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Emotional regulation disorder, depression and the emotional deprivation of lacking male role models

Submitted by Greg Hall / Instagram: @tofeelhealed

Hey, my name’s Greg and I’m 29 years old. I live in Edinburgh but I’m originally from the north east of Scotland and to tell a little about myself before getting into it, I’m a videographer, mental health and veganism advocate & blogger and a straight up down-to-earth cat person.

My first brush with mental illness was when a friend in high school was bullied relentlessly for everything from what she wore, how she did her makeup, the way she carried herself, what she had for lunch and all of these things sent her spiralling into a state of depression.

You could blame it on being young and naïve but growing up in an environment where misogyny was the norm, toxic masculinity ran wild and any sign of emotional vulnerability was seen as a weakness to be exploited by your peers made it seem like everything she went through was all just a part of growing up. I still regret not doing anything to help her, I wish I knew what I know now back then.

I grew up extremely privileged in a conservative household, however I feel that privilege led to unhealthy emotional coping mechanisms such as substituting genuine happiness for repeated attempts at temporary happiness in the form of material possessions. Coupling that stunted emotional development with a severe lack of male role models, I feel mental illness was always looming and just waiting for an opportunity to rise and take control of me.

I carry a strain of an anxiety disorder that is yet to be unearthed in talking therapy sessions when I reach the top of the list, moderate to severe depression, automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and emotional regulation issues (ERI). It’s a list I honestly tire of explaining because depression and anxiety are the most common mental illnesses in men but are often not taken seriously because toxic masculinity forbids men from carrying any form of emotions. And unfortunately we still live in said times where men are terrified at the notion of having feelings.

ANTs derive from my anxiety disorder and are mainly perceived as ‘a cry for attention’, But much like intrusive thoughts in conditions like OCD, it is relentless and incredibly difficult to get away from as it's unpredictable nature keeps me on edge 24/7. As for ERI, it’s normally perceived as being ‘too sensitive’ and I grew up believing that I was in fact too sensitive and I just needed to ‘man up’ or ‘get a grip’ or ‘take a joke'. When being diagnosed with ERI, I finally had an understanding that I wasn’t ‘too sensitive’ – it’s a chemical imbalance in my head that amplifies and heightens my emotions, meaning that a simple gesture is like dropping a ton of bricks on me if any vocal trigger is tripped.

I had never taken mental health seriously until it had affected me personally. I was incredibly selfish 6+ years ago where I lived by the mantra of “the only person that’ll be there for you is yourself” and because of this, I literally drained the happiness others were experiencing. It resulted in a distorted image of what I thought happiness was. The vast majority of emotional experiences during my 20s were misrepresentations of what those emotions were actually meant to feel like. Alongside being a survivor of emotional abuse of a past relationship, when it was time for mental illness to take its place in my life, it hit incredibly hard.

To this day I want people to learn from my mistakes of not taking mental health seriously until it becomes a 'you problem’. I want people to understand that mental health is something we all need to maintain and just because someone else is battling mental illness does not mean you are exempt from facing the same battles in the future.

I started my page @tofeelhealed to talk informally and casually about mental health, veganism and sobriety to rid the stigma that all these topics need to be discussed in a stuffy, condescending way that we see in leaflets in the doctor’s office and that, despite the list of conditions I have, I finally feel I am where I belong: helping others, even if it is on the other side of a screen.

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