I’m excited to have a guest post on the blog today from my college friend Gio, who recently opened up about his struggles with mental health. While I know what it’s like to be a woman experiencing anxiety and depression, I can imagine it’s very different to navigate the mental health world as a man. Thank you Gio for being so open and honest, and helping others feel less alone!
If you’d like to connect, you can find him on Instagram.
It took some time for me to break my silence and stop carrying these heavy weights on my shoulders. They took form as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. I lived every day with them weighing me down all alone because I thought I was supposed to be “man” enough to pretend these problems didn’t exist. Boy was I wrong that doing this was the solution.
I lived in denial for years. I’d find other reasons to explain why I felt the way I did; anything besides the mental wellness issues I was going through. I thought anxiety was a normal state for everyone who was working themselves to the bone and that anyone that worked every day at 110% for 10+ hours a day and was successful felt the same way. I thought panic attacks were just me being “scared” about what is happening at work and the way to get through them was to ignore it and try to will myself to be better. I ignored that my mind was in a constant state of suicidal ideation for 18 months, I would chalk it up to a nervous tick and tell myself that it will pass. All of these coping mechanisms lead to higher anxiety, more panic attacks and elevated levels of suicide ideation.
It wasn’t until I did some reading and spiritual searching that I realized it was ok to acknowledge what I was going through for what it really was. It didn’t make me any less of a “man” that I had these feelings and thoughts. It didn’t make me less of a future spouse to my fiancé that I had to open up to her first about how I felt before I could truly accept it internally. I think the ideology behind “boys don’t cry” is so harmful especially in this day and age. I think that teaching our kids early on that boys and men shouldn’t have emotions and that being a boy or man meant you had to be mentally and physically tough has played a role in the statistic the males are more likely to commit suicide 3.5x compared to their female counterparts.
After a few late night talks, some meditation, yoga and even bike rides I realized what I had to do. For me the road to improving my mental well being was opening up to those around me; especially the people that I thought would think less of me if they knew what I was going through. I was pleasantly surprised that these people were the ones that wanted to help me the most. I built up enough courage and pulled some inspiration from people around me to throw my story to the public via social media in the hopes that at least 1 person would read it and start them down the path to a better mental well being. I was greeted with open arms and words of encouragement.
When I was in the darkest of areas I completely lost my appetite to do anything physical. I used to run religiously and practice yoga at least 5 times a week. I was at a point where I was doing absolutely nothing. I don’t know what happened first; my loss of drive to run and practice yoga or the anxiety and depression. For me these things were hand in hand. I realize that being active again isn’t going to make everything 100% better on it’s own, but it is a tool that will help me manage everything.
So what now? I think one thing we all can do at the smallest of scales is ask someone how are they really doing. Starting the conversation is where it starts, or at least where it started with me. You have no idea how much power the words “how are you?” hold, they can even save a life. If you’re the person in my shoes please realize you’re not alone! The hardest thing for me to do was to open up but once I did it made the world a difference.