I saw this today, about the book "I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression"
"I would like very much to be able to forgive myself for what I've done to my marriage. I'd love to leave all of the crap that I've allowed to define me in the dust and live my life as a happy, accepting and authentic man. I spend so much of my time thinking about exactly that.
I have not lived up to the typical male ideals of achievement. I'm not enormously successful. I have no history of scholastic or athletic excellence. I'm not a genius. What I am is an artist, specifically a musician. If I could support myself playing music, even if it meant a reduction in my quality of life, I would, and without a moment's hesitation. The problem is, I'm not that good a musician either. I'm OK. I'm a pretty good composer, a pretty good vocalist and a mediocre instrumentalist. Not good enough to do studio work, not creative enough to be a professional songwriter, just kind of middle-of-the-road.
The problem with being an artist is that society, especially male society, does not value artists that are not exceptionally talented. I have no desire to be a competitive, achievement-oriented, career-driven alpha male type, but I do have to survive in that environment. I have to make a living. Among other men, I am a target. I want to learn to not care about that. I want to be me, and to be accepted for that.
Men are taught from a young age that their output determines their value. We admire the star quarterback, the astronaut, the "manly" types. We size each other up in social situations. It's sad. "Is he richer than me? Is he more fit? Does he have a bigger dick?" We allow the bullshinola that society has taught us to define our self-worth. Mine was defined as lacking at a young age. I was fat. Not athletic at all, not an achiever. Braces, glasses, the works. When I first became interested in girls, I would quickly get shot down. Sure, the braces came off, the glasses came off, I lost some weight, but those first experiences stuck. By the age of 14 I already thought of myself as something less than other boys.
I started playing in bands in my late teens. It was a great outlet for me. It was also a lot of fun and we made a little money at it. That was the most healthy outlet I've ever had and it did wonders for my self-esteem at the time. Girls started to become interested in me because of the bands. That became the unhealthy outlet for me. One night stands were common among musicians. That was a self-esteem boost also. I'm not convinced that I broke a lot of hearts, but I'm sure I hurt some feelings along the way.
When the woman who was to become my first wife turned out to be pregnant, I stopped playing in bands and put my effort into providing for a family. I gave up playing music, my only healthy outlet, to start doing what a man does - provide. I gave up such a huge part of myself for my new family that I began to resent both my wife and my son. I'm ashamed of that. My son deserved a lot better from me than what he got.
Opportunities to perform music were few and far between, so I went toward my unhealthy coping mechanism and had an affair in my first marriage. I was self-medicating. I betrayed my family and myself for a quick fix and never sought to understand why, leaving me in the same state of mind when that marriage ended. I continued to try to be achievement oriented attained a certain amount of success in the field that I ended up in, but it's not where I've ever wanted to be, so it would certainly never be enough, leading me to repeat the pattern in my current marriage.
I've recently been reading about covert depression in men and it's really struck a chord with me. I've never felt like part of the traditional male society. My worth as a man has, in my mind, been nearly non-existent because of the subtle messages sent by my parents, the women I've been involved with, the men around me, even ads in magazines or on TV, hell, even TV shows and movies themselves, have told me that I don't have the traits that they define as masculine. I started recieving this message as early as I can remember, and I've allowed it to define wht I feel about myself. I have likely been living in a constant state of subtle depression for a large part of my life. What's worse, I've passed it on to my own son.
A common thread of covert depression is that men will withdraw and self-medicate instead of engaging in the more "feminine" coping mechanism of reaching out to loved ones and being vulnerable, which is, of course, the healthier way to deal with it. The very definition of communication and asking for help as feminine makes it an undesireable means of coping for a man who feels that his masculinity is in question. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of damaging one's own self.
I have now reached a point where I understand all of this. It makes perfet sense. I am ashamed to have let myself become this, and I'm especially ashamed of the actions that it led to and the amount of damage I've done to my wife and my marriage. I recognize that my self-worth should be defined by me, but I'm not there yet. I can't see myself as worthwhile yet. I can't forgive myself for my actions yet.
I'm struggling to accept who I am. I have to be OK with myself. I think it's possible. I can reach a point where these societal expectations of "manhood" have no bearing on how I feel about myself. I just need to remind myself not to engage in that harmful thinking whenever it happens. That I can do. What hurts my self-worth now is the things I've done, the things I can't take back. Because I couldn't love myself, I've caused pain to those I love. Because I couldn't love myself, I've made it hard for others to love me. It's so difficult to feel like I deserve love, since the love I've given seems to no longer have value.
Acceptance is more complicated than I thought. Shame and guilt are debilitating emotions. My shame and guilt are now based on something real, my actions, and not some bullshinola social expectations of "manhood." That's not much comfort, but it's something."http://www.survivinginfidelity.com/forums.asp?tid=477444