I wrote this piece while on a work trip in Calgary. I went out for dinner and texted an old friend. The conversation went:
“How’s it going, bud? Long time. Wanna grab a drink soon?”
“Alright, bud… just working through some family issues.”
“My father took his life 4 weeks ago”
“And today is his birthday”
“I am so sorry to hear that. I am so so sorry.”
“So just with the family…”
“I understand, so sorry to bother you. Love ya lots. Talk later.”
“Thanks man… means a lot… love ya too bud… beers next week?”
If you knew something bad was going to happen to you, that you would be challenged by either your family, your friends, your significant other, or yourself, would you be able to cope with it?
Being a modern man, living in a world where we still feel the unavoidable pressures of possessing stereotypical “manly”traits, while also supporting the pressures of feminism and being more than “just a provider,” can we cope? And not cope, but properly cope?
Like you, I have been through challenges. Like you, I have felt stereotypical pressures and have also wondered if I can be more than “a provider.” Like you, I’ve even taken it further, and in a drunken stupor, attempted suicide. Looking back, I know that in challenging times, I didn’t know how to cope.
No one educated me, no one guided me, and no one gave me a heads up and said, “Hey Derek, life is fucked! But don’t worry, there’s help.” When we don’t have that guidance, or that basic knowledge, us men come up with our own coping mechanisms. When my first major challenge in life arrived, I turned to drugs. They were accessible and they made me new friends. They were fun.
“Hey Derek, life is fucked! But don’t worry, there’s help.”
During turmoil, I coped by shutting myself out to the world, or I drank, or I moved to a new city to start all over. Sometimes they were quick fixes, but I always found myself presented with another challenge, one I would have to cope with. When all these challenges built-up and swamped my thoughts with no way of escaping, I contemplated the one form of coping that would end it all. I was in a downward spiral, a sort of “positive feedback” loop where my actions fed each other and culminated into thoughts of suicide. Using drugs led to shutting myself out. Shutting myself out led to drinking, drinking led to suicidal thoughts. Suicidal thoughts led to attempts. I knew I couldn’t cope worth shit.
Now I cope by walking my dog, reading out loud with my wife, trying new sports, playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends, exploring my city, camping, and of course, having open conversations with other people.
There are better ways to deal with the uncertainties in our lives. There are so many better ways to approach life than through that downward spiral. My best weapon now is actually located in the same place where I thought my demons resided: in my own thoughts. I have found meditation, and I have begun to transition my mind from shadowed, to enlightened.
To me, meditation isn’t spiritual, it’s definitely not religious, but I do feel connected. I’m connected to something bigger than me. I’m connected to humanity. And if I have a really good session, I connect to bigger things; our world, our galaxy, our universe. It took a lot of practice though. In the beginning, I remember sitting cross-legged, wondering, “Wtf am I doing?!” But it all begins and ends with the breath. Breath is the single most important aspect of life. Once I was able to grasp that, I was able to grasp more complex questions with commitment and confidence.
I connect to bigger things; our world, our galaxy, our universe.
My life changed. I still found myself presented with challenges, those will never go away. But at least I had something to use to my benefit. There were times where I forgot about my weapon, and turned to the old coping mechanism of drugs, alcohol, and seclusion. Only to find myself meandering back to the thought of jumping into traffic on the Anthony Henday. Luckily though, when life is at its absolute lowest is when I begin practicing my meditation again.
I still have challenges thrown at me daily, as I know you do too. And I wish that you are able to deal with them in a healthy, prosperous way. I have filled my arsenal with my own personal mechanisms, and I wish you the best in your defense strategy, but please don’t give up. People love you. I love you.
My friend’s father was in his sixties. He was dealing with his own challenges for the last 6 decades, and he finally resourced to his final coping mechanism. This shit is going on all around us, and we need to be brothers in this. To anyone who ever reads this, email me, my personal email is email@example.com.
Derek Nadeau is an avid career-hopper. He has held many different positions in many different industries including Oil & Gas, Sales, and he has dabbled (with multiple failures) into entrepreneurship. He went to school in Kamloops, B.C. and dropped out of University at TRU and has been living in Edmonton for the past 10 years. He has a wife, dog, and cat and loves the outdoors and travel.