I’ve never felt like the most masculine of men, so I immediately felt the pressure of gender expectation when asked to write on men’s mental health. Often when I work with my clients, we look at the messages that we accumulate on our journey to adulthood. Because for me, part of our developmental journey becomes adopting messages of what we should or shouldn’t do. My son’s favourite colour was pink, I say was because at some point it became yellow and when asked why, because pink is too girlie. If never challenged would it still be pink? How would life be if we let individuals develop their own definitions of that which is to be male? How would being male be if it wasn’t linked with masculinity and its impact on mental health?
This is where this article was going to finish. However, while writing, I had a close family bereavement. That’s the cold, logical, self-protection way of sharing, alternatively I could just say, my mum died, suddenly, unexpectedly and alone. As a counsellor, I can rationalise this in myriad different ways: I can self-care, seek support, seek counselling, allow myself space to process my feelings.
What I decided was to be. Not try to be, just be. Be hurt, angry, upset, guilty: and in whichever order and cycle of repeat I needed. I allowed those I trusted and felt close to, to come close and I moved away from those that I didn’t. I sought to support that which I needed.
So why am I writing this in a men’s mental health Article? Well it’s because the last paragraph is genderless. It shares an event that the majority of us will sadly face. It also shares that I myself was broken, desolate and despairing. It shows that I am human, imperfect and feeling, and that’s ok. Ok to feel as you do, but not ok to have to feel these emotions alone if you don’t want to. The truth is that there is always someone out there, and that can be hard, but ask for support when you’re ready. You don’t need to travel this alone….
Richard Knight is a counsellor from the Counselling and Mental Health Clinic at York St John University