Man Up

It was with some misfortune that I woke up at 6.30 the other morning. Not merely because of the early hour which I’m not used to as a lazy, kind-off half employed student on his Summer Holidays which he doesn’t deserve. No. The real misfortune was my ill informed decision to switch on our flat TV which has been experiencing signal issues recently.

I mention these signal issues because the only channel available to my flatmate and I is ITV. Surely this isn’t an issue I hear you cry. There’s plenty of good programmes to watch on ITV. Perhaps, but at 6.30 am ITV viewers are greeted by the sounds of a certain loudmouthed presenter on Good Morning Britain. 

This presenter and former journalist loves the outrage he creates and could possibly be applauded for achieving huge notoriety in the same way Katie Hopkins’ types do. Like Hopkins, he has created a paradox in which more discussion about his views and controversial opinions is always a win for him.

That’s why I won’t mention him by name in this post. Though in all honesty it’s actually a pretty useless gesture on my part because you most likely know who I’m speaking about. Its a win-win situation for him anyway. You probably think I’m far too woke. Its okay. I know I am.

Where was I? Oh yes. I was sitting in my shorts in the kitchen enjoying a bowl of porridge like the millennial snowflake which I am, when the topic of discussion moved onto the topic of mental health.

I won’t recount the details as its probably on STV player or something. I also really don’t want to re-watch it on YouTube just so I can provide an accurate account of the conversation. I’m going to be a great journalist…

Anyway, it all ended with Piers Morgan (fuck it he wins again) ending the discussion by informing his many viewers that we all needed to “man up”. Now I don’t have any issue with the phrase ‘man up’ per say.

I would  be quite likely to use the phrase in jest if my mate or brother (mainly brother) hurt himself or was feeling physically poorly. I’m full of banter me. So don’t worry I’m not going to get all politically correct ‘millennial’ on your ass.

Actually hold that thought because there is one particular setting which I think the words ‘man up’ should never be used in. This setting being when speaking to people who are struggling mentally.

As well as those with mental illness, I’m also referring to anyone who isn’t feeling there selves. Which realistically is all of us at various points in our day to day lives. I’m sure even Piers Morgan wakes up and thinks fuck me I’m just a puppet for outrage who spends his waking hours shouting like the sound of dying dinosaurs about the younger generations because they can’t man up.

The comment about dinosaurs is taken from an interview with documentary maker Michael Moore in 2016. Moore was referring to a good mate of Mr Morgan’s. That close buddy of his being Donald Trump who at the time was on the precipice of becoming the President of the United States.

Its a good quote but I’m not sure it was necessarily accurate. President Trump was riding on a wave of populism which may continue in the next US elections. Who knows. However, I’m also not sure if it actually holds up when looking at the example of Piers Morgan.

Many of us, particularly young people, like to think we live in a society which is tolerant and treats mental health issues with the respect and relevance which they deserve. However, when it comes to telling anxiety sufferers to man up, for example, I don’t think Piers Morgan’s comment is coming from one of the last of some dying prehistoric creatures.

This is worrying because the pre-mentioned rhetoric is not only unhelpful, but also, in my opinion, dangerous.

Its at the point that I should point out my own hypocrisy. I don’t tell others struggling with mental health issues to man up. No, instead I constantly tell myself to man up.

Having a bad day Finn? Man up. Feeling so anxious that you can’t concentrate on any task Finn? Man up. Doubting yourself to the point of frenzy Finn? Man up.

It was perhaps an unusual coincidence that the rest of that specific day was shit. Well from my perspective it was pretty shit. Piers Morgan probably went home or read the papers oblivious to countless others who were having a shit day. Or perhaps he was also having a bad day. We’ll never know.

Ironically I spent the rest of that day telling myself to man up. Not because of anything which Piers Morgan or anyone else said, but because that’s how I’ve always coped (poorly) with the long term feeling of anxiety. Anxiety that returns every now and then like an annoying friend that you can’t seem to get rid off.

I suppose my point is that when people are struggling to control what’s happening in their headspace the last thing they want to be told is to man up. I can’t be the only one who tells themselves on an almost daily basis that what they’re feeling is non-sensical and a waste of time. In fact I know I’m far from being the only one.

For me, manning up doesn’t equate to being resilient. But, unfortunately it seems to be a phrase uttered often in freedom of speech discussion circles by those who forever hark for the old days when everyone had a stiff upper lip and we just got on with it (apparently).

Freedom of speech is massively important but it doesn’t mean I can’t call you out for being a dick. I’m not a snowflake who’s no platforming you if I think you’re being a dick. In my opinion, telling people with mental health issues to man up is quite obviously a dick move. Especially as we are reminded during Mental Health Awareness Week that suicide is the largest killer of men between 15-35.

Men who on hearing that might not go to the doctor or tell anyone how they are feeling. Lives are at stake.

I use this specific example not only because this is the age group I belong to, but also because this seems to be the group which those who take joy in labelling young people as millennial snowflakes take aim at. We aren’t strong enough. We aren’t resilient enough. We don’t know how to grow up to become breadwinners.

Anyway, that day passed and the next day was great. I went to the beach with my girlfriend. I had an ice cream. The sun was shining and I was happy to just be in the moment.

However, I know that there will be another shit day coming and I’m willing to face it with resilience. The reality is though, despite my best efforts, I’ll end up telling myself to man up. To stop being silly. I’ll beat myself up inside because I’m feeling miserable when I am so lucky in many aspects of my life.

And that’s why I don’t need to be told to man up or that I’m constantly getting into these ruts through negative behaviour patterns. I know and I already degrade and normalise how I’m feeling. I and anyone who feels anxiety likely doesn’t need help with understanding that aspect. Instead we need someone to talk to opposed to someone who will belittle us.

Lets be clear. This article wasn’t written as a direct result of watching early morning TV. I wouldn’t want to give Piers Morgan the satisfaction. It did get me thinking though so thank you Mr Morgan. I also apologise. This long ramble wasn’t meant to get particularly political, but perhaps sometimes it is necessary to do so.

 

Nightclubbing – what’s it all about then?

My first experience with drinking was three years ago and I can remember it vividly. I was 16 and most of my schoolmates had already had a taste of the ‘naughty juice’.

I remember stumbling around a friend’s field, being an utter and total lightweight, a category I would likely still firmly place myself in. Now three years on and attempting university for the second time, I obviously have much more experience with drinking.

Living in Dundee two years ago, and now settled in Aberdeen, it’s an activity which is no longer limited to damp Deeside fields and freezing River Dee ‘seshes’ (drinking sessions). These locations featured heavily in my early experiences with drinking, stumbling over my own feet as I tried to judge my surroundings.

Back then it was never a regular occurrence and it still isn’t really. However, it would be churlish to deny that for many students, especially excitable first years, drinking plays a significant role in their lifestyle.

There are many freshers who don’t like drinking and when I left the comforts of home for the ‘up-and-coming’ city of Dundee in 2016, I was one of them. This may have been mostly down to my lack of success in making many good friends, something I blame solely on my failure at being sociable. As my long suffering Dad always says, “its not rocket science.”

Anyway, while at Abertay University I got my first taste of nightclubbing, a new form of nightlife which I had never been party to. It was both terrifying, entertaining and, because I’m a bit weird, fascinating.

Its like my peers had chosen the loudest place to try and socialise with each other through the medium of bad dancing to the deafening thud of often below par music. I soon found the key was to drink and to perhaps drink to excess in order to enjoy this experience on any level whatsoever.

For me, rule one of nightclubbing would definitely be to not even consider entering a nightclub if you feel slightly sober. When breaking this rule I either break the bank buying drinks from a bartender intent on ignoring the small, yet incredibly handsome fair haired man standing at their bar or become thoroughly miserable.

Drinking enough before heading to the bright city lights of Dundee and now Aberdeen has therefore become a vital part of a good night out. This part of the evening, for the uninitiated, is simply referred to as ‘pres’ and usually ends at 11.30pm, when everyone heads for the nightclubs.

In Aberdeen, I have likely been out more than I did during the whole year I spent in Dundee, having both high and low points in my mission to convince myself that nightclubbing is a fun activity. Many nights have been fun, with good company and memorable moments cancelling out the repetitive music and my questionable dancing which often raises a few eyebrows.

My conclusion thus far is I remain wholly unconvinced by the whole experience. Looking past my lacking dancing abilities, I seem to spend most of my time in these dark, loud buildings either looking for or having shouting conversations with my friends, going to the bathroom or awkwardly standing about with a drink in my hand while others around me look at total peace with the madness.

I won’t however deny that on some level it is good fun. Unlike my year at Abertay in which I let my anxiety about social situations take control, I am slowly and surely pushing myself more. I feel that something as benign as nightclubbing is assisting in this greatly, however awkward I feel.

Maybe by the end of the year any negative views I currently have about this activity will have dissipated and I will become less cynical and more positive. Any partygoers reading this can only hope for such as I am yet to release the true party animal which lives inside.

Whatever happens I will strive to find a new conclusion about nightclubbing. Lets see what happens…