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I Don't Want to Talk About It

Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression


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Terrance Real, I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression(New York, NY, Fireside Simon & Schuster, 1998). Order on-line

 

I Don't Want to Talk About It book cover
I Don't Want to Talk About It:
Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression

by Terrance Real
Review
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Over the years, I’ve developed a short list of books to recommend to men who are having a hard time. They include John Lee’s Facing the Fire (men and anger) and Tom Golden’s Swallowed by a Snake (men and grief). This book belongs on that list. The book is so important, so compelling, that I’ve created a new "Men and Depression" section on MenWeb, to try and make this information as broadly and freely available to men as possible. We’ll also have an interview with Terry Real in the next issue of Men’s Voices.

Why do I put it on that list? Three reasons:

  • It's compellingly written and engrossing.
  • It's ground-breaking. It offers new insights, and finally gets us talking about something that men (and women) need to talk about.
  • It will explain a lot of things to a lot of guys, guys who may feel they're alone, the only one who has felt like this.



Partners of depressed men often express fear that naming the man’s condition will only make matters worse. It is better just to "get on with it" and "not dwell on the negatives." But when we minimize a man’s depression, for fear of shaming him, we collude with the cultural expectations of masculinity in a terrible way. We send a message that the man who is struggling should not expect help. He must be "self-reliant." He must resolve his distress on his own. (p. 38)


My focus in treating depressed men has been primarily relational. What kind of relationship does a depressed man have with other? I ask, followed by: What kind of relationship does he have with himself? (p. 198)



More excerpts
 

It’s not a book just for men who feel they’re depressed. In fact, one of the strongest points in the book is that "overt" or "clinical" depression is only the tip of the iceberg.

Terry Real asserts that depression is often overlooked and misunderstood to men He disputes the conventional wisdom that the rate of depression in women is two to four times the rate of men. Depression is experienced and expressed differently in men and women. Depressed men don't reach out for help in the same way that women do. Too often, men are reluctant to be too expressive of their feelings or too openly vulnerable. Depression is seen as unmanly and shameful. It carries a double stigma for men -- that of a mental illness as well as femininity.

The depression that we most often see—or fail to see—in men is what Terry calls "covert" rather than "overt" depression. Where do we see this covert depression? In self medication, isolation and lashing out. Self-medication may be drinking, drugging, womanizing and even watching excessive amounts of television. Terry points out that some forms of self medication are tolerated by our culture so it is hard to get across that what these men are doing is stabilizing depression.

Lashing out can mean violence and domestic abuse. Untreated depression may be an integral part of many male batterers.

Terry’s explanation for isolation is interesting. He sees depression as a problem of intimacy and relationship—intimacy and relationship with one’s self. Because he is desperately trying not to be intimate with himself he can't afford to be intimate with others. So he isolates himself and withdraw from intimacy with his partner, his kids, his friends. That’s just the bare-bones outline of the thesis of his book. There’s more in the excerpts from his book that I provide as part of this book review. There’s more in the short interview on MenWeb, provided by the publisher, and there will be even more in my interview with him for the next issue of Men’s Voices. This, too, will appear on MenWeb a bit after it’s published.

What I want to focus on in this book review is this book as a literary piece. It’s a powerful and well-told story. It opens with a story about his father. Throughout the book Terry does a masterful job of weaving the threads of this story through his review of clinical data on depression and the stories of the men he’s helped›and failed to help—overcome depression. The story is one a troubled relationship with his father. At the end of the book he brings his story to a moving conclusion about reconciliation with his father before he died.

The book, as I’ve said, isn’t just for men who feel they may be depressed. It’s for any man who feels a need to make more sense of his life. But anyone—men and women alike—who seeks to understand men better would do well to read this book. For that matter, anyone who enjoys moving personal stories would do well to read it.

Related stories:

Short excerpts, from Terrence Real's I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression(New York, NY, Fireside Simon & Schuster, 1998). Order on-line.

An interview with Terrance Real, author of I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression(New York, NY, Fireside Simon & Schuster, 1998). Order on-line, provided by the publisher.

The "Way" of Depression by James Dolan

Men and Anger

Men and Grief

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I Don't Want to Talk About It book cover
I Don't Want to Talk About It:
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Book review
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