Day 34 - Musiri to Melur
This morning I can put my hand up and say I had my first cry of the walk. Not just a well of tears in the eyes but one that left me gasping for air. It has been a while since I've expressed such a raw emotion.
It wasn't anything to do with physical pain but rather a moment that challenged my own psyche, an empathetic release of emotion as I questioned my values and why I have had such "luck" in life.
The night before I had to pay a "questionable" 200 rupee ($4 deposit) and upon my departure I could collect it from the nightwatchman when I returned the key. As I left in the darkness of the morning, I couldn't find the nightwatchman and became so irritable at the situation. I was livid. Then I saw this tiny reception sign and walked around the corner to see the nightwatchman, an old man sleeping curled up on a small bench seat.
It took me a while to wake him up. However, eventually his frail body shot to his feet with this exuberant energy to ruffle through an envelope to hand me my 200 rupees. He then looked at me with this endearing smile and with his palms out simply said "nightwatchman."
My heart sunk as I gave him all the money that only moments earlier I foolishly placed such a high value on. I walked down the stairs with my tail between my legs, I reached the gutter and sat down and cried in shame. Not shame in the act of crying, but rather in anguish at my own selfish mind and in empathy to his situation. Subconsciously it must of been a bottle neck of emotions from everything I've witnessed on this walk as without a shadow of a doubt I have seen more sore sights to the eye. It hit me so deeply that we live in a world that isn't fair and just where people's basic needs for survival aren't being met.
I picked myself up and started pissing myself laughing. Maybe it was the sleepless nights or consecutive marathon days sending me stir crazy but this release of emotion helped find a fresh perspective and understanding of the true value of life.
I was bouyed with joy the rest of the day as I ran 20km to Melur. It could of been the fact I had two impending rest days or the simple fact that I let it all out earlier in the day.
Stereotypically, men are known as the less emotional sex, woman shed tears in baby commercials and Kate Hudson Rom Coms, whereas men remain stoic even in the most harrowing and heartbreaking situations. Whilst woman certainly cry more than men. Men do cry. We do. I well up all the time. Sad news, an emotional Masterchef story or even reliving Cathy Freeman's gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. Yet the sight of a man crying is still somewhat of a taboo topic and a weakness in our hard nose masculine culture - this idiolised notion of the "Aussie Battler."
In the latest statistics released by Lifeline it revealed that 75% of all suicides in Australia are male. It is the leading cause of death in Australia for men aged between 15 and 44.
Men repressing rather than externalising their emotions is no doubt a contributing factor - this self-stigimisation that is weak maybe preventing men from getting the help they need - scared to talk about what's really going on.
I can admit that this was the case with me. I had those suicidal thoughts in my head, but never put a plan to put the thoughts into actions. None of my friends really knew the pain I was in as I always was "on" and attempted to be that life of the party. I eventually opened up to my loved ones and I am forever grateful for their love and support shown - it was empowering to know that I had such a strong support network around me. In reality, it was my own judgmental views about myself that was holding me back. It was a catalyst for change.
Ultimately it was up to me to take control and ownership of my mental health and make the positive changes I needed to make in my life. I recognised that I needed to remove myself from the enabling environment that I surrounded myself in and replace my old habits with new ones focused on a healthy lifestyle and learning to control my thoughts. I had to teach myself to live in the present moment and not dwell so much on the past - exercise and mindfulness helped significantly and are now central parts of my life.
We must further look at a wide variety of solutions to encourage men to stop holding back and let it all out to reach out for support.