Do Not Waste Your Time at a Therapist You Feel No Connection With

I just came back from my therapist’s office after our first meeting in nearly a month. We had to cancel an appointment from two weeks ago for whatever reason, and I think it’s been the longest gap between appointments we’ve had since I started seeing her in late March 2014.

She’s not the first therapist I’ve ever had, but she’s the best and I know that I would not have been able to process the boatload of mental health and experiential baggage I brought to the table following my arrest with just anybody else.

The first time I was seen in a formal therapy setting was in 1996, shortly after one of my best friends was killed by a drunk driver. The therapist let me ramble for a few weeks, wrote some stuff down, but after a month or so of grieving, I recognized this guy, at least 30 years my senior, was no help at all. I could have been talking to a cardboard cut-out of Michael Jordan and got the same feedback.

In 2000, I went back to therapy, with an overall feeling something was wrong. He diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, which was just the tip of the iceberg of diagnoses to come, but I connected with him in a weird way. He was always telling me about his problems, which were way worse than mine. I was 24 at the time and he was probably 15 years older. It seemed like he made many choices in life he wished he could backtrack on, but didn’t have the courage. I saw him for about a year, took about six months off, then saw him for another year. This was around the time I was put on medication for bipolar disorder.

I had another 6-week stint with a therapist around 2005. He mostly wanted to talk about football and I probably wasn’t completely into it either, complaining of general malaise, but unsure what the real issues were and not in a place to delve too deeply.

And while I mostly stayed on my meds, I went almost the next 10 years without seeing a therapist. I had determined that my problems where chemical, not emotional. While the second guy was some help, I told myself that I’d never received that “magic bullet” piece of advice that would turn my life completely around, so clearly therapists didn’t “get me” and it was a waste of time.

I was referred to my current therapist immediately after I was arrested by the nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. I learned years later that I wasn’t supposed to end up with her, as I was referred to someone else in her office. As the owner of the practice, she seemed interested in the brief bit she heard of my story and took me on.

I only saw her twice before I went off to rehab for alcoholism. The last thing she said to me was “Do me a favor and give it a chance.” Those words stuck with me and I don’t know if I would have come to terms with being an alcoholic as quickly without that advice.

Early on, the work was intense. I’d see her either twice a week for an hour, or once for two hours. There are benefits and drawbacks to each set-up. We’d talk about things I learned at my two rehabs, go over my mental health history, and talk about how my experiences in life led me to where I was at the time. It was very tough work a lot of the time. I think she’s seen me cry more than anybody else in the last 35 years. Two years after first meeting her, when it was time to do my six months in jail, I was a healthier version of myself than I’d ever been, with her deserving a lot of the credit.

She testified in my favor at the sentencing and visited me in jail. I resumed a steady schedule of therapy upon release and although it was part of my probation conditions, it’s not like I would have stopped seeing her. Off probation now, I’m still not quitting.

As I’ve continued to move in healthier directions, writing books and trying to educate about porn addiction, she’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders and I don’t know that I’d have the confidence to keep going if she didn’t boost me up from time to time.

I read so much about people who are just not connecting with their therapist. I have to admit, I was not always 100% open and honest about everything with my former therapists, so some of the problem was likely me. With my current therapist, I can tell her anything, even things that are uncomfortable and shameful.

I wouldn’t have ever thought a woman who’s only three or four years older than me would be the one I clicked with, but she was the one. Her practice has expanded mightily to several offices over the last few years and despite transitioning most of her client load, she was gracious enough to continue seeing me. That meant a lot as I can’t imagine the time it would take to not only get up to speed with another therapist, but also be lucky enough to make that connection.

If you’re not connecting with your therapist, and you’ve given it four or five sessions, stop wasting your time. Just because they have some letters after their name does not mean they are instantly the perfect one for you. I needed someone who asked a lot of questions and who understands my strange sense of humor. I needed someone who shared a bit about her life, but didn’t make it about her. I didn’t want someone who ended every session with “homework.” I didn’t do my homework in high school, what makes you think I’m going to do it now?

She’s never given me the “magic bullet” piece of advice to change everything for the better. She helped me learn it doesn’t exist. While I don’t need the intense therapy I had early in recovery, it’s reassuring to know we can check-in every 2 or 3 weeks, even if it’s just for chit-chat. Hopefully that will continue for many years to come.

Find a therapist you connect with because it will make a world of difference. It did for me.

My Podcast Appearances Are Best When They Are Like Public Therapy Sessions

Since I have a new book coming out in a couple of months, now is the time for me to be booking and appearing on podcasts, since many of them tape up to two months in advance. Whether it’s because I already have one book on the shelves, or because I’ve been beating this porn addiction education drum for a couple of extra years, I’m being booked on overall higher quality shows that when I did the circuit after my first book came out.

Let me make it clear I don’t think any of these shows are bad. I think somebody who wants to express themselves through the medium is great, and allowing me to come on their show to talk about the issue, whether 34 or 3,400 people are listening, is going to be a step forward in normalizing the need to talk about pornography addiction. I appreciate every show I’ve been a part of and have only turned down two requests to appear because I could tell I’d be the butt of jokes, or porn addiction would be, and that doesn’t help anything.

I recorded a show four days ago on Friday afternoon, and a show earlier today, that were among the most grueling I’ve done because the hosts really knew their stuff, came prepared and had no problem challenging things I said. A great thing that came out of these podcasts is that I was asked questions I’ve never been asked, even by my therapist or any of the professionals I’ve worked with in the past.

Instead of focusing on my crime, which was the topic for most of the early podcasts, there’s now more philosophical questions about addiction origins and solutions to the problems we face. It’s less about my story and more bigger picture issues. Personal questions focus on my overall addiction, not just the crime.

The podcast taped on Friday was with Dr. Mark Goulston. He’s written what many consider the greatest book about listening in history. That one, and his other books, total nearly a half-million sales over the last 25 years. After our interview, he was jetting off to Russia to co-present a lecture with Daniel Kahneman who wrote “Thinking Fast and Slow” which won Kahneman a Pulitzer Prize and is among the greatest, yet most difficult, books I’ve ever read.

It was an honor to be on his show and his questioning, both in content and methodology, was unlike any interview I’ve had. Do you know when you’re in the presence of greatness? That’s how I felt here.

Dr. Goulston asked me a question I wrestled with all weekend that I’d never heard before. Once I was arrested, why did I almost instantly decide to turn things around and make the best in both the short- and long-term out of my situation when the vast majority of others run from similar situations or try to fly under the radar? Since there’s almost nobody else out there talking about this stuff like I am, what is different about me than the others?

I talked about how I am a “project person” who is at his best when he’s working on something and I simply decided that becoming mentally and emotionally healthy was the project. And once that project was mostly finished (it never is completely) I began the writing, website and interviews because education became my project.

I think this is part of it, but I’ve been turning this over in my head again and again. If they default position taken by 99% of the population in my situation is to shut their mouths, sit down and never raise their hand, why am I doing the opposite? Does that say more about something being wrong with me than them? Why am I the outlier?

The interview was full of questions like this and I really look forward to hearing the edited final result. When I was finished, I felt like I’d had a grueling, yet productive, therapy session. I’m hoping that comes through in the audio.

With the other show, I wasn’t interviewed by anybody famous, but it was a two-hour discussion that really went deep into what addiction is and how much the addict can be held responsible for the condition they end up in.

My opinion on this has changed over time, but it’s still a bit murky. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but it forced me to confront what role I consciously played in my downfall. How much can I claim is brain disease and how much can I say was poor decision making?

I had to interject a few times to say things like we need to create a safe space and not judge addicts, as I felt the host reflected certain ideas about addiction that are held in mainstream society, but many people are afraid to say. I didn’t take anything personally, and he forced me to really think about things, even if I believe he doesn’t have a great true handle on what the critical phase of addiction is like. As with Friday’s interview, I was exhausted when it was over.

I don’t necessarily have the right answer for any of these questions because it’s not like an objective math equation. There is no across-the-board correct answer that covers every alcoholic or porn addict, but these two podcasts made me recognize that I may not even have the answers yet for questions I’ve never considered.

It feels good to be challenged and process these questions further. I think that’s the only way we evolve and it doesn’t matter if it’s a clinical therapy setting on a podcast. Growth is the goal.

When these two appearances make their debut, I’ll not only link them here, but also on the main page and Interviews page on the website.

 

 

Q&A Time: Did Bipolar Disorder Cause My Alcoholism and Porn Addiction

QUESTION: I read your blog on bipolar disorder the other day. Do you think your bipolar disorder caused your porn and alcohol addictions?

ANSWER: I think it certainly played a role. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I got myself lost in the addictions, but to deny that there wasn’t some influence is ludicrous.

When you’re an addict and have mental health issues, it’s called having co-occurring disorders. It’s not rare. More than half of drug addicts and around 40% of alcoholics have co-occurring disorders. I have not found statistics on porn/sex, gambling or video game addiction.

An important revelation I’ve come to accept during recovery is that everything is connected in our lives.

I became an addict because I had some childhood trauma, which stunted development of certain coping skills. I became an addict because of a rich history of addiction on both sides of my family. I became an addict because I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so different than my peers. I became an addict because despite being properly educated on the danger, I had a bit of a defiant, curious, pleasure-seeking personality that was open to trying anything.

But then again, maybe all those things happened because of the bipolar disorder, or both.

I have a chicken-and-egg debate with myself about whether I entered the critical phase of addiction because I stopped taking my bipolar medication or whether I stopped taking my bipolar medication because I entered the critical phase of addiction.

At that point, my sleep tumbled to 2-3 hours per night, my relationships with family and business partners grew distant and strained, my physical appearance became of little concern and I eventually stopped caring about almost everything. Was that because I was a critical addict or because I was mentally ill?

I think you’d need a pie chart to graphically represent what led to me being who I was. I don’t know what the biggest piece would have been. Some might have labeled me as an addict, some may have labeled me as mentally ill while others would have just labeled me as somebody they didn’t want to be around because of those other little parts of the pie chart put together. It doesn’t matter really. It was all connected.

As somebody who had already been in and out of therapy for several years prior to accepting my porn and alcohol addictions, I knew that not only would I have to get help for the addictions, but the therapy was going to have to not only continue at a higher frequency, but start exploring my life in a different direction. I needed to learn how to manage my mental health and addictions. I had to have co-occurring solutions to co-occurring disorders.

Sadly, only 7-10 percent of people suffering from co-occurring disorders get help for both simultaneously. Unfortunately, most therapists who deal with the kind of mental health issues that come with bipolar disorder are not schooled in addiction counseling or solutions, and vice versa. At the first rehab I went to for alcoholism, they’d basically start shutting you down if you talked about other facets of mental health.

This question was part of a much larger email from the person who wanted an answer. My final words to them are the final words I’ll write here: In the end, you have to take care of the entire person, but that means simultaneously taking care of a lot of little parts. You’ve got a doctor for your teeth, one for your eyes, one for your general physical health. You see a specialist for your heart, or another specialist if you need an operation. It’s OK to see one therapist for addictions and another for dealing with bipolar. We have a lot to take care of as humans because after all, it’s all connected.

 

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Hello manic phase of my bipolar disorder, I remember you

For those people who don’t have bipolar disorder or simply aren’t familiar enough with it, there is a misconception that medication completely takes care of your highs and lows. It doesn’t. It can mask it for a while, but I’ve recognized I’m currently experiencing a manic phase.

The role of the medication is to not make the highs too high or the lows too low. What used to be a minor manic episode, like the one I’m going through now, is about as bad as it gets these days. While it may rank a 7 on my 1-to-10 scale now, it would have been a 2 or 3 back when my bipolar disorder went untreated. Earlier this year, I had my worst depressive/anxiety episode I’ve had in over a decade. It was an easy 10 by today’s standards, but would have been average when I was in my early 20s.

The one drawback I find to the medicine is that years ago, I could see the manic or depressive episode coming on. It was like a freight train at night in that there was no stopping it, but I could see it from a mile away. Now, I don’t realize if I’m up or down until I’m well into it.

There are a few things that indicate to me I’m in a manic cycle:

I’m writing/journaling/blogging at all hours of the day – There are weeks where I find it challenging to put up one post a week here. The past 10 days, I’m finding it challenging not to post twice every day. I started writing this around 7 a.m. and I never blog that early. The piece I posted last night about intimacy and jail was written in the early evening, and I never write for this blog that late.

The upside is that I think it’s healthier than a lot of things I could be doing. I’ve got a powder keg of thoughts and feelings going off in my head right now and the way I’ve learned to deal with them is to get them down on paper. Of course, me being me, I need an audience and this blog serves that beast.

Lack of sleep – I should qualify the word lack more by saying “Lack of a need.” Back in the day, during a manic phase, I could go 60 hours without sleeping, or I could go a week catching a daily three-hour nap. I’m not at those staggering levels anymore, but I can get by on five hours of sleep during a manic phase.

Fortunately, lack of sleep now means just watching a lot more TV, reading or playing games on my phone. Instead of drinking or looking at porn, it seems like you can find Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men somewhere on television 24 hours a day. Who would have ever thought that Charlie Sheen would be my answer to not watching porn?

Trouble working – While it’s ironic that I can sit here and write my thoughts on a continual loop, when it comes to getting my actual freelance writing done, it’s like tredging through molasses. Lately, my main source of income has been ghostwriting professional or empowerment blogs for clients. Those usually run 500 to 700 words and take 90-to-120 minutes to write, depending on what kind of research is needed. Now it’s taking me 3-4 hours.

A lot of that is because I’m distracted. I can pound out 1,000 words for a blog in 15 minutes, but I can’t put three sentences together with my work without going and checking e-mail or reading news sites or playing with my dogs. I still mostly ignore politics and bad news, but during manic phases I suddenly seem to care about celebrity and science news.

Trying something new – I left social media the day I was arrested and haven’t been back. It wasn’t exactly my choice. I was banned from social media while out on bail and while on probation. That was more than five years. Then, a few days ago, I started a Facebook page for the porn addiction education component to my life. I figured with my new book on pre-order and coming out soon, it would be a good idea to utilize it for promotion purposes. I’m going to write more about this experience later today or tomorrow, but let’s just say it didn’t go well and the page is now gone.

I’ve also launched a LinkedIn page. Why? Good question. I’m not sure, but it can’t end as badly as the Facebook thing did. But I’m sure it can end badly. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. My hope is that I can play both the professional writer and porn addiction educator at the same time and connect with people who might want my services for both. I haven’t tried LinkedIn to this point. It may not be a good idea – and that’s the thought I have when I know I’m in a manic phase but try things anyway. Thankfully the things I try now (like rejoining social media, or learning to cook, or getting another dog without telling anyone) pale compared to the dumb shit I did when I drank or looked at porn and was riding a manic phase.

If this goes on for too many more days or gets worse, I’ll call the doctor, like I did when I was going through my depressive episode earlier this year and see if the meds need tweaking. The nice thing is that I can manage everything now because I’m vigilant about my mental health. The combination of addiction with my mental health issues was often too much to handle in the past. But now, I know it’s a cycle and that things will change. I also know that I won’t do the kind of damage to myself I did in the past when I was unmedicated, in active addiction, unwilling to talk to people about it and frankly, not doing anything about it.

Bipolar disorder can be a burden, but we’ve all got crosses to bear, so I’m not looking for any sympathy. I just want the non-affected folks out there to understand that kicking your addictions or being on a usually very effective cocktail of medications doesn’t make it go away.

 

 

Discovering the concept of Imposter Syndrome

I don’t often share links to other blogs here, but I somehow found a blog a couple of weeks back called Coaching Skills International that has been a breath of fresh air. From what I can tell it’s produced by an online counseling college out of Canada. If I’m wrong, I hope they’ll correct me. I urge you to check it out and see the kind of advice and knowledge they offer.

This past weekend, they posted an article about imposter syndrome. They define it as:

“Impostor syndrome is a psychological condition where people are unable to believe in their successes. Thus, despite the evidence that points to the fact that they are skilled, capable and competent they write this off as temporary – or timing and good luck. Thus, they constantly struggle with feeling like a fraud.”

This absolutely describes the first 37 years of my life, especially the last few years before I lost almost everything and entered recovery. I always had this voice in the back of my head going back to my days as a child that said, “You can’t let them know who you really are. Nobody will approve of, nor like who you really are, so be somebody else.”

I have suspicions that this developed first from somehow getting the message from my environment that I wasn’t enough. I think there’s a fine line between correcting and teaching a small child the right way to do things and making them feel inferior and as if they don’t have the instinct to do things correctly the first time, leading them to constantly doubt themselves.

Most of those negative messages came from a babysitter I had while my parents worked prior to me entering school. I’ve already written about the abuse while I was there, so I’ll skip it, but I also think my imposter syndrome was borne out of a fear of my safety. I internally learned at an early age how to say and do what I needed to avoid her wrath (most of the time) and that involved putting on a show, not being my genuine self. It’s the survival skill I leaned upon too heavily as I grew up.

Finally, I think my imperfect mental health likely played a role in exacerbating my imposter syndrome. Anxiety pushes you to avoid negative things like conflict with others. Depression forces you to put on a happy face for the world. Mania attempts to convince you that you’re something special and the life of the party, despite knowing you’re faking it.

Example #1

I remember in late 2012 when, as the co-founder of a large film festival in Maine, we held a press conference to announce our plans. It was in the space adjacent to our office we also rented and turned into an art gallery.

We had purchased a couple of those large backdrops (called step-and-repeats) you see celebrities pose in front of on the red carpet that usually has small logos for the event and a sponsor. A friend from a local college brought over a very cool looking podium and sound system so there was one of those small microphones you see on awards show to speak into.

As a surprise, I arranged to have Les Stroud of the Survivorman television show come to the festival that year and teased the announcement. I also arranged to have him speak to us via Skype at the press conference. The whole visual set-up was very professional.

As a city councilor (a whole other imposter story), I was good friends with the mayor and he agreed to attend the press conference to speak about the economic impact to the city.

So, we sent invitations to a few VIPs, our sponsors and the media to come to the press conference to hear what we had to say – and they all did. When the emcee (the magazine’s managing editor) introduced me to make the surprise announcement of Survivorman, I came up to the podium and looked out. There were probably 40 invited guests, including four TV stations with cameras and two newspaper reporters there.

I was standing on a stage and they were all waiting to hear me. In that moment, a wave of thoughts sprouted: “How did I pull this all together? How is every media source within 50 miles here? How can none of them recognize that I’m a hustler, a liar and a fraud? I am putting on a totally fake press conference – except it’s not fake. Or is it? It’s for a real event. I shouldn’t be in this position. It should be reserved for talented people who know what they’re doing. This song and dance is going to result in sponsors giving me tens of thousands of dollars I don’t deserve. How do I make sure these people don’t see the REAL me?”

Example #2

In my high school senior yearbook, I won the “Most Opinionated” superlative. I knew what that meant. It was the “Biggest loudmouth asshole who we still somehow like award.”

Even then I felt like I was an imposter. I excelled at things I found simple, like history and creative writing, and figured out how to cheat my way through math and science. I don’t think I was part of any specific clique, finding it easy to bounce around because as a chameleon, I could adapt to whomever I was hanging out with. If I was with the jocks, I’d turn my brain off. If I was with the brains, I’d hide the fact I loved sports.

Fast-forward 19 years and I’m nearing my demise. About six months after Example #1 took place, I was asked if I would give the commencement address for the latest graduating class. It took less than two decades for the loudmouth asshole who had to sit silently at his graduation in 1994 to get the headlining spot for the Class of 2013. This was a new high-water mark in fooling the world.

By this point, I was well into the deepest part of my addictions. I knew I’d need to have a few drinks in me to give the speech, but knew in that condition I couldn’t work from notecards behind a podium on a stage. So, I started the speech with a lame comment and walked off the stage and gave the speech from the auditorium floor, pacing the entire time. I didn’t use notecards and just made some bullet points and wrote a few jokes. I’ve always had the ability to just wing it when public speaking.

After the speech, one person complimented me, saying: “I liked how you came down to talk to the kids and walked around. And the fact you memorized that speech! Very impressive!”

Was it impressive or was it a con? My mind at the time told me I was conning the world and the only way I got away with it was with the numbing effects of alcohol and porn. Otherwise, I might have slipped up and screamed, “I’m completely full of shit everybody! Stop enabling me!”

I tracked down that speech online when writing this. Ironically, in the first five or six minutes, there is a lot of subtext to what I’m saying which sounds to me like I’m wrestling with imposter syndrome. There are so many references to it if you know what to look for. You can also count the number of times I drunkenly stumble over my words. I guess most people never caught on.

But I have to confess, even today, I find that pajama pants joke pretty funny.

If you’d like to see me fake my way through giving an “inspirational” speech, but knowing what was really going on, check this out:

 

 

A post-script to this example is that while I was giving this speech, my daughter was one town away, winning her middle school talent show. She was a bit of a wallflower, not participating in many activities and I have so much regret not being there to see it. My injured mind told me it was easier to fake being a successful professional in front of 3,000 than being a good father, blended into a small audience.

It was years of rehab, therapy, research, introspection, writing and very intentionally making different behavioral decisions that helped me move away from imposter syndrome. If you’d like to learn some practical techniques for overcoming it, check out the article that inspired this post at: Imposter Syndrome I wrote several more thoughts in their comments I haven’t shared here.

 

Guest Blog: How Men’s Mental Health is Completely Ignored

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

With the recent news on suicide of high-profile public figures such as Anthony Bourdain and Avicii, it may be difficult to wrap our head about the fact that mental health for men is very underrepresented. Whether it’s because women often speak out, or there is generally more women who suffer from mental health issues, this is not an excuse to ignore the other side of the spectrum.

 

The facts about mental health problems in men

Also known as the “silent battle”, many men often fear coming clean of the issues they are facing because of the stigma about mental health. Often, it is easier for women to admit that they are facing these issues because there is no double standard when it comes to talking about emotions. Many men suffer in silence for two main reasons: they don’t want to be thought of as “weak”, and they don’t want to be labeled as someone with a mental health issue.

However, this problem is only making the situation worse. According to recent statistics, 75% of the total population who commits suicide annually are men. In simpler ratio, a man attempts to take his own life every 20 minutes in the United States. The stigma isn’t helping–and the silence is aggravating the situation either way. Often ignored, men may even suffer more severe symptoms of mental health problems when untreated. Some of the common conditions include:

Depression

A total of 6 million men in the United States undergo depression every year. Since men may be less attuned with their emotions, some of them have less awareness that they might be suffering from a condition. Male depression is much less diagnosed compared to female depression. Some of the telltale signs of depression in men are:

  • Fatigue – general exhaustion, lack of physical energy to do usual tasks
  • Irritability – easily angered, annoyed, displays negative moods which are far from the usual self
  • Aggression – threatens to hurt others, hurt oneself, or shows physical or verbal signs of abuse
  • Loss of interest in activities – lack of motivation in work, hobbies, and relationships

These signs are quite different from those of women, as women often report feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Since men’s minds are wired differently, depression may manifest differently.

Anxiety

Aside from depression, men are also prone to developing anxiety problems. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Extreme sense of worry – loss of judgement over things that may cause actual harm vs. those that shouldn’t be thought about too much
  • Physical manifestations – nervous breakdown, panic attacks, cold sweats
  • Loss of function – in some cases, anxiety may be severe to the point that a man may refuse to even avoid daily activities to suppress feelings of anxiety

Another hidden problem that has lately starting to gain attention are men diagnosed with social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Some men isolate themselves to the point that they never go out of the house for years, as seen in Japan’s epidemic called Hikikomori in men.

Bipolar Disorder

Over 2.3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, half of which are men usually around the ages of 16-25. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings which have two opposite poles: manic phase and depressive phase.

During the manic phase, a man may feel a sense of invigoration, similar to feelings like “he can conquer the world”. This results to sleeplessness, heightened senses, and even engagement with reckless activities. This might be very draining as some men experience manic episodes even during normal times of rest. During depressive phase, men may feel sluggish, unmotivated, and restless to seek another “high”.

A lot of men who suffer from bipolar disorder couldn’t sort out their emotions clearly, making them resort to unhealthy ways to cope such as drinking alcohol and taking in drugs. As a result, bipolar disorder can be accompanied with problems in substance abuse.

Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and psychosis is a very debilitating condition that affects how a person views reality and their internal thoughts. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre ways of thinking. People with schizophrenia may even be acting on things that appear on their minds, having mistakenly thought that it was appearing in real life.

Other men who have schizophrenia have reduced feelings of happiness, may have a flat affect, or have trouble remembering past events.

It is shocking to know that most schizophrenia patients are men over 30. This is an alerting statistic that professionals should be taking mental health for men more seriously, as early diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia disorder is key.

 

Why are men’s mental health often ignored?

To understand the reasons why men’s mental health is not given its due attention, we must take a look at the problem in many angles.

There are double standards for men in mental health.

Looking at a sociocultural perspective, the stigma on men has always been there–they are perceived as emotionally tough, mentally strong, and does not break down with the slightest challenges in life. This is often portrayed in the media through Hollywood’s superheroes, soldiers, and other men of valor who did not let their “feelings” get in the way.

As this stigma is embedded in men’s minds, it has become difficult for them to open about what they are going through because men are supposed to toughen up. This double standard to be “emotionally strong” has caused lesser men to seek help from mental professionals.

There are many organizations that support mental health for women, but rarely for men.

A lot of mental health organizations are created specifically for women, such as those related to eating disorders, postpartum depression, and anxiety. These organizations run programs that speak specifically to women’s issues, and it is for a good cause.

However, the emphasis on these programs for women strikes a loss of balance for organizations that are specific to men. Thankfully, this has been called to attention and there are now new organizations meant to address some problems commonly faced by men such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression.

Mental health is often overshadowed by a substance abuse problem in men.

Men are known to be problem solvers. Whenever something isn’t right, they don’t want to talk about it–they want to do something about it. This is why in moments of depression, anxiety, or loss of control, men often resort to whatever could seemingly “fix” the problem–whether it’s consumption of drugs, alcohol, or any other form of addiction. Men are more likely to try out different kinds of illicit substances than women.

The problem now appears to be more of a substance abuse problem and the underlying causes that brought about the abuse are often ignored. Although mental health issues are still more common than women, it may be possible that statistics for men are higher if only they sought help instead of turning to substances.

 

What should be done to help increase awareness for men’s mental health?

Given that men suffer as much as women when it comes to mental health, what are specific steps that communities should take to bring awareness for mental health towards the other gender?

Equally promote gender-targeted programs for men.

Just as women have campaigns on their own, men should also be given the same privilege. There should be more programs open to men who are looking to solve mental health problems–campaigns for PTSD, drug rehab for men, and other gender-specific programs to help them feel that they are not alone in their battle as men.

Men should be assured that it is not only women who seek help for mental health. Having more gender-targeted programs make them feel secured that there are other people who may be going through the same problems as them.

Re-program stigmas through media.

The idea that men shouldn’t be talking about how they are feeling should be removed the way it was introduced–through media exposure. Advocates can lobby in media companies and pitch advertisements, campaigns, and programs that would help increase mental health awareness in men.

Additionally, they could also spread the message in other forms–through social media campaigns, contests, and short films. It is okay for men to share their feelings. It is not a form of weakness, rather, it’s a way to unload and to let others understand your mental and emotional states. When men say that they are okay even when they’re not, others might just believe it. Re-programming the stigmas can completely change how men see their mental health.

Strengthen advocacies related to suicide.

Three-quarters of suicides in the United States are done by men. A lot of these men go through bouts of depression, and a recent study shows that men have consumed alcohol over the last hour before their decision to take their own life. This all links back to the tendencies of men to alcoholism, drug intake, and other dangerous addictions as a way to cope with depression.

The thing is, these suicides could have been prevented if the problems in depression was addressed initially. When men suppress their feelings, they tend to deal with their problems in the ways they think would give them satisfaction–through temporary, yet dangerous highs. By cutting the root of the problem, it is easier for men to succumb to problems of addictions and abuse, and ultimately suicide.

There should be more advocacies to help men who are undergoing depression. It would be helpful to see more male high-profile personalities coming out and testifying about their struggles on depression and thoughts of suicide, to help other men understand that they are not facing the challenges alone. When more people talk about it, others muster enough courage to get help.

Check on all the precious men in your lives.

Government programs and non-profit organizations are helpful–but they can only reach as far as those who ask for their help. As citizens, we can always do our part to help men succeed against mental health problems.

The first thing is to understand the signs of common mental health problems in men–whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or something else for that matter. Trust your instincts and talk to a professional right away if you notice some signs on your male loved ones. They might be able to give you some ways to encourage the men in your lives to get a definitive diagnosis and treatment.

The second thing to do is to be an encouraging person in times that these people in your life show signs of their mental health problem. We can’t truly, fully, walk in their shoes and understand their struggles, but we can empathize with them. By letting them know that we are there, and we care, they are more likely to be motivated to get help for their issues.

Lastly, it is also important to be an encourager through your actions. Perhaps your husband may be suffering from substance abuse due to depression. You can be an encourager by inviting him to try jogging outdoors. Maybe your brother exhibit signs of bipolar disorder. Give him motivation by presenting thoughtful reminders about his medication. These simple acts of encouragement makes the men in your lives feel that they matter, and for that they would want to be better.

 

Men deserve help as much as women

When it comes to mental health, men deserve all the help they can get as much as women. Men can also affected with psychological factors as much as any other type of person. However, they might be discouraged to open up due to the lack of support and stigmas in society.

The purpose of this post is to spread awareness that men can also be victims of mental health problems. By understanding why they might be reluctant to seek help, we might just be able to find ways to reach out to them.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

I was Raped. Why do I Feel Nothing?

One of my favorite blogs to read is Revenge of Eve and in one of her postings today, she reflected back on a traumatic sexual assault at 14 she didn’t recognize as assault at the time. I thought it was refreshing to hear somebody say that they were a willing participant in the moment, but that the perpetrator (in this case a man in his 30s) is appalling and should have known better. I think a lot of sexual assaults aren’t as cut and dry as “this person did X against my will” and they need to be talked about.

While I’ve written a little bit about sexual abuse I endured at the hands of a babysitter when I was a child, I’ve not written about another incident that happened to me in my early 20s. This is partially because I don’t think I’ve completely processed it, but also because I haven’t figured out how it fits into the narrative of my life story.

The Incident in Question

When I was 22, I was living on my own for the first time in my life in Portland, Maine. It’s a fun city, and as close to cosmopolitan as you get north of Boston. I had recently been named editor of a B2B trade paper covering the burgeoning high-tech sector of Northern New England. This was about 2-3 years before the dot-com explosion took a nose-dive.

I had to regularly attend tech networking events, and among those in Portland, I ran into a lot of the same people. As a single guy on the lookout for dating opportunities, these were mostly dry wells, as the women were usually double my age, married and with children. However, I did bump into a woman I’ll call Ann, multiple times.

Ann was about my age, maybe a year or two older. She was a bigger girl with naturally bright red hair, bordering on orange. Ann seemed sweet enough, although a bit socially inept, although at networking events with high-tech types, social ineptness was the norm.

After one of our conversations about a mutual enjoyment of tennis despite a lack of motor skills, we agreed to meet in the park to play after work later that week. As expected, neither of us brought a lot to our games, but it was a chance to hang out and converse in a non-professional environment.

We played three or four times before I recognized that this was just somebody I would not be pursuing romantically. I didn’t find her physically attractive and while she was fun to be around, I thought we clearly lacked a necessary spark. After one of our games, she suggested that we both go home, take showers, change and reconvene at her house where she’d make us dinner and she’d pick something up at the video store for us to watch. With no ulterior motives, I agreed and about 90 minutes later, I arrived at her apartment house.

She was just finishing making dinner when I got there. We ate and then made our way to the living room. She got us each a beer and popped whatever movie she rented into the VCR.

My next memory is laying on my back in a bed, both of us naked, with her straddled atop of me. She was placing my limp hands on her breasts and clearly enjoying herself. I blacked out again.

The next memory is waking up in her bed with the clock reading 4:30 in the morning. I was groggy, but since I was laying on the outside, I was able to get out of bed, and gather my clothes from her floor and make my way out of her room.

I dressed in her kitchen and left her apartment. She sent me an email later that day at work telling me she had a good time and hoped we could play tennis later in the week. I agreed, but we never conversed, nor saw each other again. I didn’t even see her at networking events.

Making Sense of Things

My theory is that she spiked the beer and before I was completely unconscious, she led me back to her room where she had her way with me. From an objective point of view, especially if I reverse the gender roles in the situation, it’s hard to not call this experience a rape.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t believe I carry a lot of baggage because of it and I wonder why. The few people I’ve told about this usually look on with horror as I get to the end of the story and uniformly agree it was sexual assault.

I know how many rape victims suffer some kind of PTSD or other trauma from their experience – and while I have both from other incidents in my life – I question why it feels like this one didn’t cause an emotional or mental scar. Isn’t being sexually violated supposed to shake you to the core?

I never consented to having sex with this young woman, nor would I have as I just didn’t find her attractive. She coerced me into it without my approval. That is, technically, rape.

Did this have any subconscious effect on my developing pornography and alcohol addictions at the time, or play any role 15 years later as other repressed memories aided in me spiraling out of control?

Is it possible that this could just be “something that happened to me” and there is no deeper meaning, context or result? I’ve never felt anger or hate toward Ann. It’s more a sense of pity and confusion. I don’t think there’s any answer to “Why did you do that to me?” that I need to hear for any kind of closure. Maybe I shrug off the women-rapes-man dynamic we rarely hear about. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a child. I just don’t know why I don’t feel more of…something.

Perhaps the biggest scar this incident left is the notion that something is wrong with me for not feeling more deeply about what happened. Maybe someday a door will open in my mind that gives the situation a deeper meaning and context, but for now it’s just going to remain an enigma. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.