Why Men Don’t Deal With Mental Health

black man depressed sitting

One of the biggest challenges that men face is dealing with their mental health. Frequently men cope with mental health issues in unhealthy ways including substance abuse, self-medication, anger, aggression, and isolation. Six million men in the United States suffer from depression, and that number increases each year. Some young men (more so than young women) also develop schizophrenia, a debilitating mental health condition that includes detachment from reality and emotional instability. Despite the growing epidemic, men tend to be reluctant to talk about it.

I understand the challenges men face all too well. For most of my life, I wasn’t aware that my depression was tied into masculinity and the way that men often think about their mental health. In my life, when I feel emasculated from rejection or failure, especially romantically, I experience severe depression.

As I’ve become aware of my own mental health issues, and continue to talk about it with my therapist, I’ve experienced increased happiness and well-being. Most importantly, I’ve felt more masculine than ever before.

Continue reading Why Men Don’t Deal With Mental Health

What My Therapist Told Me After My Horrible Divorce

divorced dad carrying son field

After a 25 year marriage, to the woman who I thought was the love of my life, I am now divorced and single. I know lots of men who say that divorce is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. For me that’s not the case.

My ex-wife left me for a man 20 years younger than me. That fact alone was alone was enough to send my mind down a deep, dark rabbit hole. Any ounce of self-confidence I had quickly flew out the window. No only did I go down a path of self-loathing and sadness, but I was crushed under a mountain of legal fees (no, she did not go quietly or kindly). I felt completely duped –– as though I couldn’t even trust my own gut anymore. Where had it come from? How could I have misjudged someone for a quarter century? What had I done to make her recoil in such hate?

Before the divorce I was financially stable. We’re not talking vacation home stable, but I was able to support our five person family –– which in today’s economy — is a dream, I know. Times have changed. My life certainly has. After the divorce, I am now struggling to pay rent for the two bedroom apartment I currently live in. That part is tough, but it’s nothing compared to the pain and devastation I feel about not being able to see my kids everyday. That keeps me up at night. That gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach. That aspect of this entire nightmare is what makes me want to give up on everything –– and yet, my kids are the only reason to keep going. Continue reading What My Therapist Told Me After My Horrible Divorce

It’s Time To Retire These Self-Harm Alternatives

red marker cap off

I started self-injuring when I was 17-years-old, the result of not knowing how to manage the overwhelming emotions accompanying years of sexual abuse by a teacher. Self-injury became my way of expressing extreme feelings of fear, anger, sadness, hopelessness, shame, and a complete loss of control. Over time, self-injury became the only way I knew how to deal with emotions, and I didn’t know what else to do.

When I decided I wanted to stop self-harming, the only information I could find advised me to color on my arms with markers, snap a rubber band on my wrist or hold an ice cube. If I was angry, the suggestions were to “get it out” by punching pillows, ripping magazines or throwing ice against a wall.

Well, in short, drawing on my arms with red marker only increased my desire to see real blood and holding ice cubes didn’t hurt enough. At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was cut or burn for real. And I still felt overwhelmed.

It turns out I’m not alone in this experience, and these popular substitute self-injury alternatives are partly to blame. Continue reading It’s Time To Retire These Self-Harm Alternatives

Unboxing the Realities of Moving with Anxiety

woman moving box

I’ve always tended to romanticize the thought of moving away. Once I shed my hometown, I would finally become someone who never forgets to floss and sleeps precisely eight hours a night in crisp white linens. Making the big move is an ideal time to introduce other changes in your life too, but you can’t move away from yourself. Or your anxiety. After the move, I might have become slightly more committed to my oral hygiene, but my Persian cat’s weepy eyes still constantly left mysterious beige spots on my cotton sheets.

Perhaps, like me, the idea of starting over somewhere new is your go-to escapist daydream. As the realities of moving set in, however, it can become difficult to keep your anxiety in-check.

Before setting off I tried to deal with the less romantic realities. Pondering housing, thinking about relationships, and coping with these changing elements of my life gave me somewhere to focus my anxiety. I reasoned that this focus would help me identify everything that could potentially go wrong and eliminate the risks. This strategy, however, kept me from acknowledging I was doing something brave and that the risk was part of what made the experience exciting, too. Continue reading Unboxing the Realities of Moving with Anxiety

When Does Therapy Start ‘Working?’

woman client couch therapist

Ashley Laderer remembers exactly when therapy started working for her, the first time she could feel its benefits without any doubts or skepticism. The healing began with a single, surprising word: “lumpy.”

During her initial sessions Laderer constantly felt nauseous and had anxiety about vomiting.

“My therapist was like, ‘We need to stop giving the nausea so much power. Let’s make it less powerful,’” Laderer recalled.

Rather than saying she felt nauseous or had nausea, her therapist suggested using “lumpy” to describe what she was experiencing.

“At first it seemed so silly and I always forgot to use the word,” Laderer said. “But then in session I would always say ‘lumpy’ instead of nauseous.”

Shortly after, Laderer felt significantly better about her nausea and anxiety. She recognized this as a result of therapy. Continue reading When Does Therapy Start ‘Working?’

When Anger and Emotions Run Your Life

angry woman expletives cartoon

I became self-aware of my anger in my early 20s after I was diagnosed as bipolar. Shortly after my diagnosis, I was at a bar with some friends and an ex-boyfriend showed up with his new girlfriend. Some words were said and instead of walking away to cool off, I threw myself at her and wrapped my fingers around her throat. Two bouncers pulled me off and frog-marched me to the door. Even though I clearly had been drinking, I got into my car and sped off to a friend’s house. I crashed on their couch and drove home sober early the following morning.

I marveled later that I was not pulled over for drunk driving and, had I been, how much my life would have changed. I marveled that assault charges were never filed against me. I also marveled at how my anger may have become my new normal.

It was a wake-up call. Something had to change, but the actual change wouldn’t come until much later. Continue reading When Anger and Emotions Run Your Life

Alone Time: Why It Matters and How to Claim It

woman drinking table alone

Most days, I work from home, alone. I also often travel alone. Solitude is a central part of my everyday existence. Yet I am not lonely.

Working alone doesn’t meant I don’t collaborate. I schedule virtual and in-person meetings with team members and clients.

Traveling alone is less of a sentence to isolation and more of an opportunity to connect with strangers and welcome unexpected encounters into my journey. It also offers more freedom and flexibility than traveling with others.

There’s much written about our culture of distraction, but there’s too little discussion of the value of time spent truly alone. We largely fear it and cling to the pings and prods from our personal devices to keep us in constant company.

Don’t get me wrong. Connection still matters. It is an important indicator of health and happiness. Studies indicate that social isolation is more dangerous to your health than obesity, increasing your risk of premature death by more than 14%.

But quality alone time does not indicate loneliness. Celebrating solitude doesn’t condemn connection. Continue reading Alone Time: Why It Matters and How to Claim It

How Do I Know What Kind of Bipolar I Have?

woman client therapist couch

There are multiple types of bipolar disorder — a disorder known as an affective or mood disorder. The three main types are: bipolar disorder type I, bipolar disorder type II and cyclothymia. Also, there are certain additional “specifiers” that denote particular types of symptoms seen in each bipolar mood.

Bipolar disorder appears evenly in men and women. Women, however, are more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II. Women are also more likely to experience mixed episodes (see below) and a “rapid cycling” version of the illness where the person experiences more than four mood episodes per year.

Bipolar Disorder Type I

Bipolar disorder type I is what people tend to think of when they imagine bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression). It is made of up a very elevated mood known as “mania” and a very low mood called “depression.”

A person with bipolar disorder type I experiences these moods episodically. He or she may experience a manic episode for two months followed by a three-month depression followed by a symptom-free period (known as euthymia). Continue reading How Do I Know What Kind of Bipolar I Have?

How I Overcame Depression And Traveled To My Bucket List Destinations

depressed man traveling head in hand

I always wanted to travel. In college I attended information sessions in stuffy rooms and echoing lecture halls, for at least five different study abroad programs. I dutifully filled out the paperwork, scheduled doctor’s appointments, even met with the other folks I’d be spending time abroad with. It was exciting. But something always held me back.

My depression.

When it came time to actually book the flight, things started to break down. To picture myself trying to make a tight connection, rebook a flight, overcome jet lag, suffer homesickness, not able to speak the language? It was paralyzing. I felt myself spinning into that familiar, desperate cycle of blaming myself for not being able to do the things I dreamed of and not being able to do the things I dreamed of because of my depression. Each application deadline — Prague, London, Paris, Cádiz, Perth — that passed would send me back to bed, missing classes, ignoring friends, and feeling miserable. Continue reading How I Overcame Depression And Traveled To My Bucket List Destinations

I Actually Enjoy Going to Therapy

man smiling holding phone

When I worked with a therapist for the first time, I did not imagine it was something I would ever enjoy. Part of it was the way I started. My parents nagged me into going. After doctors were unable to diagnose or treat my sleep deprivation, my mom suggested it might be related to mental health and that seeing a therapist could help. After months of resisting her recommendations, I finally booked an appointment.

At first I perceived it as the mental health equivalent of eating healthy foods that tasted terrible, going to the dentist, or getting a physical. It was an unpleasant chore, but it couldn’t hurt.

The initial months were difficult and painful. My therapist and I discovered I had constructed a subconscious system of negative beliefs to cope with the pain of living with undiagnosable, painful, relentless, and stressful health problems. Rather than protecting me, this system had poisoned my mind and exacerbated my physical issues. Continue reading I Actually Enjoy Going to Therapy