Hello friends! It’s been a huge break since I last posted an anonymous Mental Health blog but I’m going to kick off again now – possibly fortnightly. We’ve had some excellent blogs so far – why not have a look at them? I’m also looking for more blogs to share over the coming months – if you’ve had a Mental Health experience you’d like to share please do get in touch.
This weeks blog explores how mental health can interact with societal notions of masculinity.
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Stillness in the moment
There is a break in the bone. I lie face down on snow and ice under the cover of a bridge. All around is sea of white and I feel angry and foolish for having slipped. Angry and foolish for trying to save money and walk my journey rather than get a taxi. Angry and foolish for my shoe choice as ice grips really would have been sensible. Angry and foolish that I’ve been rejected by someone I really liked and am the sort of guy who needs to go away and think about this with loved ones. Aren’t men supposed to be the ones who break the hearts?
It’s then that I realise I cannot get up. I’m stuck on a busy road lying on my face and if nothing changes, well…this is a lonesome post to occupy.
I am lifted to my feet by a kind stranger who himself stumbles in the thick snow. I thank him and assure him I am okay. Suddenly, it feels like a wrecking ball lands in my gut. I’m passing out and the only thing keeping me awake is my anger at myself. I’m trapped on the same slippery surface on which I fell as the city is now a lake of ice stretching for miles and miles.
Somehow, the anger I feel towards myself keeps me going and moving and I find a taxi driver who insists on taking me to the nearest hospital. My left elbow is broken. It will be a long road of rest, recovery and physio and pain until this is mended. And it will leave behind other scars. Other feelings. Night after night of pain filled insomnia. Night after night of solitary reflection. Night after night of wondering why I don’t possess the seemingly inbuilt cocky confidence so desired by society from men?
I am weak, I am terrified and I escape into worry and self loathing as I always do. Better to sit within such cognition than face my feelings.
Years pass. Friends tell me I do not look well and they see a bruise above my eye. I know I’ve hit my head when a friend stopped a car suddenly but I’ve felt fine and…and now my balance is off. And my right eye is wrapped in a blanket of crimson. To put it bluntly: what I see is blood. My blood.
I end up in hospital and with whiplash that also results in a severe kidney infection, an overnight hospital stay with IV antibiotics, more physio, a week of hallucinating and not eating and various mental health related scars.
Years pass again and I am suddenly jolted by a motion and in my panic I remember. Or rather, my body does. I am terrified, I am alone and once again, I am dismissed by some because a man should be braver than this. Put in more effort. Pull yourself together. Think about others less fortunate than you. I have never, ever seen pain as a competition and I would stand with anyone who struggles and suffers. And yet here, now, I am told by some that my pain isn’t worth discussing because others also have it worse. People mean well. But all this does is make me feel alone and angry at myself.
More physio, more fear, more pain, more mental health work. More feeling less than normal, less of a man, less of a person because I don’t cope where others seem to do. Less meeting the expectations of loved ones. Less being what was wanted. Perhaps much of this is in my head and in my terror, I see shadows of paranoia where there are none to see? Perhaps.
But some shadows do linger. Rogue memories arise and vex my mind from time to time, from moment to moment. I can be thrown back into hospital with drips attached to me. I can be thrown back into the car and the blood. I can be thrown back to pain, fear and powerlessness. To a place where I am terrified and alone and perhaps not the man you want me to be. To snippets of my past. To where I fear to tred.
I am nervous writing this. Normally, I would dress this up as a performance and hide myself inside it. Play to an audience. Be ego not man. But today..well…I stand before you vulnerable and raw. Do what you will.
I take medication for my anxiety and things have improved a lot. I am beginning to understand the peace and the stillness that I am. That anxiety disturbs me as mud does to a pond but it will fall away eventually and I will be returned to the stillness I am. Realising this is a lot better than most of the interventions I’ve tried to control my thoughts or my anxiety. Part of me still wishes I’d been born the cocky confident version of a man society stereotypes. But such subtle aggressions against myself are common place. Like the mud in the pond, they too shall clear.
Mental health care and support is a passion of mine. I want to make as much noise as I can until everyone gets the health care, support and treatment they need. Until we recognise that people matter and that mental health issues are serious. Until we restore common humanity in the health care system. Until we know we all suffer and we all share in healing. Until we love that which is forever changing, fragile and yet so enduring and resilient.
Until then, my friends. Until then…