three questions. one of you.
31U asks a friend three questions about his or her experience with mental illness. This person might be a man 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 through 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.
To have a medical professional weigh in on Dadding Depressed through the 31U series is truly an honor. I’m grateful for this contribution, find it incredibly valuable, and am eager to share it.
Mike is a family doctor finishing his first year of residency in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He is learning to fly fish and has recently gotten into mountain biking.
What is your experience with mental illness?
About 75% of the patients I work with on a daily basis have a mental illness. I counsel people, refer them to therapists, prescribe and manage antidepressants, and provide practical tips to help sufferers properly cope. Indirectly, I manage other issues that coexist with mental illness.
I have also had times where I have personally struggled with anxiety and depression, most recently during my first two years of medical school, one of the most stressful experiences mankind has invented. I moved down to Missouri, away from my friends and family and spent the first several months doubting myself, having constant anxiety about failing. I had many nights of tears, lost sleep, and self doubt that caused some significant issues in my life. I ended up seeing a psychologist to discuss some of these problems.
When did you realize you dealt with a mental illness?
I had a pretty good idea that it existed from a very early age, but It was probably not until college that I was really faced with the full weight of mental illness. Within the span of a year I had a friend confess suicidal thoughts and a history of self harm, and someone very close to me express deep shame and depression surrounding personal secrets. There was a young guy in my dorm who committed suicide which shook our community in a sobering way. I wasn’t close with him but some of my good friends were. I was a senior living in the dorms and I remember getting phone calls in the middle of the night from people struggling to grapple with him taking his life. It was during this period that I started to truly understand the scope of mental illness.
What advice would you give other men with mental illness?
It surprised me to find that, frequently, there is no sign at all. Many people try their earnest to hide their mental illness from others. Some share openly, while others withdraw and are ashamed of it.
It’s vital that you talk to your friends, spouse, significant other. See a doctor. Our job is to help people. We will point you in the direction of valuable resources that can benefit you greatly. Find the courage to speak up and say “I have a problem. I need help.” Don’t ignore your disease. Ignoring it only makes it worse.
Thank you, Mike!
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.