I’ll say it a little louder for you in the back: men suffer from depression, too! It often goes undiagnosed, hidden by society’s pressure on toxic masculinity. The signs may surprise you and it often manifests differently in men. In my husband, depression manifests as fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety, expressed as anger. Men often push these feelings aside thinking that this is normal manly life.
My husband is a gentle man by nature. He wouldn’t hurt anyone outside of defending his family. He would definitely never hurt us. So when he punched a hole through our drywall, I was in shock. I have dealt with my own Bipolar 1 since late childhood. My shock cleared quickly and turned into rapidly making appointments with doctors and therapists. He was suffering and I was not going to stand idly by and watch him deteriorate. He needed help, support, and love.
It was not easy. It never is when struggling with mental illness.
The monster was taking my sweet man over and I had to do something. We never said traditional vows at our quick Vegas wedding. Honestly, I don’t even remember what the officiant had us repeat. I do remember that “in sickness and in health” was not part of it. Yet, those words were exactly what went through my head over and over again. One thing was certain: I wasn’t giving up and I wasn’t letting go. I had been there. Anger so deep it consumes you and bubbles to the surface. Feeling so on edge you don’t know what’s wrong. Panic! I recognized it. I could empathize. He needed me to give more support and I was ready.
There were plenty of moments in which I wanted to tear out my hair. There were plenty of points in which I failed at being supportive. There were plenty of times in which I went on the defensive instead of listening openly. We have had blow out fights because I forget that he struggles, too. I forget that this is not him; it is mental illness and what he needs is love and support. It’s hard and it hurts! It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to watch sometimes. Then you buckle down and give 120% because he can only give 80%, and sometimes even less. You dig deep and put taking things personally aside. Just remember self-care — as moms and wives we often give too much without refilling the cup. That’s why when it got to be too much, I restarted my own therapy and got a med check.
There are some positive things that have come out of this struggle.
My husband has opened up to me. He has told me to put down the phone and listen. He has talked to me about struggles past and present. We have had conversations that are deeper than ever before and I have learned so much about hum. He is learning coping skills, the medicine has helped, and he has become more patient. He is learning some understanding of mental illness and not only recognizes it in himself, but has also learned a little more about how to support me as well.
We check on each other now. We remind each other to take our meds and to go to therapy appointments. We try to make sure the other one gets enough sleep, rest, and time for themselves. It’s making a difference. As time goes on, we are relearning to love each other the ways that are needed and to support each other, which help our love grow stronger every day. I believe we are healing individually as well as together — a united front against mental illness.
If your man seems distant, tired, irritated, and angry, it might be a lack of sleep (or food). But, if you think there is more, if the symptoms persist, if you’re watching your loved one turn into someone else, seek help. There may be an underlying cause. Talk with your partner. Find resources to help. Find ways to support him. You might have to convince him to get help because men often don’t recognize the need to ask for help. Whatever you do, try to open your heart to the man that’s in front of you and love him.
Again, I’ll say it a little louder for you in the back: DEPRESSION DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN TO WOMEN! I will support my husband every step of the way until the day I die. Check on your man mamas, he might need you more than you think he does.
For immediate mental health help, click here.
If you are the victim of domestic violence (no matter the cause), please seek help. Sometimes depression comes out as abuse. The domestic violence hotline in Chattanooga can be reached 24/7 at (423) 755-2700.