Recognizing the Rut: Escaping the Throes of a Depressive Episode
For those of us that suffer from depression or depressive episodes, recognizing when they are starting to affect our day-to-day lives in tangible ways can help us overcome them. If we start to notice that our living spaces are becoming dirtier or that we are ignoring our hygiene routines, calling out of work more often, etc., then we can take steps to escape the rut that comes with these episodes.
Struggling in Silence
For men, living with mental illness and mood disorders presents a unique type of problem. Society tells us that we should be strong, diligent, and unwavering. Our troubles are not to be shared or displayed. Rather, they should be dealt with in private. Because of this, the signs of depression can sometimes be harder to notice in men. However, if we begin to notice that we are neglecting our personal hygiene, fitness regimens, avoiding friends and meetings, then we can start to work to identify the causes of these issues. Remember that, as men, even if we feel pressured to keep our problems to ourselves, doing so can exacerbate feelings of misery and alienation.
Socialized to Suffer Alone
When you were a young man, were you ever told: “Boys don’t cry”? After you expressed some “negative” emotion like anxiety, fear, or sadness, were you ever told to “Man up”? These phrases are ingrained in our culture as a byproduct of antiquated societal expectations of men. Because of this, the outside world may not recognize that we are suffering, which can worsen feelings of loneliness. This negative feedback loop and the cycle of depression and repression begin to take a toll on our daily lives, and even then, many men refuse to seek help in a futile attempt to “tough it out.”
Because of this, we may find that we enter these long, painful “ruts” that can have disastrous effects on our personal and professional lives. We may become less interested in work, hobbies, friends, sex, and the other things that make living life worthwhile.
We may also turn to substances to soothe our silent suffering, which causes an entirely different (and equally as disastrous) set of problems.
Addiction in Men
Sometimes as men, we may have that reflexive, intuitive reaction to repress our depression and mask our misery. Because of this, many men turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with their problems. What’s worse is, in some cultures, heavy drinking is a sign of a strong, masculine man. These two facts can make it very difficult for men to seek help, and they can have drastic effects on our lives. Through therapy and recovery, we can work to readily recognize these destructive tendencies and avoid these long, depressive episodes.
How We Heal: Identifying the Rut and Its Causes
A part of the healing and recovery process is recognizing that, as men, we are allowed to be depressed, anxious, insecure, and uncertain. Ignoring these feelings as they come and burying them under a facade, or numbing them with drugs and alcohol, are not temporary solutions to a lasting problem. They can actually make the problem worse. So, we must take inventory of our feelings the same way we would take inventory of physical things. It’s okay to ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?” or reach out to a friend and tell them you may be struggling.
Journaling may seem “weird” or “strange” to some men, but it is a great way for us to readily identify potential triggers and have a tangible record of our emotions that we can return to in order to see when we started to feel “off.” With this knowledge, we can work to identify what may have caused the shift in our emotions.
Recognizing and working to “escape” our down days as men require us to work on our emotional maturation. It is not to say that as men, we are inherently emotionally immature, but we must work to unlearn so many of these arbitrary, archaic, and harmful cultural cliches about our own mental health. In doing so, we are able to see clearly the effects of our own suffering and the suffering in others. Unlearning these “life lessons” that are actually terrible and detrimental to society at large makes it easier for us as men to deal with our emotions in a healthy and positive way. Our intuitive reactions to changes in our moods exist as learned behaviors, and unhealthy behaviors can be unlearned, much like bad habits!
As men, it can be difficult for us to address and talk about our issues, let alone deal with them. This repression is rampant in many cultures across the globe. It is a learned behavior born out of the “suck it up” mentality that was popular some generations ago, and because of this still exists today. Because of this, we may find that our personal and professional lives suffer, and we may turn to drugs and alcohol to help us bury these emotions. At Jaywalker Lodge, we take an individualized, in-depth approach to help men better understand themselves, their emotions, and their unhealthy habits. Through group counseling, the 12-step program, and a community-driven approach, we are able to help men achieve long-lasting recovery by giving them the tools to understand their emotions. Remember, we don’t have to suffer alone. If you are struggling with your mental health and substance abuse, reach out to us today at (866) 529-9255.