I am very conflicted on this post. It is really hard to take a stance on one side or the other. I’m tackling the topic of depression and how society wills it’s young men to “man up” or “be a man.” It definitely has two sides to the coin and deserves a solid look before rushing into an argument.
The inspiration came from a video, so watch that and then we’ll talk. After the jump:
Man up. Be a man. Grow some balls. Stop being a pussy. The above video is trying to teach men that it is okay to be empathetic. Society teaches us from birth until puberty (or whenever we can start making decisions on our own) that we should hide our feelings and that boys don’t cry.
I can see how this is destructive to a young kid’s psyche but I hate when statistics are thrown at you. Especially when those stats are about depression and suicide because however many kids grew up with depression and felt like they were trapped or alone because they had no one to share their feelings with, all of the other ones really just needed to “Man up.”
A lot of the times everyone needs to “man up” and realize that the problem they are complaining about it so minuscule in the grand scheme of things that it isn’t worth stressing out over. When a teenager is complaining about love lost, you just want to smack them. When someone in their 20’s is complaining about rent someone in their 40’s wants them to shut up until they have kids and a mortgage. Stress is all about perspective. Only the person feeling the stressor can tell you how it registers on their emotional Richter scale.
On the other hand, depression is no joke. It can feel like the weight of the world is on top of your chest. Maybe you are stressed out about problems that feel like they will never end. Then what happens? You reach out for help. You talk to friends and family. Then you are met with answers like “Man up” or “What do you have to be depressed about?” and now you feel like an even bigger asshole because you were depressed about nothing in the first place. Our “white people problems” as Louis CK calls them. Usually this cycle will happen until you can’t get out of bed for a few days and then people call you a pussy.
So I can see the effects from both sides. Sometimes the “man up” solution doesn’t work. That’s because depression can be a chemical imbalance in your brian where your dopamine, norepinephrine or serotonin receptors are all out of whack. You basically need a pill to bring you to the normal levels that other people have on a day-to-day basis.
I know some ignorant idiot will tell you that “Cavemen didn’t have depression. Zoloft is less than a hundred years old. Depression isn’t real. It’s all in your mind.” They will be ignoring thousands of years of evolution and not realizing that “survival of the fittest” doesn’t exist in human beings because we naturally protect our weak and even let them procreate. Go figure. Humans have compassion. Charles Darwin doesn’t come to life once a year and eliminate the mentally ill with a Gatling gun to cleanse the gene pool. Although that might be pretty awesome.
Depression can hit you in all sorts of ways. It can be a loss of interest, low self-esteem or a general all around sadness. Very simply, it is a lack of joy in activities that normally make people happy. For example; receiving a present, having sex or eating sweets. The depressed are uninterested and can seem distant. Almost sociopathic. This can happen in someone due to many different uncontrollable triggers, from genetics to long-term drug usage. It will usually strike in your 20’s to 30’s with a spike later in life often referred to as a “mid-life crisis.”
In men, depression often comes out through other emotions such as irritability or anger because of how often boys are told “Be a man” when they are younger. For example: “You think I’m a faggot because I’m crying over what my boss said to me? Well, how about this punch to the face. Now who is the faggot?” That is a common scenario in the world of men, believe it or not. Just substitute whatever stressor or insult you prefer.
The video above makes that point pretty clear. When boys are humiliated or made sad in some way, rather than cry they might try to fight or get sarcastic which will induce another into a fight. They are told to hide their feelings from the world because it isn’t manly or that it simply “is not what boys do.”
Empathy is lost amongst men. Compassion in a male is few and far between. Those of us who are empathetic are often called “gay” or it is referred to as “our feminine side.” Then those already emotional people are being made fun of for showing their emotions in healthy ways. So what happens? They turn to other means to bury their emotions deep inside. Drinking or fighting or womanizing. All totally healthy things. </sarcasmfont>
I think depression gets overlooked in today’s male (or person) due to the slew of other mental illnesses one can be (over) diagnosed with. Bi-polar, ADHD, anxiety, etc. Other times it is completely missed and referred to as general moodiness or sadness. Many consider depression a secondary emotion, like anger. I, on the other hand, disagree and I think this shit can keep someone down and out for months at a clip if they let it.
There is a difference between normal sadness and depression. Just like there is a difference between normal anger and rage. There is such thing as normal stress. Being fired from work is a normal stress. Having a full-blown meltdown because you were cut off in traffic is not healthy. The same way laying in bed for 4 days because someone said you look like a dummy is not healthy.
I won’t ramble on about how this shit affects millions of people daily. However, the next time you talk to someone who tells you their honest feelings, stop and think before you answer with something stupid like “What do you have to be depressed about?” because you may send someone into a downward spiral in a torture chamber of their own devices and self-loathing. On the flip-side of things, other people do need to be told to “man up.” So process information and speak from the heart when helping a friend with their problems.
I went 1,000 words and I still don’t know how to feel about this. I guess it is a case by case basis that is impossible to know unless people reveal themselves in conversation which men tend to avoid. Simply put, be careful and educate yourself on mental illness.
The Huffington Post came out with a similar article and here are 6 things you shouldn’t say to someone with depression:
- I know how you feel.
- Suck it up.
- Cheer up.
- You have to be strong for your kids.
- It’s all in your head.
- Just think. There are people who have it worse. (my personal favorite)
I think this article coincided with mine very well. I wish I would have read it earlier.