It is said; that the first step in solving a problem, is admitting you have a problem. This statement can be applied to all of life’s issues. However finally admitting something to yourself can be easier said than done.
Sometimes there is a catalyst that sparks the admission.
For a friend of mine, it was when his partner saw his bank statement and saw how over drawn he had become in such a short space of time. His problem he hadn’t admitted – online gambling. He had become obsessed by spinning an online roulette board, and placing bigger bets each time to claw back the losses which had originated in small 50pence stakes. He was lucky, it was £500 and something which didn’t cut a huge hole in their life. She was able to stop the problem before it ran out of control. However the trust had been demolished. He then had to fix things piece by piece. Out went the smart phone, all financial control handed to his partner, and in response for her forgiveness, he agreed to attend a Gambling Addiction group. Once there, he was shocked to see how things could have gone. There were men who had literally gambled their life away. Men who had literally lost it all. He saw men who had turned to drugs and alcohol when they lost their home, their wife and their kids. Men who had attempted suicide and were there through desperation and a last call for help. He knew he had to learn from this. And he has done.
But why is it that as men, we only ask for help when it is too late?
When I first had the urge to write something down, it was I too was struggling with a problem that I couldn’t control. I was feeling low and felt compelled to tell a story. It was the story of my uncle and his struggle with Anxiety and Depression, which culminated in him taking his own life. Forever In Our Hearts.
Little did I know, or was really ready to accept that it was my way of dealing with my own anxiety and depression. I was deflecting what I was feeling in my own life, but needed to release some tension, and instead I opened up by telling someone else’s tale about their feelings.
I had named my son after my late uncle, who had taken his own life back in 1993 when I was only ten years old. The name wasn’t in tribute of the act he committed, but instead a representation of the love that I felt and still feel towards the man. However, after naming my son after him, I had inadvertently opened a wave of emotions, which had made question aspects of my own life.
I had felt a lot of anxiety regarding impending fatherhood before the birth of my son. Was I ready? Were we as a couple ready? Did I know enough about myself and life in general? Would I be good enough? Would I let him down?
I was expecting a Lion King moment, where I would be beaming with pride and raise him aloft and present him to the world. In my mind; I had created an anticipation of the wave of emotions which would consume me as soon as he was in my arms. But that didn’t happen. The initial emotion wasn’t the expected euphoria.
It was fear.
I think this was due to the dramatic nature of his arrival into the world. For hours upon hours nothing had really happened in the labour ward. So much so, that my partner and I were taking a nap, when we were woken by the sound of alarms and midwives and medical professionals filling the room, with an underlying sense of panic, with the instruction that our baby needed to come out immediately. In what seemed like a blur, he was out, my partner was high as a kite, there was a lot of blood, and before I knew what was going on, he was in my arms looking back at me.
I was calm for the early days, and felt immense pride in introducing him to family and friends. But soon I found myself very low and mentally beating myself up. Self-doubt and anxiety over shadowed the joy I should have been feeling. To pin point things, it would have been low self-confidence, money worries, stress, job unhappiness, family differences, negatively comparing myself to those around me, all compounded by a level of tiredness I hadn’t experienced before, making me unhappy and making me feel like I was failing as a man, and let alone a dad.
Time passed and I turned my mental state around and good things came my way. We are now 5 and half months pregnant again, our son is a happy two year old, and I am feeling positive for the future, but still in my mind is the fact that I could drop back down to a state of depression, that outwardly no one around me would predict.
I think all dads have these feelings, but as men we simply don't talk about them. We bottle things up. Getting things off of your chest, even if it's trivial, certainly helps. Anyone can be affected by mental health problems, and admitting that to yourself does not make you any less of a man. Opening up to those around you can really make a difference. Quite often it is the people you would not consider label as a depressed, who are mentally beating themselves up day after day. There are literally hundreds of people in the public eye, who have battled inner demons. People that you would never expect. But they are exactly that. People. Humans. We are all human and all go though lifes ups and downs. The key is not let the downs consume you to a point of no return. To a point where you see no resolution apart from a final one.
It is great to see this exact issue being tackled by charities such as CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and the great campaign Heads Together and the #OktoSay hashtag formed by Princes William and Harry to flag mental health awareness. You would never think members of the Royal Family would be depressed. But if you take away being a royal and all that comes with it, Prince Harry is a normal man, who suffered a huge loss at a young age, which has had a long term effect on his life. It has taken lots of courage for him to admit this.
It seems the stigma is being removed from talking about your problems. With the members of the Royal family getting involved, it helps raise the message to a wider audience, which can only be a good thing.
If you are feeling low, reach out to people. If you see someone is not themselves, then open the conversation. They may reject it, or they may just open up and get a load off of their mind. It only takes a simple conversation to help people out.