In a previous blog post I talked about men and mental health. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about. It’s no secret that men suffer more when it comes to being honest in their recovery. With most men feeling embarrassed or ashamed to even admit they have an issue with their mental health. But there’s one group in society in particular that struggles even more.
Whilst the majority of bisexual and gay men maintain relatively good health in general (CDC, 2017.) Research has shown that they are at far greater risk of mental health problems. This is due to factors such as stigma and discrimination. Because of this gay and bisexual men are at a far greater risks of having:
& General Anxiety Disorder.
One man who can vouch for this is my good friend, Seven Fox Devereux. Seven shares his heartwarming story of tragedy and triumph, opening up about his mental health for the first time. He talks about growing up gay at a time and place in society, where homosexuality wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today, and spreads a message of love and acceptance. This is Sevens story of depression, and expression….
So Seven Tell me a bit more about your experiences. When did you first begin to realise you first had mental health problems?
Well Laura, I was first diagnosed with what they call clinical depression in maybe the early 2000s? But on reflection I suspect there was possibly something going on in my teenage years, late 80’s – early 90s, and back then it was never really talked about. Back then I was beginning to realise that I was attracted to men, and living in a very heterosexual/homophobic society in the depths of West Wales.
I had never conformed to societal norms even there, and indeed merrily strutted about the countryside with a giant Mohican and loads of make-up! However it was when I started to have relations with men, bearing in mind the environment that we were living in, that I had a kind of inkling that I was never going to be allowed to be happy, particularly as I was of an age considered to be ‘jail-bait’ in those days. So I suppose that’s when the more ‘circumstantial’ depression started to kick in.
How did you cope in the earlier days?
Back then, when I knew things weren’t right, I approached my doctor who basically told me to fuck off because he thought I was looking for drugs. And in a way I suppose I was, because I felt I couldn’t make sense of anything. As far as I was concerned the world wasn’t fair, and there was nothing I could do about it. So! Following the general rebuttals from society I did the only thing I could think of, blagged a lift to Cardiff, and embarked upon several years of art, music, drink, drugs and sexual experimentation! This is not a recommendation to anyone by the way, but you must understand that back then it was not only mental health that was misunderstood, but also homosexuality, and from my experience many people sought sanctuary in an alternative lifestyle where there were others that wanted to create hope where previously there had been none.
From this though, I went on to gain full-time employment for a number of years. However this was again punctuated by a couple of episodes of increasing seriousness. My sister’s death and subsequent breakdown of my relationship had agency in this, but I can’t, on reflection, absolve myself of any responsibility of what was to unfold.
What was the moment that spearheaded you into recovery?
Oh gods! My last (and hopefully last!) proper breakdown. I was completely debilitated by this one. I was prescribed citalopram that, regardless of dose adjustments just was not working. I had stopped sleeping completely, taking a triple dose of Zopiclone that was doing nothing apart from rendering me as a daily zombie. I was hallucinating on an extraordinary level. Nothing was working, and my anxiety levels were so phenomenal that I couldn’t leave the house without something to numb me so was drinking wine (or doing whatever I had to) so I could go to the shops for food.
I underwent a very painful assessment, during which I was informed that if I wanted to I could take it to the board and be registered disabled such was the level of my anxiety. And that was my lightning rod moment. I knew then it had to stop.
Did you feel you could talk about it openly?
In the early days absolutely not. There was very much the attitude of put up, shut up, and carry on regardless. Which, to be frank, although it put me through an absolute wringer at a time when I was supposed to be young and discovering life, very likely saved me. I suppose back then I had literally no safety nets and wanted to survive so just bloody well had to. Again, I’m not saying that I think that’s right, and it gave me a lot of physical health problems while I was dealing with, trying to override, my mental health. And my resulting lifestyle choices coupled with my body’s psychosomatic responses have left me with ongoing issues which continue to plague me. However I have accepted that maybe the lack of support was a driver to me progressing on a personal level, and I know I won’t get a new body but hey, we all get older somehow!
And in terms of talking about more recent episodes openly, I have definitely felt that it is gradually becoming more acceptable, however I have often had a very variable response. I know all too well that when depression and anxiety hit it leads to a perceived retraction from everyone and everything, when all you really want is for someone to kick your door down and tell you that they know that everything isn’t okay, but that it will be.
When my sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer following several years of fighting it, my world shattered. At the time I had been living for some time with my partner, and I suppose we were both relatively successful and had built a home together, and I thought we were happy. When I took the phonecall the rug was pulled from under my feet, and within weeks (including being threatened with disciplinary action at work) I found myself again signed off with depression, but I was refusing treatment at that point as I felt it was circumstantial. My partner actually asked me if I was using the situation the get time off work. Needless to say that relationship died in the water about ten years ago.
My most recent and worst episode proved some valuable points to me. The medical profession were amazing, and I could be absolutely open with them. And I know I was an absolute and chaotic mess, but it made it vividly clear which of my personal friends understood what was happening, and those who were equally prepared to ditch me, or at least keep me at arm’s length at that time. A friend came around during my nadir, and asked me how I was feeling. I said that I felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane. She asked me if I had told my doctor that, because she knew that I hadn’t because I’m a stubborn fucker! And that’s the kind of support and spirit of openness that we need
Do you feel there’s enough being done for men and their mental health? What would you say to any man worried about opening up about their mental health?
Men have been neglected for a long time now, both in terms of mental health and being constantly assailed by the images of perfect men e.g. fashion advertising and TOWIE. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that women have had to fight, and continue to do so, for equality, and that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. But men are also daily assaulted with lifestyle choices, and I think for everyone this is outstandingly unfair. I obviously have no solution as a little man! But I think if men (and women) accepted that sometimes life is shit we might just deal with it better. I find it very hard to separate men’s and women’s mental health I’m afraid, because there is no getting away from the fact that we all live together so we probably just have to find a way to make it work.
But I digress. I don’t think there’s enough being done for anyone’s mental health, and if I had the space I would reduce that down to governmental infrastructure, or lack thereof. But for men, I believe we as a society should be opening up a massive door and inviting them in, because even in 2018 I don’t think men are able to talk freely about their feelings, their sexuality, and themselves. We all know times are changing, and a lot of young people are spearheading this and I think it’s amazing. I don’t want to say it’s too late, because it never is, but it doesn’t help the 49 year old turning up to his Grindr date with stilettoes and a tiara hoping that the incumbent 23 year old won’t mind.
I would say to anyone though, if you are struggling, reach up. The world is a harsh place sometimes, but there is always someone out there. It might not be who you were expecting, but they will be there. (Disclaimer: you might not like them later, but make the most!)
How is life treating you now and what’s in store for the future?
I’m not answering this thank you! It’s private! 🙂
Suffice to say though, things are on an even keel though, I’ve made some changes (for the better I hope!) and am in the process of making some plans for the future.