Grayson Joslin is a second-year journalism major and writes “Soapbox” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
The notion of loneliness has surrounded me for as long as I can remember.
Even in elementary school, I often felt weeded out and being cast aside for everyone else. In middle school, my peers took advantage of my naïveness about social standards and made fun of me. In high school, people considered me to be their friend, but only as a friend of circumstance that benefited them.
I never went to any games or any events with a group of friends. Instead, I always went by myself. I would try my best to find people to hang out with, but I often felt like an outlier.
It’s very hard for me to put into words how my mental state is, but I am going to try my best.
I live with depression, and across my life, I have been through a rollercoaster of emotions. I have chased a sense of belonging — a feeling that desires to be truly wanted.
Likewise, I am telling my story to shed light on the lack of attention on men’s mental health.
The earliest moment that I can pinpoint of me feeling lonely was back in elementary school. I wasn’t into what most other boys were into; instead of playing Call of Duty and watching all the Batman movies, I instead spent my time learning about the presidents and watching the nightly news with Brian Williams. I never wanted to conform to societal standards; I wanted to be myself.
However, my disinterest of what the other boys liked caused me to be forced away from being around them. I felt alienated; I had been turned away because I was myself.
As the years progressed, and I matured, the loneliness intensified. In high school, I was a busy man. I was class president, editor of the school's newspaper, captain of the quiz bowl team and I helped with the daily announcements, among other things. However, despite all the people claiming to be my friends, very few, if any of them, took the time of day to invest in a friendship.
I felt like people in high school saw me as character traits, not an actual person.
There would be times when I gained the courage to try and open up to a select few of my peers and explain to them how I was feeling; however, it felt like they didn’t quite understand. Shockingly, I understood why this was the case. I have spent so much time alone with my emotions that I can understand and dissect them, like an anatomy student dissecting a frog.
Despite being around these people for eight hours a day, every school day for six years, I didn’t feel a strong emotional connection to most of my peers. Yes, there were a few people who were there by my side and helped me, but the overall consensus was when I opened up, people seemed disinterested hearing about my personal life.
However, I felt when I was pouring my heart and soul out to othersoul to other people, it seemed like I was breaking some sort of “man code” by opening up and being vulnerable.
I often feel like I am outside, alone under the dark of night; there is no one around for me to talk to. I feel trapped, constrained by society’s views of a “macho man”— a man who shows pride in his masculinity, is usually very athletic and exhibits no emotions.
No matter what I do, I feel like I am not doing enough to feel wanted by people. I feel like I am at a distance, so close, yet so far away. I have fought this conflict inside my head for as long as I can remember. I am just a man who wants to be good enough for someone.
Hims, a men’s health care company, conducted a survey on mental health in 2021 and found “many men are dealing with health issues that impact their daily lives … however, there are still stigmas that exist that prevent men from asking for or seeking out help.” I am on this boat. I feel handicapped from society’s expectations for men to keep their emotions inward.
This lack of attention or care for men’s mental health has led some men to show the final symptom of depression: suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that “90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.” Men die by suicide almost four times more than women.
The best example of the lack of empathy in the social media age is Will Smith. Smith, pre-Chris Rock slap, became a meme due to him being on the verge of tears in a video in 2020 discussing his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s “entanglement” with August Alsina. Posts with this photo went viral, as it showed that if you are a male and even show a dash of emotion, you can be ridiculed by millions.
Men opening up about how they feel should not be an invitation to throw shame and ridicule towards their way. We are all human, and we need to have compassionate channels of support.
The feeling that I am inferior compared to everyone else on this green earth might boil down to the fact that I am on the autism spectrum. I have often thought that since I have this disability, I am not worthy of such basic human needs such as love and respect. In societal cliques, those who have developmental disorders are unfortunately alienated by society.
Being at college the past year has helped me in ways I can’t begin to comprehend; I have garnered friends who accept me and welcome me for who I truly am. Despite this, I still haven’t found a group of friends who accept me into their collective.
I show my true, authentic self to every person I meet. It is a feature that has earned me many peers over these years. However, once I get into the more personal aspects of my life, such as my mental health, it can be tough for me to truly convey the emotions, both the bright and the bleak, that I am harboring in my brain. I also still have the fear of failing and that I will not be accepted due to my unique personality and my being on the spectrum.
There are those times when I still feel like I’m the boy in high school who spent fall dances crying because he couldn’t find people who actually enjoyed being around him. However, college has made things better. I have finally received the help that I needed; I have been on antidepressants for over a year. I also found my true calling to be a journalist and to help tell the stories of the world.
Depression often goes undiagnosed in men, due to the societal stigmas surrounding it. There are many men who are scared to open up. To them, I have this message: you are here on this earth for a reason. You have people who surround you in your life that love, care and appreciate you. It can be tough to open up, however, you are worthy of the care and attention.
You’re too good for giving up.