I realize now that there is nothing more important than my mental health after having had a brush with something that could have gone a lot worse, had there not been intervention. Sometimes, your friends cannot help – perhaps they are part of the issue. Luckily, with the help of some related people (some of whom I only spoke to by phone and another that I sat down with a few times), I realized that the mental health professionals are there to help you. They showed kindness and compassion to me at a time when those concepts were in short supply. They gave focus, assistance and enabled me to forgive myself.
When many of us think of mental health, we may think of some old fashioned scenario like lying down on a couch in an office and paying someone a large amount of money to do so. I didn’t lie down, but money was certainly involved. Luckily, due to the health system here in Australia, the burden was made easier, which removed that concern at a time when there were many.
No one at my place of work knew what I was going through, really. The strange thing was knowing that colleagues may have had an idea, but that they would probably not have known how to discuss it with me, due to the stigma of talking about such things. Other non-colleagues were making the situation worse, deliberately causing problems which were making things untenable for me. It seemed that every week a new issue came up and the weight of this was added to what I already carried. I couldn’t sleep and was getting paranoid. In the end, after a number of meetings, I was asked what I wanted to do, so I made a decision that was very good for my mental health.
My employer supported me financially during this time. I took almost three months off but returned, of my own choice, in a different capacity with the same employer. The end decision was not good for our family’s bank balance, but since when is that more important than the ability to function in society?
I’m in an isolated position and don’t have any other men that I keep in contact with from my type of work, as there are not many of us in it. In fact, it seems merely mentioning men and the type of work I do to some people creates a weird vibe, independent of what I may say or do. If there is a big enough problem, one may start thinking of one’s reputation in the field – as in, am I still going to have a job when all is said and done? I can see why people find the whole thing difficult to negotiate.
During therapy sessions, it felt sort of self-indulgent to speak to the psychologists about what I was going through and to be asked some questions that were difficult to answer – questions that I perhaps couldn’t answer immediately and which needed time for me to be able to process. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
If this is one of the treatment aspects that concerns you as a man talking about his feelings, I would offer that these questions (and your honest answers) are the gateways into what really needs to be discussed and ultimately understood by all parties. You may likely feel ‘weaker’ and exposed, but by discussing things, you may well be letting a real and true feeling out into the world, rather than carrying negative energy, which can cause other body problems.
I should mention that I was able to speak to some of the mental health professionals because the company my wife was working for at the time had a limited number of free calls that she or myself could use if needed. Perhaps your employer offers this service – it does no harm to clarify this.
A weight really did feel it was being lifted and again, it was not costing us anything.
I am writing from Australia where you can get what is called a Mental Health Plan from your doctor, which entitles you to a good sized rebate on a fixed number of mental health sessions.
Check how it works for you. If you have to pay, weigh up the cost of having treatment versus the other type of emotional ‘cost’ of not having treatment, or of losing something like your health and/or a relationship.
If you feel that you’re emotionally paralyzed in some way, having trouble concentrating (even worse when driving), are losing your sense of humor, or even cannot face what you see in the mirror, or that your favorite pursuits no longer seem to hold any interest, then you may well need help.
The hard part, once you’ve accepted you need assistance, is realizing that you have gone far enough into a situation to need professional help to move forward. I had spoken to mental health professionals in the past about an unrelated matter, so I was familiar with them and felt somewhat comfortable. I never felt or saw any shame in it – I did initially feel strange when first meeting these people because I wondered whether I might be picked apart liked an insect in a lab. I need not have made this assumption. I know about stigmas, as I see evidence of these in another capacity. Perhaps living with this for a number of years enabled me to accept it all.
As men, we do not always accept things that fall outside our ‘role’, self-imposed or imagined. If you have or had a family where you are taught be strong and to simply ‘get on with it’, then you may indeed find life very difficult if you cannot do just that. Of course, that is somewhat unrealistic, as most of us will have some misfortune in our life which we cannot ignore and which may grow into something bigger if we do not act. I acted and was supported through the process, though going through it was not easy. If you are not used to honesty in your life, then be prepared to bring some to the table, as progress will only be made through that. Allow yourself to face what needs facing and to feel proud of hopefully improving matters.
I encourage you to act if you feel that due to one reason or another, you do not feel or seem like yourself or have possibly been in the uncomfortable situation of having others point this fact out to you. Perhaps there is a secret that needs to be let out, but you’re not sure who to talk to or are not sure how to articulate it. Consider your options. You owe it to yourself to give that permission and move forward, as there is a good chance you will improve not only your own life, but that of your family and friends, who are likely to be relieved to have you back. I was certainly glad to be.
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