I've been having a little niggle of late and rather than do nothing I attended a work-sponsored "webinar" about it. Good plan it turns out. Specifically I have been experiencing feelings of guilt about feeling sorry for myself in the wonderful year that is 2020. I am not ashamed to say that I am finding this year increasingly hard - I won't go into the various reasons why that is, suffice it to say a combination of factors has thrown me off kilter. However accompanying the nagging feeling of "woe is me" is a parallel thought which suppresses it and which is this: That I should pull myself together and how dare I feel sorry for myself when I am, in reality, in a very privileged position, and think of all the people who are having to get through this year who live alone, who have far less space, who have lost their jobs, or who struggle with basic necessities and a host of other issues all far more serious than my own minor inconveniences. In other words don't be so selfish and boy do you have it good.
All of the above is true, I am very lucky, but nonetheless the webinar was very helpful and it seems I am far from alone in this very natural of reactions. Here's what one of the specialists said: Guilt is a response to having done something wrong. Experiencing anxiety in any of its myriad forms due to external events that impact you and that you have no control over is not wrong. Not at all. Now I hadn't thought about it like that at all prior to yesterday, instead I have probably been exacerbating my current state of tension by trying to talk myself out it using the "there's always somebody worse off than you" argument on myself. It's apparently a very typical response and also not one that is frequently talked about.
Not talking about it was in fact the starting point and central theme of the whole session. Men don't talk about their problems, their frailties, their worries. That's what women do and in men it's perceived as a sign of weakness (by men). Nothing could be further from the truth and that's a major motivation for writing this post. The vast majority of men instead bottle this stuff up, put on a stiff upper lip and pretend that nothing is wrong. And then they crash out, in some sad cases quite literally. Let me immediately say that I'm a long long way from that type of crash, worry ye not, but equally I know myself quite well and I think I am closer to that end of the scale in November 2020 than I was in November 2019. Not by much perhaps, but perceptibly. Hence why I was man enough to sign up.
Along with CBT and counselling various methods of self-help were discussed. Interestingly one of these was keeping a journal, and though I can't remember exactly what was said I think that one of the presenters also used the word "blog" in the same response. Writing down things that happen to you, especially nice things (go figure), is one of the easiest ways to combat negative thoughts. Blogging is good for you, who knew? Other things mentioned included the importance of natural light (hello vitamin D supplements!), as well as exercise and healthy eating. So too was avoiding the excessive consumption of alcohol. Boooo!
But the biggest takeaway by far was the simple-yet-not-at-all-easy message to talk about things. Crucially this wasn't restricted to people who had problems reaching out to talk to somebody about them. As important, if not more important, was for people to look out for others who simply can't bring themselves to do that, and that many if not most men fall into that category. And that's why I thought this was worth a blog post. Make that first move, have that tentative chat during a quiet moment, don't wait for things to head south. Be that friend. The worst that can happen is that the person says no and that they're fine. The best that could happen is almost infinite in it's positivity.