Suffering from a mental health condition is never glamorous or romantic. It is a constant and painful struggle that makes you feel isolated, desperate and vulnerable. In this regard, the impact of gender is impossible to overstate. Male sufferers often fail to seek help for fear of ridicule or intimidation, and often allow their condition to deteriorate to the point where the consequences last a lifetime.
My own battle with depression began at the start of this year, after the breakdown of a long term, long distance relationship. I slipped up and consequently lost the person I was dependent upon, and was sucked into a world of despair. I blamed myself entirely for what had happened, and being unable to see the girl I had hurt so badly only worsened my sense of helplessness. After what seemed like the hundredth futile and tear-ridden phone-call, I turned to self-harm, and began cutting myself using a pair of bathroom scissors.
It hard for me to explain exactly why I thought hurting myself would help or change my situation. My anger and self-hatred certainly played a part, as did wanting my now ex-girlfriend to see how deeply I cared. Cutting was in a way a method of venting my frustrations, and in that sense was cathartic, but it only served to increase my sense of loathing. I found it impossible to be happy, or to focus on anything other than a distress I felt at throwing away that meant so much to me. I lashed out at anyone who tried to help me, further isolating myself.
Being a man, I found it difficult to accept I had a problem. Coming from a patriarchal family with a working class dad, who worked tirelessly to get to the position he is in today, meant I felt my struggles were insignificant. “She’s just a girl”, I would tell myself, “pull yourself together- worse things happen in life”.
This dismissal of my own condition meant that I failed to seek proper help or advice, and all the while my mental state continued to worsen.
I started to burn myself, and etched the initials of my ex into my arm in an attempt to remind myself of what I had lost. At my word, I considered suicide, even walking to the station determined to throw myself under a train. In the end, common sense prevailed and I phoned my mum and told her everything.
Despite this, my struggles continued. I felt unable to express my true feelings, and constantly refused to seek professional help. As a privileged heterosexual male, I constantly told myself that I had so much to be thankful for, and that a breakdown of a relationship was a pathetic excuse for what I was doing. I lied, telling friends the marks on my arm were from a relatives’ overly zealous cat, and that I burnt myself on the cooker. I couldn’t accept that I had a problem, and it was only when my brother discovered me with blood dripping down my arm, in a cowering mess on the bathroom floor, that I finally realised that isolating myself was only exacerbating my condition.
To this day, however, I am yet to see a professional or be diagnosed. I thought I could deal with my problems alone, but it was only with the support of my family and close friends that I was able to take the first steps towards recovery. I still get incredibly upset at times, but am now learning to express my anger in less damaging ways. My scars are beginning to fade, but the damage to my psyche feels irreparable. My confidence was shot, and repairing it has taken hard work, constant bouts of self-reassurance and time.
Is share this story today to raise awareness and hopefully banish some of the stigma surrounding male mental health. Men are just as vulnerable as anybody else, and although painful seeking help is an essential part of the recovering process. I would urge anyone suffering not to shut themselves away, but confide in someone they trust and, if they feel comfortable, get seen by a professional.