COVID-19 is on the lips and minds of pretty much everybody. I’m waiting to start my new job. My wife and I haven’t had Government help like many did with furlough. Social media is getting more intense. The news? Turned off a year ago.
I feel like the world around me and more specifically my life is falling. A miscarriage in February. We lost our miracle baby, (after my wife and I were both individually told we can’t have kids). We couldn’t even bury him. Three days later, a relative committed suicide. And as I write this, two more gone: Grandma, and a uni mate overdosed on pills this week.
I’ve sat around during this lockdown attempting to make sense of the pure – devastation, chaos, fear, and suffering. Everywhere I looked, I couldn’t find a sense of peace or stability in what appeared to be an unstoppable storm. The biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide.
But I believed my life had a destiny. I could not let the depression, anxiety and suicide win. I try to seek purpose in my darkest hour.
I was reflecting for many days, while pretending to ignore my pain by playing FIFA into the early hours most nights. FIFA wasn’t going to fill the void, nor was anybody else. I had to understand that nothing in this life is wasted and every encounter had purpose. Hope began to fill my mind, as I started to understand the same experience as one of my heroes Adoniram Judson did: ‘Despite drinking the bitter cup whose dregs I am some what acquainted with, to take it with both hands, I soon learned the secret: that there is sweetness at the bottom of the bitter cup.’
It all came together, minute by minute, hour by hour, all of the years of sponging, networking, caring, listening, and loving. It was my time to not rely on others. God forbid another pandemic, but to help set men free. I found my ‘sweetness at the bottom of the bitter cup’.
Looking forward I could see it: the social-economic destruction. That we were going to lose many men. After all, studies have shown that after 2008 financial crash, there was an increase in levels of poor mental health in males, and a rise in numbers of males presenting at hospital following suicide attempts. Amid all of these we also talk about toxic masculinity, in relation to men’s mental health and well-being.
Men were going to do what they do best: stay in the shadows, wear their masks, pretending, and suppressing. The inspiration increased, and I believe the name came, ‘ENLIGHTEN the Shadows.’ It was time to create a platform for men to shine light on their darkness. A place to remain anonymous behind the screen, with no judgements.
I decided to start messy, to be brave. I now run weekly episodes on ENLIGHTEN the Shadows YouTube channel.
By doing these episodes, I wanted to have a space where my guest can be raw and real. I believe in empowering men to find their thoughts and voice. Not only that, but to inspire some action. I came up with this acronym that possesses self-awareness, resilience, and decision-making: ACT= Acknowledge, Comprehend, Take Action/Ownership.
Some may say: ‘Yeah OK Rory, you’re not Nostradamus!’ But the data is clear: ‘A stand-out finding of the Harry’s Masculinity Report was that the strongest predictor of a positive mindset in men – by far – is secure and satisfying employment. Job satisfaction was four times more important than the next indicators of positivity, health and being in a stable relationship. Men who have high job satisfaction are very likely to be content in other aspects of their life. Men at work are more likely to be men at ease with themselves. Everything else – contentment at home, in relationships and friendships – flows down from men being satisfied at work.’
Not only do men get their purpose and identity from a bit of hard work and graft, but they value going out with their mates at the pub, building things, playing sports together, and visiting the barbers.
Studies from the University of Oxford and University of Glasgow have found that men can get some emotional benefits from having a drink at talk with friends – not to be confused with harmful patterns of drinking.
In fact, this lockdown has prevented these beneficial activities. The Harry’s Masculinity Report also found that the:’Overall, 84.4% of British men found friendship to be very important or important – which is higher even than family at 79.3%.’
Truth is, us men are different. We find it tricky to articulate how we feel in regards to our suffering, in particular the battles that go on in the four walls of our minds. But it’s time to stop the stigma. Cut the excuses and get real with where we are at, so we can find freedom and transformation.
ENLIGHTEN The Shadows does not continue the weekly episodes on YouTube alone, but we will seek to grow into supporting men through mentoring/life coaching.
I want to encourage you: If I can get back up from this year’s buckets full of crap, you can too! There are men’s groups popping up around the UK: Men Unite and Andy’s Man Club to name a couple. The more of us, the merrier. We are all in this fight together.
The year 2020 will never be forgotten, and for many infamously. I however, managed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and overcame my fears. It’s time to ENLIGHTEN The Shadows.
Image credit: Freepik
Rory Green is the founder of ENLIGHTEN the Shadows