The Modern Man

The modern man appears as one who is well groomed and seems to be up to date with what’s happening in the world. He keeps up with the latest trends and can easily adapt to any situation that they find themselves in. He is fashionable and takes good care of himself. He is comfortable in his own skin; therefore he doesn’t make others feel uncomfortable. The modern man can be found anywhere in the world but the one thing about him is that he still finds it difficult to open up or express his emotions.

The man of today seems to be evolving but if you take a closer look, you’ll realise that the lessons of the past continue to cause a ripple effect. The man of today, just like the man of yesterday, still finds it hard to express himself or how he feels because he believes that it is weak. Men are very egotistical and would rather suffer in silence than to admit that they’re at a point where a little help could indeed go a long way. This inability to express oneself results in unnecessary aggressiveness and sometimes anger, which acts as a surface emotion for frustration. The constant command to bottle things up even when they’re overly heavy just because you’re a man can be frustrating.

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This then leads to substance abuse which is also known as “slow-motion suicide”. We may not realise it or simply choose to be ignorant about it, but every time we get caught up in substance abuse, we’re getting closer to our final days on Earth. However, death is not the only side effect of substance abuse, there are a lot of them, but one which we seem to turn a blind eye on is the physical abuse that comes with substance abuse, and in this case, we’re talking about abuse that is inflicted on others. It seems that once the man becomes frustrated and has handed himself over to the substance, the adverse effects are that he begins to abuse the people who are close to him. What we need to understand is that all this stems from frustration, but how can we begin to understand that if we do not give men the platform that they need to express themselves so that they can become better individuals? In the same breath, what steps have to be taken to allow men to be ‘weak’ enough to open up?

At this current moment, we are well aware of the suicide rate and its constant increase. This is the time to get involved. This is the time to be hands-on and make the necessary moves for the sake of suicide prevention. Since the death of Hip-hop Icon, HHP, suicide amongst men has come to the forefront especially in black communities, and we realise that the media doesn’t really dwell on such cases, but more people are being moved by this issue. One would think that men prefer to not to talk about things that that bother them but that’s because they have been conditioned not to have feelings. Men have been taught by those before them not to show any weakness because they are the heads of the family or simply because “what will people say?” Who has ever stopped to ask themselves: what does this man need? The lack of freedom of expression that men are subjected to leads to them believing that suicide is the only solution, and in some extreme cases, murder too. There are men that have taken their families with them simply because they could not bear the thought of their families struggling without once they’re gone. This on its own is a topic that needs to be explored further.

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Another topic of discussion is men that belong to the LGBTI community. Not all of these men are openly gay and ready to be accepted by society for their so-called flaws. Some are even fighting their “demons” because society and the church have made them believe that there’s something wrong with belonging to that community. There are men who’ve committed suicide simply because they couldn’t accept themselves as they are and they never make the news. Even those who have accepted themselves still struggle with rejection and sometimes on a daily basis by those that are close to them or those that they work with. Everyone needs a sense of belonging and without it, we become lost. It’s hard to live comfortably in a world that has you believing that you need to fix yourself. Where the LGBTI community is concerned, this is not an issue that is given much attention. We are well aware of hate crimes, which are external, but it’s time to also focus on what’s happening internally.

After reading tons of articles, trying to decipher exactly what it is that gets the man down, we came down to two conclusions: unemployment and marriage or divorce, whichever way you choose to look at it. Men being the egotistical creatures that they are, cannot be in a position where they are unable. The inability to provide for their families is one of the biggest reasons why they fall into a deep state of depression. In some cases, it’s not that they cannot provide for their families, but they themselves feel that it’s not enough and they can do better but because that’s not happening, it leaves them feeling frustrated which then results in depression. Again, because of their egotistical nature, men tend to compete a lot. They’re always on a constant strive to be the one that has more or that can do better. For a man who is unable, this causes serious harm to the ego. Speaking of competition, you would think that a man getting married would suffice as the kind of stuff men would compete over, but in some cases, this is seen as a form of emasculation. Suddenly all those things you used to do as “boys”, you can’t necessarily do because you are now someone’s husband. It’s quite interesting, but this also paves way for the second conclusion we reached: divorce.

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For many men, but especially women, marriage and a family is one of the milestones that is used to measure how successful our lives are. When all of that is taken away from you, it can feel like your whole world is crumbling right in front of you. What was once a happy home ends up in court over a custody battle and we know that in most cases the men never win. What was once your pride and joy is taken away from you and you feel like there’s nothing left to live for. It’s a heartbreaking situation that would really push one to the verge of suicide and this is such a common thing because almost 50% of marriages, and this is so shocking, but almost 50% of marriages result in divorce. It’s a cause for concern. Is it the men? Is it the women? Is it compatibility? There’s a lot that could possibly be going wrong in the marriage and maybe it’s time to take a closer look at that too because it’s more than just the inability of the man that can cause a marriage to reach its end. Divorce is one of the biggest causes of depression and maybe we need to start stressing the importance of couple’s therapy, something that needs to come before marriage is even an option.

As mental health activists, we are so quick to stress that men should seek mental health services, but in all honesty, those services are limited, especially for men. If they’re not limited, then there’s not much being said about them. We need to reach a point where we recognize that we are losing great men because of mental illness. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye on this matter and we have to take an active approach in ensuring that this vicious cycle comes to a stop. Yes, there are mental health services, but how many of them are customised for the man? How many of them actually look into the anatomy of a man and try to customise their contents or activities in such a way that it not only accommodates the man but also makes them feel comfortable enough to open up. Opening up is not a fun process but it’s needed for one to be able to advance to the next level of their lives. Talking about something doesn’t mean all that information goes in vain, something transcendental happens when we tap into that zone. The government should also be active in taking care of the man’s needs, even if they are; it’s time they did better too.

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The one thing that we need to do more of is to educate the masses about the symptoms they should be looking out for. Things like insomnia or even oversleeping are symptoms of depression. We should be alarmed and be ever-ready to take the necessary precautions. Suicidal thoughts are not the only things we should be looking out for but other symptoms as well which we will compile as a list in our next article. These can serve as a checklist to see just how well we are coping and also aid us in getting the help that we need. Every man needs that checklist so that we can begin to redefine the modern man and see him come to life.

The modern man is a man who is in touch with emotions. He knows himself so well that he avoids anything that could trigger any form of depression or anxiety. He interacts with people that are on the same level as him, people who are self-aware because self-awareness is the most powerful tool. The modern man realises that opening up actually makes him stronger. He encourages his friends to speak up and he’s always ready to lend an ear or any other form of assistance for the wellbeing of those that are around him. He does his research and is open to the idea of therapy because he understands that it’s necessary for his evolution. He’s constantly adopting effective ways to cope with daily stresses and has managed to have everything under control. It won’t be long until this man is a reality. This man probably exists, but it’s time he showed up.

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If you are on your journey to becoming the new definition of a modern man, SADAG is here to help. They have a project called ‘Real Men. Real Depression’ and boasts some of the countries strongest men who have overcome a lot of their own personal challenges. Do give them a ring on 011 783 1474. Until then, let’s keep working on becoming the new age modern man.

 

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twins, looking into the mirror, accepting yourself

What Comes After Acceptance?

Reading Time: 10 Minutes

I love cliches, I feel like they’re used so often that they tend to lose meaning when they, in actual fact, carry so much truth if you take a deeper look. They say the first step to recovery is acceptance. As a person who has frequented rehabilitation centres, I really had no idea what acceptance really meant. I was under the impression that all I had to accept was that I was an addict when in actual fact there were a lot of other things to take into consideration. Acceptance is encompassing of all the aspects that make up the person that I am today, and until I began to accept myself for who I was and what I was actually going through, I continued to relapse and then regret it afterwards. It was a vicious cycle.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, addiction can be defined as ‘persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful’. ‘Addicts’ know that whatever they’re doing is not good for them and that’s because they get to face the repercussions of their substance abuse but they continue using anyway. It’s so easy for an addict to fall back into the trap of addiction even after suffering severe consequences which almost proved fatal and this is because addiction is also a dependency. We find it hard to cope without a dose of our preferred substance and when we do get a dose, even though sometimes it can be a mild overdose, we start to feel helpless because that’s where we begin to experience uncomfortable sensations in our bodies which are caused by the abuse of a particular substance, these can be a hangover, insomnia, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, etc.

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It’s easy for others to point fingers at addicts but one thing we need to understand is that addiction is always accompanied by a mental illness. Addiction can result from depression and the need to not feel whatever it is that gets you down, and it can also result from anxiety and the dire need to remain calm amidst all the chaos. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and put our health first but we get so caught up in pleasing others, so much that it becomes a difficult duty to maintain. Our addiction may be a result of peer pressure, but it is not peer pressure that keeps us hooked, it is us chasing the temporal amount of joy that comes with every “session” that does. It’s extremely easy to get lost in chasing the feeling that you forget the repercussions that come with it. When the substance starts to wear off, we find ourselves tapping back into our initial depressive state harder than before. We end up being disinterested in everything. We lose sight of our passions, our responsibilities start to seem pointless, we miss school, we miss work and life just starts to get unnecessarily hectic.

I remember how easy it was for me to keep using even when I knew that I would struggle to sleep at night because I’d be sitting there thinking I’d die in my sleep and that there was a chance that I would get emotional and start crying for or about things that happened way back in my young years. I also remember sitting there watching my friends sleep and wished that I could also sleep as easily as they did, even just for an hour. It is at this point that I realised that as much as substances masked whatever I was feeling, those things became more exposed when the drug had served its purpose and spit me out of my hiding place. You get into a very dark place, a place you thought you had conquered because the drugs had you feeling victorious. Even though I knew I had an issue, I’d still go back and take the very same substance that almost put me in a hospital because I felt like I was strong enough to handle whatever consequences may arise. I guess that was the case until I actually ended up on a hospital bed. That, however, is a story for another post.

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We test and break rules and although our bodies are able to handle a lot of stress, we will not always be lucky. At times we can feel our bodies deteriorating but we will still do the same thing that got them there in the first place, which is rather questionable. It made me wonder, “Where exactly am I placing my value?” I clearly wasn’t placing value in myself because if I was, I would have known that it was “time-out” for me and I had to concentrate on bettering myself. I remember, after the ‘ordeal’, I would continue to hate myself for putting my body through the torture that comes with withdrawals and because I kept on wallowing over what I had done, I’d just keep getting worse. All I had to do was forgive myself, repeatedly.

Forgiveness comes after acceptance. Until I accepted who I was at the time, there was no way I could access the person that I wanted to become and in order for me to no longer identify with that person, I had to forgive myself and start again. I had to forgive myself for letting my conditioning take centre stage. I had to forgive myself for not putting my health first. I had to forgive myself for all the friendships and relationships I destroyed because of my addiction. I had to forgive myself for all the jobs I walked out on simply because I had woken up feeling like a failure. I had to learn how to forgive myself for every time that I relapsed even when I had told myself I stopped. I had to forgive my past experiences for having so much control over me. I had lost myself, I didn’t even know whether I was coming or going. One time, I thought I had it all figured out and the next thing I knew, a curveball was thrown my way and I just spiralled downwards. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and take responsibility for what life had given me. The worst was over, it was time for me to turn my life around.

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Getting through it wasn’t easy because I wanted to do everything myself. I’ve always been the kind of person that wanted to be in charge of things but I realised that I needed support and people to understand me. I couldn’t surround myself with people who judged me because that would only take me backwards. I had to teach myself about what I was going through and I’ll tell you this, learning is the easy part, it’s the application of what you learn that requires you to remember why you started. I also had to find a power that was higher than myself, I had to come to terms with and meet the God of my understanding and that brought about a lot of structure in my life. Without that, I could have been worse, or even dead, but I thank God and the knowledge that I sought for the person that I am today. I had to find other avenues to seek joy and that came with reading up on foreign concepts, journaling and lately, writing posts for The Filling Station and serving my purpose. I believe I went through everything that I went through so that I could be well equipped to fulfil my current purpose and that is to educate people about mental health and remind them “In everything you go through, you are never alone. Reach out.” It does get too much at times, but I guess that’s why we need to support each other, however, I will forever depend on my passion to inspire change, because after all, love conquers all.

Throughout the week we’ll be exploring the theme of acceptance and I’ll share my story in detail with regards to addiction.

If you or your loved ones are battling with addiction, help is available for you. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. Contact them on 0800 21 22 23