Society has the backward notion that men aren’t supposed to cry, even when depressed. Sure, men get a pass at their daughter’s wedding or the funeral of a loved one, but even then we are expected to cry in a manly way. We are expected to choke back the tears and fight the emotions instead of displaying them. This denial of our basic emotions does nothing to make things betters and, in fact, makes things worse. Now we have the emotions we are feeling and guilt about our reaction.
Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, award-winning writer, and activist who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness. He is the recipient of the 2014 Mental Health America Norman Guitry Award, placed second in HealthCentral’s LiveBold competition, was a 2015 WEGO Health Awards Finalist in the Health Activist Category, as well as received a Best of the Web – Blog award.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
Even as I write this, I want to tell you I am a 275 pound, six-foot-three inch tall, big guy. I feel the need to tell you my favorite sport is hockey. I watch boxing, UFC (mixed martial arts), and football. I play the drums, and I was raised in a blue collar neighborhood by a father who drives an 18-wheeled semi-truck.
I also swear a lot, once writing a blog called “Mental Illness is an A**hole.” I’m telling you this because society has conditioned me to convince you that I am still a “man,” even though I just admitted to crying. That is how deep this goes.
Society Says As a Man I’m Not Supposed to Cry
It is okay for everyone to cry. It’s a smart idea, too. To think that crying somehow makes a guy less of a “man” is utter nonsense.
To be clear, I am saying that even though I am a man – and in many ways a stereotypical man – depression makes me cry and beg for help. Literally cry. Not quiet sobs with a couple streaming lines of tears, but full-fledged, whole body wailing, with snot streaming from my nose, tears blurring my vision, and guttural sounds that can only be described as coming from the darkest pits of my soul. I’m saying that is not only okay, but recommended.
Unfortunately, a lifetime of social conditioning prevents me from publicly crying in any way other than the aforementioned, manly-approved way. I need to change that, but at least I am able to cry alone and in front of people I love.
I’m a Man and I Cry
I’m a man and I cry. Not honoring my basic human emotions would make the isolation of depression so much worse. When I am depressed, I hide, but need people. When I am crying, I hide out of a backward sense of self-preservation. The end result is the same: I am alone, crying like a <fill in inappropriate stereotype here>, and sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss.
Depression is ugly and crying isn’t the worst part. There are so many stages below crying. I’m not writing an article about how I am a man who cries because I woke up with the desire to open myself up to ridicule. I’m specifically writing this blog to tell men that being able to cry – period – is a good thing. In fact, it is a powerful thing.
Crying is a natural way to reduce emotional stress that, left unchecked, has negative physical effects on a person. Yes, even men. Allowing ourselves to experience our natural response has immense value, as well. Crying releases tension, lowers blood pressure, and stimulates production of endorphins (natural pain-relievers). In short, crying makes someone feel better. Owning all my emotions and asking for help were, even in retrospect, two of the most powerful weapons I had to beat depression and, in the worst cases, stay alive.
I didn’t reach recovery from bipolar disorder (including the depression) and anxiety disorder in a way that was pretty or spectacular. Crying was, and is, part of the equation. Crying simply means a person is experiencing a strong emotion – and nothing more.