Although I am a woman and have only an outsider’s view of how men suffer when it comes to toxic masculinity, I am going to write a rather personal piece. It’s the story of how my brother Mike is bombarded by society to be someone he is not and what that treatment does to him.
Some Background First
Mike was born and raised in the same home as I was and had the same dysfunctional family. Our mother was abusive and neglectful while our dad when he was alive, was aloof and tried to stay away from home as much as he could.
Then, when Mike was only 9, our dad died in front of us on our kitchen floor of what appeared to be a heart attack, but I have since questioned that diagnosis. That’s another story altogether.
Dad’s death shook all three of his kids, myself and my other brother included, to the core. However, I was fifteen and my other brother was twelve, we were better able to adjust than Mike. I have seen him have horrendous flashbacks to our dad’s death multiple times and it’s not pretty.
Although dad was aloof and not home most of the time, his death leaving us with only our mom to depend upon drastically altered Mike’s life forever.
Munchausen’s by Proxy
Our mother didn’t only treat her children with disdain and violence, she also had Munchausen’s by proxy and Mike was the child she chose to exercise her disorder upon.
Mike was born with a cleft palate and lip and required much surgery and care. Our mother adored causing the doctors to perform unnecessary procedures. She would even lie to them if need be to gain attention to herself.
So, not only had Mike lost his father but his mother was abusive using the plastic surgeons as her weapon.
Mistreatment in Therapy
Mike has had multiple emotional problems. I’ve seen him so depressed he was suicidal, and I have seen firsthand the horrendous flashbacks and anxiety that are leftover from his childhood.
He has sought help from therapists and counselors only to have them sit and listen in disbelief as he described his history. Why would they discredit him? Because he’s a man. Period.
I didn’t believe that at first either until we went for family counseling. Mike, his wife, and I went together, and I watched as the therapist concentrated her efforts not on the man in the room, but on the two women.
Mike has tried dozens of therapists hoping to find help for his CPTSD but has always met with therapists, both male and female, who insist because he looks big and strong that all he needs to do to solve his emotional problems is to go to work.
To be clear, every time Mike goes to work for any length of time (even only a few weeks) his anxiety gets so high that he ends up in our local psychiatric ward. This unfortunate response to work has gotten worse as Mike has aged. He is now fifty and has nothing to show for his life because of what happened to him as a kid. Yet, and this is crazy, therapists always, always, tell him he’s healthy and needs to work.
Social Security Disability
So, you might think he belongs on social security because of his extreme emotional problems. There are multiple problems with this thought as Mike has attempted to get on social security for many years with no success.
I know, most people get turned down, but that’s not the way it was supposed to work. Mike has worked several jobs and made a decent amount of money, yet all the money he paid into social security is being denied him because wait for it, he’s a man.
That may sound incorrect, but it is not. Social security has forced Mike to have interviews with various therapists to see if he is truly disabled. To be clear, Mike is most definitely disabled, yet when he goes to these interviews they always tell social security he is big, strong, intelligent, and able to work.
I guarantee, if a woman had gone into that interview with the job history and symptoms of my brother, she would be on disability by now as he has been trying for over seven years.
That’s Something You Don’t See Every Day
The prejudice against men, my brother, in particular, doesn’t just stop with the federal government. Mike has strange encounters with people when he appears in public with his two small children.
To be sure, his kids are so young that they look more like his grandkids, but he loves them dearly and isn’t afraid to be both mother and father to them as he is a single dad now.
One day, recently, he was at a big chain store with his four-month-old baby in arms and his four-year-old son in the basket. He told me that people were staring and even turning around to get a look. One man walked up to him and stated, “Now, that’s not something you see every day.”
How prejudiced were those stares and statements? It shows how society views men as incapable to raise or even care for children. What bunk is that?
Toxic Masculinity Hurts Us All
I’m afraid many men who read this article will understand what my brother is going through. He hears from friends and family all the time that he needs to “settle down and just get a job already.” They cannot or will not see that Mike cannot work especially now with his small children.
Not only would going to work make him ill, but it could also cost him his life.
Do you want to know why so many men are choosing to die by suicide? Then look at this article and recognize the toxic masculinity within its words. People see my brother as a big, strong, able-bodied man, and he is but they refuse to see the emotional wreck lying within his brain.
Stopping the Statistics
Just like women, men do not ask to be harmed by perpetrators and suffer the consequences to their lives until they die. So many men have become statistics as organizations study the suicide trends in the United States and around the world.
In 2017, men died by suicide three and a half times more often than women often choosing a firearm (51%) as their weapon. White males accounted for almost seventy percent of suicide deaths in 2017. On average 129 suicides are completed per day and most of them are men
However, with just a little humane treatment we can turn those horrific stats around, all we need do is say, “Oh my God, men suffer too.”
To stop these statistics, we must change our attitudes toward men and help them to change their attitudes about themselves.
There is No Easy Answer
So, what’s the answer for men like my brother? Where are the magic buttons and pills that will make everything okay?
The simple answer? There are none.
Only awareness and changing attitudes will help men and save them from society’s ideals that they should be and always remain he-men no matter what. Putting men in this corner and expecting them to put themselves there is killing our men.
Stop and think before you say anything to a man about his masculinity. Is what you are saying kind and understanding? Or are you judging a man’s abilities by how he appears?
Therapists, are you even considering the idea that the men who come to you for help ARE DISABLED? Try listening with a non-judgmental and human ear for a change. What you will hear when you do will be heartbreaking.
Bottom line? Never, ever judge a man because he is a man. That is beyond arrogance and could cost him his life.
“I salute the man who is going through life always helpful, knowing no fear, and to whom aggressiveness and resentment are alien.” – Albert Einstein
“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” – Sheryl Sandberg