This Is Me

 

I have clinical depression.

I was diagnosed with it in 2003. For all I know, I’ve had it for much longer.

It often leaves me irritated, angry, impatient, indifferent, unmotivated and, definitely, depressed. It leaves me with feelings of guilt and hopelessness.

It steals my concentration, paralyzing me to the point of straining to write every word on the page.

Or do anything else, for that matter. I just mostly don’t care.

I don’t care about taking care of myself. I know I should eat better and exercise, but meh. My therapist has offered me some practical things to apply toward improving my mental health, but who wants to do that?

That’s probably what I experience, more than anything: just a whole bunch of whatever.

I’m not always like this, you know. I have my good days, where everything’s generally cool, and I’m doing okay, and life feels good.

But then, there are those other days. And sometimes, those days get pretty dark.

And, if it gets bad enough, my depression will get me thinking, maybe I just don’t belong here, anymore.

Maybe I should rid everybody of me.

 

Men, does this sound like you?

Okay, well here’s the part that probably doesn’t.

I’m talking to someone about it.

I’m getting help for it.

It took some time for me to get to that, mind you. I thought psychiatric treatment was for crazy people, not me.

Maybe you think so, too. Maybe you think you’re weak if you’re depressed, or if you have anxiety. Maybe you’re embarrassed to tell anyone what’s going on with you. Maybe you think you can snap out of it, or you can overcome it by yourself.

The truth is, guys, you can’t. Ask Michael Phelps. Ask Kevin Love. Ask Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Ask me. You need to talk to someone. You need help. And the sooner you face up to that, the better.

I know that, based on what I’ve said here, it doesn’t seem like I’m any better. Unfortunately, this is something that takes time to treat; there is no quick fix. And I readily admit, I have a ways to go.

But, I also know, just the act of talking about it with someone brings great relief. It’s a good first step.

Fellas, I’m pleading with you; too many of us are killing ourselves because we wait to ask for help until it’s too late.

Please, don’t let that be you.

 

 

For the Fellas

 

Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.

Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”

Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.

So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.

Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.

 

Done? Good.

Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.

But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?

Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.

What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.

You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.

And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.

Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.

Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.

I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.

Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.

I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:

“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”

It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.

It really is okay.

Michael Phelps Earns Another Gold

 

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In the eyes of the world, he was superhuman.

Absolutely nobody owned the Olympics like swimmer Michael Phelps. 28 medals have hung around his neck, 23 of them gold, over the span of five Olympic Games. An athlete for the ages.

But guess what? As Phelps publicly admitted this week, during that astonishing run of championships, he was suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide.

Read Michael’s story at http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/19/health/michael-phelps-depression/index.html  If you think CNN is a bunch of “fake news”, get over it and read this, anyway.

Men, especially, I want you to read this. Pay attention when he says he realized he needed help, and how he now understands the importance of opening up and talking about depression, instead of keeping it to yourself.

Listen to me. I don’t care what you tell yourself; you cannot, you will not beat depression on your own. Believe me, I know. It is far too formidable an opponent. I know us men are supposed to be the strong, silent type, but it’s precisely that silence that could kill you.

Go to http://www.wingofmadness.com to learn about depression. I know, that’s kind of a creepy name for a website, but it’s an excellent resource on the subject. If you think you have it, please call someone for help.

It could very well save your life.

Michael Phelps, thank you. This is your hardest earned, and most deserved, gold medal. I’m glad you got the help you needed. I wish you continued good mental health.

 

 

My Old School

 
College football teams should make news headlines for winning games and competing for national championships.

Not for this.

According to Phillip Erickson, of the Waco Tribune-Herald, “Baylor University on Tuesday night was served with a seventh Title IX lawsuit, which alleges as many as eight football players drugged a student and took turns raping her in 2012.”

This, mind you, is on the heels of a nine-month investigation by Pepper Hamilton, LLP, of Philadelphia, into allegations of sexual assault at Baylor.

Where I went to college.

Erickson’s report is chock full of vile, repugnant details, but let me just bring up a couple for your consideration:

“According to the suit, the football team had a system of hazing freshman recruits by having them bring freshman females to parties to be drugged and gang-raped, “or in the words of the football players, ‘trains’ would be run on the girls.””

Let that soak in a minute. Part of a freshman football player’s initiation to the team involved being part of a gang rape. With a woman that he brought!

Has the gravity of that hit you yet?

Let’s continue:

“Considered a bonding experience by the players, according to the suit, the rapes also were photographed and videotaped, and the plaintiff confirmed that at least one 21-second videotape of two Baylor students being gang- raped by football players had circulated.”

A bonding experience!!

Guys, you really feel closer as teammates after raping a drugged woman together?

The report goes on to say the alleged victim and her mother met with an assistant coach from the team, gave him the names of the players involved, and never heard from him again. She was subsequently harassed by several players via text messages, discouraged by the school from taking any action, required to still attend classes with two of the players, and burglarized by members of the football team. (The items were later returned with the understanding no charges would be filed.)

Oh, and there was this:

The head football coach, Art Briles, had this to say after learning the names of the players involved: “Those are some bad dudes…why was she around those guys?” (italics mine)

Hear that, ladies? That’s why this girl was gang raped; she was around the wrong people! Never mind that she was brought to them! Even around males of questionable character, it still must be her fault somehow.

(Ladies, does that surprise you? I think I know the answer.)

 

Erickson’s report also describes the total institutional failure of the university in handling this incident, references another lawsuit, alleging 52 acts of rape (fiftytwo!) by no fewer than 31 players, and updates the status of some of the players in the legal system. There is no update on the victim, other than as the plaintiff in this lawsuit. To the school’s credit, it has taken, and is taking, important steps to assure a safer environment there for all its female students. Perhaps someday, I can look on my alma mater with pride again.

But not today. Definitely not today.

How did it ever come to this?, you wonder.

Well, the fact is, my brothers, it all comes down to how we view and treat women. Period.

I honestly don’t know how but, guys, we have got to have a major attitude adjustment in this matter.

We have got to understand, women aren’t just sex toys. They’re not college hazing props, or a “bonding experience.” They’re not a bunch of filthy sluts, just waiting for a much deserved pounding.

They’re people, guys. They’re human beings. They are entitled to respect, and dignity, and equality.

And, none of them – I mean, none of them! – ever “asks for it.”

So, fellas, let’s hold each other accountable. You hear one of your buddies talking $#!t about a woman, call him on it. Yeah, you’ll probably catch all kinds of grief for it, but this is the time for, to borrow a movie title, A Few Good Men.

Change has to start somewhere, guys. Look in your heart and start there.

The Driver Takes a Detour

 

So…

I had my first session this week with a new therapist.

And, if you’ve read enough of my blog, you know I don’t mean physical therapist.

In case you don’t know, I’ve lived with depression for several years. I’ve seen a therapist before, for about five years, but stopped nine years ago, when she retired. (Early onset Alzheimer’s, bless her heart) A lot has happened between then and now, and I feel the need for help again. Besides the medications. The need to talk to someone, and maybe get some help for dealing.

So, here we go. I’m starting again with someone new. She seems nice enough on first encounter. Hopefully, the two of us can crack my head open and let all the toxic waste spill out, and wade through it as we work to solve the cryptic, perplexing enigma that is yours truly. Wish us luck; she’ll need it.

And, dudes, let me take this opportunity to tell you again what I’ve told you before: It is not a weakness to admit you need help. I know we’re men, and we’re just supposed to handle everything, but believe me, depression is bigger and badder than us. Plenty of male suicides in America prove it. Mike Wallace, the toughest, most badass newsman ever, couldn’t handle depression on his own; it nearly killed him. Then he sought help, and got it.

There is no shame in getting help. You get that? You don’t have to face this monster alone.

I’m reaching out. I know I need it. Please, guys, (and girls) reach out with me. Help is there. You can get it.

A Word, Guys

 

NOTE: This post deals with an important subject, but the more genteel among you may find some of the wording a bit coarse, for which I apologize. It’s strictly in the service of making a point.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

“Land of Confusion”, Genesis

Songwriters
RUTHERFORD, MICHAEL/COLLINS, PHIL/BANKS, TONY

Published By
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, IMAGEM U.S. LLC

 

Well, fellas, I guess I’ll have to turn in my Man Card. Because you’re not going to like at all what I tell you next, and once you read it, you’ll probably be ready to vote me right off the island.

But, I really can’t help but say it. Sorry. Actually, not sorry.

We all, each of us (including me), need to take a very serious look at how we view, think about, and talk about women.

This year seems to have been a particularly bad one for men in the news. To wit:

A college athlete recently convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster was released from prison after serving three months of a six-month sentence, a sentence handed down by a sympathetic male judge. Oh, and in the apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree department, the defendant’s father pled to the judge to keep his son out of jail, arguing he had already paid a steep price for (his words), “twenty minutes of action.”

My alma mater is still being investigated for, as it has been characterized, the culture of rape it allowed on its campus, particularly with regard to male athletes. The administration denied a sexual assault problem even existed on campus, and is accused of trying to repress, or even retaliate against, victims’ testimony alleging otherwise.

And a candidate for President of the United States has been heard bragging about how, because he’s a star, he is entitled to his disgusting treatment of women. By now, most everyone knows the lurid details, so there is no need to repeat them here. He later dismissed these boasts as simply “locker room talk.”

And now, he faces an ever lengthening line of women coming forward to reveal their past experiences as victims of this animal’s continued pattern of sexual harassment. He now threatens all of them with lawsuits.

We’re talking about somebody’s wife. Somebody’s girlfriend. Somebody’s sister. Somebody’s mom.

Somebody’s precious daughter.

You fellas out there with a teenage daughter, how do you suppose this landscape looks to her?

Women are people, guys. They have minds and souls. They have heartaches and headaches. They have bills and deadlines. They have wishes and hopes and dreams and victories and defeats and joy and pain and confusion and all the rest of life. They are human.

Yes, they can be quite attractive; no argument there. But…

They are not merely objects that exist in the world solely for our inspection and critique. They are not just a bunch of filthy sluts, parading around in provocative clothing which might as well include, “I’M ASKING FOR IT!” on the front, in big letters. They aren’t pieces of property for us to just capriciously go and take.

They’re not just tits and ass.

So, let’s quit talking about them as if they were.

(And I don’t want to hear about the male instinct to find a suitable mate for procreational purposes. Honestly, guys, when was the last time you checked out a woman and thought, “Boy, I’d sure like to have children with her!”)

Listen, I know how we’re wired;  I’m a guy. We are stimulated visually. We see all these shapely hourglass figures walking around, in their short skirts and high heels and low-cut tops and tight jeans and revealing swimsuits and on and on. I mean, we could see a woman in baggy sweats and the wheels still turn, don’t they? Imagining what she looks like underneath.

And then, we convince ourselves that every single one of them wants us. We smile at a woman, she smiles back, what are we thinking?

Oh, yeah, she’s into me!

Well, fellas, here’s the truth. Aside from being just plain delusional, that is disrespectful. It’s insulting. It’s demeaning.

And, if we’re around other guys at the time, it leads to talking about women in that same disrespectful, insulting, demeaning manner.

What kind of lover she must be. What we’d like to do with her, or have her do with us, given the chance.

Not to mention, the whole “bitches and ho’s” culture embraced by a segment of our society. I’m not even going there.

It’s against that backdrop that guys (not men; men don’t do this) feel entitled to do whatever the hell they want with women, up to and including rape.

And it has to stop.

I told you, you wouldn’t like this.

 

I’m not telling you any of this from up on some high horse. I’ve certainly done my share of looking at and talking about women. I’m not perfect, by any stretch. I just think I, and all the rest of us, should man up here and be more respectful.

So, am I saying, just look the other way? Never make eye contact, never smile, never say anything? Pretend they’re not even there?

Of course not.

But, ask yourself, guys, who was the last woman you looked at – who you didn’t already know – and thought of as anything other than a body?

Oh, they look at and talk about us that way, too? No excuse.

It’s just part of being a man? No excuse.

They secretly like it? They’re flattered by it?

Pretty sure that’s not true.

But, you know what? Let’s open the floor to everyone, here. Male or female, if you want to weigh in on this, I invite your feedback. Let’s hear from each other on this, and see if we can’t all learn something. (Let’s try to keep it somewhat civil, though, shall we?)

Because, it should be obvious to everyone at this time in our journey, something definitely has to change. And it’s up to us, guys, to play a significant part in fixing this problem. Because we created it.

Women everywhere are standing united to declare, “Enough is enough!”

I’m gonna stand with ’em. How about you, dude?