Have you ever felt like there is more to life? Like you are living a limited experience - almost as though you cannot express yourself fully or you have to hold things back and hide behind a mask?
Maybe you just want to have healthy relationships or understand yourself and others (kids, wife etc.) but you are not sure how to...you cannot find the words to say or you try to express affection but something is definitely missing?
Like many men, I was raised in a family that encouraged stereotypical forms of masculine emotional expression. Confidence, control, toughness and strength were celebrated and narrowly defined as the absence of vulnerability. Anger and aggression were acceptable but I could not openly admit to my experience with fear, pain or hurt. I was taught to repress my need for comfort and affirmation.
I distinctly recall some labels I was given as a child: Stupid. Monkey. Soft. I was not fully human. I was not enough. I could not cry, complain, counter or clarify. I learned that real men are supposed to hide their pain and avoid talking about feelings openly. I wanted so desperately to be a real man. So I kept it all inside and played the role.
Years later I would be diagnosed with Depression. I could not get out of bed. I felt sad, lost, confused, worthless, afraid, empty, and overwhelmed. I thought about committing suicide.
When my mother died things began to change for me. I was stuck. I did not know who I was. SOMETHING WAS WRONG. LIFE WAS NOT WORKING. I had to find my purpose. I decided to revisit what I had believed for so long. Was it true? Why do I have to pretend that things do not hurt me or act like I am super human? What makes honest communication and transparency so unacceptable? Can vulnerability be ok? What is the harm in accepting myself and others in all of our good, bad and ugly?
Since then I have answered many of those questions and heard many stories so similar they could have been my own. I started HeartOFaMAN to reach out and give voice to men like me: those who are tired of denying parts of themselves; those who recognize that there must be more than one way to be a man; those searching for options; those who are ready to create alternative narratives.
Using social media, support groups and workshops, I want to inspire, teach skills and spread awareness about men’s mental health in particular. My hope is that you will find what you need here to take the next step in your journey – whatever that looks like. That may be questioning what you have believed, it may be seeing a therapist or sharing your fears with a good friend. It may simply be walking around with this new insight – that you are right: there is so much more to YOUR story and strength is being who you are…fully, totally, completely, without apology.
My name is Donovan and I would be honoured to join you and your youtube channel, youth group, congregation, school, corporate team building, conference or mental health awareness event as a speaker. Together, let’s share, redefine and end the stigma.