Michael Suey and Men’s Mental Health
Over the past year, I’ve accomplished more monumental things than in any other period of my life. I graduated from university, started a new job, officially moved away from home, qualified for the Boston Marathon, passed the Level I CFA, and got into my first serious relationship. Reflecting on it all, I’m so proud, not only of what I achieved but also of the strength it took to allow me to create these opportunities for myself. It might seem like I have it all put together from the outside (or based on that first, not-so-humble paragraph). And the truth is I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but the truth is also that I probably don’t go a single day where I don’t struggle with my mental health. I couldn’t admit to this reality for a long time, and when I did, it terrified me. I have been very privileged throughout my life having had opportunities to pursue my dreams, travel, and develop amazing relationships. I’ve always been happy and proud of who I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish. But, at the same time, I’ve always battled with what I call the “what ifs” or “overthinking” or what I now understand to be “anxiety.”
“What if I get cancer?”
“What if I win this badminton match and finally break through?”
“What if I can’t stop these thoughts, and it consumes me for the rest of my life?”
Out of everything that happened this year, the most important was that with the help of a therapist, I was finally able to understand that, like any challenge in life, I wasn’t going to solve my mental health problems by running from them. When I stopped trying to avoid and deny the thoughts I was experiencing and accepted that they were part of my life, I was able to turn around and face them head-on. And you know what, like most of the things we fear, when I saw my problems for what they were, they weren’t as bad as I had made them out to be. I was able to change my whole mindset toward my mental health.
Does it still terrify me?
Do I still have moments where I feel consumed and sick to my stomach about the “what ifs” of the world?
Yup, I still do.
But now, I don’t see these thoughts as a crippling monster to hide from but rather a challenge and an opportunity for growth. I can do things to help reframe and manage these moments to make them appear less often and prevent them from taking control of my life. It seems simple, but I was so scared to admit that this fear was coming from inside me that I couldn’t see this before.
This mindset has made me feel liberated and powerful. I genuinely believe that it inspired the confidence and strength that I needed to accomplish everything I did this year.
Why Mental Health Matters
My intent while I write this is not to pretend to be a therapist, claim that I have fixed all my problems, or imply it is weak to fear yours.
Sometimes I think people, including myself, need to be reminded that we’re growing and that approaching life with some acceptance, patience, and love for ourselves or others can go a long way.
For better or worse, expectations are a powerful thing; they can motivate us to achieve greatness, but their weight can also cause unhealthy pressure and take a toll on our mental health. With National Men’s Mental Health Week in June, it is crucial to highlight a few problematic expectations society often imposes on male figures. You, or a man in your life, might be feeling or have felt these in the past:
- A need to always be confident because that’s attractive
- Men shouldn’t feel the same emotions as women
- Emotions make you soft
- Tough men push through the pain
- The need to be a “rock” for others around you
- Only strong or tall or rich men are successful, and you need to be that
I’ve felt some, if not all, of these before. When I finally decided I wanted to see a therapist, I was lucky enough to have amazing people in my life who encouraged and supported me in taking this step. But of all the people who could relate to what I was about to do, none of them were guys. I knew seeing a therapist would make me feel better, but the feeling of doing something viewed as abnormal made me question if it was worth it. I went through with it, and I’m so grateful I did. However, making that decision did not come without feelings of weakness, isolation, and even shame.
Unfortunately, society still does and probably will continue to burden men with these expectations. But, the truth is that everyone is struggling. The star quarterback dating the head cheerleader is struggling, and so is the finance bro driving around in his new Mercedes. True confidence is accepting your struggles as part of the unique and ever-changing person you are.
Life is going to be challenging, and you will struggle, but like you’ve done every day since you’ve been on this earth, you are going to grow and learn – and in that sense, there might be nothing more exciting than the “what if.”
To learn more about men’s mental health and for resources please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website.