I came across a photo-campaign that puts a face to the depression of men. Included were a series of photographs of men meeting the word “Better”. This really struck me.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that 6 million American men are effected by depression each year, they are also less likely than women to seek help. The World Health Organization estimated that 350 million worldwide suffer from depression. I can’t help but contemplate what is happening and how can I help?
There is no doubt a stigma about depression and about most mental health diagnosis. No doubt, no one is really talking about. No Doubt, the message is and continues to be “Be Happy” or “Feel Better”. For men, in particular, the message tends to be “Be Strong.” This pressure is ridiculous! And even more, it’s asking us to abandon ourselves to meet some ideal that feels nearly impossible most of the time. What does feel better even mean? It seems to imply some duality. Better than what? Is putting ourselves in a box doing anything for us? The experience of being human is wildly gray, and thank goodness for that! We get to be all the colors of the changing leaves, we get to be the worm and the bird eating it, we get to be the tree bark that is chard and the one that’s vibrant, we get to be the down tree and the one standing tall and the one curved in every direction! “Show me one blade of grass in the wrong place.” (I think the Buddha said something like that).
I really feel into the sadness of men in the world. As the masculine part of myself feels hit, assaulted, by the message of “be strong”, my sensitive emotionality shrinks to the size of a pin tip. Just as my feminine feels the pressure and effort of “be happy”, leaving me suffocating, gasping for the air of my bigness. Innately, men are said to be providers and women caregivers; the pressure of men to do, make, fix is heartbreaking to me. Who are you when all is said and done? What are you if you don’t do, make, fix? Is there even time leftover in your day for your other gifts to see the light or are you just tired? No wonder depressions statistics are what they are!
I am continually blown away about our fear of the depth of these feelings! I grow sad knowing that so many face the challenges of these depths alone for fear of what others may think. I am sad to see all the ways we are so busy putting ourselves in boxes we loose sight of the wholeness of who we are.
Particularly at this time of year, as the seasons change and the it’s darker for much more of the day, our human nature comes to intimately know feelings associated with depression. It is our human nature to mirror our natural world and vis versa. If we wish to be well-rounded individuals, we cannot be in the spring and summer season of things all the time. When we hold the mentality of “Feel Better”, “Be Strong”, “Just, Be Happy”, we negate the more shadowy parts of ourselves that exist because of the light. These parts of ourselves are really the best! The darker parts end up being our greatest teachers as they invite us to challenge and sit in the discovery of who we truly are; it asks us again and again what are we harvesting during the dying of things in and outside or ourselves? It is only by asking these big questions and by sharing this with our community that we begin to more fully see our gifts to the world. It is times like these that beg us to grow up, to become initiated so that we can fully be of service to the world.
And let’s face it, the natural world overall, feels pretty sad these days. In this way, these statistics of depression are not shocking. What’s is shocking is that we turn our heads to this simple truth: we are nature and nature is us! Nature wants us to grief, even more, nature is calling us to grieve with her and with each other. It’s true, the time for stigmatizing these parts of ourselves and the natural way of things is no longer serving us, we need each other now.
So I implore you, feel sad! And talk about it! Speak on behalf of sadness, for it has long craved a voice. For it is sadness the engages the warrior in us, the fierce part of ourselves that fights unimaginable battles in the face of great adversity. And as we engage the warrior, our strong , happy and “better” or rather full Self is revealed! Know these feelings deeply, as they live in you, because these feelings, when felt and seen by your community, will inspire what you mean to all of us. I can’t wait to see how this changes you and the world!