Growing up I saw men in my family struggle with real emotions and avoid most deep conversations. I partly blame this on my Italian heritage, where men are expected to work hard, avoid feelings and push through pain. In my family, a man’s role was to provide and protect the family at all costs. If you showed any sign of weakness, that meant you were not in control.
As a kid I straddled two worlds: one trying to be the man that I thought was expected of me, and the other wanting to be able to express my feelings. I was an emotional kid, and I know it was hard for my dad to relate to me.
My emotions were all over the place:
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Consistently tired
I knew something was wrong, but I was afraid and unable to express it. How could I, since this sort of thing was not talked about, and I did not even know what depression was?
Years into my marriage, my anger and sadness were unbearable, and I made myself and my family miserable. It took my wife demanding that I go to therapy for me to put my fears aside and go. I was afraid of appearing weak, finding something wrong with me, or being put on medication. I was afraid to face my pain, because I thought real men did not go to therapy. I had a good life and felt stupid for being sad.