Wasted Wednesdays, thirsty Thursdays, wicked weekends and some pretty miserable Monday mornings were recurring parts of my first-year university experience. I was having fun, and, quite frankly, I was living the healthiest I had lived. Ever.
I won’t beat around the bush and say that I had been completely mentally healthy up until that point. In fact, I was far from it. One might think that the talk of suicide and depression rising in young males is simply nothing but some convoluted statistics. Sadly, I regret to inform you that this is not the case. I am one of those young males, and that doesn’t exactly make life easy.
I didn’t have many friends in high school, let alone too many people who talked to me or even gave me notice. I was essentially an outsider because I was reserved and did not express the same type of bone-headed masculinity that the other guys at my high school so exuberantly put on for the world. I wasn’t a social butterfly, but you can’t say that someone deserves to be ignored or belittled because they aren’t extremely extroverted. In a similar way, I was criticized for not behaving the way a “man” was to behave.
Nevertheless, high school graduation finally came with a feeling that was akin to being released from jail, and I never looked back. People tell you that university is a place to recreate yourself, and I took that to heart. Gone was the person who sat at home on Friday nights re-reading George Orwell’s 1984 for fun, that person spent too much time feeling scared and alone and needed to be removed. Point blank, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Indeed, it’s quite a surprise the things a person will do when they give themselves no sympathy.
Move-in day came, and I knew what I had to do: give people a different impression of myself. In all honesty, it wasn’t hard. A little cheeriness went a long way, or so it seemed.
I made friends instantly, and with a blink of an eye, my life completely changed. Over the weeks and months that passed I found that I had actually built a stable of people – friends – who I hung out with regularly. I actually felt included in something for once in my life, and man, did it feel amazing. I was going out regularly, doing well in school, and doing much better with the opposite sex than I had used to. Nonetheless, while it maybe an overused expression, all that glitters is not gold.
Sure, one could say that it does not sound like I created any sort of problem for myself – after all, I’m sure some people reading this may have torn the page in half when I said I was able to go out regularly and do well in school.
However, I always held on to this feeling that, since I was a “man” now, I could not bear to let these new people see the sad little person inside me that used to spend Friday nights alone. Thus, I pushed my feelings down and away from everyone.
Ultimately, this created a tension inside me that that was akin to shaking a beer can; too much pressure was bubbling and I was ready to burst. Somehow I felt as if people would not accept me for the emotional faults that I carried deep in my thoughts.
On the outside I carried myself pretty well, and I could not bear to ruin my recent rise in my social life by revealing things that I thought would cause people to judge me. In actuality, there were people who may have actually cared, but there was this overwhelming feeling that releasing my emotions would only result in emotional embarrassment
I was depressed and already on anti-depressants before I came to university, and I felt as if those around me, even though we spent a lot of time together, would lose respect for me, see me as a weak person for my past history of emotional trials or any sort of indication, whether spoken or non-spoken, of the damage that lingered in me.
Despite this, I just kept stuffing it all deep down inside, never trusting anyone because I felt that, because I was supposed to be a “man” – someone completely in control of their emotions and life – I could not open up.
I was never much of one to care for the lone gun-slinger image, but it seemed as though that I trapped myself into this fantasy world in which I had to keep up this strong outward masculine identity that bordered on something like that. Not as some sort of bone-headed, beer-chugging, sex-crazed young male like some of my contemporaries, who think that constitutes maturity or manhood, but rather that I had to hold it together as person who seemed to not have problems.
All in all, turns out that the only weakness I had was that I just couldn’t speak up about my emotions, and I am not the only young male that has dealt with this problem and will deal with it in the future. It is an issue too often ignored in society. Take it from me, when you have faith in no one, you wind up having no one to depend on.