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James’ Story

 

This blog post is part of a series of blogs and features the personal stories of real people’s experiences with mental health problems. These stories will be published as part of Men’s Health Week 2012. If you wish to share your story you can get in touch with a member of the See Change campaign team atinfo@seechange.ie

 

Feel free to post your reactions or comments at the end of this post.

comma-leftIt’s just over a year ago and I’m staring at a journal article. The key finding, men don’t talk about their mental health. The author; Anne Cleary, my thesis supervisor at UCD. Another one tells me that men are far more likely to take their own lives. They all tell me the same thing. Men don’t want to talk about their mental health.

I didn’t want to talk about my mental health either.

Almost two years after starting a PhD course, researching the causes of suicide, I finally had a breakthrough. I realised that I was utterly miserable, totally depressed and had done less than half the work I should have.
The problem from there was that the damage was done. I felt like I had wasted years of my life only to fail. I was a failure. I didn’t want to confront that, so I just ploughed ahead, doing what I could. Mostly I stayed at home staring at a computer screen.

A series of personal problems, big and small, and the realisation that the career I was moving toward was not right for me had left me unable to sleep, to work or to exercise. Anything that might have given me a sense of accomplishment seemed like too much work.
I had trapped myself. Too proud to admit I wanted to quit the course, I just kept going. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I had never so much as failed an exam before; I was intent on completing the course. I just lacked the motivation to do it.

That’s the problem with men, in my experience. We’re proud to the point of stupidity. Ignoring the problem and focusing on something else seems like the right way to make things better. That made things worse for me.
When I did finally talk a huge weight was lifted. The burden of disappointing others was gone and I could properly think about what was happening. That’s all it took. I spoke to my Mother, who was nothing but supportive. I went to see my GP, who offered advice.

I felt like a child, of course, like a failure. I was. I am. I accept that. I did fail that course and that’s still hard for me to admit. But it feels better than pushing myself deeper into the negativity that had surrounded me.
From there I was able to take on a new course, a new challenge that I enjoy and that makes me happy, something I always wanted to do. I still have bad days, and I still haven’t told some people, mostly male, about my experiences because, frankly, I’m worried about what they might think of me. It’s better now though, much, much better.

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Of course, I’m still afraid, when telling people, that I’ll be judged. I mean, essentially I got a bit upset and cried to my mother about it, then left a situation that I’m sure many would envy. That’s how it looks to my mind.
No one else seems to see it that way. Anyone I tell about that experience seems to think I’ve shown strength, made the right decision. I find it hard to agree, but I try and remember what I’d think of someone who told me they’d experienced something similar.

My only regret is that I didn’t say something sooner.

 

This year, Men’s Health Week (MHW) will run from Monday 11th until Sunday 17th June 2012.

 

See Change understands that there is a complex multiplicity of perspectives on mental health problems and the experience of being unwell. See Change encourages the publication of material that promotes understanding of mental health problems, the experience of being unwell, and recovery. The opinions expressed by contributors are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of See Change, funders, or partner organisations.

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