For the next several months a group of writers focused on the issues of raising boys to become men are collaborating through the writing and sharing of blog posts in order to bring greater awareness to the unique challenges parents and the community face in the 21st Century. Twice a month these writers will be posting the same original article on their various media formats to spread the word and to introduce their audiences to the great work of their peers. Today’s post features Jed Diamond, Ph.D., whose latest book is entitled: Stress Relief For Men: How To Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well.
Depression runs in my family. I became aware of that fact when my father took an overdose of sleeping pills when I was five years old. Growing up I had little understanding of what had happened or why he was hospitalized and disappeared from our lives. But I did grow up with a hunger to understand depression and a terror that I would become depressed myself and face my own suicidal demons.
When I was 40 and going through my own bouts of depression, I found a journal he had written in the year before he was hospitalized and I got a better understanding of his suffering and my own. Here are a few of the entries:
June 4th: Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work, Yes, it’s enough to make anyone blanch, turn pale and sicken.
August 15th: Faster, faster, faster, I walk. I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family. I try, try, try, try, try. I always try and never stop.
November 8th: A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out. Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried. All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education.
Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.
Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to end his life. Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same. For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced. The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.
During that period my mother also became depressed, but it was quite different than my father’s experience. Where he was often irritable and angry, she was more often sad and weepy. While he pushed people away who wanted to help him, she drew close to her friends and neighbors. In working with men and women over the years I’ve found other differences in the ways males and females deal with their pain and suffering. Here’s a chart that summarizes my experience.
Males are more likely to act out their inner pain and turmoil, while women are more likely to turn their feelings inward. Certainly there are depressed men who fall on the female side and vice versa, but generally I’ve found these differences to hold true for most depressed men and women I’ve worked with over the years.
Gender-Specific Medicine Saves Lives
For too long, we’ve assumed that sex and gender differences are not important in health care. But a new field of gender-specific medicine is emerging that can save lives. We now know that there are differences in everything from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer’s. For instance, it was once thought that symptoms of an impending heart attack were the same for women and men. Now we know that women often have different symptoms than men and millions of women are getting proper treatment as a result.
Likewise, understanding the difference ways that men experience depression can save millions of men’s lives who might otherwise be lost. We know that the suicide rate for males in the U.S. is 3 to 18 times higher than it is for females. Many men die and suffer from undiagnosed and untreated depression because we haven’t understood the ways in which male depression manifests.
I have made it my life quest to help men, and the women who love them, to live well at all stages of their lives. At MenAlive our team brings together people and resources from all over the world to help people realize their dreams of a fulfilling life. I hope you’ll join us.
Jed Diamond, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., is Founder and Director of MenAlive, a health program that helps men, and the people who love them, to live well throughout their lives. He is a pioneer in the field of male-gender medicine. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network. He is also a member of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male and serves as a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Gender and Men’s Health. He is the only male columnist writing for the National Association of Baby Boomer Women. He also blogs for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Scribd, Menstuff, ThirdAge, and other venues. He is the author of 11 books, including international best-sellers, Surviving Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. His new book Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well will be available in April, 2014.