I often wonder, why do men take better care of their cars than their psychological health? Men are known to neglect their health, especially their mental health. Although the stigma has lessened, it’s still difficult for men to admit to any ‘issues,’ often feeling that they have ‘nothing to complain about,’ preferring to handle it themselves.
I often hear men describing a gap between what they are feeling and what they are expected to feel, and that makes it even worse. “Why am I complaining?” I often hear. “I was raised to be strong and to tough it out. If I was in a third world country, or a prisoner, I could understand that I might feel unhappy and angry. But I live a pretty good life, in a nice house with a beautiful family. This is all I ever wanted, so why am I not happy? Why do I feel that things are not right? Why the anger and irritability?”
More often than we realize, we fail to remember that some of history’s (and today’s) most brilliant and influential men have struggled with mental health issues. Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams are some modern names that come to mind, but did you know Abraham Lincoln was open about his own mental health battles? He was not alone. Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and so many more great historical figures fought their own battles against depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety make existential thinkers out of all of us. Depression forced Abraham Lincoln into a deeper understanding—he had an insatiable drive to accomplish something meaningful in his life, and his suffering increased his empathy. Lincoln achieved his greatness, not despite his suffering, but because of it. And he is not alone. Winston Churchill’s openness to his intense emotion inspired others. And there are so many others.
It is not something you have to be embarrassed about. Whether you’re a ‘powerhouse’ husband, father, or brother, or have a holiday in Italy to look forward to, mental health issues can still lurk in the shadows. We all have these—it is a human experience, and it is treatable.
As a psychologist, I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of missed early signs. Why wait until your suffering is unbearable before seeking help? If you feel stuck in your life, or experience dread going home or going back to work Monday morning, why ignore it? You may be missing a critical warning signal.
This shame of feeling vulnerable exacerbates symptoms and does no one any favors. Why not get the same treatment for yourself as you would for your car? It is not a failure to get help for something that prevents you from living the life you love. If you are not feeling right, be honest with yourself—tell someone, and seek help. Seeking help can create a happier life not only for you, but your family too.