My first book, Inside Out Becoming My Own Man, was published in 1983, but I began writing long before that. As far back as I can remember I’ve been asking questions. What does it mean to be a man? Are there essential differences between men and women? Why so many men kill themselves and kill others? I don’t just write for men. I’ve found that women, too, are vitally interested in “men’s issue” since they are so intertwined with “women’s issues.”
Prior to my birth my parents were sure I was going to be a girl—something about which direction a needle on a string swung when held over my mother’s belly. When I emerged in the world they had girls dolls waiting for me and a number of girl’s names picked out, but seemed totally surprised when they saw my little penis. My first introduction to the world of men occurred eight days later when my father held me down and the mohel (circumciser) cut off my foreskin. The story was that I screamed bloody murder, arched a stream of urine over my head and hit my father in the eye. It was many years before I wrote The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, and said that circumcision was a form of child sexual abuse. But my 8-day-old self knew the truth even then.
I have vague memories of my mother holding me as an infant, but remember little about my father. Later stories I heard from my aunt said, “Your mother was so fearful that something would happen to you, she rarely let your father hold you. She was very protective and kept you close to her all the time.” I know my father did his best to stay connected. I have one picture of me riding on his shoulders when I was four years old in a park in Sherman Oaks where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. But memories darkened when my father tried to take his own life when I was five year’s old. The economic depression of the time and his own internal feelings of failure and loss combined to drive him to a point where he thought everyone would be better off without him. Though he survived physically, our lives were never the same and I began my quest to understand what happened to my father and if whatever it was would happen to me. It’s not surprising, in retrospect, that I became a psychotherapist who specializes in men’s health and that I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on depression and bipolar disorder. I later published it as a book, Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Turn In. I wrote about depression and studied it and counseled thousands of people who suffered, but it took me years to deal with my own depression and the legacy I received from my father and mother. I finally broke through my denial when I read a book by one of the world’s leading experts on mood disorders, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. After keeping her own history of depression and bipolar disorder a secret for most of her life, she finally “came out” when she wrote her book, An Unquiet Mind: Memoir of Moods and Madness. In the book I read a quote from world-renowned playwright, Eugene O’Neill. In his autobiographical play, A Long Days Journey Into Night, he wrote these words:
“It was a great mistake, my being born a man. I would have been much more successful as a sea gull or a fish. As it is, I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want and is not really wanted, who can never belong, who must always be a little in love with death.” This passage cut to my soul and captured the dislocation and disconnection I felt all my life. It opened me to the words that Dr. Jamison used to describe her own illness. “You’re irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding, and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and ‘you’re not at all like yourself but will be soon,’ but you know you won’t.” These words cracked through my denial and I finally reached out for help. I figured if Dr. Jamison, a famous clinician and author, could open up about her own illness I could do the same. I wrote about it in my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. In describing the problem I began with a quote from comedian Elayne Boosler, who offered these humorous, yet insightful observations: “When women are depressed, they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
I continue to explore these different ways of thinking. In my most recent book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I say, “In more than forty years counseling men and women, I’ve found that too many relationships end when they could be saved. There are certainly some couples that should not be together and when one person leaves it’s a blessing for both, but most couples just don’t know how to make a marriage that works for both partners and lasts a lifetime.”
In the book I share my own failures having been married and divorced twice, before finally finding a love map that was accurate. I married Carlin and we’ve been together now for 36 years. I share what we’ve learned in the book. I also interviewed a number of experts including Iyanla Van Zant, one of America’s most profound spiritual leaders and acclaimed empowerment legends. Her body of work spans over three decades to include 15 published books, 5 New York Times best sellers (translated into 23 languages and with sales exceeding 8 million copies). She’s the host of Iyanla Fix My Life on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. You can hear my interview with her where she shares her insights on men, why she finally asked forgiveness from the men in her life, and how she helps men and women rebuild their lives. After reading The Enlightened Marriage she shared these words: “There are some skills you must have, some ways you must be, and some things you must learn or unlearn if you want to have a healthy, fulfilling and loving relationship. Jed Diamond’s work in The Enlightened Marriage covers all of the ‘musts’ and then some. What a blessing!” My journey continues and is always enhanced and deepened by your comments and feedback. No writer really exists without readers. If you resonate with this, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter and Facebook. Originally Published on MenAlive.com
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