The end of November is upon us, and I’d like to bring up a topic that is still considered taboo: Men and Mental Illness.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve noticed a trend in more people talking about Mental Illness. Instead of being elated at the fact that we’re breaking social norms, it’s come to my attention that all of these posts have a photo of a woman. With this over-saturation, it makes me wonder how we’re addressing the male perspective of mental illness.

When I look back on my upbringing and the primary gender roles that I’ve experienced, whenever I think of “Man” I immediately think: tough & emotionless. All of the males in my family rarely talked about their feelings and the phrase “man up” was tossed around a lot. Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t be less of a person. Somehow, we’ve skewed the vision of vulnerability as weak, and the fear that subsides within us is too tangible even to admit.

Mental illness is not something that one can sweep under the rug, and it’s imperative that males speak up about it. I understand the fear that is associated with it, especially when it comes to bringing this topic up with your immediate family. “Get over it” still echoes in the back of my head whenever I run into an anxious thought or a depressive state. However, over the years, I’ve grown stronger. I’ve accepted what I’m going through and I own it by discussing it more freely with those who support me.

Everyone’s situation is different, but the fact of the matter is – you’re not alone. Someone else is struggling, too. It’s OK to cry; It’s OK to be vulnerable – you’re NOT less of a person. We’re all trying to live our best lives and some days are going to be harder than others. If someone asks if you’re OK, be honest and say “No” even if you do not want to divulge in its entirety what’s going on. Even though mental illness is considered invisible, it does not discriminate.

One of the many techniques that I’ve learned over the years from professionals is exposure therapy. The majority of my anxiety comes from large crowds, and my latest therapist told me to overcome the fear and danger I would need to immerse myself in it.

The day after that session, I went to our local mall and just sat in the center of all the hustle and bustle. I could feel my throat starting to close up as many people bumped into me and my immediate decision was to leave and try again at another point. I fought that decision and continued to sit in that spot for roughly an hour. By the end of it, I felt drained, but I was quite proud that I was able to combat my automatic thoughts

Unfortunately, I know many people who wouldn’t even fathom doing something like this alone. I don’t blame you! It took me many years and a lot more sessions to be able to love and trust myself to be self-reliant. There is no harm in needing that extra help, and I’m quite pleased to say that a great friend of mine is helping combat this issue with a remarkable improve class for anxiety.

He and I share many things in common, especially our need to help out our local community when it comes to mental health. I cannot stress enough how improv relates to exposure therapy and how it can make any social situation easier. I know that if you were to join us at one of these times, you’d be in great hands. I’m so incredibly proud of him for starting this class, and I cannot wait to join him in support!44792251_505971553146875_1871752494263042048_n

My husband and I got back from an exciting and much-needed vacation. We ended up going to one of our favourite countries, Mexico and ended up staying one week in an all-inclusive. Usually, when I go away, I try to limit my phone use, since I rarely have my husband all to myself I try to bask in each moment. Since I’m also a freelancer, I know that I do need to check my professional e-mails for potential clients – I will log in each morning, but no longer than half an hour. The rest of the day I lock it away and spend quality time with my husband.

As we walked around our resort, I was astonished to see that the majority of vacationers were glued to their phones. People who are trying to get away and spend time with their loved ones are doing the exact opposite. Reading articles, listening to music, even face timing someone back home was amongst the things that I observed. I also witnessed one woman grab her caseless IPad into the party pool to snap a picture. (I kept thinking in my head, why not enjoy the moment?) I can understand that it might be tough to put down your phone, but I never felt that we as a society were THAT addicted to them! Unfortunately, this vacation just proved that we are.

I notice when I limit my phone usage, I’m less anxious. I’m not worrying about the perfect instragramable photo, the witty Facebook post or liking that political tweet. I know that I need this break in my life so that I can recharge and live in the moment. I’m glad that I did, I was more sociable with my husband, and we met another incredible couple from Ireland (Gemma, we’ll be there I promise!)

I think a lot more people would be happier and less stressed if they put their phone down. Look up and notice what’s happening around you. I urge you all to try – especially on vacation when you want to soak in all of those moments with your loved ones.