COVID TIMES: Keeping connections alive

Men are quiet. They are often expected to be. Silent, keep some emotions hidden and some open.

Love politics? Get angry with the pollies? Shout, rant, get angry!
Hate injustice? Angry about what’s happening in the share market? Show it! Bang the table, break a glass!
These are normal- but if you feel helpless, something bothers you, you’re feeling down… what then?
Do you call your buddy for after work drinks and tell them you’re feeling low?
Do you tell your partner over dinner that you’ve almost broken down in tears over small things?
Do you tell a colleague over lunch that you think you’re not good enough?

My guess is…..Nah…it doesn’t happen like that. Over millenia men have been expected to take emotional punches to the chin and “man up”.
Don’t show weakness- someone will use that against you
Don’t feel helpless- people around you won’t respect you
Don’t get emotional – that’s for the girls.

So…. what happens when a man feels vulnerable? Feels low? Feels like he’s spiralling?

…… it gets difficult, it gets confusing and it gets complicated.

And it hasn’t become any easier during this pandemic. Being isolated, being home with the family and worrying about a whole load of things.
Not having other outlets, like going out with the boys for a night at the “G” or for a game. Not able to go to the gym and pump some iron and sweat out that stress.
What then?

Two weeks back, I got an email enquiry. From …let’s call him Nick. His email was not unlike the many that I get from people – who want to ask if I can help them with their emotional health, but don’t want to “ASK” explicitly. He said he’d seen that we’re still running groups and wanted to see if joining one would be helpful.

Like many others, it took time for him to share his story.
Like many others, his story ran along familiar lines.
Nick met his partner in his mid 20’s, they were  very similar, good careers and loved the same things. Within a couple of years they  had moved in together, bought a house in the suburbs and now, nearly 20 years later they have two children, one in university and the other in high school. Nick and his partner are successful, committed and while they’ve had a few bumps along the way; both are happy…..almost.

Nick cannot quite put his finger on when he began to feel like everything was not quite right. What he does tell me, is that in the last couple of months he’s felt like there in an ocean between him and his loved ones. “It seems silly, but I feel so disconnected from everyone.”

I ask him what prompted the phone call “I don’t know….. I called my mum a couple of weeks ago, you know…just to see how she was doing with the lockdown. She was so surprised to hear from me! It just threw me…”
“I realised it’s because I don’t call her unless it’s her birthday or mother’s day or their anniversary….”
“My parents they come over for every other Christmas, when we have the family lunch at our home…..otherwise, its not like we see them all the time, I don’t know what’s going on with them… “

“I started thinking back…. I don’t have too many of “my” people to talk to. My sisters, and I have three….two live here in Melbourne. We maybe speak to each other for birthdays.”

I asked him about his social life and what it looked like…..
“They are families we’ve known because of the kids, you know… we catch up for things, go out and socialise and I have work buddies that I do Friday drinks or go to footy games with. But, you know….. I don’t know that I’d cal

l any of them at midnight if I needed something”

“My wife, she’s got stacks of people….her sister, her work friends, even her pilates buddies…they’ll come over all the time, they do things together and make time. My in-laws are nice people. They used to look after the kids when they were little….. so I guess we’ve spent more time with them. But in all these years, I feel like I’ve lost time with my folks…”

He laughed….” Gawd, if I’d heard anyone talk like this, I would have asked them to pull their head in!”

“But…..I don’t like that I’ve become distant with my parents you know….and my sisters…. I don’t know much about their lives at all, what they’ve gone thru….their kids, their work….
I’ve just lost touch….lost track. It wasn’t deliberate, but it happened….

What brought it all on……When everyone started talking about keeping social distance…I already was- and I didn’t like that.”

Men don’t talk about needing people, they are not expected to. Often it’s the women in our families who forge connections and keep them going. But everyone needs to feel connected, everyone needs to have someone who they can talk to about anything and as we get older we feel these emotions more strongly…. encourage the men in your life to stay connected with their loved ones, encourage them to foster relationships and activities that are not just to do with their work and check in on them when it looks like they may be struggling….a single phone call or gentle outreach can save a life.


Disclaimer:(Names and places changed and some details modified to protect confidentiality. Content included with client’s permission and their approval of draft)

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