Time to Talk

By David Christopher Johnston

WARNING: Contains adult content, including themes of suicide

When you’re a boy, you see
You’re taught from a foot tall
To be strong!
Because men don’t show emotions (not at all)
That’s a weakness — at least that’s what they teach us
So we all grow up in conflict with our natural feelings
And think it’s wrong to show compassion
To love, to cry
Yet that’s part of being human (so it sucks to be a guy)
Because if we’re not allowed to be ourselves
Then we’re forced to live a lie
And if we can’t stay what we are
Then the anger builds inside

So it’s no surprise that we disguise any pain behind our eyes
And would rather throw our fists than admit
We’re paralysed by the fear of living life — just like everybody else
And for me, I know the shame of not being tough growing up
Is not the only reason, but it’s damn sure been enough to quite fuck up my mental health

When you’re no tough guy
When you’re no fighter
Then some label you a coward because you’re not willing to be violent
But analyse the nonsense in that concept for only a second
And you’ll see that nothing done in anger or hatred
Has ever made your life better
Yet we still act that way
And society still feeds the notion that there’s a pride
In being an overly-aggressive dick with no emotion
And I know it’s stupid
And that’s not who I am
But I still put on a front to protect myself whenever I can

We’re preconditioned to believe our role is to be a rock
Be strong in all situations
Keep all feelings blocked
But just like when you shake repeatedly a bottle of fizzy pop
You know eventually the pressure will explode
And blow the top

Men aren’t unbreakable, we’re breakable
We’re only human, and yet we pledge
To be an unobtainable pillar of strength
Is it so hard to piece together how this behaviour leads us to the ledge?

You see, in the UK this week there will be eighty-four men
That will take their own life
Then next week, eighty-four again
That’s twelve a day
One every other hour!
So why aren’t we doing everything in our power to stop that from happening?
To try to save a life and understand?
If it was you, wouldn’t you give anything to get a second chance?
Of course you would
You’d grab the opportunity with both hands
It’s safe to say you’d seize the day so you could be the type of man you want to be
Not what you’re told to be
And not the type of man society forces down your throat in magazines
Why can’t we see the entire idea of a “Real Man” is crazy in the extreme
So blinded by the pursuit of manliness to signify strength it makes us weak
So listen to me

It’s not about what people may say, it’s about being OK
And you’ll never truly know what someone else is thinking anyway
So if you’re low or feeling trapped
Battered down by life
Know there are lots of guys out there who are keeping this inside
The key is to open up
There’s no reason for you to hide
Fuck the stigma!
Fuck the perception!
Fuck the ego!
Fuck the pride!

Because we all have at least one person, even when we don’t realise
Who would risk it all just to ensure that you will always be alright
So open up
Let them try to help
You’ll be amazed at what they’d do to save you from your personal hell

And it will take time, painful step by painful step
But with the help of those who love you
You will get there in the end
And then you’ll look back on that darkness as the thing that made you strong
The thing that made you a “Real Man”
And the thing that made those stereotypes dead wrong

There is no short-term fix
We can’t solve the stigma overnight
But if by talking and raising awareness
We can turn eighty-four into eighty-three
then one day we can make it zero
And then that would make it right.



Copyright © 2020 David Christopher Johnston.

David Christopher Johnston hereby asserts and gives notice of his right under s.77 and s.78 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work of fiction. All moral rights are asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this work of fiction may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author. This poem is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


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