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.
well said Jonathan. I hope you find solace in whatever helps. Your words go some small way to helping me too. Cheers. StewartReplyDelete
Thanks, and good.Delete
Talking helps, as I have found out over the last couple of years. The current 'situation' hasn't helped, but I have been lucky enough to have a few people I can talk to, so things are improving. It is good to talk!ReplyDelete
Part of the compounding problem of lockdown is that the circle of people you might normally bump into and casually chat to has shrunk dramatically.Delete
Excellent post. I've had plenty of those personal fear revealing chats with other men who wouldn't dare risk such conversation with their usual circle of mate for fear of ridicule.ReplyDelete
Easy for me since I came to terms with my lacking of anything worth the mention, years ago. Know thy self. Yep. I know how deficient I am, which is why I at least try to become a better version of myself.
My one to one discussions start from my side, with me simply revealing some weakness or concern I have. And this could be to a complete stranger. If the other guy reveals something back, the connection is made. We're good to go. Could be for hours. Fishing isn't all about catching fish.
Wise words. There should be no fear of ridicule, that's the first step.Delete
A thoughtful and timely post, Jonathan, which I imagine will resonate with a lot of people. Recognising that there is an issue is the first step to solving it. I wish you well. – MalcolmReplyDelete
Great post. Talking and taking care of each other is so important in these difficult and uncertain times. Like you, I am in a position where my job seems secure, I'm guiltily conscious of how lucky I am but it doesn't stop a feeling that life is generally not right with lots of frustrations.ReplyDelete
That is exactly itDelete
Thanks; your words helped me. I'm having tough times at the moment and it's half the battle to be able to say it - no-one should have to internally justify that their times are "tough".ReplyDelete
Good, I am glad that me being open and saying "actually everything is not ok" can help somebody else.Delete
Excellent post Jonno. I have have had instances where I've struggled in the past and have quite a few friends who have too – and still do. It is never easy to talk through your problems, especially if you are suffering from anxiety or depression. I'm fortunate in that I can talk to Annie if I'm not in a good place, and I feel comfortable doing that, but many don't have a partner to talk about their demons. I worked with a colleagues who took his own life about 18 months ago. It was shocking. It was known he suffered from depression but he showed little sign of it leading up to his death. There is a website for a movement called CALM (Campaign For Living Miserably) at www.thecalmzone.net that is well worth visiting if anyone who reads this is feels they need help and don't know how to go about it.ReplyDelete
Indeed, and one of the people on the panel had lost a son in exactly those circumstances. No particular outward signs and then one day gone. There was a guy up at Spurn earlier this year, the rates are pretty shocking and what's more they are going up.Delete