After my last post, an avid reader of my blog and friend, contacted me and asked we write a piece on this topic. I immediately agreed as it is an epidemic. Now I’m not going to lie. It’s a morbid topic but it definitely needs to be addressed. I mean it has, but I feel the small audience I reach might need to hear a more personal side to the issue. I think it’s important for me to try and get the word out as I’ve seen first hand that mental illness/ sickness whatever you want to call it is heavily overlooked here in African countries. So this is it:
We sat side by side. I can’t remember who scored first, but by the end of the FIFA game, I was not triumphant. With pride on the line I told Vintage Mozart, “First game was warm up” and we played another. Every goal I scored brought out the more competitive side to me, and the trash talking and bragging followed (as it does in FIFA games). Memory fails me again as to what I said or did but the words to come out of Mozart’s mouth were “Now THAT’S toxic masculinity at its finest” (or something like that).
I looked up “toxic masculinity” to quote exactly what it is for this post, but it’s complex and goes into so many different layers it’ll most likely bore you. So here’s my interpretation based of my mate Mozart’s accusation towards me.
Toxic Masculinity is being the MANS MANS. The alpha male who seeks to dominate and compete in everything and against everyone. He’s the ultimate man who doesn’t want to lose. He’s aggressive and pushy and asserts his “dominance” not only over women, but even over members of the same sex. The guy who works out at the gym and wears tight shirts so you can see he’s the MAN! Now I won’t lie, I do fall into a lot if not all of those categories. But this isn’t an article about me. This is an article about we, MEN, as a populace. And how Toxic Masculinity is LITERALLY killing us.
We grow up and see in pop culture movies how men “should be”. Hard. No feelings. Aggressive. Primal almost. And we view people who aren’t hard and brave faced as soft. That’s where the terms Alpha and Beta males came from. Those who lead, and those that follow. Now I don’t know if you’re born it or you can change it, but I believe most men fall into one of the 2 categories. Egotistical as it may be, I think I’m pretty Alpha. And many people have said I am so who am I to argue. And as an alpha, you want to gym and be bigger than everyone. You want a nice car. You want to be seen as successful. And definitely doing better than the beta males. But going off statistics and just the daily news, maybe this “hard man” mentality isn’t without it’s disadvantages.
Feeling like an Alpha, you never want to show emotion. The only acceptable emotion you can show is anger. And for the longest time, that was my go to emotion in any situation I didn’t like. And looking back, you come to realize it’s destructive. We become so hellbent on being Alpha that we’d rather fight than back down, take a breath and talk this out rationally. But this isn’t the biggest issue pertaining to being an Alpha and having Toxic Masculinity. The big issue is the silence. And I’ve held the silence myself. So I’m speaking from experience.
No matter how Alpha you are, you feel sad. As much as we try convince ourselves we don’t have feelings, we do. We get frustrated, sad, hurt, anxious and even depressed. And the most toxic trait amongst men is to push those feelings down because “men don’t talk about feelings”. I’m late to the bandwagon to talk about it, but we as Males as a collective need to do away with this self destructive trait. You can still be a Mans Man but tell your girlfriend or brother or friend when something’s got you down.
I went through a family trauma years ago coupled with dropping out of university, and being young and alpha – kept a straight face and pushed the problems down. Or rather swallowed the problems with excess amounts of alcohol. It can destroy who you are if you harbour these feelings of hurt and pain and when it eventually bubbles to the surface – the impact will be catastrophic. To you, and all those around you.
My family and I were dealing with a loss, but “being a man”, I was the shoulder to cry on. I was so focused on being a man that I didn’t check my own emotions. Emotions I knew were there but I drank them away. It got to a point where I was having dark thoughts. Driving without a seatbelt. Self harming in subtle ways. I’m not ashamed to say I needed help. But I didn’t see it at the time. The alcohol and burn marks I’d leave would ease the feelings I had for some time. But as I said – it takes a toll on you and those around you. After an horrendous incident I caused at my cousins house (under the influence, no less), everyone could see the state I was in. Luckily, those I had hurt both emotionally and physically didn’t push me away, instead they sought help. Luckily for me I had an incredible support system that helped me get out of that dark place. It’s a place of despair. A place in which every situation you imagine, everyone would be better off without you. You start to feel like a burden and don’t want to hurt the people around you anymore. And for most people, the best way out is suicide.
And that’s the problem. A lot of gents don’t have such support systems or don’t have people keeping an eye on them for their wellbeing. And so when life gets too much, they take their lives. “Suicide doesn’t get rid of your pain. It just passes it on to someone else”. Those with dark thoughts of suicide, what if your mum finds you? Or your little sibling? Or your significant other? How do you think they’ll feel not only finding you, but realising they didn’t have a clue what you were going through. That they could have prevented it if only they had known. But they CAN’T know unless you speak.
And I can say now. To talk about your raw feelings like that is hard. But it’s the first step to getting better. To being better. I learned that no matter how big or manly you are, emotions affect you the same. So the best way to show how much of a man you are is to be able to face the demons and talk about them. Confide in someone. Write in a diary. See a psychologist. JUST TALK. I know it’s hard to bring up the conversation but FIND A WAY. For your sake and all those around you.
I encourage the youth and people my age. Those who feel we need to be men, through and through – be a man and speak up. Those traveling and going away to university, or branching out to live on your own. You’re not alone. If you’re feeling lost or in a bad place, there’s ALWAYS someone to listen. You just have to be willing to talk.
They say the silent killer is blood pressure, or diabetes or this or that. The truth is, amongst a sadly great number of males. The silent killer is their silence. Their pride.
Don’t pass the pain on to someone else.