"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Men, Depression and Anger

Men, regardless of age group, often don't recognise when they are depressed. Depression in men is likely to be signalled by anger, so won't be recognised either by men themselves or by women as depression. Ironically, they may end up in jail rather than a GP's surgery. For a man to ask for help is seen as failure, because by convention men are supposed to be in control at all times. -- The UK Guardian

The past few weeks I've been inordinately quick-to-anger.  Mostly it's been people in cars cutting me off while I'm on my bicycle, but I've also been grumpy with my partner and just in general easily frustrated.  I've had this sort of mood before, throughout my life (in fact, I think I basically spent my 30s in that mood), but it's been a while since I felt it so strongly.  And the thing is, it's not the world "out there" that is creating this anger in me--not directly, anyway.  There are lots of reasons to be angry in the world, but those reasons haven't just popped up in the past few weeks, while my anger has.  I'm not (just) angry: I'm having some depression. 

Without going into the history of my relationship with depression, I just want to put it out there that I wish I had recognized the relationship between depression and anger, my relationship between depression and anger, years ago.  Recognizing it isn't any sort of cure, but it sure is a nice little clue when trying to figure out how to be less angry in the world. 

One thing that has helped me deal with this type of anger and depression is using meditation and Buddhist-ish authors to cope.  Part of that coping is letting myself feel the depression, instead of trying to push it away (which is pretty much how, exactly, it so easily translates into anger).  I'm also using some tools of 12-step recovery programs--in particular, focusing on recognizing, consciously, what I can't control.  

Here's an example:  The cars cutting me off in traffic are really more like the weather than individual people doing bad things--it's like the weather because it's ubiquitous.  Any one person I get angry at for cutting me off (this morning a guy made a u-turn right in front of me, and it was a close call) doesn't really matter, because tomorrow, there will be a different person doing similar stuff--it's how driving works in Oakland (at least for now!).  I'm convinced getting angry does absolutely nothing.  I can't communicate thoughtfully or forcefully with a driver when I'm that angry.  People who do really harmful driving things don't care what an angry cyclist has to say. Changing the way this works will have to be indirect (teaching people about bicycle safety, etc.).   In short, I can't control this. And I (sometimes) desperately want to. So I get depressed, and angry.

I know that this sort of issue isn't only happening to men--but I do know that, at least in my experience, traditional male masculinity says men can control it all.  It shouldn't be a huge surprise that this negatively affects men.  Add to that the culture in the United States that says that we are each the creators of our own destiny, and it's no wonder that suicide kills twice as many people here as homicide.

And like I said, noticing the relationship between depression and anger doesn't solve the problems that are created, but it does help me to let go of the need to control, just a bit. I don't believe I've ever had a conversation with another man about how depression turns to anger.  What's up with that?

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