Almost every man I know is falling apart because of social distancing

There’s no getting around it. This winter is already horrible, and it’s going to get worse.

Not sure how much more I can take. The constant death, the social isolation, the widespread unemployment, the closing of my favorite small businesses.

What’s hardest, though, is watching people I love struggle. Seeing them cope in unhealthy ways. Worrying about their increased drinking and drugging, their fake “I’m fine’s”, their unraveling relationships, their closing off and going inward.

Sometimes it’s like I’m all that’s keeping them from jumping into a black hole.

Sometimes I just want to shake them, yelling “Wake the fuck up!”

Sometimes I’m annoyed that it seems like no one’s helping me help them.

Sometimes I’m pissed at the government for leaving so many of my friends and neighbors hanging.

Sometimes I beg the Universe for mercy. I’ve got a regular meditation practice, a therapist, a good job, a stable family, and plenty of close friends. And I’m barely staying halfway sane.

Sometimes I want someone to hold me and pet my hair and tell me everything’s going to be alright.

What I’ve come to notice is that my friends who are struggling the most are men.

Which is not to say that others aren’t struggling too. It’s just that men tend to experience depression in ways tailor made to leave us hanging in a pandemic.

We often hide our vulnerability in fear of being less “manly.” We tend to have more “shoulder-to-shoulder” interactions — like playing or watching sports — than deep, connected, face-to-face friendships. We tend to avoid doing anything that would make us seem “needy.”

This causes all the toxic shit that gives so many men a bad rap: isolation, emotional numbness, angry outbursts, binge drinking.

No wonder some 80 percent of people who die of suicide in the U.S. are men.

This isn’t to say that men deserve attention more than anyone else. Women have been taking care of men’s emotional needs — without acknowledgement, without reciprocity, without pay — for way too long.

I’m just saying most of the men in my life are depressed right now. And I don’t know what to do.

Mostly, I’m exhausted. We’re in the middle of this thing, and who knows when it ends?

I also wanted you to know that if it feels like you’re holding everyone else up right now, you’re not alone. I see you.

Maybe the Serenity Prayer will resonate with you like it does with me?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

If the word “God” turns you off, just take it out.

The point is, I can’t save my friends. What I can do is make sure they know that I’m here for them, that I’m curious how they’re doing, and that they aren’t “weak” for struggling during the biggest crisis of our lifetimes.

Everything else, I just have to let go of. There’s no way around it. Maybe letting go just isn’t supposed to feel good.

I’m a writer, meditation teacher, and host of the Meditation for the 99% podcast. My weekly emails will help you bring mindfulness to work, relationships, and politics. Subscribe here.

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Photo by Jerónimo Roure