I’ve struggled with anxiety just about my entire life.
So what is that like?
Imagine it being like living in kind of a box. You can still see and hear everyone around but they can’t hear your heart beating faster or your breathing getting heavier. They don’t know that your chest feels like it’s caving in on itself and all this because you’re a little out of your element, or sometimes for no reason at all. It usually makes it almost impossible to sleep soundly at night or even hold still to get anything done at all. It makes simple normal things that human beings do on a regular basis (like having a normal conversation) impossible.
Perhaps the worst part of it, however, is being a man that struggles with anxiety or depression, much less both. This is not to diminish the struggles of women going through the same thing, and there are many we don’t understand ourselves. However, when you’re a man you’re expected to be a certain way. Anxiety is for women, men are aggressive. They are strong and they don’t crack under pressure, and they don’t think take disrespect from anyone. They never cry, and they never fear what’s coming next. These are a few of the expectations that don’t always hold up when anxiety strikes.
Finally, being a man, and in that regard we don’t even want to hear the “T” word. Therapy (leaves a bad taste in the mouth). Going to therapy is admitting your weak. It’s admitting you have a problem to which most would respond you simply need to “man up” and do something about it. Others label your medical condition “an excuse”, we often internalize these things (since men show no emotion) and then project them onto ourselves in order to make us become the men society expects us to be. Plus, what is therapy? It’s sitting on a couch with a box of tissues and talking to someone about your feelings. Men don’t do that.
At some point, however, you have to get past that and stop considering what people will say or think about you, and start considering your own health. I will admit that therapy had its ups and downs, especially as it became a routine. The worst part for me was trying to talk and open up to a complete stranger (especially one I was paying by the hour). I also got a little by the fact that we had these regular visits simply because it cut into personal time. At the end of the day, however, I realized that me getting better was more important. Getting better meant sacrifices and changes had to be made.
My therapist helped me think about things in a different way, for example they taught me the concept of “coping thoughts” where essentially in a nervous situation you can kind of reason with yourself to overcome the limits set by the irrational thought patterns that come with anxiety. Over all it was a good experience and I’m glad I went. There’s nothing wrong with admitting we need help. In most cases you simply have a chemical imbalance or a series of thought processes that you simply can’t help on your own. I’m still a little skeptical, but I have a feeling that I’ve made the right decision.