Thursday, January 21, 2016

Men's Mental Health, a Psychosomatic Odyssey

A late night/morning interaction, one of a handful of similar ones:
Both of us in bed, he is asleep, I am trying to accomplish tasks on my long to do list.
He wakes up and asks:
"What has your attention at 3am?" (it's 2:20am)

         "Scrabble.  I haven't made a move in days so I don't want to forfeit my games.  See?"   [I show phone screen to him]

[Long pause]
"Why do you need to do that now when I'm here?"

        "Because you have been asleep, and I wasn't disturbing you and you weren't     interacting with me."

"But you could save that for when I'm not here and you could wake up early and we could discuss what you wanted to discuss earlier today when I didn't have time."

        "When I get home from work after 11pm, that doesn't make me any better able to   wake up at 5am when you get up.  And neither of us are good at those sorts of conversations right after waking up and preparing for work."

He exits room without a word, doesn't return for about an hour.
He returns, opens bedroom door, stands in the doorway, and looks at me typing on my phone.

"Who is wanting your attention now?"
         [brief pause] "No one.... Just me." [brief pause]
He begins to leave and close the bedroom door.  I respond as he leaves:
         "I am sending the nightly work email to my coworkers."
"Why do you play these wordgames with me? "
         "I am not playing a game with you.  I just answered your question."
"I hate you sometimes."

He closes the door and leaves for the other room.  He closes door and sits back down at the computer which he has been on since he left the bedroom.
I get up a few seconds later to check in with him.

        "I am not playing games with you, I answered your question just as you asked it."
      "All I  did was simply answer your question."
"Leave. I am done."
       "But I just answered your question, and I clarified it."
I close the door to leave, and before the door is quite shut, he says"

"I will be packed and out by the weekend"

I return to bed, emotionally hurt, shocked, sad, and physically in pain from the interaction.

He continues to occupy himself on the computer.

Earlier today, I typed a list of symptoms he is experiencing into Google, and here is what popped up:
This is pretty telling in this situation.  It had never occurred to me this might be an underlying issue.  I was thinking more along the lines of PTSD for some of the anger and physical symptoms.  But this seems to fit:

Depression in Men:  Why It’s Hard to Recognize and What Helps
As men, we often believe we have to be strong and in control of our emotions at all times. When we feel hopeless, helpless, or overwhelmed by despair we tend to deny it or cover it up by drinking too much, behaving recklessly, or exploding with anger. But depression in men is a common condition. The first step to recovery is to understand there’s no reason to feel ashamed. Then you can face the challenge head on and start working to feel better.    .....

      [He is from the type of old school that seeks therapy typically only in a severe situation.  But that's better than not at all!  He does not like directly confronting emotional issues or hearing criticism, really of any sort.  This makes it nearly impossible to say "Honey, I think you might be upset or missing something or your ego is acting like a baby right now."  Too harsh?

  And he is pretty resistant to the idea that it's pretty standard for humans to repeat the patterns of our parents - or to swing on the reaction pendulum to the other unhealthy extreme.  Either way, until we have some SERIOUS intervention we usually unconsciously reenact the past.  But I digress somewhat.  Back to the web site that I selected:  ]

Men can experience depression in different ways to women. You may develop the standard symptoms of depression and become sad and withdrawn, losing interest in friends and activities you used to enjoy. Or you may become irritable and aggressive, compulsively working, drinking more than normal, and engaging in high risk activities.
Unfortunately, men are far less adept at recognizing their symptoms than women. A man is more likely to deny his feelings, hide them from himself and others, or try to mask them with other behaviors. The three most common signs of depression in men are:
  • Physical pain. Sometimes depression in men shows up as physical symptoms—such as backache, frequent headaches, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, or digestive disorders—that don’t respond to normal treatment.
  • Anger. This could range from irritability, sensitivity to criticism, or a loss of your sense of humor to road rage, a short temper, or even violence. Some men become abusive, controlling, verbally or physically abusive to wives, children, or other loved ones.  
  • Reckless behavior. A man suffering from depression may start exhibiting escapist or risky behavior. This could mean pursuing dangerous sports, driving recklessly, or engaging in unsafe sex. You might drink too much, abuse drugs, or gamble compulsively.
 I'm seeing reckless in terms of saying reckless and abusive things that are intended to inflict emotional pain in one's loved one, requiring lots of alcohol to calm down (like in the middle of the night when there is often insomnia).  Night time and tired times are when he is particularly prone to making accusations, often apropos of nothing currently happening, calling names, slamming doors, dropping the f-bomb.  Basically he throws a good old fashioned temper tantrum when he's tired.  It sounds familiar, but it's a lot more scary when it's coming from a 250-pounder who has a lot of distrust from old disaster- relationships.  

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[ I've been on OkCupid since it first started in the dark ages before smart phones. My profile had turned into an essay of my observations, research, and beliefs on culture & relationships until I dumped it here. Happy reading!] :

I have to admit after dating in DC for several years, I have become skeptical of modern metropolitan guys. Why? For starters, the level of self-awareness is often laughable. Here's a typical, real profile excerpt: "Most people would describe me as a passionate, caring, smart, and hard-working individual. I'm independent to a fault and have been self-employed as...etc etc", but then you read how they answer the questions on OKCupid, or you meet them in person, and it becomes clear that they are as "smart" as the average DC gay, have little curiosity about life, they "care" mostly about their image, job, car, dog, and mom (usually in that order), "work hard" because they're materialistic, and are "independent to a fault" because they don't really get how true friends and LTR's are about being part of a courageously vulnerable, open, and committed team.

I'm proud of my Midwestern rural upbringing. Traditional (subsistence/ non-plantation) agrarian values trump urban values when it comes to teaching people how to be in a relationship; because rural culture fosters pro-social interdependent "Ubuntu" behavior. In contrast, city life is often structured in a way that promotes isolation, superficiality, and materialism. Usually ruralites have to function by the Golden Rule, as they must rely on each other to exist since every convenience is not at their fingertips. That's where they learn about commitment to human relationships, something that appears to me as increasingly rare in urban life. Too many city folk, even liberals, seem to cultivate an Ayn Randian superman lifestyle. That is, a smugness developed from cultivating material self-reliance, and an ignorance of pro-social behavior like friendliness, generosity, humility, practicality, manual/domestic skills, and compromise.

Lastly, I'd like to warn against a huge misconception I read in many profiles: Falling in love will not make you a happier, satisfied, or more committed person. Research shows that it is through generous, compassionate words & actions that we achieve the greatest personal happiness.

[edit]Robert Ingersoll et al. are 75% right when he said, "the way to be happy is to make others so." Surprise surprise, happiness is not all about you(rself).

You are responsible for your own happiness and your own integrity, and if you are committed to love you will not only fall in love, but your relationship will be much more likely to last.

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