31U: Rob

three questions. one of you.

Periodically, I will be asking a friend three questions about his or her experience with mental illness. This person might be a guy who deals with mental illness or someone (like my wife) who is a supporter. Over time, the 31U series will show how men of all sorts, with all backgrounds, and of all personalities can be inflicted in a variety of ways and how loved ones can better understand and support them. The hope is that this series will serve as a reminder for those in darkness that we are not alone in this fight, and that it will be a helpful resource for supporters.

Meet Rob. Rob enjoys reading and playing music when he’s not teaching computer classes at a branch of the Detroit Public Library. He has a close friend who experiences anxiety and depression to whom he has been an active and involved support. That close friend is me. He is one of my dearest brothers and closest friends. I’m grateful for his investment in me, and I’m glad to share some of the things he has learned along the way.

What were some of the major signs and symptoms you noticed?

A man that I originally knew to be funny, visionary, and great at connecting with others was slowly losing sight of those life-giving qualities. He more frequently doubted his intrinsic value and his value to others. Often, this resulted in a fear or reluctance to do things he really excels at, especially in social and creative settings.

What tools, resources, or strategies have you implemented to help support your loved one?

Those struggling with depression are often tempted to give up, so as a supporter, it’s crucial to make it continuously clear that you won’t. No matter what your loved one is struggling with, you can be a steady voice that points him to loving truth. Everyone is wired differently, so it’s important to be a listening ear and figure out how to provide the most relevant and beneficial help. My friend’s own conversational motto is to “ask big questions and listen more than you talk,” and that is really key in better understanding what your loved one is going through. By listening, you are better able to empathize, and better able to say the right things to help him out of the rut he’s in.

What advice would you give other men with mental illness?

My friend has made great progress in getting the help he needs and recognizing how much he has going for him. Things like going to counseling and talking to a doctor about his illness were huge steps that I’m proud of him for taking. One day and one step at a time, he is working to beat his depression and to see his life as a valuable gift. And, he’s leveraging his recaptured skills and talents for the good of other people.

So, to men struggling: reach out. Many times, depressive ruts are the result of too much time inside your own head, and not enough time hearing the perspectives of others. Find someone who will listen, talk at them for a while, and then be open to what they have to say in response. The last part is key, because sometimes there’s a sadistic​ temptation to stay in the darkness. You have to really experience and acknowledge the light and heat of another voice. It might be uncomfortable at first, but as long as you stay in the light, your eyes will adjust.

There are amazing benefits to sharing your story. If you are interested in sharing yours through 31U, please contact me! I will respect your story with great care, appreciation, and even discretion and anonymity, if you so desire. You will remain in charge of your story. 

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