Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Stigma of Disorder

Mental or Moral.

Gay people do not want to have their sexuality identified as objectively disordered.  That's a moral judgment.  Truth be told, a man doesn't want to admit to any disorder - be it moral or mental.  Before getting into this subject, I needed to make that connection, because in my case it has always been very much related, and maybe my commentary will make that clear. 

Today, I came across an article on Facebook from Men's Health magazine titled, Not Talking About Mental Health is Literally Killing Men.  The magazine will be devoting future articles on the subject.

Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, “Man up,” as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times.
What’s real is the fact that 9 percent of men experience depression on a daily basis. That’s more than 6 million men. Even if we understand what depression feels like, we rarely admit that’s the culprit. We lie and say we’re tired or just cranky. More than 3 million men struggle with anxiety daily. Of the 3.5 million people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. An estimated 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. (Our own Style and Grooming Editor Louis Baragona eloquently and touchingly shared his battle with bulimia.) We retreat from friends and instead drown sorrows in numbing substances. One out of every five men will develop an alcohol dependency during his life. - Men's Health

Sometimes articles like these are enough for guys.  Sometimes not.

This issue has been my own most closely guarded secret.  In the 1980's I went through therapy - no one knew about it.  I didn't seek insurance coverage, but paid for it myself.  I didn't want employers or friends to know I struggled with depression and panic attacks.  The therapist was amazed when I told him what it was like and he immediately offered me medication - which I declined because I felt I was able to handle panic episodes.  (I blamed it on existential anxiety.)  When asked what I did during panic attacks, I said I just faced them.  If I was sure I was dying, I'd pray an act of contrition and go through it.

I also desired to get over sexual issues - so I considered 'conversion therapy' - which wasn't for me.  The therapist I had told me my main problem was being Catholic.  So, as I mentioned before, I found an excellent spiritual director, who helped me.  I recognized at the time that sexually acting out was my way to assuage the panic and pain of depression.

It's okay not to have it together or try to fix it.

All of my life I have coped with my problems and family problems which affected me, and more or less alienated me.  In fact, keeping a distance seemed to keep me sane.  Looking back, I'm not sure my 'silence' and 'solitude' was especially helpful.  I lied a lot.  Cancelled social events, family get togethers, and so on.  I called in sick a lot.  Avoided close relationships.  I claimed it was my 'contemplative life', a hermit life I needed to safeguard, and as an artist I needed my 'time'.  On some level, that was my life - it is what it is - a strange, eccentric eremetical life.  (Not at all holy, mind you.)  Even in the monastery, I hid my obsession with weight and suffered a great deal of pain from not eating any more than what would stay on the serving spoon, as we served ourselves at dinner.  I realized later I was anorexic.

I'm not always sure about 'medications' made available to those who have depression.  I have taken them for years, unknown to even close friends, which I suppose helped me to cope.  Lately SSRIs have come under suspicion as being responsible for suicides and violence - a possible culprit in school shootings, and so on.  I haven't read a great deal about that, but from my own experience I have encountered some difficulties which may have been related to SSRI use.  It involved my employment experience.  When I resigned a position, I simply left.  I just up and left.

Kind of nuts.

I usually had no explanation per se, and blamed the employer.  Later I went through waves of guilt and recrimination for being so irresponsible.  It was completely precipitous.  I look back upon the experiences as possibly related to SSRI use, although I never spoke to a doctor about it.

Anyway.  I thought I should share my up-until-now personal and private experience, just in case anyone reading this may have similar issues.  The biggest problem I have had with SSRI use is that there is no real monitoring of the usage.  It is prescribed by my doctor and then one is on their own.  Unfortunately, long term use makes it extremely difficult to stop taking it - therefore one is usually on it for life.  I'm not sure the professionals know what to do about that, or what the long term effects may be.

That's all.

(I might remove this post tomorrow.)


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  2. I give you credit Terry for confronting your demons with honesty. Toxic male indoctrination is a serious issue. Just last month several brave local seminaries reported a vulgar alcohol driven frat like gathering at a local rectory to the Bishop. Three priests who hosted the event are suspended pending an investigation. One was their spiritual advisor. Another's defense was "this is how guys talk among themselves." Sound familiar? Anyway silence is not healthy.

    1. Yeah I read about that. I'm not sure about posting so much personal stuff but I've wanted to get this out and felt the article from Men's Health was a good reason to do so.


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