It’s okay to not have your shit together. It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, to feel a wave of uncertainty come crashing over you and not know which way is up, or when your next gulp of air will come. These are perfectly normal feelings that every man experiences. And it’s okay to talk about it. What’s not okay is suffering in silence.
Part of the embarrassment at telling people about mental health issues is the fear that they will view you differently. You worry that admitting that you have struggled somehow marks you out from other men. You’re scared that they’ll see you as weak and pity you. You do not want to be pitied. But maybe that’s stupid. Maybe your worries are unfounded. Who hasn’t struggled at some point or other? What if sometimes struggling is not a thing that marks you out as different from other people but something that unites you with them? Maybe it’s the very thing we all have in common.
Our culture is definitely getter better at talking openly about mental health, but we still have a way to go. Many of us still feel ashamed at confessing our own struggles and it seems to me that shame, at its core, is the fear of judgement by others. If everyone struggles at some point or other in their lives, where is the shame in struggling? How can we judge others for being like ourselves? It’s possible that by acknowledging that we all find life difficult at times it’ll be easier to talk openly about our individual difficult experiences.
Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, wrote the book I had a Black Dog and the video from the book was commissioned by the World Health Organisation. It is moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion and how he learned to tame it and bring it to heel. Matthew has kindly given us permission to use it on our site, as I explained how beneficial it was to me. The black dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.