You can protect yourself and the men you love
Trigger Warning: This article may contains triggers for those with persistent or clinical/chronic depressive disorder.
I have survived my suicide attempts. Despite crippling depression, I have survived. We often read that men are unable to cope with their emotions, and because of that end up taking their own lives. I cannot speak to other men, only to my personal battle with years of depression. I just wanted the demons in my head to go away.
What goes on in my head when I’m depressed?
I describe my depressive episodes as impenetrable fogs, thick, heavy, and blinding. The biggest trigger that brings on these emotional states are fears that I am not a good provider for my family. I compare these feelings to the story of It’s A Wonderful Life; better off dead then alive.
When I feel that life doesn’t matter, the demons in my head tell me the world wouldn’t notice if I was gone. Feeling worthless and that you don’t make a contribution—anywhere—is overwhelming. Maybe the demon voices are correct.
The first time I tried to end my life, I was unable to make a decision. I was sure if I made the wrong one it would ruin me. I was in sixth grade, and I could not choose between school field trips. My world had changed during this time. My mom and I had moved to a new town. To go deeper into my life and mental state, my dad left when I was five years old. And, I watched as he waved good-bye. I am blessed that he stayed in my life, but he did leave us. I believe that as men, we want our fathers in our lives.
Why do more men take their lives than women?
Unfortunately, depression in men is often overlooked. Many men find it difficult to talk about their feelings. Instead, we focus on the physical symptoms that may accompany depression, such as back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or sexual problems. Depression then is untreated, which can have serious consequences. And, while woman attempt suicide at a greater rate, men are four times more likely to die from suicide than women. It’s important for men to seek help for depression before desparate feelings become suicidal ones.
Men also may experience depression differently than women. In addition to the standard symptoms of depression such as extreme sadness, withdrawl, and loss of interest in former pleasures, they may become irritable and aggressive, work compulsively, drink excessively, and engage in reckless behavior.
When I made my first attempt at suicide in sixth grade, my world went from upside down to utterly lost. I was a child, and I was alone in my despair. In addition to my parent’s separation at age five, we later moved. I felt I had lost my father; I was overwhelmed. Depression can make even the most minor of decisions seem insurmountable, and the only way out to simply leave. For good.
What can we do to help?
There are a number of things you can do to help yourself, or your loved ones. First, pay attention to the signs. As mentioned above, these may not be classic signs of typical depression. Don’t dismiss any of the signs mentioned above. And do not try to tough it out. There is no reason for you to tackle this alone.
Depression is an illness and should be treated as such. There is no shame in asking for help, and it’s past time for that stereotype to go away. If you had any other illness such as, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or anything that impacted daily functioning, your family, your career, and threatened your life, you would see a doctor. Period.
Second, there are medications that treat depression. For some people this is a necessary option. In fact, most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. To that end, many people benefit from medication that re-adjusts their brain chemistry. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown the brains of depressed people look different than those of non-depressed people. While the images do not reveal why this is the case, they do show that parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior are, in fact different.
Lifestyle changes also help such as regular exercise, healthy eating, sleep hygiene and stress management.
Finally, in addition to seeing your medical doctor, seeing a counselor, therapist or psychiatrist is recommended. Talk therapy with a qualified professional can help you address your depression, develope coping strategies such as journaling, painting, exercise etc., and plan for ways to shift your perspective when a depressive episode hits. You need a support system. This is not to be taken lightly and remember, you are not alone.
Your life matters as much as mine and anyone else’s. I know that sixth grade boy in me saw no other way than to check out. But, he was wrong. I am so grateful that he is still here; that he went on one of those field trips. He is now a father, a writer, and he is needed. He still struggles, and when he does—when I do—as I did recently and found myself shutting down, I turned to my coping strategies, which for me are creative activites like writing.
There are things you are great at that the world needs from you. You may not feel them now, but you will again. Reach out, get help, ask for support. I’m glad I did, and I still need it. We all do.
Tommy Maloney is a voice for dads and blended families achieving success as a family unit. He is a TEDx speaker, published author and cohost of the Blending The Family podcast. More important Tommy is a dad to Betsy, Becca, and Connor. To contact Tommy please call 303.263.3118 or email [email protected].
International suicide prevention hotlines are available for those in crises.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.
Photo: Getty Images