This blog post is part of a series on men’s mental health for Movember. In this series, different men give their perspective on male mental health. What does it mean to deal with mental health as a man?
In certain cases as with the interview below, people have had the courage to reveal their identity. This is both brave and vulnerable, congratulations to them!
What made you want to share your story? Please introduce yourself
My name is Jye. I am 34 living in Sydney, Australia after having lived abroad for the last 7 years. I’ve worked in creative and professional service industries.
Have you ever experienced a mental health or wellbeing issue? If so, when was the first time you became aware of it or experienced it?
I have experienced primarily anxiety, bipolar disorder, addiction and depression (not chronic) and I have always struggled with boundaries, relationships and sustainable lifestyle choices.
It’s incredible the impact that not understanding relationships – while believing you fully do – can have on your life, with such huge consequences. Understanding platonic relationships need boundaries and that honesty in romantic relationships comes in many more forms. The hardest of those is taking stock of how you feel and learning to express yourself without fearing the loss of relationship or a few uncomfortable moments.
We are deeply flawed. And that’s okay as long as you don’t harm others in the meantime.
I think, as men in particular, we can see all relationships at a very superficial level rather than thinking of discussing deeply the impact and influence they have on our mental health, but also, the effect we can have on others.
I started to make changes not just to these boundaries, but also being honest with myself about who I want to spend time with (picking friends who have positive impacts on my life – rather than just having to spend time with people because I think I ‘should’). I also physically returned to my fitness and nutrition routines – the mind feeds on the body.
What did you experience that made you aware of it, and what did you do about it?
Losing friends, poor and awful judgement decisions, career risks and losses and financial impact.
It took me a long, long time to deal with it. I had to make very conscious lifestyle choices and not rely on drugs and alcohol to fix things. Instead, I needed to realise I was accountable rather than just rely on other forms of self-medication. Sometimes that was facing the consequences of my actions, but mainly – stopping blaming others for things that were in my control, at least somewhat.
How did taking those steps make you feel, and have they helped?
It wasn’t until I had made decisions for myself rather than for other people that I truly saw results and progress. In the long run, learning to do those things for yourself is more important than doing it because someone told you you needed to get better, needed help or should change your life.
What are your lessons learned with regards to taking care of your mental health? Did you experience any challenges throughout your journey that you felt might have been more specifically “male”?
The reasons you need to do it are for yourself. Men are meant to be in support of others,but are not really taught to be in support of themselves.You soon realise that by helping yourself first you can fulfil those “duties” which you soon learn are just lessons in compassion and altruism. It’s sort of like putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others, with mental health and self care, it’s the same.
What are your next steps for your own mental health?
Continued focus on myself and helping others find their own way.
Can you talk a bit about society’s perception of male mental health, do you think this affected your own perception and your ability to deal with your problems?
I think these perceptions are self imposed. I don’t think anyone else thinks I’m less because of doing this – though perhaps sometimes it’s perceived as more “selfish”. Ultimately while I think, or thought, that was male dominated, it’s not.
According to you, why is it important for men to speak up about their mental health, and for society to address it as a whole?
Because although we aren’t as open, we are certainly as vulnerable as anyone else. We need to learn it’s okay to look after ourselves first rather than at the expense of others – though this applies across the board when it comes to mental health
What would you like to say to other men who might be suffering in silence from a mental health issue?
Talk to people,even just shortly or briefly. Lots of people I’ve spoken to about it understand. Talk to men and women, as you’ll want women’s approval but men’s support.