Womanhood: Life in the Lions’ Den

Wracking my brain, I have become more and more convinced that there might be a metaphor for the life a woman faces, that a man can relate to. I think that metaphor is this: Womanhood is life in a lions’ den. Think about it: Lions are bigger than you, stronger than you, and can overpower you and kill and eat you, and there’s little to nothing you can do about it. Now imagine those lions are trying to constantly have sex with you, whether you like it or not. That, my friends, is womanhood in a nutshell. Think about it: trigger a lion and he could kill you. Trigger a man and he could kill you. Some lions view humans as meat. Some men view women, as, well, meat.  

I could go on and on. Now do you understand why women would be terrified in a room of men? It’s a lions’ den!

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We Need to Bust Some Mental Health Myths

Of course, you all know by now that accessories designer Kate Spade died by suicide. I’m not going to get into the details, but you can Google them any time you like. Somebody even leaked the VERY PRIVATE note she left for her daughter at the site. (Not cool.) Anyway, we need to talk about it. There has been a huge spike in suicides since, too.

I have decided to see what myths I could bust concerning suicide, and in extension, mental health.

Let me start with this one: One of the things most people get wrong about depression and suicide is that every case of depression has a rational origin. That is not always true. Sure, some of them have rational beginnings, but this is not always the case. No amount of money, success or fame is going to save you from something inside your head. It’s in your country already!

It is also a myth held by most people that mental health problems don’t affect them. I wonder – do you ever really know the people who know? Do you know what they face, how much energy they expend to just get ready for the day? Conservative estimates state that one in five people suffer from a mental illness. Those are Conservative estimates. Midline estimates state one in four, by the way.
Kate Spade just subverted the myth that people with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job. She designed some of the best handbags ever for a living. I myself held down a high-stress job at In-N-Out Burger for six years, with periodical raises. I could utilize my strengths to fit the job perfectly. Anyway, I don’t have to argue with you on how well I can hold down a job. Especially with the help of medication one can take in the morning and go on with the rest of your day, many people with mental illness hold down perfectly good jobs, in all industries.

Here’s another myth we can kick down: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough. In what universe? Look, if some gruff person in a fur or leather jacket could actually snap a person out of mental illness, I know of people who could make millions doing exactly that! But trying to make a person “Man Up, You Big Girl!!!!!” never works, and leads anyone down the road further to suicide. Aren’t we trying to prevent that?
I would like to also bust this myth. “There is no hope for people with mental health problems. Once a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he or she will never recover.” Sure, the problem may never go away, as it is not a cold, but we can live with it using the proper treatments and parameters. A little sidetrack: Did you know that in the 1848 novel Moby Dick, whales are scientifically classified as fish? The point is, both the medical and scientific communities can be wrong and need to correct themselves at times. It has happened before. Why not let it happen again?

Finally, and this is the big one: “Once a person wants to kill themselves, they are destined to do it.” Not true! I’ll tell you a story of a man who jumped over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge. He is one of the few to survive, by the way. Once he left the safety of the bridge, he regretted doing it. On the way down, he prayed to survive. He did – barely – but the regret stayed with him. He has never tried it again. Now, it doesn’t always take an extreme case of attempt to bring about the will to live. It may sometimes, but sometimes, just telling somebody is enough to deter it. In my case, that is what happened to me. I told somebody who told my mother, who got me help. It was in this instance I learned I had depression. It did not take a long time for me to learn how easy it is to manage, when you do what is necessary, even to the point of stigma.

Anyway, these are a few of the myths out there.

Stoicism: How Displaying Strength Goes Wrong

CONTENT WARNING: Murder, Suicide, Drug Use 

“Man Up.”  “Be strong!”  “Real men don’t cry.”  

These are common phrases said when a boy, man or even woman or girl perceived to be “strong” is told at a young age. This model of strength, and masculinity in the case of males, is heavily influenced by stoicism. Stoicism is an Ancient Greek school of philosophy that argues displays of emotion are due to lapses in judgment, and true strength and rationality is emotionless. It has made its way into the Model of Masculinity in America. I can’t say if it has made its way into other nations’ Model of Masculinity, though I suspect it has. Some people will admit to murder before admitting to therapy, as most men in America will.  

Modern stoicism is best defined in the basic emotional philosophy of professional wrestling. I have only seen two major emotions defined in the ring, and yes, I watched pro wrestling for years: Rage and Lust. It’s as if any emotion at all that is not rage or lust does not exist. That kind of aggressive stoicism takes a toll on a person, woman or man. Want to know something really weird? Pro wrestling is chock full of early deaths – including one which, if I remember correctly, involved family annihilation. But the man who did that has become a sort of He Who Must Not Be Named. (No, not Voldemort, my dear Harry Potter fans.) 

He Who Must Not Be Named, Chris Benoit, I briefly touched upon. He killed his wife and child. Now, it has been revealed that Benoit had brain injuries consistent with CTE, sustained during his career. I wonder if he knew he was going downhill physically? I wonder if that prompted such an extreme reaction? Unfortunately, I have previous experience in family annihilation. It happened to a friend of mine at church. The theory floating around is that his father did not think anyone could take better care of them than himself. I wonder if it a similar case? 

More examples of Stoicism abound. Many men have died of suicide due to not being able to get help for themselves. I have also heard that the success rate of suicide is four times higher among males than other genders. Also, what does modern stoicism contribute to the usage of alcohol and other drugs to evoke the “proper” state of being? How many people have fallen into addiction due to pressure to Man Up or Be Strong?  

You may think I have no business talking about Toxic Masculinity or Stoicism, but Stoicism has made its way into dealing with female emotions. How many times, when crying, have women and girls been told they are “Hysterical” or “Irrational” and unable to deal with hard issues due to emotion? By the way, “Hysterical” comes from the Ancient Roman word “Hystericus,” meaning “Of the womb.” The very idea that women are too emotional is ingrained in us from the ancient world. How are they prescribed to overcome their womanly emotions? “Woman Up!” “Be Strong!” Stoicism!  

I suspect that emotions may actually be helpful to one, if used correctly. If you’re feeling bad, there may be something wrong. If you’re depressed and putting on a face at a party, something might be wrong. If you’re feeling too good, something also might be wrong.  

I must admit, I was inspired by a segment on Sunday Morning about the toll that modern masculinity takes on young men in our culture…based on recent school shootings, mostly done by young men. We need to remove the stigma and hate of emotion from our national psyche. The Dam of Stoicism will burst eventually, and like any other dam holding back giant walls of water, the ending will not be pretty.