What prompted me to create Visible Man?
At 35 years old, I wanted to kill myself or at least I looked forward to dying as soon as possible. I went so far as to look up the life expectancy of a white man in America to see "how much longer I had to do this." I felt invisible. Unimportant. A piece of meat that provided money to other people who took me for granted and didn't see me for who I am, or value me as a person. I have two daughters and they have kept me alive through this. I would never leave them in a position of questioning my motives for suicide.
From 35-40, I went through the separation and divorce process, bringing unhealthy coping mechanisms into my life because to show weakness as a man is culturally unacceptable. You may as well be dead as a man then to admit defeat or the need for help. That is what society teaches us.
As part of the divorce process, I started going to therapy and taking antidepressants. I felt deep shame that I went to therapy and that I took medication because it admits weakness. For years, I told no one close to me that I even pursued these things for fear of being made fun of. Slowly, I met more men in the same situation. Feeling unappreciated, taken for granted, and paradoxically unable to complain about these things because doing so would make them feel weak.
During the separation and divorce process, my worst fears - that someone would berate me for a failed marriage, make fun of me, or confront me - never came true. And that's when I realized, it is my own fears of others' reactions that kept me from being more vulnerable, seeking help, and growing. I was holding myself back. And if doing so was enough to put me on the brink of death - and other men felt the same way - then there is an opportunity to create a platform/space/community for men to open up, letting them know that they are not alone. That is what prompted me to create Visible Man.
In my mind, the worst that can happen was someone openly ridiculing, confronting, or berating me. That never happened. In fact, this is what you can expect:
- People you've known for years will furtively avoid eye contact at parties, as though you don't exist. Adults who are leaders in their industry, their church, and community will act like children. Others who have silently watched in the background will proudly support you and come forward.
- Texts, social media engagement, and friendships will dissolve in imbalanced, invisible, and indirect ways.
- People will say, "Let me know what I can do to help," but no one will know what to do. And it is no fault of their own. Most people have good intentions, but are poor listeners and want to solve your problems.
- You will cry, feel numb, and want to impart a sense of control on the world.
- Very, very, very, very few people will even comment on your appearance and constructively weigh in on how you carry yourself. And you will realize eventually that it is your job to take care of yourself.
- People will come out of the woodwork and reach out secretly to you, saying "Oh yeah, man.. I've been there.." and a new set of friends will emerge.
The worst that can happen is that you die. Anything else, you can handle with the right supports in place.