Men’s Depression the Hidden Secret
Depression and men’s dark experience of it can be much hidden. The Alpha male in us does not want to admit that I am not coping with the depressive flatness, commonly known as the “black dog.” This depressive black dog can be knocking on anyone’s door. It a space of deep sadness, despair, sense of hopelessness, helplessness, sorrowful and apathy. We can lose our motivation and our concentration is way off the Richter scale. We can be loaded with self-doubt and shame. Here we find ourselves being far from driven in pursuit of our successes in life. Feeling like a failure we don’t want to expose this to anyone and wing it, alone. We hide it by retreating into the depths of our ‘internal cave‘ with the lowest of self-esteem, dark mood and anxiety. Our 3:00am insomnia facilitates a sleep deprivation making the depression worse.
Depression is Experienced by many
In Australia, it is estimated by Beyond Blue that around that 45 percent of people will experience a mental health condition at some over the course of their life and over 1 million Australian experience depression and nearly 2 million of us experience anxiety. It is suggested that up to 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience it in their lifetimes.
Depression Expressed in Symbols and Sand-play Therapy
In this brief video, I use symbols and sand-play therapy to externally explain to men how their depression may look like. I explain this to men and I try and introduce them to it. If we see the depressive figurine here, it expressed in the fetal position. Sometimes I’ll do a bit of psychodrama and I’ll actually lie down on the floor in the fetal position. Yes, we feel like shit and you know, that’s how depression can manifest itself. It’s just deep dark space and there is, ‘the shame of it” – I just don’t want to show myself, I don’t want to be exposed. This is when men go to the cave, shut down, cut off and disconnected from those we love.
This low depressive mood may be triggered by a number of factors, such as ongoing stress (especially workplace pressures), disconnection in relationships feeling not valued or loved. There may be long term loneliness and this can feel like a dark empty hole, defaulting to it yet again.
Depressive experienced unrecognized
I sometimes wonder whether we men have experienced low forms of moods, especially in our adolescence however because we are so busy mucking around with friends we don’t necessarily notice it. I believe that we men are truly sensitive some of us more so than others. If this is the case, it can precipitate a tendency to over-worry (anxiety), sensitive to criticism. If there is the experience of low self-esteem we might develop strong perfectionist traits and become extremely self-critical of ourselves.
Depression ~ the Aloneness Empty Hole
Just these factors alone can facilitate a lot of internal emotional energy that we men have been taught to disconnect from. Unfortunately, though we don’t disconnect from it – just wall it up or bottle it up inside our psyche. This energy can be very draining and sometimes we just don’t know why. Early signs of this may be feeling miserable or terrible a fair bit of the time. We may begin to lose interest or pleasure in the simple things in life. This loss of pleasure may sometimes just be an “off-day” and not necessarily the dark depression. However, when it is starting to affect how we feel and the negative mindset is switched on it can impact on our day to day activities. It can feel like dragging the ‘black dog’ around behind us.
Vulnerability and not Coping
Sadly in this depression, in that space, we’re not coping at all. It’s just simply not coping. I use these smaller symbols to represent our vulnerability (not coping, fragile) and a lot of time that – because of men’s toxic masculinity social conditioning, we appear to not have the insight to our vulnerable side. I know I have also lacked it and through my inner journey work have become more aware of my vulnerability.
When we are not coping and in this vulnerable space some of the signs we might experience are feeling overwhelmed (not coping), irritable and frustrated that things are not working as they should. We can then experience guilt and shame because we are not performing to our usual standard. The flow on effect of this can then be a lack of confidence, become indecisive (yes/no debate) in the mind. Due to this indecisiveness, we can lose our normal concentration and feel really disappointed in ourselves. However, we men have been conditioned not to feel these experiences but to convert them to anger and frustrations at ourselves and others.
We are lacking the insight into what’s really underneath our anger. You know, if they’re hurt, if I got hurt – when in the conversations, “I’m hurt” Oh, it pissed me off. There it is, there’s the anger, I’m pissed off – I’m protecting that vulnerable hurt part. What’s underneath it – is the hurt or our discomfort! This hurt then easily can manifest into depression especially if we have a history of defaulting to a depressive affect.
Taught Not to express it
The unfortunate part is that – as man, our social conditioning has taught us that we cannot express it. The natural neuro-biology of our body and its language is, when we’re in this space, we may need to cry. We need to grieve whatever it is. In my experience in this work and in my journey, through the Head-heart model – there’s a part of me or all of us, that’s never going to cope! You know, it just can’t cope. That part of us is our fragility within our psyche.
The body can signal depression
Many of the signs of this not coping and feeling depressed can be experienced in our bodies. The first signal is the feeling tired and run down all the time or the lack of appetite. You might notice that you are tired however there are the usual sleep problems, waking up at the ‘witching hour’ (3:00am) and then just toss and turn. There can be the experience of headaches and the stomach may feel queasy and churning all the time. The body may feel fatigued or muscle aches and pains. If we can become more aware of our body signals by being in touch with it we can then make healthy changes to the flatness that may be around the corner. The ‘black dog’ is starting to scratch on the door so to speak.
Acceptance of our Vulnerability
As human beings, we have a vulnerability and we need to protect it. How men have historically protected it – they’ve protected with those symbols or these other symbols, especially the angry ones. This facilitates the weakening of our male bravado the ‘Alpha Male’ isn’t working ohh, Jesus that’s shocking. I am not good enough and the thinking patterns start to ruminate with “I’m no good, I’m a failure,’ “things are never going to change,” “I’m useless and worthless,” and the seriously damaging thoughts are “life’s not worth living.” When are saying this to ourselves we know that we are overwhelmed and feeling deeply vulnerable. We don’t want to admit, that we’ve got that little fauna, that beautiful figurine in there and it is not coping at all, but shit do we blame it and not assist it and listening to what it may be needing. Some time out, a holiday or just some downtime where we can switch off that negative mindset.
Deep privilege to connect to vulnerability
It’s just an honor and amazing, to be able to help men connect to that our vulnerability and to the essence that it may not be coping. We need to relearn and connect to the different aspects of our psyche, especially our depressed vulnerable self. Learning to listen and hear what it is seeking. How can we give it loving-kindness and slowly care for ourselves when we are down and out.
Managing Depression Differently
In doing so, we can learn to manage it differently? How do we recognize it? How do we communicate it, it’s got authentic needs. We’ve all got authentic needs. Especially in relationships. Women have got it, men have got it. As the fetal position of the depressed figurine – it is struggling and how might we learn to care for it. How do we allow ourselves the acceptance of releasing the built up sadness that generally is experienced in depression or the blues?
Connecting to our Vulnerability
Our vulnerability needs a connection. Women are needing it and this is where they get really frustrated with men – that men just don’t go there. With not learning to meet our vulnerable self when we are down and depressed we may lack empathy. With this lack of empathy, we may not meet our partner’s vulnerability at an energetic or a cellular level, it’s an incredibly painful disconnection.
Seek Professional Assistance.
It is difficult to sometimes own up to when we are not traveling too well. The old ego, ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is stoic however it does not heal the sadness, frustration, and sorrow that aligns with feelings of depression.