'I'm being silly', 'I don't need to be here', 'what do I even say to her'. These were the words that were running through my mind as I was waiting to go into my first counselling session.
I had a couple of things happen to me simultaneously over the course of a few months that made me think, I need help. My coping mechanism up until that point, had been exercise and religion, which I'm still dependent on today. But these weren't enough. It had got me through the trials and tribulations that all children and teenagers go through, but being a British Asian Muslim some of the experiences that I had encountered weren't as typical.
After speaking to the counselor for a good thirty minutes I was then asked to fill out a questionnaire. It started off simple enough, asking about how I was feeling, my age and so on with my answers being relatively 'standard.' They then developed into 'How often do you feel worthless?' 'Have you ever considered hurting yourself?' 'If you've answered no what stopped you?' The penny then dropped. I realised that I wasn't being silly, it didn't matter if I felt like what I was going through was incomparable to others, it didn't matter how strong my belief was in my religion, if I rated myself as feeling extremely worthless and even considered, no matter for how much of a fledgling thought it might've been, then I needed help and I knew that I had made the right call in stepping through those doors and speaking to a total stranger about my life.
Being a Male British Asian Muslim I was able to manage the snide comments, resist the social pressures to drink and go clubbing, not following in line with the majority of classmates, whilst still being comfortable in myself by not being the perfect 'Good Muslim boy' in the eyes of the wider family in comparison to other boys my age, by not studying sensible school subjects, such as Maths or Science, or going to study at the Mosque on weekends, as opposed to everyday after school. Finding this 'optimum balance,' of being socially accepted by my peers, whilst still not participating in all the things that they might do and being comfortable in my own personal beliefs irrespective of what the wider the expectations on myself were, was and until recently a constant struggle.
Whether it was because of the stigma of being a man, a British Asian man, that you need to be strong, be the pillar of strength for your family and not ask for help when things gets to much, just be a man and deal with it. The fact is that it's okay not be okay. Knowing when to ask for help is a being more of a 'man' than internalising it all, letting it eat you up, play on your mind and potentially implode. What use would you be to someone then?
If you speak to those closest to me they'd say I still don't talk about my feelings enough, they're probably right. But I knew when I did need to talk to someone, that's the important thing. I was always a skeptic of counselors, doubting how someone who knows nothing about me may be able to help. How could someone who I don't know possibly be able to help me with my 'complex' problems, irrespective of the additional layer of complexity of them not having the same cultural and religious background to myself?
It's not about them finding the answer or the cure, they can't. They can help you to help yourself. But the biggest help for myself? Taking that plunge and stepping through those doors. Telling myself that it's okay to ask for help. It doesn't make you any less of a man, an less of a strong Asian man. It makes you stronger. Stronger to help others.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
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