I don’t have anxiety but my husband does.
We should have realized this years ago but we missed it. The realization came suddenly and as soon as it popped in my mind, it came out of my mouth. “You have anxiety.” I said. He looked at me trying to determine if I was joking or serious. “I am serious, you have anxiety.” His eyes left mine and found his phone. He picked it up and said, “Hey Siri, give me the definition of anxiety.” As the virtual assistant read off the definition she may as well have been reading my man’s personality test. He began to laugh hysterically and then announced, “Yep. That’s me.”
This conversation followed a couple of days of unexplained chest pain. He was unusually quiet and I could tell he had something on his mind but he didn’t tell me about the pain. I do not know why men hide these things. If you are having chest pain, please for the love of Pete, tell somebody.
You may be wondering how we missed it, how we could have not known. My husband is and has been my very best friend since I was 16 years old. I know him better than I know myself. I also carry 10 years of pharmacy work and a couple of years of nursing school. I consider myself to be a bit of an expert on two things: my husband and medicine. But still we missed it.
I will tell you a bit of a backstory to shed some light on why we were in the dark. For many years my husband worked in a high stress, very demanding job. He was advised by a close friend, who happened to be a physician, that he may need some medicinal help to manage the stress. So, he began taking “medicine for stress”. He took it for years and honestly we never even thought about it again. He just took his medicine and life went on. A couple of weeks ago it was time for the refill and I suggested that we decrease the dosage. He is in a different work environment and his day-to-day stress is relatively low. He immediately agreed and we cut the dose in half because we did not think he needed it anymore.
We were wrong.
It turns out that little pill he takes to help manage his work-related stress was hiding his anxiety. The decrease in medicine brought on a weekend of obsessing over a situation at work, difficulty sleeping, chest pain and a paralyzing fear that he was having a heart attack.
I have read many articles about women who have dealt with anxiety and effectively reached out and received help. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone speak of a man having anxiety but I am certain they are out there. Maybe it’s because I don’t read articles about men. Maybe I should. However, I think it’s a conversation worth having.
Just as my husband hid his symptoms so I would not worry, I am afraid there are others out there doing the same.
I wonder how many men are shrugging it off as work-related stress? I wonder how many men are experiencing symptoms they do not talk about? I wonder how many men know something does not feel quite right but they are too tough to complain? I wonder how many men fall through the cracks when it comes to mental health?
Check on the man in your life, friend. Let’s have tough conversations. You never know you just might discover something new.