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BANG: What's silently killing men....because they won't talk about it

Time:2018-04-13 17:45wine - Red wine life health Click:

About Talk they What killing

If you ever need to mainline a 100% shot of straight awesome, then I urge you to go watch that split second win the U.S. swim team pulled off against France in the Olympics a few years ago.  It's one of those moments that defy words.  Well, it defies a sentence of words.  It's a sports moment that cause us to shout out repetitive phrases in jubilant abundance.  Like "Oh my God!"  "Did you see that!"  "I can't believe it!"  "Wow!"

It's one of those moments.

On a much smaller scale, many of us get to experience these moments first hand.  A moment in our life that truly sits at the precipice of achievement.  It's the culmination of hard work, perseverance, and white knuckling through repeated bouts of oscillating between quitting and finding the desire to keep grinding.  Like that time I had to carve out a sailboat for Boy Scouts and had to race my sailboat against all the other scout clans in the local area.  I beat all of them.  You blew on the sail to move your boat down the trough.  And I destroyed all.  Because I blew harder than all of them.  Got my blue ribbon for being the biggest blow hard of the whole area.

BANG: What's silently killing men....because they won't talk about it

I'm sure what I felt on that day wasn't dissimilar to what Michael Phelps felt as he realized he was about to get yet another gold medal in the Olympics.  Blue ribbon in Boy Scouts, gold medal in the Olympics.  Same shit.

As men, we live for those moments.  Declarations of achievement that we get to boast about to one another to set the pecking order.  Can you imagine being in a room with Michael Phelps trying to talk about that time you scored three touchdowns in high school to help your team overcome a halftime deficit?

"That's cool, man.  This one time in the Olympics..."

Well played, Phelps.  Well played.

As men, we find a great deal of our identity in achievement.  The greater the achievement, the more manly we are.  So a man such as Michael Phelps, who has a zillion gold medals, a fat bank account, the love and adoration of millions worldwide, has to be to men what the Grand Canyon is to ditches.  Surely he has to be filled with confidence each and every day that is unparalleled to what the high school football star or Boy Scout sail boat champ could ever know about.

Yet recently, Phelps came out about the many bouts of severe depression that he had struggled through.  To the degree that he worried about his own safety.  How could that even happen?  How could an ultimate man-bro such as Phelps, find anything to be depressed about?

The problem lies, for many men, in that the very thing that catapults them into those moments of exhilaration, is the very thing that sends them into the pits of despair.   The loss of self due to identification in what we do, and what we achieve.  When what we do becomes who we are, then all the moments that exist in between, life can become very empty.

Phelps talked about the great periods of depression between the Olympics.  And how he self medicated in order to cope in any way he could.  Eventually, coping through smoking weed or alcohol in order to numb down the pain just wasn't cutting it.  What saved him took more strength than swimming laps in a pool faster than anyone else alive.  And that was, being vulnerable and open about the very fact that he was depressed, and had contemplated suicide.

Depression and achievement - 

Let me spell this out for you in case it's hard to understand.  Achievement will not save you from the droves of depression.  If Phelps story doesn't punch you straight in the face about that, then you're fooling yourself.

You broke a world record in powerlifting.  Big deal.  He won a zillion gold medals against the most elite athletes in the world.  You can never know that level of achievement.  Yet he wasn't immune to feeling so overcome with depression, loneliness, and isolation that he almost ended his life.

When I was powerlifting, I got caught up in the same achievement based value system.  Constantly comparing my lifts to someone better.  Eventually, a huge sense of my self worth was derived by what I could lift.  This was affirmed to me by the internet and people with huge followings that never recognized my lifting.  Why would they?  I wasn't breaking world records.  Lost on me was that I allowed them to dictate how I felt about myself.  How I felt about myself was dictated through pounds on the bar. Let me state that in retrospect, I can't believe just how shallow and stupid that is.

Lost in this game of personal comparison was my joy.

Eventually I didn't enjoy training or competing because it was always about the numbers.  My sense of self worth was up or down, all depending on how my lifts were going, or how I performed in a meet.

When you attach your happiness to obtaining something, then once it's attained, you'll realize that the happiness attached to that becomes very fleeting.  From there we often set off on another road of goal attainment, once again believing that achievement is what will make us feel better about who we are.  But it won't sustain us.  It never does.  That road is paved with discontent and the reminder that we're so terribly unhappy because we don't have something.  Our identity ends up being what we do.  And when we're admired for what we do, then no one really loves us for who we are.  That's the story we will tell ourselves whether we openly acknowledge it or not.  Even worse, we don't come to love and appreciate ourselves for who we are.

That's the definition of an emotionally bottomless pit.

By the numbers - 

30% of men have admitted to suffering from some form of depression.

The suicide rate for men is four times that of women.

The older we get, the more likely it is we will succumb to these statistics.  Males that are 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any demographic in the United States.

People suffering from loneliness or isolation are twice as likely to suffer from a premature death than those who aren't.

"Cool story, bro.  I want to know how to get jacked, swole, and put some numbers on my bench."

Cool story, bro.  You can't do any of those things from your grave.  But since you asked, here are some of the very real issues we as men suffer from physiologically when we're fighting loneliness.

Sleeplessness - Less sleep means a higher degree of muscle loss and less fat oxidation
Crappy immune systems - Impaired systemic recovery
Increase in cortisol - Worse body composition

In order to take care of what the outside looks like, it's vitally important to address what's going on inside first.

In order to possibly understand the cause behind these staggering numbers, it's imperative to look on the other side of the coin.  What men are living longer with a higher quality of life than men who find themselves in such dark places that they see no other way out than to take their own life?

What can we do as bros in order to keep ourselves out of those pits of despair, and cultivate a stronger sense of self that transcends into a higher quality of life each and every day?

Embrace vulnerability and talk about it - 
Phelps said his own personal healing didn't start until he found the courage to open up and talk about his depression.

Talking about feelings are usually alien concept to men.

The myriad of emotions that fill up the spaces between apathy and anger are vast and wide, but being openly expressive about feeling sad, lonely, isolated, or melancholy is usually avoided because men fear it can be perceived as weakness.  And yes, it is us as men that often perpetuate this problem by making other men feel as though it's Nancy Boy stuff to express any of the emotions that exist between apathy and anger.

Paradoxically, it's the weakest of men who refuse to admit they feel said array of emotions.  Which is why they often find themselves in the valleys of depression, and overcome with grief.  You feel weak in those valleys, but the ability to admit it is stunted by pride.

As men, we are great at compartmentalizing problems rather than expressing them.  We'd rather not talk about them because we feel it's a waste of time or just really freaking weird.  It's what women do.

Boohooing about sadness or feeling isolated is stupid when we could be installing a new nitrous kit in our drag car, or fighting a bear at the zoo.  Anything to distract us from talking about our problems.

But the real problem is that we can't distract ourselves forever, and at some point peeling back the layers of discontent in our lives has to happen in order for us to heal, and become truly strong men. Not just physically, but emotionally, and mentally. 

Women are outliving us by the decades because they are more robust emotionally.  It's not unusual for a widow to continue living and finding purpose in life after her husband passes.  It's also not unusual for a widower to pass shortly after his wife does.  Women have no issue talking about their emotions, and tend to support one another by expressing them.  Women tend to offer consolation to one another and do a better job of being there to stand beside each other during those moments of internal struggle.

As men, we just struggle with wrenches and plumbing.  Depression is a term we use to describe after our favorite sports team lost a game. 

I'm going to continue to assault your manly senses by helping you to understand something called your inner child.  And we all have one.  The things we learn about emotions, love, intimacy, and self expression is learned in childhood.  And it's something we continue to live with even as we become grown ass men.

As young boys, many of us have suffered from neglect, abuse, assault, abandonment, and rejection.  Often from the people we entrusted to give us security, love, and encouragement.  When we don't receive the latter, we end up working from a very fractured framework about who we are.  When that happens our self esteem and sense of self worth takes a massive hit, and we seek out increased self esteem through existential means.  Like sports achievement or sexual conquest.

Think about it; who doesn't admire the sports star who has a hottie on his arm all the time?  We as men once again perpetuate this very issue by exalting other men based on virtue of achievement, then adopt the belief system that if we just achieve more, we are worth more.  We believe we are worth more because of the admiration we receive about what we do.  And there you go.  You're not admired for who you are.  But what you did.  What you can do.

Phelps was admired by millions and millions.  It didn't save him from bouts of depression so severe he wanted to end it all.  Who was he between the times of Olympic competition?  He probably didn't know.  Competing was where he found his worth and boost in self esteem.  And much like Phelps, if you believe that achievement is what you are worth, then you're going to end up struggling with an identity crisis and depression will soon make its way into your life.

If this happens, it's imperative to find the strength to go to your support system to be honest and open about it.  If you don't have such a support system in place, then find a good therapist to open up to.  There's nothing weak about seeking help.

Now here's the rub.  Other men will indeed find strength in your ability to be vulnerable, and will gravitate towards that strength.  Don't believe me?  I write about this stuff all the time, and I get messages daily from men who tell me that my openness about my own struggles with depression and anxiety and being honest about them, helped them in some way, and made them feel safe to express their own struggles as well.

One of the strongest bonds we can create between us as brothers, is our ability to find identification with one another.  All of us live through periods of brokenness.  When another bro can look at you with sincerity, and say "I've been there bro.  I got you." it can dissolve the feelings of being completely alone in your struggles.  And can serve as the catalyst to give you the strength in knowing you can get past this.

Which leads me to my next part.
Create awesome friendships - 
In my youth, despite all the hardships I endured, I still look back on that time and understand why it was so amazing.  Not high school.  High school really sucks for everyone because it's mostly full of conditional relationships that revolve around how cool you are, or aren't.  I'm glad I didn't attend and dropped out of school after 9th grade.

I'm talking before then.  When life was incredibly simplistic.  And one of the things that made it awesome during those years was our friendships. 

Your friendships were vitally important.  From the time you got up for school, until you got home, most of your time each day was spent around said friends.  The summers were spent doing shit with those friends that often make up some of the best memories we'll ever have.

Then life and adulting sets in later, and we're overrun with bills, jobs, kids, and that shit we hate called responsibilities that suck the life right out of us.  And whether you realize it or not, you aren't spending time cultivating awesome friendships like you did in your youth.  And not doing so is a huge part of why men are suffering in depression and loneliness.

Before a bro can ever feel like he can be vulnerable with a fellow bro, it's important to bond in the way that men do from the time they were boys.

And that is by storming Castle Greyskull in the backyard with He-Man to recuse Teela from the clutches of Skeletor and his henchmen.

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