There’s lots in the press about depression since Robin Williams’ tragic death. There’s a good article in the Guardian today which points out that men are the main victims, if that’s the right word, of this ghastly illness. But I worry when I read stories like that. Even if it’s mostly men who are depressed, we shouldn’t forget about women who are depressed, because if we do we’ll have the opposite of the domestic violence debate where the minority of male victims are completely ignored.
I am not an expert on depression other than it’s corrosive effects knock the living spirit out of me. I am not sure, either, that everyone has basically the same Black Dog. Some are bigger and uglier creatures, others are more of the irritating yappy variety.
My experience is of men suffering from mental illness. Maybe that says more about me and the company I keep, maybe it fits in with the society in which we live. Perhaps if I was a woman, I might know more depressed women. Maybe in the Daily Mail society where women have their place (looking thin, being young, being image without substance) we assume they just get on with it. If they can cope with childbirth, running the household, living with difficult people like me, then they can cope with anything.
If men find it difficult to talk about our mental state, then imagine how difficult it is for us to talk about being the victims of domestic violence? It’s SO embarrassing. Except for me it isn’t. My ragged mental health was not changed much when I lived with a violent woman who once attacked me so hard I almost lost consciousness and was left with massive belt-buckle marks all over my body. Oddly, I found it easier to talk about than I did the Black Dog.
And when I lived with the constant threat and regularity of violence, there was nothing for me. No support group, no one to call, nothing. For women, there always was something and quite right too. For me, the best advice, and I am not making this up, was for me to ‘man up.’ Well, thanks for that. ‘Man up’ and hit back? Despite my former partner being more than slightly deranged at certain times (I never found out why: I left her in 1990 and have never seen her since) and being incredibly strong and powerful when the mood was in her, I am not sure the world’s strongest man could have kept her at bay. But I don’t normally hit people, and never, ever women.
So there I was in a minority of male victims of abuse. For some odd reason, it didn’t have lasting effects. It’s just a memory and when I left her, any feelings of concern evaporated. But it taught me that it was not just women who get beaten up.
Now I read that men are the main victims of depression. I hope that doesn’t mean we forget all about women if it turns out that it’s true.
I wouldn’t want to be a woman for all the tea in China or all the cider in Thatchers for that matter and I do feel, without having any evidence, that women are stronger than men in many ways, generally.
But let’s not put up walls to divide and separate the issue.
If someone is being beaten up or suffering from illness, it doesn’t matter what sex they are.