Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States that affects an estimated 17.3 million adults and 3.2 million adolescents according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Research shows that gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk for: Major depression, Bipolar disorder, and, Generalized anxiety disorder, and are more likely than heterosexual men to attempt suicide.
Together they explore questions like:
- What is depression and how does it affect a person?
- Is it possible for someone to be depressed without knowing it? What are the signs and symptoms someone should be aware of?
- What are the biggest triggers for gay men struggling with depression?
- How can someone currently struggling with depression work to get out of the cycle?
- How can people best support someone struggling with depression?
During the episode, Jacob asked a very important question concerning gay men and our childhood experiences: “What happens when someone can’t connect with themself?” and as children, we often can’t connect with ourselves fully once we realize something is “different” about us and we begin hiding who we truly are, but is that creating disassociation within us and our community?
Listen to his answer and more in today’s episode.
Guest: Jacob Monkarsh
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- Try looking up local counselling centres like Southern California Counseling Center or the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
All right. Hello. Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of gay men going deeper, a podcast series by the gay men’s brotherhood, where we talk about all things, personal development, sexuality, and mental health. Today I’m your host Calan Breckon. And last week we talked about suicide and the stats associated with the LGBTQ plus community. And this week we’re going to be unpacking a key aspect of that topic and a contributing factor, which is depression.
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States that affects an estimated 17.3 million adults, and 3.2 million adolescents. According to the national Institute of mental health research shows that gay men and bisexual men are at a higher risk for major depression, bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, and are more likely than heterosexual men to attempt suicide today.
My guest is Jacob Monkarsh. Jacob is a licensed marriage and family therapist, both in California and Colorado, and is located in Los Angeles. He primarily works with young men ages 19 to 39 to help deepen their understanding and connection with themselves and the people in their lives from both his lived experience and clinical work. He’s learned that giving voice to the voiceless,
no matter who they are or how they identify is a passion and a privilege. He holds dear together. We’re going to be exploring questions like what is depression and how does it affect a person? Is it possible for someone to be depressed without knowing it? What are the signs and symptoms someone should be aware of? What are the biggest triggers for gay men,
struggling with depression? How can someone currently struggling with depression work to get out of the cycle and how can people best support someone’s struggling with depression. So I want to first say thank you so much for joining me on today’s show Jacob. I am so excited to dive into today’s topic because we have had this question about depression so many times in, in our group and in our,
like just our community. Everybody wants to talk about kind of these deeper, harder hitting topics. So I’m really grateful to have you so welcome. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself a little bit to everybody here. Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. And I’m excited to dive deeper into this. It’s there’s a lot,
there’s a lot of play here and I think it’s, it’s something that a lot of people can resonate with. So thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. Of course. So tell us more about yourself. Where did this all start for you? So for me, my journey kind of starts, I’m an undergrad in college, in orange county,
in California. I am a very depressed freshmen in college. I am in film school and what I find myself gravitating to in all my creative work is really drift, trying to process what’s going on for me and really not kind of knowing why I feel disconnected and why I feel like that I’m missing something. Part of my, one of my professors said,
oh, for your screenwriting and your writing work, you should take a psych class and learn a little bit to help your characters. And I, I took a psych class and it just, everything clicked for me. And I found myself really passionate about really what I was doing in my creative work, which is trying to understand people and understand myself better and kind of took me on a road to where I am now,
which is yeah. Working with young men and really helping them get to know themselves better and feel and get that experience of feeling safe. Awesome. Well, I’m so excited and I’m so grateful to have you on the podcast today, because like I said, this is such a big topic that a lot of gay men struggle with. And I think has gay men were kind of hit with almost a double-edged sword when we’re growing up that it’s like,
you know, growing up, you have to hide who you are. You have to pretend that, you know, you fit into the norm and then that is going to automatically predis you’re you’re you have a predisposition to being depressed because you’re hiding so many parts of you and I’ve seen it time and time again, I know people don’t love this person, but Colton Underwood,
like he had a lot of mental health issues because he was hiding so desperately who he was and, you know, other gay men and other celebrities who have come out to say, you know, what it was like to be in the closet. And then afterwards. And so many of us personally have gone through that journey of being like, man, like I remember being young and it being my worst fear and I just hated myself and I hated life.
And it was just, it was a really awful experience. I don’t think I was depressed when I was younger. I I’ll talk about that later on in today’s episode, I I’ve experienced that more as an adult, but I definitely had depression runs into female side of my family. So my mom really struggled with depression, especially going through, you know,
the later part of her marriage and then the divorce from my father and my sister also just struggled with a lot of mental health issues, not just depression, like a lot of things. So let’s dive right into it. What is depression and how does it affect, how does it affect a person? Right. So I think what you just said is,
is kind of where we start, right? So we start by kind of, we’re speaking specifically about gay men and we’re talking about how, when we’re younger, we don’t know what, what kind of going on the foundation we’re building, right? It’s not necessarily a conscious process of what parts of myself am I putting in here? What parts of myself,
but my, and letting people see, but what’s happening is as we kind of move through that world unconsciously, we’re kind of forming these connections about what do I need to disconnect from? What, how do I disconnect from things and how do I keep myself safe? Right? So when we’re young gay kids and we’re running around and we’re getting all these messages from our parents,
we’re getting our messages from society, our friends in the classroom, we’re picking up all these messages around, how do I fit in here? And how do I make sure I can stay here feeling safe? And sadly, what happens is, is we do what depression is, is it’s a really, it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism. So I say that because what we talk about when we talk about like sematic therapy,
let’s say just, you know, therapy that focuses on the body. We, we focus on the nervous system and our nervous systems are amazing at what they do. They are amazing. So when we feel a threat come in, right, we talk a lot about the, the classic example is when you’re face-to-face with like a lion, when you see a lion,
what happens is your brain goes there, the threat, I do not want to be eaten by the lion. And so we’re going to kick in the system that kind of kicks in our fight or flight or freeze response. And that’s usually where we start talking about anxiety, right? So we talk about how that works, but what happens when that lion,
when your, when your mind and your body realize that you’re not able to run away from the lion, when you’re not able to fight the lion, run away from the lion or freeze and hope the lion doesn’t see you, what ends up happening is your body says, okay, look, I’m going to help you out. I’m going to start shutting things down because the next thing that going to happen,
it’s going to hurt and we don’t want you to hurt. So we are going to start shutting down your energy. We’re going to start shutting down any desire, any pains, sensitivity. And it really is kind of this amazing response. Our body has to try and protect us from pain and protect us from feeling things that feel empowerful. Now, I don’t know how many of us have experienced being in front of a lion,
but the lions are different now. And you know, when you’re a paid kid or any kid, the things that feel threatening are rejection, not feeling safe, not feeling accepted. And those can really start to feel truly like threatening. And so, as we get older, some of the coping skills that we learned to kind of cover up those things,
right? Being funny, being extroverted, being a hard worker, being really organized, right? Directing and getting praise and validation. In other ways, they start to lose their kind of kick. And what we come to realize is there’s a lot of pain there that was really hard for us to really sit with and tolerate. And so our bodies sometimes try to take care of us in a way where it doesn’t feel like taking care of us,
right. It feels really disconnected and really difficult. And really both. I mean, you said it, if that say at all certain normal experience, it’s such a deeply personal experience that it’s, it’s hard to even recognize sometimes that other people might feel the same way. so you’ve unpacked a lot right there at the beginning part of it. And I think what you were talking about somatically,
there’s something called somatic experiencing, which I’m sure you are aware of what somatic experiencing is. And we can definitely dive into that, but all the good juicy stuff that you were just talking about in regards to experiencing the things that we go through, the fight flight or freeze, we experienced that as kids, like when you’re on the playground, bullying all of these kinds of things,
and they compound in your body and the human experience. And as humans, we are one of the few species that actually go through the process of letting go of that experience. Because you know, when an animal goes through a traumatic experience, they’ve seen this before. I believe it’s Dr. Peter Levine did a whole study. He, you know, the father of somatic experiencing when an animal goes through that traumatic experience,
you see them, you know, say the lion comes and attacks the gazelle and the gazelle is on the ground, but then the lion gets distracted and the gazelle can manage to like they frozen, but then now they can get away. So then the what’s it called the, the, the, the thing that gives you the energy, what’s that flirt adrenaline,
adrenaline, there you go. The adrenaline kicks in and it takes off. And then once it stops and it kind of starts walking again, cause it’s like, oh, I’m okay. It does like this shake thing where it just shakes everything off because it’s shaking off the extra adrenaline. But what we do as human beings is we lock it all inside and we hold it tight and it gets stuck inside of our bodies.
And so it’s a really fascinating work. I highly suggest anybody who’s interested in this to look up a somatic experiencing because it really has helped me move through a lot of my anxieties and things that I’ve had to process because I was not a very body oriented type person. I’m a very methodical mental person. And so for me doing things like yoga, or just even like playing gay dodgeball on Mondays and being physical because I was never athletic helps me get into my body so that my body can release those energies.
And even something like this is going to sound so crazy and so weird, but I have this reoccurring dream where I’m on the side of the CN tower in Toronto, and I’m like leaning off and I’m scared. Like it scares me, like I’ve woken up having anxiety, like attacks from it. But now I don’t because if I’m having that, usually it’s as I’m drifting off and what I do instead of just letting myself get scared is I give into the fear of it.
And I squeeze all my muscles really tight and I let my body shake. And if I need to like, not scream, but like let out a little like, and like, pretend that experiencing it, let my body experience it. It can release the energy of it. And then boom, I can fall asleep and it, I didn’t realize the correlations of body and mind until I went through that experience.
So yeah. So I’m, I could talk about this for hours and hours and hours, but let’s continue on with the questions for people who are experiencing depression. Is it possible or people who not, is it possible for someone to be depressed without knowing that they have depression? Absolutely. I think actually I think this shocking thing about the statistics that you,
that you quoted is that those are people who report depression, right. Or I think what people don’t really recognize and what doesn’t get talked about enough is depression is, is, is a state, right? I know we talk about it at the diagnosis. We talk about it as there’s definitely times where depression becomes more of a acute thing that needs to be solved and gets in the way of,
but I think truly it’s an experience that most people probably can resonate in some manner. Right. And so we’re talking about kind of what happened to our body when it can’t cope with something. And so right when we talk about major depressive or what we kind of see in therapy rooms, or if we’re talking about people who suicided that kind of, I think where we have this kind of split of like,
oh, I’m not bad. I don’t know. I don’t know that experience. And we kind of push, push it aside and kind of push aside our own experience. But I really do know what it’s like to feel that kind of emptiness that, that laziness, that unmotivated, that unfocused ness, I can speak from my personal experience before I got into mental health.
Like I said, my freshman year of college, I was looking back on it, very depressed, but had no idea what was going on. I had no idea that there was something that needed to be talked about or something that could be addressed. I just kind of thought, you know, college Meek’s seems pretty unsocial and, and kind of, and it,
it builds on that narrative and that shame that something’s wrong with me. Right. So not only am I gay and trying to figure that out and trying to struggle with that, I’m also wrong because I don’t want to go socialize. I don’t want to do go to class. Right. And instead of saying, oh, there’s actually something that needs to be addressed here.
It kind of compounds that, feeling that something that I’m alone in this. And so, yeah, I definitely think there’s so many of us that go out into the world and are experiencing a lot of the symptomology that we call depression and kind of write it up as this is who I am. This is how I’ll always be. And don’t see it as something that really can be addressed and,
and shifted and different. So what are some of those signs and symptoms someone should be aware of if they’re having that experience where it’s like, like, I think I’ve experienced depression, but I didn’t know it was depression. So what you’ve already kind of just mentioned a couple of them, but what are some signs and symptoms that are really like, oh,
I should pay more attention here. It’s not just me being a little bit lazy or being a little bit like, it’s like getting towards the clinical depression side of things. Yeah. So, and is it the part that I, I find truly fascinating about people who experienced depression and kind of what I was speaking to before, where they really feel like they’re the only ones that everyone else is kind of fine and functioning perfectly,
and maybe there’s just something wrong with them. So the things I hear a lot are I’m feeling heavy. I feel numb. I feel apathetic. I feel lazy, unmotivated, unfocused. I feel isolated and alone. Even though I have friends and I go to work and I’m having interactions, I still kind of can’t necessarily feel those interactions. And then we kind of move into the more cognitive part of it.
You know, the, the self worth, how that critical mind of kind of you’re the problem. You’re not enough, right? Shame the feeling of shame, but the way that most people experience shame often is that self credit kind of gets really loud. And you’re the reason, right? No one wants to talk to you. No one wants to connect with you become really self attacking.
And then we have the hopelessness and the helplessness that things can change. So when you start seeing things in your experience, more as fact, right? The thing that you believe about yourself or are like, no, this is the way it is. And this is how people perceive me, as opposed to realizing that they’re actually distortions, right? They’re distortions that other people aren’t necessarily thinking,
feeling or perceiving you the way that you perceive yourself. Those are, I just went through a lot of different experiences. I know, but they have a similar theme, right. Where it’s hard to, you feel disconnected and it’s hard to take things. And it’s hard to take good things in. And we’re going to unpack that later on, if those are the things you are experiencing,
how you can get out of those cycles and how you can move out of those cycles, because those are a lot of when you get into that Headspace of like, and I’ve been there, especially through the pandemic, like, oh my goodness. Through the pandemic, I consider myself a positive person. I like to think positively. I like to have hope.
I think hope is one of the biggest key aspects of not getting into that cycle of depression. Like the deep rooted depression. That even if there’s a kernel of hope, you’re like, okay, but like tomorrow can be different. This isn’t going to be forever. Like those little tiny things to hold on to. Those were the things that kept me going.
But during the pandemic, it was so hard because we’re such social beings to be locked in. And I’m so grateful that I had a roommate. A lot of people say, I know a couple people who were like, oh no, I’m so grateful. I didn’t have a roommate. Cause it would’ve gone crazy. And I was like, I’m the opposite.
I think I’m so good at being alone. And I really value being alone. I’m an introvert at heart. So I could be alone for days and like be okay with it. But I still do need that interaction like once a week or twice a week to just kind of fill my cup up. And then I’m like, okay, I’m good. But not having that.
And only having like one person as your roommate and you’re, you’re both going through the same experience of nothing’s different, nothing new is coming up and you’re both just trying to struggle through it. It was really, really fricking hard. So a lot of the things that you were talking about, definitely. I felt those. I’m really curious though, to kind of bring it to the gay side of things.
What are kind of the biggest triggers specifically for gay men struggling with depression. And I kind of put some examples in here and I’m, I’m curious about your work specifically, because I know that there’s things like a body obsession culture and drinking and drugs and how we just interact as a culture. How do those things all factor into gay men and how we experience depression or how it can trigger experiencing depression?
Yeah. So what I, you know, this question, I think goes back to kind of this previous kind of overall about depression, right? Like kind of the origin story of it and what I like to, you know, I ha I spoke to another colleague who works a lot with gay men and he said, something kind of shocking to me.
He said the amount of client that I sit with who say they can’t remember their childhoods, that they, it feels murky. They don’t have necessarily, they don’t, aren’t able to necessarily speak to it. And the way we were talking about it, that I found so intriguing is what happened to someone when they don’t feel connected to themselves. And they can’t take things in right.
When, when you grow up having to learn it right, putting on a mask, wearing all these things where you kind of put some distance in and what, and what ends up happening to that person when they grow up. And I think when we talk about the images we see as gay men, about what it means to be a gay man or the ideal gay man,
when we talk about what a relationship between two men can look like or should look like or feel like, and we also have all these other messages that we’ve been taking in and internalizing about what’s right, what’s wrong, what I should feel, what I shouldn’t feel, what I should be attracted to it, it causes this kind of almost this kind of,
you know, obsession is a strong word, but it does start to feel like this really important that I do things right. I have to do this. Right. And so, Yeah, perfectionism and, and, and pushing yourself almost to an extent where I work with a lot of gay men who are burnt out, right accomplishments. I need to accomplish a lot of things.
I need to push myself in other, because in this realm, in this part of my world, it’s not enough and I’ll never get the validation and praise that I need for it. So I will try to focus on my diet, right? I’ll focus on external things. I’ll focus on my diet. I’ll focus on my body. I will, if I’m feeling really socially anxious and not enough,
but I want to go out and be fun, and this I will, I’ll drink that voice away. And the thing, you know, I know there’s obviously a lot of talk around drugs and alcohol. And the thing is that the truth is that they work and what they do. I wouldn’t say the healthiest way, but when you don’t want to feel a certain way and you want to present a certain way,
drinking and drugs ends up being maladaptive. Sure. But a way for you to enter the world that may be really disruptive for you and bring up a lot of feelings that you’re really trying, that would be intolerable for you to feel in a gay bar or in a gay relationship. Things that become kind of overstimulated. Yeah. To be able to access that world.
And, and it’s, this might sound controversial, but it’s like, I’m going to be perfect at all of these things over here to make up for the fact that I’m gay. And I like, I’ve seen that so much in the gay community with that perfectionism, with that burnout. If I can be perfect at everything over here and tell the show,
the world how perfect I am, it’ll make up for the fact that I’m gay and it’s just wild. And then going into the drugs and the alcohol it’s for me, it’s kind of like, you know how kids have like wild abandoned. They’re just like they do. They don’t give two fucks about anybody else. That is kind of what happens with drugs and alcohol.
Is it your inhibitions? You can let go of all the hang ups you’ve had. And you can kind of almost get back to that childlike state of like, oh, this is like, I can have fun in the world. But the thing is is that you can do that without drugs and alcohol. But if you don’t feel safe doing that, or you don’t know how to do that,
or you don’t know how to process that or how to get there, which it takes doing a lot of this work to get there. Of course, you’re going to turn to drugs and alcohol in order to kind of access that because that’s where you feel free. That’s where you feel like, oh, I’m connected again. Exactly. And I think drugs and alcohol food exercise,
and I think the food and exercise products, because we can, we can say, that’s how it’s healthy, you know, to eat clean, to, to work out, to work out your body. You said it yourself and yoga, an amazing somatic experience and really helps kind of get you in your body. I think the thing that becomes very,
very hard for some of us who gone through this experience to take in, is that coming out is not the, of the process when we come out and we tell everyone, we think that I’m out, I’m going out. I’m going to gay spaces. I have gay friends. Why, why in what world would I not be okay with being gay I’m here.
And we disregard the lifetime, right? The childhood, the adolescent, the adult years before we were out, that had an impact on our relationship at that part of us. And we were like, but no, we came out. We already did that part. We, we accepted ourselves. We go to the pride parades. We, we, we go to the gig Dodge balls,
right? We I’m, I’m here. I’m doing it. And it’s hard for us some time to understand that the 12 year old that was really afraid of being gay the 15 year old that had a crush on his brand. But didn’t know if he liked him back or felt uncomfortable around will this person like me, will they be, will they hate me if they knew this,
those parts stay with us, right? Like you said, as humans, we absorb, we absorb those experiences and they end up working in our unconscious. And so that I think is the thing that gives gay men and other queer people, this double-edged sword and why we are so disproportionately affected by kind of mental illness and depression, especially because we have very,
very from day one, a unique experience of knowing that we’re different. We don’t know why, but we know that we, sometimes we feel it as maybe we’re magic. Right? Maybe we, I, I know a lot of young gay boys who were waiting for like, oh, something special like that. Something was gonna happen to me one day where I finally think will make sense.
They don’t know what it, what that is per se, but at some point that to turn into a negative, right? There’s something different about me that I can’t necessarily connect with or feel shame around my peers. And I don’t know if you have this experience, but I remember whenever the word gay was brought up in school, I always thought all eyes were on me.
I thought for some reason that everyone else was thinking that, that I was the one that they were talking about Because everybody would say it to me. Yeah. And so there’s that experience, right? And so the really, really deep sense of something being wrong. So that even when we come out and we start living the life, you’ve always wanted to live in a congruent life,
right. Living with our PA, we still have to process. And we have to kind of undo the damage that was done to us, sadly from society, family, and all those interactions. And quite frankly, I, you know, I say this to my clients, it’s not fair. What happened to us? It’s not fair. What happened to you,
but it is your responsibility to, if you want to clean it up, right. If we want to do that and do that work, Oh, a hundred. And you have to, if you want to, if you want to move forward, you have to look backwards sometimes in order to do that, I want to go back to this comment you made about what happens when someone can’t connect with themselves.
And I want to talk about maybe this association about that younger self and how you were talking about how some clients don’t really recall their childhood. And I mean, I recall, like I recall a lot of things of my childhood, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot of like positive things that I do look to, or there’s like things that I just am like,
oh, well, that must have happened. But I can’t really remember it, especially before my parents divorce. And that was like my really younger years. And like, maybe it wasn’t until like, I was like 10 or 11 that really started creating solid memories. And even then they weren’t like gray ones, but like from like real childhood childhood, like they’re are very few and far between kind of sparse memories.
And so what’s this kind of disassociation that happens there that you’ve been finding with your work. And I love that question. I love that question so much because it goes back to how do we take things in if we’re not living in our body, right. Can we take in good, bad, neutral memories when we’re so disconnected and in an anxious state,
you know, I’m not saying that all gay kids are anxious, but when you’re not fully present, because you can’t be due to safety, it’s going to be hard to really take things in. So I think about this, I think about the young gay kid who really loved dancing or performing right, really loved and, and used to put on performances for their dad and mom.
And it’d be like, look, I came up with the dance and the message they get is boys don’t do that. Or boys shouldn’t be doing that. And you’re instantly getting this message of this thing that really brought you joy. And this thing that really felt fun, wrong, bad. We shouldn’t do that or not. And you learn that the things I like aren’t,
aren’t things I should like, or, or they make other people, they, they don’t make mom and dad happy or they make it make me bullied. Right. I become a target of bullying. And so it becomes a protective factor to disconnect from those things, those desires and those wants, and it’s, it’s a devastating experience, but a protective one that I,
I’m not going to fully be here. Right. I’m going to focus on the external, I’m going to focus on my grades. I’m going to focus on being the A-plus student, the teacher’s pet per se. Right? I know that’s a little stereotype, but Also the opposite of like the total disconnected one, who’s the troublemaker who doesn’t do anything. Well,
You’re going to get attention, right. Being funny. You’re going to pull away from the things that feel bad, but you’re, you’re, you’re constantly working to get something right. Or you’re constantly negotiating with yourself. Where can I get safety, acceptance connection. And if not being fully authentic in you in that moment. And so this, this association,
and I do think that’s a good word to use because we talk about this, use this association, I’d like complete out of body. But I think as gay people, we have this experience of knowing how to enter a room and perform. We know how to move through. We know how to make those connections, those pivots without, with out outing ourselves all the time and negotiating,
you know, even after you come out initially, like every time you meet a new coworker, every time you meet a new friend, do they know, do they not know? Do I tell them Every time it’s when you come out it’s for life, because, and then I hate this comment where like, oh, I couldn’t tell. You never know that you’re gay.
And I’m like, that’s not exactly a compliment. Like, is there a specific way that we’re supposed to act like that should, that it should be like, oh, okay. It shouldn’t, it shouldn’t be a comment on top of it. It should just be like, oh, okay. Like, because when you go there, then that automatically creates this space where it’s like,
oh, being gay is different. Being gay is bad, but you don’t fit into that category, which is created, which is drives me crazy. But I think it, and I’m going to plug a little bit for LGBTQ Talkspace here, therapy space here, because which is the, you, you mentioned it before, right? It’s, it’s why escape people.
We optimum want therapists that can mirror back our experiences when we have lived our life, not feeling the same as others crave sameness. And that’s not to say that when a gay man sits in front of me, I assume I know exactly what their experience has been or that their relationship with their queerness or their gender or their sexuality is the same as mine,
but they can know. I don’t need to explain myself here. I know that even if I have to tell you my story, I don’t need to tell you the queer story. I don’t need to tell you or explain why I feel different. That experience, I think, is universal as someone who’s lived outside of kind of the norm. Right. And so I think,
and I think we’ll get to this, and I don’t know if that’s, this is a good segue to this, but like the, how do we deal with these feelings and how do we kind of resolve them? We find spaces where we can feel seen and heard. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the velvet rage. Yeah, Of course. Every gay is familiar with,
it’s still how many decades or years later, it’s still like a number one bestseller. And like, still, everybody always talks about that book. And I would, I, you know, and I have my own thoughts about the like right, how that book has aged and, and maybe some updates we need to make to that book. But I think the concept of it is really striking about when we,
when, when we as gay men, but as people feel unseen and unheard, the, the intense feeling of, I need to do something to know that I exist because no one else seems to see that I exist or this part of me exists when going back to kind of, our nervous has been kind of shutting down and protecting us from pain. Think about how painful it is.
I mean, I don’t think you need to think that you may be intimately familiar with it, but the feeling of do I exist is this part of me real? Why is no one kind of feeding it? Why, why do I feel like I’m keeping it in the closet, the amount of rage and pain that really creates in someone, of course,
your body’s going to want to disconnect from that and take care of that because there’s not many spaces where you can walk into and scream and yell and you know, And that that’s okay. And to that, to normalize that, Right, you’re not being dramatic. Right. I think I, as a gay man, we get you’re being too much, you’re being dramatic.
And if this message of like, oh, I’m not supposed to release these feelings because people get uncomfortable. People. Don’t like it, people reject those feelings. So this is kind of me dipping my toe into that finding spaces and people where you can live your full experience. And I’m biased. I think the therapy space is a really good space to get some of that.
And it is because we’ve had Jake on the show before, if you’re, if you’re listening to this episode and you’ve not heard the episode I did with Jake Myers on therapy, you can go back. I think it’s just a few episodes back and check that out as well. We talk a lot about the LGBTQ therapy space, which is the therapy environment for,
from, and for LGBTQ plus individuals. So, and I think it’s one of the first of its kind in north America, it’s specifically American based for now, but eventually it might spread further. But, but yeah, this is, this is what we were talking about. Yeah. There’s something about, and I think in that episode, you talked about not,
you know, your therapist doesn’t always have to be gay, right? You can have a really good experience with a non-queer therapist, but the thing you get from meeting with someone, right. I think it’s why we talk so much. And I love that you mentioned doc about why those things are so important for some people is that it creates community. It creates an opportunity for you to be around people where you can see yourself in them and they see you in that.
Right. There’s this kind of bond and you don’t need to explain it. I don’t know if this is a tangent, but I’m thinking, have you watched that new Netflix show, hot heart stopper? Oh my God. Yes. I can’t even, yeah. Go for it. I’m like Frickin love that show. Okay. If you’ve not watched it,
this is the love plug for heart stopper. Oh, it is. It gave me all the fields. All the cuteness is all the vibes and it was just so it was just so right. It was just, just so like, oh my God. Like if I had that as a, if I was a kid, like my little gay heart exploded me and my roommate literally started watching it this first Sunday,
it came out and we started like sometime in the early afternoon. And we just watched the whole thing to the end. We stayed up an extra hour late because we’re like, we need to finish this. Like we cannot go to bed. Cause it is just so I watched it twice in one weekend and, and I was really sitting with why I would like,
there was something about that. Right. And like, I think at gay people, we like a content. And again, it’s like a community thing, but it w it felt like feeding the younger part of me, it felt like, oh my God. Yeah. And these young gay kid and right. This, the story of these younger kids who,
the story isn’t about I, and there’s a coming out process and no spoiled, but like, it is, it deals with the theme in such a beautiful way. And I found myself, it really put me in touch for me, my experience of what I didn’t have. So there was some sadness in watching it too. Right. But it felt like it was a sadness of what that young gay boy didn’t have,
which was, can I see myself in love? Can I see myself connecting with others and having friends and just being free of the, needing to wear this mask that I wasn’t even aware of. Right. It’s so convoluted and complex, but the truth is in a simple, simple way. It also makes sense. It’s like, do we, when you’re a younger kid and you don’t see yourself in love story,
do you believe you’re worthy of love? And we’re still unpacking that we’re going to be unpacking that for generations still, because that’s the thing that some people don’t quite grasp in this immediate everything, give it to me now, you know, world is that change takes generations, not just a little bit of time, but like generational time and healing, you know,
the destruction and anger and frustration and pain went on in generations. And it’s going to have to come off in generations as well. So it’s not just like, oh, you know, we’ve legalized gay marriage. You’re fine. No, that’s one little tiny check mark on the journey that is us being fully realized people in society. And we’ve had gay marriage in Canada for generations.
But that doesn’t mean that we still don’t get the messaging from other countries because we’re right. You know, we’re neighbors to the USA. So it’s not like we aren’t getting the messaging from the USA being like, oh, but you’re not quite appreciated down here. And in a big city, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, I feel safe.
I feel great being in Toronto. But if I went into the middle of nowhere, Canada, I don’t think I would feel the exact same. And I probably wouldn’t be able to be myself as authentically as I’m able to be myself here. And it’s, it’s all part of it. And that that’s going to take generations, but things like heart stopper and these shows and these movies,
the visibility is so important. And then on the flip side, the other people who are screaming like, oh, why do you need so much visibility? And it’s like, because every fucking show until this point has been about straight people, you have generations of normalizing. We don’t have generalized generations of normalizing. So yeah, it’s going to be in your face because the pendulum is swinging to correct itself.
It’s the same with black lives matter. It’s it has to be in the face of everybody constantly for generations now, because it’s been the opposite for so long, we need to course correct. And it needs to swing in the opposite direction until eventually it can come back into the middle where it levels itself out. But these things are going to take time and we need to continue to do the work around it.
And snapping I, everything you just said, just like, absolutely. Yeah. Cause it’s so it’s so true that these things don’t happen in a microcosm. Right? It is amazing that we start to have experiences as gay adults, hopefully where you, you do find safe spaces, right. And those safe spaces become so important to those communities. But the thing is,
is what you’re speaking to. And something that I, I struggle with a lot is what happened when you leave those safe spaces, right? Like you said, like I was thinking, you know, oh, I’ve never gone to the south. And the USA, like, do I want to go to the south? Would I feel safe? Like,
and when the fact that we even have to ask those questions brings us back to this, you know, this theme of depression of like, I don’t really want to go back to a place where I’m going to have to question myself and oh my God. And, and the, the overthinking of how do I talk? How do I present myself? How do I look?
How do I, it, it, it really is. It all is so compounding into devastatingly, not surprising why depression is so prevalent in our communities. And also at the same time, we’re told gay men are supposed to be fun. We’re supposed to be stylish, right? Like again, those stereotypes that come in and like how we’re supposed to present the gay best friend and those,
these things were breaking down in the more stories we hear in the more experiences we have, but you don’t want to be this sad, gay boy. Like people don’t want to have that title about them. And I think the more we talk about it, the more we realize it’s actually a universal experience. Hopefully we’ll create some more space so that you can have the whole breadth of life.
That really what we’re treating depression is about. It’s not about not feeling sad. It’s not about not having bad days and feeling unmotivated or lazy. It’s about being able to experience the spectrum of our feelings and the spectrum of the anger, the rage, right? Cause like you said, the rage isn’t going anywhere. No, you needs to get released in a constructive,
healthy manner. Exactly. It’s not about getting rid of feelings. And that’s something that I think really shows up in my practice of, I don’t want to feel this thing. They come to me because they’re like, I want you to get rid of the sadness and I want you to get rid of the heaviness. I want tomorrow to be able to pop out of bed,
go to work, feel productive, feel purposeful. And please help me feel that way. And I tell my clients, you know, my job isn’t to make you feel differently, per se, to make you feel more, to give you the liberation and the freedom, to feel your feelings And to understand the feelings and the tools in order to sort through those feelings and unpack them.
Yes. Which is why it’s so, so, so, so important for people to work through either programs or, you know, that’s why we created the gay men’s brotherhood. So we could create this community of people who are, you know, lightly dipping their toe into these conversations where it’s like, it is hard. It is difficult. People are going to rub up against each other.
There’s going to be fighting. There’s going to be anger because there’s been generations of it packed on us. It’s not just going to come off and be like, Hey, we’re done. It’s going to be like an onion unpeeling, every single thing. And this is the perfect segue into the next part of this is, you know, someone who’s struggling currently with depression,
how can they start moving out of that cycle? And one of the biggest key things is, you know, working with a therapist, starting to understand what your feelings are, why are your feelings there? What are the tools that you can then get to put into your tool belt to start sifting through all this stuff. But I know that that can also be hard.
Cause if you’re in the deep cycle, you don’t even want to reach out. So if somebody is really in there, how can they even start? Like to try to figure out where to go next? Yeah. Th and this is one of those questions that there are some right. Some of those how to choose, and then there’s also the, the real kind of,
what’s behind that question, right? It’s like, it’s such, I think we can’t underestimate like what you just said, how difficult it is when you’re in that place. And I always think that when someone reaches out for therapy or in any sort of support or wait, that, that first step of asking for help, oh my God. Like we may think of just another call or,
or that it might be easy, but that is so often the hardest part. I do. You know, the therapist we do consults before we kind of jump into working with, with clients. And oftentimes those 10, 15, 20 minutes can be healing in itself for someone because they’ve reached out for help. And they’re, they’re getting their, their hand is being grabbed.
So I say that because it’s, but for the person who feels hopeless that says, oh, there’s no point I won’t change anything. I, I really, I really want to say that there’s something to creating a bit of space, even a fraction of space that the voice inside your head that says nothing’s going to change and challenging that can, can change your life.
I think in many ways, because it can give you at least an opportunity to make a choice, to take a step closer to someone. And I think it’s really important too, because for me, myself, how I’ve experienced it is that, you know, when you get into this depression of like, oh, am I even here? Am I even relevant?
I might even being seen, I’m not feeling seen, am I real? Like, you know, what is this existence for me working with a therapist has been that person on the other side being like, I see you, I am here seeing you and validating you as an individual and as a person. And that in itself is so powerful to just be like,
okay, someone sees me, you know, it’s not everybody, it’s not, the whole world is perfect, but there is an individual who sees me who sees the struggle and the things that I’m going through. And they’re there to help support me. And you know, it therapy can be expensive, but there’s also lots of programs out there that, you know,
community center, community programs, government programs that you can, you know, might be a little bit more difficult, which is sucks because it’s already so difficult for somebody to reach that first step, because it is, it’s not just a first step. It’s like you’re climbing over a mountain. And then at the top of the mountain, then that’s when the normal steps start and it does get easier.
But that first one is like, so freaking difficult. Well, to go back to the nervous system, right? The, like what you’re talking about, the, the mountain you’re climbing is getting back, getting your nervous system back on, right. The first step is how do I get myself to wake up from this? And that heaviness really does a good job of telling you,
oh no, this is, this is better than the anxiety that you might feel or the rejection you might feel. And our minds have this amazing ability of teaching telling us a narrative and reinforcing that narrative. So when we are looking for evidence of, yeah, you see, I tried to reach out to a friend and they didn’t respond right away. That kind of reinforces the narrative that they don’t care.
And we, You asked somebody out and they don’t respond for like a week. And you’re like, oh, they don’t like me. And you make them all these stories about what’s going on. And then all of a sudden they messages and they’re like, oh, that would be great. And it’s like, they don’t go on Tinder every single day.
Maybe they go on only on the weekends. You don’t know their story. Exactly. That’s exactly it. It’s like, how do we inquire when we’re looking for things to reinforce our narrative about why we, why we feel this way. We’re very good, very good at coming up with why we feel the way we do and why we shouldn’t challenge that belief or that self critic.
And, and to speak to your point yeah. Therapy. There are some barriers for people to get into therapy it’s app. And it, it is an issue that I feel really strongly about. And so I know when your episode would take, you talked about kind of, you know, if, if fee is a problem, the, I think you mentioned,
I was actually really excited to hear that. I think you mentioned the tax rebate that you can get from them therapy and where you’re from. So, Oh yeah. You can claim it. I just did my taxes. She’s getting back money. Like you can, you can write up, not write up, but like you can add medical expenses to your bottom line as an individual.
It’s not about business. It’s a as an individual savior dental savior it’s per province, of course, but no, save that and add it into your medical expenses at the end of the year for your taxes like that. That’s important stuff. So there are ways it’s not like you’re going to get it all back, but there are ways to make it more accessible.
And even things like this podcast, if this is your first step, it’s a great first step, because at least you’re gaining the knowledge. At least you’re getting the understanding and the conceptual ideas of it under your belt. So then this could be your stepping stone to those things. Joining the gay men’s brotherhood, Facebook group, starting to interact a little bit here and there can be another next step.
And then the next one after that. So you can find these little micro steps before taking that bigger step of actually reaching out and finding a therapist for yourself for that kind of thing. And if you’re not, and I always say, right, the three things that I kind of am a proponent of, especially when talk and this isn’t just for depression,
this is if you’re feeling anxious, if you’re feeling disconnected. My first question for myself and for others is when they start saying they feel disconnected from others or their work. I usually like to point them toward maybe there’s a part of you that feeling disconnected from yourself. So maybe we need to do some grounding. And so you mentioned yoga, I think yoga.
I’m so glad that yoga is so in the mainstream now. I think it’s just amazing. It works your body. It works the mindfulness meditation, the amount of people I hear who say, oh, meditation isn’t for me, if you were one of those people, meditation is you are the one for meditation. Yeah. I always like to say if you’re the one who,
who struggles with it, then that I think is a good indicator, that this is something that it’s a practice. And the last thing I like to plug is I think I, I shared that before I was a therapist. I w I, I pursued creative writing. And so writing for me, I think journaling, it had just been kind of an amazing,
I journal personally every morning and it not even any, I don’t even know what I’m always writing about, but just getting in touch with what the content of my mind and my heart is. And just kind of becoming aware of that. It creates such a space between things and when you are feeling heavy, rage, heavy, shame, it really hard to create that space to challenge it.
And so by writing it down, talking about it with someone, it creates that dissonance that allows you to kind of change your perspective on it and realize that yes, it’s how I feel, but it may not have to feel that way. And so that’s my plug for, I like to do that in meditation and in my kind of world, I like to do the third person perspective where it’s like,
this is me, this is the rage I’m feeling, or this is the whatever I’m feeling. And then doing gratitude or whatever, kind of forces me into that third person outside of myself, where I’m like, okay, well, what’s, what’s the, what’s the actual facts that an outsider’s looking at. And then it can kind of remove me outside of my inner thoughts and kind of put me into a different perspective and go,
okay, where am I not really being truthful with myself? Or where am I making up a story that doesn’t really read big SIS, all right, let’s move on to the last bit here, which is how can someone best support someone else who’s struggling with depression, you know, the kind of language to use and things maybe not to say or do that people think,
oh, I’m helping, but really you’re not helping. So let’s start with the first one. I think unsolicited advice usually good to steer away from I myself obviously am a therapist, but I do not. I’ve learned pretty quickly that people do not always love being therapized all the time there, the time and place for that. And people, if they want it can search for it.
This is, this is a really interesting question because I focus a lot on language. I think when we ask someone, are you okay? It really puts a person in a position to have, if they’re not feeling okay to either feel like they’re going negative and say no, or feel like they have to lie and say yes, right. We live in a world where we’re in.
Sometimes our interactions with people are so brief, you know, Hey, how are you? Good, nothing like that. And so I really focus on saying, how are you leaving it open to the person too? And then, you know, they say, good. And you say, you can say, really, I am curious about, about where you’re at and I’m missing you,
right? I’m, I’m wanting to hold space for you, I guess, in, in it to kind of bring to the synthesis of this is I think the way to support someone who’s struggling with depression or any mental illness is an invitation, an invitation that I’m here. I want to hold some of this with you. I don’t want you to be alone,
avoiding, fix it. Mentality being, you know, sometimes when someone we love is going through a hard time, it brings up our own anxiety. It brings up our own worry and, and we want to help. And so we want to jump in and we want to do and say, oh, you Wouldn’t save the day and become the heroes.
We want our friend back. We want our mom back. We want our sister back. Right. So we want to do what we can to help them. And what we don’t realize is sometimes in those messages, what’s being the unspoken. Is it not okay? What you’re feeling? And we need to do something about it to take it away so that we can,
and I have to interject because I love this part because it’s like the movie inside out and you know how sadness just goes and cries with being bombed. And it’s just like, Joy’s like, what the fuck? And it’s just like, cause Joy’s the fix. It was like, let’s backside. And then sadness is just like, sometimes you just need to sit with the person and be,
it’s just about being there. It’s not about fixing. It’s just saying I, who said it. I can’t remember what happened, where I was reading this, but there was this experience where this woman or person had a child and there was this old man crying, like the neighbor or something. And then the kid just went up and sat on his lap and just didn’t do anything,
just sat with him. And he cried until I was done and whatever. And then the parent was like, what, what were you doing? And the kids just like, I was just helping them cry. And it was just like that. Sometimes that’s all we need. You don’t need anything else. Just somebody to see you in your pain, acknowledge you to see that you’re there just be there with you.
And that when you’re ready to know that you’re still there, See somebody, right. It really is. It’s witnessing somebody and witnessing someone where they’re at. It’s not about, you know, I think it’s important about what, what they need. And if they’re, if they do have a need or a desire that needs to be shifted, I think that’s always important to create space for,
but really just giving someone the opportunity to say I’m hurting. I’m not feeling, I don’t know. Something feels wrong with me. And oftentimes not even jumping into challenging. Right. Sometimes when we challenged that, because we don’t agree with it, it tracks it down. But you’re saying that really sucks. I know that feeling right. I sympathize or empathize with that feeling because I oftentimes feel,
and some of that same next, right? That’s what we want to know that we’re not broken. We want to know that we’re not alone in this. And so when you, if you have someone in your life, I w I will say, you know, there are sometimes the people in our lives who struggle with mental illness or mental health, I should say it can be hard for us sometimes to be sometimes can lose that compassion could be,
we’re not the most patient people. We have our own life to feel, and we can feel like we need to give up everything in order to caretake someone. That’s often not what the person needs. The person usually worried about being a burden. They’re worried that if they share this, that, that you will feel the need to take care of them and that it will disrupt your life,
or you’ll get infected with their shame or their sadness or their depression. And I think making sure that you yourself feel that you’re taking care of yourself. I think modeling how to take care of yourself while being in relation with someone who’s struggling to do the same can be an amazing corrective experience of, I can take care of myself and I can be here for you and I can hold space for you.
And you don’t need to take care of me right now by hiding your feelings. That’s how, that’s, how we were trained. We were trained to take care of other people by not making them uncomfortable with our gayness, with our anxiety, with our depression and saying, I can take care of myself and I can also give some to you and you don’t need to worry about me take,
you know, creating that space for you. So I, I think that’s kind of my gist of how I kind of would kind of coach someone if they were really worried about someone missing someone. Yeah. And it is important to take care of yourself and fill your own cup first, you know, do your own therapy, go to your own groups,
do your own like fun adventures and things like that. And then continue to be around that person as like a catalyst so that they can see, okay, maybe there is options. Maybe there is, you know, ways to be different and to change. But that has to be that person’s choice. It can’t be, I fix this or I fix you or any of that kind of shit.
It has to be. I’m just going to stand in my power and stand in my light. And if you see it and you want to get attracted to it and you want to go in that direction and learn, you will take those steps, but I’m not doing it to fix you or anything. I’m just doing it for myself. I love that.
I absolutely love that. Yeah, there’s, there’s, you know, our, our, our brains and our bodies, we want to take good things in our, our we’re really adept at taking good things in when we’re open to them. And so I think, I think that’s a beautiful way to think about it. That if you can take care of yourself and stay connected to this person,
whether they want to stay connected or not, you’ll be, it’ll be really a beautiful experience to kind of have both of you guys have a learning experience and, you know, maybe their experience will help you with something you’re struggling with. Right. Having that shared commonality, it can be a really beautiful space and, and, and a difficult one, a really uncomfortable when sometimes,
but the, the intimacy of it can be a really, really nourishing one. Well, I think we can end things there on that beautiful note. So it’s been an absolute pleasure having you, Jacob, where can people find out more information about you or your work if they’re interested? Yeah. So I have a private practice again, next functions, mostly tele-health,
but also in Los Angeles, you can find more about me on www.JacobMonkarsh.com. Social media is to come, not could not quite there yet, but, or you can find me on LGBTQ talk therapy space working in Colorado in California. And I really, I, I can’t advocate enough for what Jake I’m Jacob, he’s Jake. I set up and created.
It’s a really beautiful experience to be able to, to be a part of. Yeah. And it’s fantastic. And I’ll have all that in the show notes for everybody to find out more information. If they like, if you’ve liked this episode, please, please share it. We need to normalize these conversations and people need to know about it, share it on your social media.
If you’re following this on iTunes or wherever you’re listening, give us a star rating. We really appreciate it. And leave us a comment. We’d love to read those out as well. If you’re watching this on YouTube, please hit that subscribe button and hit the little bell. It’ll notify you every time we release new episodes every Thursday, and also give it a thumbs up.
Cause we really appreciate that as well. And I think that’s it for today. So thank you so much, Jacob have the best day ever, and we will hit you all next time. Peace Lovering, rainbows fighting.