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Hey Guys, It's OK to Cry

I’m a man in my late 40s. I have tattoos, a beard and gray hair. I enjoy smoking the occasional pipe, fishing and going to baseball games. I’ve been known to cuss like a sailor and fall asleep at weddings. But I am not afraid to say I cry at the sight of kittens playing, watching sunsets and when my favorite team wins the World Series.

I also cry sometimes because my heart is just so full of pain I can’t explain and I am so depressed that I just want to crawl into a hole and disappear forever, while cursing the day I was born.

I admit, oftentimes tears do not fall from my face. I think that has something to do with some of the medication I take daily, but often tears do fall. And when tears don’t fall, it feels like my entire soul is shaking from the inside out.

I’m writing this not just to encourage men to show their emotions and admit they either cry or feel like crying, but also to encourage men to be upfront about mental illness. Now, I am not suggesting that crying is directly related to mental illness or is caused by mental illness. Of course not. But both crying and mental illness seem to be taboo topics among many men. They are often seen as a weakness of some sort. I remember hearing as a child, “Real men don’t cry” or even worse, “Don’t be a baby!” Those messages kept me quiet about my illness until the county crisis counselor showed up at my door to escort me to the emergency room for the first of many psychiatric hospitalizations. Those messages made my illness worse. The cloak of secrecy caused me and my family considerable harm.

I have bipolar disorder. Mental illness has affected me for most of my life. I have been hospitalized many times and I take medication every day to help me manage my illness. Most likely, the daily medication will continue for the rest of my life. There is a lot I cannot do because of my mental illness, but there is a lot in my life that has been greatly enhanced as well.

It seems like mental illness and suicide are taking a particularly heavy toll on men my age recently. I have almost been a suicide statistic myself, more than once. I am here to tell you that living with mental illness is not a weakness or a character flaw, but rather it is a sign of tremendous strength. It takes a lot of strength to live with mental illness. It really does. And I can also say that admitting I cry and admitting I have a mental illness and then talking about it and my feelings, helps so much. It won’t cure you, but it will help take care of the needless guilt and shame. There is no shame in talking about a medical condition that causes you to struggle. It’s kind of like Popeye eating his spinach, talking about your mental illness will give you strength you did not know you had. It can also save your life. There are real, strong men who do cry and do talk about their mental illness. It helps keep them alive. It helps us stay alive, so go ahead and have a good cry.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via contributor. 

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