By Kevin Burke, MSS
Psychologist Michael Addis writes in Atlantic magazine of a life threatening illness for some men.
You are probably thinking… prostate cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes?
All important health care concerns.
But this illness often remains hidden because the symptoms lead men to embrace a shame-based silence about their pain. This silence leaves men isolated and vulnerable. Some would rather die than reveal their suffering to a family member, colleague or friend.
Dr Addis was working in an inpatient psychiatric unit where he met Patrick. Dr Addis shares that Patrick presented as a handsome, successful looking man with no previous mental health history.
He was surprised to read in his chart that Patrick’s son recently discovered his father sitting on a coach in their family room…with a loaded gun to his head.
Initially the interview skated along on a superficial level revealing little of what led Patrick to such an obvious act of despair.
Dr Addis realized he needed to challenge Patrick: “Can we be straight with each other and cut out the BS?”
Patrick opened up about a series of business failures that led to an increasing disparity between his wealthy lifestyle, and the reality of his financial situation. Things got so bad that he was unable to pay the mortgage for his large suburban home.
As Patrick’s depression increased, he created an illusion for family and friends that he and his business were just fine – even as his economic and emotional prospects were in free-fall.
Dr Addis reveals:
[Patrick] couldn’t face working, but he also couldn’t face telling people how bad things had gotten. Instead, he got up each morning, dressed as if he was going to work, forced a smile for his family, and either drove around the city or sat at a local coffee shop all day reading the newspaper. Eventually the depression became so overwhelming that he saw no other way out.
Why didn’t he open up about his financial difficulties and depression with friends or family?
I should have been able to handle it…I fell apart and turned into a sniveling little boy… ‘Oh Mommy, please help me?’ I couldn’t let people see me like that.
A Newsweek feature on male depression reveals that “men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness – a betrayal of their male identities….”
Men learn from the schoolyard to the boardroom that revealing vulnerability, and an inability to handle emotional or physical pain, is a big mistake that can lead to ridicule and shame.
The idea of the solitary male hero is an entertaining and sometimes inspiring image in an adventure movie.
But the real world can be a mine field as men struggle to negotiate the challenges of modern life. Sometimes, men benefit from sharing their burdens with trusted family and friends.
Others need to reach out to their clergy/minister, a counselor, mentor or support group – safe places where men can share their pain, and find healthy strategies to cope with the challenges they are facing.
Men and Abortion-Emotional Quicksand
Financial crisis and depression are not the only emotional quicksand that can entrap isolated men.
A past abortion can also leave men emotionally reeling – without the support and information needed to negotiate this life-changing experience.
Often the unresolved grief and shame from a past abortion can combine in a toxic synergy with other painful issues; a history of family dysfunction and/or divorce, past abuse or molestation, addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex or pornography.
Over time this accumulated pain can lead to a crisis where men find themselves isolated and overwhelmed.
Given the current abortion statistics, (close to 60 million since 1973), millions of men have participated in the death of their unborn children. Some are powerless to stop an abortion they do not want.
Jason Baier shares the devastation when he was powerless to prevent his partner’s abortion:
I…would often break down and cry from depression…I was angry all the time…stricken with panic attacks…No one seemed to understand or know how to deal with my loss.
Jason was isolated, in great pain, and unable to find the support he needed. He reached a point of desperation and despair. He decided to take a bottle of prescribed sleeping pills and “never wake up.”
Fortunately he experienced a moment of spiritual grace that held back his hand, and released a deep seismic explosion of fatherly grief from the loss of his child. Jason began a process of abortion recovery that brought him to a place of reconciliation and peace.
End the Isolation – Reach out For Help
If you are a father struggling to reconcile this secret area of shame and pain, there are people who understand what you are going through, have been there, and want to help you find reconciliation and peace.
It all starts with that first step; send that email, make the phone call.
It’s not easy…especially for men.
But this act of humility and courage will change your life.
The blessings of that healing experience will benefit not only you, but your loved ones, friends and colleagues.
Resources for Healing:
Enter your zip code and find healing resources near you.
Find a mentor for one-on-one support from a man in your area.