This bears repeating: It is perfectly okay for men to be openly health conscious. In fact, it is practically a moral imperative. For far too long, men have been in the closet about their health concerns. This is part of the leftover accretion of toxic masculinity that has poisoned just about every facet of modern life. Entire generations of men have suffered and died from things that were either easily preventable or treatable had they been more open about their health concerns in the first place. Let us commit to raising the next generation differently.
Also, let’s stop pretending that the only aspects of men’s health worth dealing with is related to sexual function. We get it. Erectile dysfunction is a medical issue that can and should be treated. But it can also create another kind of toxicity: We need to break the narrative that we only care about health that is tied to sex in some way. That is a false, and ultimately self-defeating narrative. We can and must do better. Instead, let’s broaden the conversation and stop being afraid of appearing vulnerable and weak. As a human, you are vulnerable and weak. Get over it. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start dealing with the following issues:
Real men – whether they live Falls Church, VA or New York, NY – get physical therapy in Falls Church, VA or New York, NY. There is no shame in that. In fact there is some shame in not showing up for your physical therapy appointments. If you didn’t have a problem the doctor thought would be improved by physical therapy, she never would have prescribed it. You should be even more concerned about your health than your doctor. That means doing whatever it takes to get better.
Not only should you go to physical therapy when it is recommended, you should let your family and friends know about it. Conversation creates openness. Being open about physical therapy helps to normalize it. If you are not ashamed to admit you need it, others will be more open to trying it. You might even learn from others who have done it once the conversation is underway. Physical therapy is a slightly modified workout in a slightly modified gym led by a trainer with access to your doctor. It is a win-win for everyone.
Have you noticed how impossible it is to say “mental health” without saying “men”? That should be the first clue that mental health should be a natural concern for men. When we are suffering from mental and emotional stress, we are not at our best. Suffering from stress is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of humanity. Welcome to the human race.
If you don’t deal with your stress, it will eventually crush you. If you were under a heavy object that had fallen on you during a catastrophe, you would call for help because doing nothing would mean letting yourself be crushed by the weight of the object. It is no different when being crushed by emotional weight. The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men. From that, we have learned that there is nothing noble about quietly and privately bearing the weight of stress. No one calls for help quietly. Be noisy about your mental health so that others can not only come to the rescue, but join you in getting the help they need.
For ages, men have used secret, chronic pain as an excuse for abusing drugs and alcohol. The pain is very real. But the need to keep it secret and bottled up isn’t. Your friends need to know that you can’t go on that adventure because you are dealing with pain issues. If they are really your friends, they wouldn’t entice you to do things they know are harmful to you. If you are open about your pain, your friends can be a resource to your getting better rather than an impediment.
Men’s health needs to come out of the closet. Start by talking to other people about your physical therapy, mental health, and chronic pain. Let us put silent suffering to an end once and for all.