There’s a lot of pressure on us as men to be strong, with phrases like ‘suck it up’ and ‘man up’ used commonly, without any real thought as to how damaging they might be based on what the person is dealing with.
Partners are rarely able to understand fully unless they have experienced it themselves. Panic attacks are sometimes dismissed as attempts to get attention, which only adds to the frustration.
Of course, we can’t blame others for not understanding – if you haven’t experienced it how can you understand what it’s like? When you do try to explain it often someone will attempt empathy by saying something like “Oh I worry a lot too,” or “Well everyone’s stressed these days.”
I can tell you categorically that this is not in the same league as stress. It’s way beyond the everyday stress that we’ve come to know, but it is that relentless, sustained stress and our reaction to it that leads to an exhausted nervous system and that horrible, emptiness inside, accompanied by the conviction that you just can’t cope.
You can cope, in fact you have been coping just fine. Not the way you may want to, admittedly, but that’s going to change. You are strong, much stronger than you think, and you are certainly not less of a man for feeling emotions. You’re human.
As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” This experience is making you stronger, it may be tough at the moment but you’re learning from this and when you’re recovered you will be able to channel all of this strength and experience into building the life you want.
Despite how bad things got for me, if I could go back and change it, erase it, have a life without anxiety, I wouldn’t. You may think I’m nuts, but anxiety saved my life many times – panic attacks caused me to give up various drugs and then alcohol, each of which may well have led to the end if I hadn’t stopped, so it’s been the path a new, healthier lifestyle that I may not have arrived at otherwise.
So remember, this is an experience, a journey. You’ll come out of it stronger and wiser than ever before.