Men’s Health Week
by Adrian Yeates
As a man in his fifties, I sometimes find myself rather confused about who I really am. It’s not my age per se that is at issue, but rather the shifting sands of what it is to be a man in modern society.
During my upbringing in the late 60’s / early 70’s, the world was a very different place. Gender was basically male or female and we were socialised to see ourselves accordingly.
For me, it meant suppressing emotions, showing a strong exterior, and always pushing for success. Exhibiting traits of empathy or vulnerability meant you were soft and consequently not manly.
Our heroes were John Wayne, James Bond, and tycoons like Tony O’Reilly, so-called men’s men.
During the 90’s, when we were expecting our first child, what should have been a joyous experience was for me one of the most painful in my life. That was when I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
In hindsight, I recall being absolutely terrified about the responsibility of being a father based on what I felt was expected of me. To be a rock, the breadwinner, emotionally adept to raise a child…I didn’t feel either ready or capable.
My own parents raised nine children and my dad was a traditional father-figure. He was strong, decisive, successful and I felt so inferior.
My negative feelings grew stronger over time, and I did my best to hide them, to play the part, not ask for help…until I was overwhelmed and had to take time off work.
I felt such a failure and truly believed that I was damaged goods. Having a mental illness would mean having to lower my sights and feeling small for the rest of my life.
The 21st century has brought more change, for example, diversity and inclusion and the ‘Me-Too’ movement. While I am fully supportive of the motivation behind these changes, I am sometimes left feeling guilty for being a man.
Notwithstanding my mental illness, I went on to have three children and rose to be CEO of an international company. I did this by being me, and it was hard work along the way.
The idea that my path was eased due to my gender is simply not true.
Philosophically, I see myself first and foremost as a person.
A human being with talents and failings, certainly not perfect.
I approach others in this way i.e., to see the person and not gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
Not thinking of myself as a man has helped me to manage my mental health and dispel much of my confusion.
If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following