I have gotten much more feedback than I ever expected on this topic from private emails. As a result, I am writing a second article on the topic for those who wrote to me. I feel a responsibility to you out there, since I wrote about this, and started the dialogue by “coming out” as having anxiety disorder. Most people, especially men don’t want to talk about this topic because as one guy said, this kind of stuff usually happens to women who are more emotional than men.
I think that’s where a HUGE part of the problem begins. Men typically hide their emotional feelings in dealing with life where women behave differently by allowing themselves to express emotion. I had thought that the mentality behind this stereotype ended with my parents but apparently it hasn’t. It makes me wonder if the reports of women having more anxiety and depression than men are wrong because as I just stated, men don’t talk about this openly as women do and I believe that men NEED to begin a dialogue about this. I wonder how many men are hiding in fear with this?
Another huge issue (and I touched on this in an earlier post) is you cannot see this under a microscope. You can diagnose HIV and see what it is or cancer, diabetes, a stroke, or cardiovascular disease but (and I can speak from personal experience) you can go to the doctor 100 times take all kinds of tests for the physical symptoms but nothing shows up!
This gives rise to the statements such as, “Just get over it” or “what are you crazy or something?” “There’s nothing wrong with you. The tests show you’re ok!” I want to tell you all something, Just because it cannot be quantified doesn’t mean you’re ok. Problem is, you’re NOT ok regardless of how you look or how “others” see you or perceive you to be! This is where a good caring therapist comes in, and maybe even sometimes a psychiatrist to prescribe medication to ease the symptoms while you work on your issues with your therapist. MANY times the symptoms INCREASE as you deal with them; the issues you hid, beat down or pushed down so as not to deal with or even look at them.
Now comes the stigma and it can be worse, much worse, than any stigma of HIV or any other disease because people think of mental illness as a person who goes off his rocker and is the proverbial ticking time bomb ready to go off. Or those who think that the person may turn on themselves AND others or just on himself and commit suicide. These are ALL extreme but you’d be surprised how many out there think that. This creates a huge stigma where so many go into hiding (another reason to hide) because of the “name” you get if found out. Well if you hide, you give power to the illness and if you come out you take away the power from the illness, giving it BACK to yourself! You CAN and WILL get better if you seek help and treatment. You CAN live a fulfilling and full life. You are NO less of a man for coming out into the open admitting you have a problem with anxiety, depression, BOTH or any number of other emotional challenges that result in illness. Remember its NOT a disease its an illness.
The beginning of these problems vary greatly from person to person on an individual basis. It can start with nervousness, anxiety or with anxiety that leads to a panic attack, or depression from a traumatic incident, or abuse from parents or siblings, or depression FROM the anxiety and nervousness. Whatever the reason, if you have it you need to fix it. This isn’t going away on its own. TRUST ME ON THIS FACT! Its not a common cold. Repressing your feelings will only make things worse down the road because by burying it now means it will only rear its ugly head later and TRUST me, it ALWAYS does. Any traumatic incident in your life that happens, it WILL come back. IT WILL!! You may have stretches of time where you’re doing fine but then BANG, you get a panic attack or something throws you into a tailspin and you’re back to square one. All the old feelings insecurities and problem come racing back because they were never dealt with. The only way is to face it, deal with it, and get help for it. PLEASE keep writing me. IF you all would like to start an online support group to discuss our day to day goings on, I am up for it.