We Are Men - Male Suicide
Pain. Drawing a final line in the sand. Closing the door so hard it can never open again. Settling final terms on every argument or agreement. Darkness. Peace. Suicide. Pain.
How can it be, that people who you believe have everything, take the ultimate step to show you in their eyes, they have nothing or a despair too great to conquer. That the measures, benchmarks and milestones we fight for in life, that were cast upon us, hurtle us into despair when their shallowness is exposed. The feeling that we never had the chance to write our own plan, other people’s rules, overwhelms. That the battle to break free from what sinks us, to set our own course, is riddled with fear and self-doubt. We were meant to stay on the tracks and set our course for greatness. That’s what the world wants from us, its expected. We are off the tracks. We feel failure. We are men.
I can't speak for anyone else, as my experiences are mine and often not shared. I rarely talk about it, because you don't talk about it either. It's not a conversation we have together. To make matters worse, the closer I get to you, the less likely I will share. Losing you, the people close to me, is one of my anxieties. I keep it to myself. We are men.
I am proud. They told me that winning is strength. I don’t feel like I am winning, I’m not the strong silent type. I’m just scared if I show myself, you might not like what you see. We are men.
I have always had anxiety. I couldn’t quantify or measure it, it’s just there. It lives in my fears, and attaches itself to everything I care about. Hidden like a shame, society lets me expose it if I am able to reclassify it as a worry or fear. We can talk about fears and worries, as if in some way we have them under control as it sounds pragmatic, measured and accountable, not a weakness. We can then talk about them in boardrooms, business and pubs without repercussions. These are the practical discussion of risk, not the emotions of what hides in our personal shadows. We are men.
It doesn’t help that so many of us are competitive. That the races we enter we want to win, in a new football team we wanted to be the captain, score the points. Out of the new recruits in the office we wanted the promotion, the spoils of success. Anyone can be CEO and we should all shoot for it, that’s how you get the best out of people, isn’t it? "Show me a man with a big mortgage and I'll show you a man that will work hard, nuts on the line"
We are primed for the fight to the top of whatever tree is closest, and if need be, we will try to climb every tree in the forest. We stretch ourselves thin, our relationships and friendships. Our health. We throw all our resources at the accumulation of success medallions, cars, holidays and houses, labouring with the risk.
Then one day when we are scrambling up that tree we stop or we are made to stop. On a lower branch, we left something behind. A love, a life or a lifetime. We want to change the rules, to quickly rewrite our plan, but the expectation won't go away. It's a ride that doesn’t let you off. Why won't life let us climb back down to that branch, to fix something that is now so obvious. They say we learn from our mistakes, that experience comes with failure, then why does it sometimes break us.
The last couple of years I have changed. Cycling has always been more than a bike ride, it's my life. It has given me friendships, fitness, challenges and life skills. I feel it has defined me. I enjoyed the opportunity to mix with cyclists of all ages and abilities, to test myself against them and enjoy their company. So, what’s changed? I need the company of men my own age. Not to recalibrate the physical challenge, but to connect spiritually.
On a Saturday morning, I have a favourite group ride. Its relaxed and casual, random on speed and effort. Consistent on friendship and age.
These are not old school friends that have shared cigars and whiskeys through life’s milestones, they are relatively new acquaintances. A collection of life's foreign legion, each with a different journey, but right now sharing more than a common location. The laughs, the pranks and heckles are all here, but there is something else. They are like me, the bike has given me a place to connect, to have that conversation, whether to talk or listen. The slight distance we have in our friendship makes it easier to talk. The only taboo is not to talk.
Each one of us is unique. A wonderful group of men, each immensely proud of their journey to get to this point and thankful for what they have. Not perfect, but those who truly share never seek to be perceived that way, and they are richer for it. No one is being judged here.
In a digital age, how we engage on the bike is organic. In sweat, rain and cold we share, and at the end of the epic, we enjoy a coffee and banter. Its raw and its real. Not a digital engagement that is set in stone for all to see or an alcohol infused back slapping session lost in a haze the next morning.
I don't want to lose anymore wonderful men. They didn’t start this journey to end it prematurely, something happened to them along the way. Often, we see the trigger points, the lost love, the failed finances, but don’t see it as our place to comment or broach the subject. We assume the people closest to them are doing that? Maybe we would be intruding.
Then the final pain is ours, they are gone. We never saw it coming, they were always so happy, the life of the party, so successful with everything to live for. They never said anything. Surely the people close to them knew?
I don't want to lose any men on my watch. I want to do something about it, talk, share stories and engage. I am prepared to open myself up, to share in print who I am, in the hope that by the smallest chance it created a conversation that made the smallest of difference. To share in person, never be afraid to ask on their wellbeing and to be there.
We have to be up for the evolution of what it means to be a friend. Everything changes.
Pedalit promotes RUOK - https://www.ruok.org.au/
Lifeline - https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service - https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/ 1 300 659 467