Men Talk Health, Weak?
Well, the nights have well and truly drawn in. We wake up in the dark, go to bed in the dark and spend a lot of time, in the dark, which isn’t the best way to live your life. But imagine if it wasn’t just the weather making it dark.
A couple of weeks ago I met a bloke, I knew through Facebook at a gig, (meeting men, I’ve been chatting to on the internet, has often been a hobby of mine…)
There we were happily talking about music, and he went to show me something on his phone. His screensaver was that of his little girl –
He made a crack about being a Dad and how hard it was to fit in being a Hip-Hop fan and going to gigs. He then took me really by surprise.
He opened about going to see the doctor with depression after feeling like he was a crap dad. This stopped me in my tracks a bit, to be honest, but I found myself shout ‘Yes!’ and nodding at pretty much everything he said.
There we were two minutes ago discussing great Rap songs and how amazing it was that we could still see groups we respected from 25 years ago to sharing something immensely personal.
You’d be surprised how many of us have felt that way, but what wouldn’t surprise you was how many of us never talked about it.
The concept of ‘Manning up’ and ‘Not being a pussy’ are so far ingrained in us that the mere idea of discussing that you know what, we might not be coping; is as alien as admitting we don’t know the offside rule.
‘Men being emotional is only meant to happen when their football team loses/wins or after eight pints of lager when telling their best mate, they love them, on a night out’.
Feelings of failure and that you’d don’t measure up are extremely common, especially in new Dads. Male Postnatal Depression, is a recognised condition thank God and there is help available.
Similarly, to mums who experience PND, there is no single answer as to why some new dads are affected by depression and not others. Generally, depression is triggered by emotional and stressful events and having a baby can be an unsettling and challenging experience.
The increased pressures of fatherhood, more financial responsibility, changes in relationships and lifestyle, combined with a lack of sleep and an increased workload at home, may all affect a new dad’s mental well-being.
When your partner gives birth is obviously a joyous thing, but it is also bloody scary. The women you love is going through the traumatic experience, and this tiny, helpless thing that you are responsible for is screaming out, and there is bugger all you can do about it.
Then when you get the baby home all the ‘book learning’ you’ve done as right-on dad goes utterly out of the window.
I remember when my son was born, I had just launched my first business. I was working stupid hours trying to win new clients while coming to terms with 8 pounds and 4 ounces of pink wrinkles turning my life upside down.
My justification was that I was building something for him to be proud of and to keep my family financially safe. I now see that this was in part was also a coping strategy, albeit a pretty ropey one.
At work I was in control, I knew what I was doing, and I was good at it. At night during the feeds and nappy changes etc. I didn’t have a clue and was essentially bluffing my way through it all. I was just waiting for the moment for the world to call me out on it and the weight of holding it together was incredibly stressful.
I was a complete impostor, and he was saddled with an imbecile for a father. All the men I knew seemed to have the whole dad lark nailed down to perfection, but for some reason, I couldn’t get it down at all. Now imagine how much easier my life would have been had I just talked to someone about it all…
World Mental Health Day is October 10th. Don’t suffer in silence.
This post was originally published in Here & Now Magazine.