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Mental Illness, A Father's Story: The Contradiction of Men-Be the One by Jimmy Gilchrist

I've heard it said that women bond face to face and men side by side. I believe that is true. Women bond at coffee shops, have wonderful conversations, and talk about feelings. Men bond through shared experiences, both good and bad. During some of those experiences, there may not be ten words spoken the whole time. The tougher or more meaningful the shared experience for men, the stronger the bond. All you have to do is listen to combat veterans talk about their brothers in arms and what that relationship means to them. The bond is deep, lasting, and undeniable.

Men are weird. Men are macho. Men are tough. Men are brave. Men are strong. Men are protectors. Men are providers. Being seen as less is not an option, and it's really not our fault. These traits are God-given and serve fundamental purposes. It is quite literally built into our DNA. As a result, men typically don't consider needing or offering emotional support from or for anyone as the first means of action. Instead, men try to ignore or tough it out, be the strong shoulder, and carry the burden. We have to be strong, right? The result is that men will carry emotional hurt to the point of ruin because we won't acknowledge it or talk about it. Part of it is that we just don't know how.

To that point, men are also walking, living, breathing contradictions. Deep down inside, we know that we have feelings and emotional needs if not only sometimes, because our wives tell us we do. It is almost always difficult for men to express themselves emotionally or receive emotional support......and, unfortunately, I am no exception and probably worse than most. Men, give your wives a big hug and tell them how much they are loved. Wives work tirelessly to drag those things out of us and often at their peril.

Our youngest was admitted to Children's Hospital's psychiatric ward directly from the ER right after the suicide attempt. Imagine getting through the shock of the suicide attempt and then being away from your child and unable to hold them and tell them you love them. We were permitted a phone call once per day and could only visit in person once daily for a short time. None of that was nearly enough, though. It was devastating. Being unable to hold, love, and care for your child after such a traumatic event was a traumatic event unto itself. But, unfortunately, we were broken with no options.

About 2 or 3 days later, I was working in my front yard, probably cutting grass or something as equally important in October when the grass wasn't growing, when a friend of mine drove by. Mark and Rachelle lived about three houses down and had lived right next door for a few years before that. Our children had grown up playing together, and we were all very close.

In the south, as people drive by, we always wave. People we don't know will typically give or get a one or two-finger wave. Friends get the whole arm. As Mark drove past, we both gave each other the whole arm. He was my friend. A few seconds later, I saw brake lights; and then reverse lights as Mark backed up the street and stopped in front of my house. He gets out of his truck and says, "I heard what you're going through, and I couldn't just drive by without stopping and saying something." Two men hugged each other right there, out in the open, in the front yard, in broad daylight where everybody could see us, and we didn't care. My friend, who was also a man, had stopped and had shown kindness and love and had given emotional support to me because he cared for my family and me. I needed that more than I could know, and I would never forget it. Mark was the one that day.

Be the one.

Sadly just a few years later, in 2019, Mark was coming home from work a few weeks before Christmas; a drunk driver killed him in a head-on collision. His wife Rachelle asked, and I was grateful to be able to show their family how much they meant to us by delivering the eulogy at Mark's funeral. I hope it was comforting in their time of grief. In addition, it was an opportunity for me to be the one just like Mark had been to me.

I am very fortunate and blessed. There are a couple of men that I talk to regularly whom we can confide in and lend an ear to one another. One less after my dad passed away unexpectedly six months after the suicide attempt in what seemed like the cruelest of seasons—especially not having my closest one to be here to walk with me through the past seven years. Sometimes it seems unnatural for men to talk about emotional issues, but it seems to work and is undoubtedly worthwhile.

Men, when you know of or see an issue weighing down another man, set aside your ego and be the one. It doesn't make you less, and it could be the emotional support or act of kindness that is desperately needed. I don't know why, but it's different when it comes from another man. Sorry, ladies. I suppose we know what it took for him to talk about it. The bible tells us to love one another and bear one another's burdens. Show the love of Christ. It is not always easy, but it is always worth it.

Be the one.


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