage men to be far more open and comfortable about themselves, who they are in this big, confusing and ever changing world and how it affects them in their hearts and minds.
Matt Spoon 2018.
Further information about the project: www.restoke.org.