Depression: a word used in a myriad of ways to describe mental health, or the perceived thought of mental disability in oneself. This is the definition that I swore by for so many years. I would see my classmates in high school describe their afflictions to teachers in hopes of getting grace for a missed assignment, and I used to always ask myself, “Why does everyone think they have depression? You can’t finish your homework because of it? That just sounds like laziness.” To me, it was an umbrella term for lack of motivation. I truly thought that almost everyone who claimed they had it was lying. But deep down, I also had that same lack of motivation. I used to beat myself up for not being able to sit down in front of my computer and write a rough draft for an essay:
“What’s wrong with you?!”
“Why can’t you just be like everyone else and get it done?”
I hated myself for being the way I was. And my mental health suffered because of it.
I remember my freshman year of college, the fall of 2017, looking at ESPN and reading NBA articles (side note: I’m a huge sports nut) and hearing a story about Kevin Love. To those who don’t follow basketball, Kevin Love was, and currently is, a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who is a five-time All-Star and has won an NBA championship. So, for those who may still not understand, he’s a big-name player, almost like a celebrity. Anyways, he had a panic attack in the middle of a game and had to leave the court, with his heart racing, lungs gasping, and thinking he was going to die. He went to the hospital and nothing was wrong with him physically. But how? He realized, after talking to a therapist, that he had mental health issues stemming from his personal life and loss of loved ones. As a result, he started advocating for people and other players to take care of their mental health. It had a ripple effect throughout the league, as more high-profile players started to talk openly to the media about their afflictions of depression and anxiety, and how they dealt with it.
Why did I mention this story? You see, to men, we are told that emotion is weakness: Tears are for women, and sadness and loss are just a part of life that we need to get over. Oh, and by the way, we’re apparently not supposed to talk about our feelings either; we have to deal with it on our own. This ideology is something we commonly associate with toxic masculinity, a term we all should be familiar with today. Kevin decided to take a stand against this stigma by being an advocate for men’s mental health.
Unfortunately, I happen to be what people would describe as “emotional” or “sensitive”. It still bothers me to this day that I am the way that I am. I didn’t even get to be this way until after my parents got separated. My “friends” in school would mess with me for being so sensitive, and people in the church pat me on the back for my “vulnerability”, but I’ve always been this way: I’m just an open book with my emotions. If you’ve ever had a deep conversation with me about my personal life, you’ve probably witnessed me either crying or on the verge of tears. I would describe myself as an emotionally intelligent and self-aware person when it comes to my feelings, and I’ve slowly had to teach myself over the years that it is a good thing that I am this way (shout-out to all the women in my life for telling me that!). Anyways. I’ll get back to telling my story.
2018 was what I describe to many as the most challenging year of my life (so far). My best friend hurt me so deeply that it caused a permanent rift in our friendship, I suffered emotional manipulation from a girl who was invited out to church as a result of my best friend, and my dad emotionally abused me and tried to abandon me, and that all happened before the summer. By the time summer came around, I was so done with life and the emotional toll the year had already taken on me, and I retreated into isolation. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I had social anxiety, and every day felt kind of meaningless. My great-aunt died that summer as well, and she was one of my favorite relatives. In the fall, I started working at McDonald’s and paying rent for an apartment for the first time in my life, but it was an awful situation. My job sucked, everyone at work treated me like trash, and I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. To add all of the things that I had gone through previously in the year with my dreadful situation, I felt like I was in a rut. I had suicidal thoughts multiple times throughout the year, and I felt completely aimless and worthless (something I forgot to mention: I flunked out of college after my first semester). I cried out to God at the end of the year, and for the first time in my life, I prayed for freedom. The word just came to my mind as I was in tears, but it perfectly described why my heart was aching: I wanted to be free from the hurt, the pain, and the hardship that had followed me throughout the year.
At the end of 2018, I decided to move back home with my mom. It was a challenging decision, but it was the answer God gave me in my want for freedom, and I still currently live at home with her. It’s given me the space to be able to process my emotions with less stressful things on my plate.
I’ve become more aware of my mental health issues the past year and a half living at home, and I’ve come to terms with the idea that I most likely have clinical depression, which is most likely genetic from my dad. My girlfriend describes my depression as living under the surface, like it’s always there but to varying degrees. My lack of motivation is usually where I see it manifest the most. I’ve seen a therapist a few times, and I’m still fighting with the idea of the need for a therapist, but deep down, I know how helpful it would be for consistency with it.
Now we come to the heart of it all: why am I writing all of this?
Men: do not ignore your mental health. We have enough celebrities and other men’s testimonies to solidify the value of prioritizing your mental health. We know deep down that we should, but that sticky feeling of toxic masculinity says otherwise. We tell ourselves, “I’ll be fine on my own, and I don’t need anyone else to know what’s going on inside” and other similar thoughts. I want to reiterate this: emotions do not equal weakness. I didn’t tell my story to get sympathy from people, but to use it as a device to tell how I made it through the hurts and became okay with who I am. I’m not in a perfect place, I definitely have days where I hate my depression, but those days are becoming more infrequent that I feel like I’m making progress for the first time in my life. And if you (talking to my guys here) have hurts and loss, talk to someone about it. Be open to seeing a therapist. Start to take care of your mental health because it is 100% worth it.
And where does God play a factor in all of this?
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
This is one of my favorite scriptures, because God says He makes His power perfect in my weakness. Paul feels so secure in his weaknesses before God that he even wants to boast about them! A huge theme in the Bible is how God works through flawed and weak people, and, through His power, turns them into something great. When we truly trust in God, He gives us the ability to use our weakness for good.
So don’t feel less than others because of mental health issues, guys. I hope this helped someone out there to really be introspective and be honest with themselves, because that’s the first step in becoming mentally healthy.
Thanks for reading ya’ll,
- jordan cloutier