Mental Health Privilege

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As a white female, I often don’t see myself as being privileged. I see a man is being more privileged than I, especially a white man. I have to realize that even though I face adversity, I am extremely privileged in the fact that I have the resources to go seek medical attention and have the funds to do so, whether it be for my bipolar disorder or other medical ailments. I have the ability to book an appointment with my therapist to talk at any time of the day, any day of the week. I have the ability to confide in someone whom I like, have known for years, and trust. I have the ability to seek help from my primary care provider in regard to getting the medication I need and I am able to have options on what I get to put in my own body.

These are all things I take for granted on a minute by minute basis. But there is one issue I really want to shed a light on today. I am going to discuss the inequality that men face when it comes to mental illness. It is a topic that is often put on the back burner in society’s culture. I often put it on my own back burner because I am not a man who faces mental illness. I am a female who deals with bipolar disorder, and in some scenarios, my issues and my stories can be relatable to all. But in most cases, my life and my privilege of speaking with a counselor once a week, being on medication that works, and having friends to talk to about virtually anything is a true privilege, not a reality for most people who struggle with depression, anxiety, etc. This reality for me is virtually non existent among men.

Meet Brent

My best friend, Brent has struggled with depression and anxiety all his life. I asked him if I could write about his story with mental health issues in order to get a better male perspective on mental health issues that some men face, which he agreed to.

To give you all some more details about my best friend, he was born in 1976 and graduated in 1994 in the top 10% of his class. He attended the University of Washington his first semester until he was kicked out of school for flunking out and partying. Some time after he left school and came home, he unsuccessfully overdosed on a plethora of pills in attempt to commit suicide. He often compartmentalized his feelings because he didn’t want to appear weak. With this mindset, he went to a grand total of 2 therapy sessions. He didn’t talk during them because he didn’t want to appear like he needed help, even though he was hurting now more than ever.

Roughly six years later, he met his beautiful wife on a blind date. Someone he could finally let his guard down around, someone he could confide in about his past overdose and someone he didn’t always have to be strong for. Sixteen years later and they are still happily married. His depression gets to him every now and again, but now has 3 very close friends in which he can confide in, myself included. But he still has a dislike for therapy for himself and rarely speaks about his overdose or other traumatic experiences because they are compartmentalized and shoved away, deep in the subconscious brain, under lock and key.

The Toxicity of Compartmentalization

Compartmentalizing can be used as a coping skill to feel and express your emotions at a time when you can best deal with them privately and comprehend your own thought process. Often times, especially with men and as we have seen with Brent, men use their compartments to hide and mask away their feelings and then never give themselves an opportunity to process their emotions. This all can lead to anger, resentment, hostility, mood swings, etc.

Toxic compartmentalization otherwise known as bottling up your feelings will cause you to eventually explode, whether it be slowly or violently. Everyone needs a person or a way they can confide their feelings in. Men included. So why does society strongly suggest that men be hyper-masculine; in that one male shouldn’t display any emotions or feelings to anyone, even when they want or need to express it?

“When were we ever allowed to be weak?”

Diego G.

When I asked my boyfriend, Diego how he viewed toxic compartmentalization aka bottling up your feelings, he stated that as a child he was never really allowed to show tears or emotions and that books, TV, and other media sources depicted men who were strong, courageous, and brave, while those whom were meek, shy, and “nerdy” were weak and therefore punished with bullying and getting beat up in fights.

English was Diego’s second language, Spanish being his first. Once he learned English in school, he flourished academically and in popularity. He made many friends across the spectrum and was a varsity football lineman and a varsity swimmer. Diego learned work ethic from both his parents who were immigrants. His dad worked 60 hours a week, six days a week for all of his life in order to provide for his family. Diego learned how to “be a man” from a Hispanic standpoint. He worked hard, didn’t complain or ask questions, and was expected to work extremely hard on the farm that he grew up on in order to succeed now and in the future.

At 18, Diego started working for his local grocery store. It was unlike the manual, physical labor he had known growing up. In two years at the store, he transferred to a store a town over and was promoted to management. Now he can run virtually any department in the store, opening and closing and has been working six days a week due to COVID-19. He was able to purchase his first home with no help from anyone at the age of 26.

But what does this have to do with toxic compartmentalization? It has everything to do with his mindset that society and his culture has thrust upon him. The mentality that “all of my issues are my own and nobody can help me.” Although he doesn’t struggle with any mental illness, it is a mindset that many men have of all ages and mental statuses.

“Nobody Can Help Me”

Although I concede to the fact that each person has their own issues and they are yours and yours only to resolve, it is MORE THAN OKAY to ask for help. Why there is such a stigma in asking for help, I am not sure. But no matter your gender, race, ethnicity, creed, color, gender preference, political stance, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, etc. THERE IS HELP OUT THERE FOR YOU!

You are WORTHY. You are PRECIOUS. You are LOVED. You are KIND. You are ADORED. You are INTRICATE AND BEAUTIFULLY MADE. You are THOUGHTFUL. You are FUNNY. You are COMPASSIONATE. You are WONDERFUL. You are HUMAN.

Resources

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line

Text “HELLO” to 741741 (U.S. only)

Online Therapy – When using this link, you get 20% off your first month of online, affordable counseling!

https://www.online-therapy.com/?ref=176653

If you or someone you know is suffering from an emergency, especially with mental health: dial 911 for immediate help.

Regardless of what the media tells you, it is okay to cry. It is okay to show emotions, you can’t always be strong. Most importantly:

Don’t be afraid to ever reach out if you need help! I love you and I am here for you. You have family and friends who also love you and know that in this thing called life, you are NOT alone!

Til Next Time,

Dani

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