Working Through the Hard Times
Hallo, dears. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Lidstone, who runs a website focused on men dealing with mental health issues, particularly depression. Lidstone is working toward building a community for men suffering depression in which a support system can be available to those who need it.
RJ: When did your passion for writing begin and what sparked it?
LIDSTONE: Around 1999, I was unemployed and trying to follow the advice, “Do what you love.” What I loved (and still do) is running a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game. It took me a few days to figure out how to turn that into a career. What I came up with is to write the story of an evil wizard; how he became the evil wizard that takes over the world—his story. It turns out that writing as a career choice is a bit more difficult than I imagined.
RJ: You have a blog that addresses depression, specifically in men. What prompted you to start the site?
LIDSTONE: I started writing about depression and other disorders specifically for men because I found professional help less than helpful. It felt like all the advice they gave me was geared toward helping me become more like what women expect from men instead of helping me figure out how to be a man. A friend of mine recommended No More Mr Nice Guy to me. It took me hearing it quoted a few times in other books, by friends, and in videos and podcast that I listened to before I finally got around to reading it. Once I did though, everything suddenly made sense. I kept in mind the concepts I found in that book when I was talking with other people—and especially when consuming other self-help material—and everything started to make a lot more sense.
RJ: Do you believe our society treats men and women differently when it comes to mood and anxiety disorders?
LIDSTONE: Yes, they do. Women get put into [victim] categories. Society sees them as being traumatized or hurt by a person or event. Men get categorized as angry, aggressive, or loners, and are said to not want to talk about their problems or feelings. Men’s biggest problems stem from us feeling alone most of the time (sound familiar women?), but we get that feeling from different circumstances than women. Men feel alone when we don’t get recognition for the positive effect we have on the world around us, especially our families. We feel like nobody cares about the talents and skills we have. We feel devalued.
RJ: What has been your experience with depression? How has it influenced or hindered your writing?
LIDSTONE: Depression makes motivating myself extremely hard. I don’t believe I can do the writing. And even on those days when I can convince myself that I can, the writing is hard and only serves to reinforce the negative beliefs that my depression tells me.
RJ: No matter the gender, talking about depression isn’t easy. Men are still thought of as the minority of depression cases, though recent studies have shown a significant upswing in men suffering from depression. Why do you think that it’s more taboo for men to speak out about depression than women and how could we change that?
LIDSTONE: I don’t think it’s more taboo for men to talk about depression at all. I think our world is embracing the discussion and men are talking about it to anyone they think will listen. The real problem is data collection. All the studies and data collected rely on two things: that men tell the right people so their number can be tracked, and that the right people know how to hear it when men talk about their depression. The problem isn’t that it’s not as cool for men to talk about it; the problem is that men don’t use the word depression when they do talk about it.
The word depression means something to society that men don’t relate to. Men don’t feel sad, emotionless, empty, or dead inside when they deal with depression, so they don’t relate to the definition they associate with it. What they do feel is anger, frustration, defeat, hopelessness, or a sense of uselessness. Most of the time, when men talk to me about their depression, they externalize it as aggression and frustration—it enhances their negative emotions instead of subduing their emotions. Most professionals would argue that this is a different disorder and not depression at all (and, therefore, won’t treat it as they would depression), but I believe it’s the same thing, triggered by the same triggers, and requiring the same treatment as depression in women.
RJ: When you’re writing about depression, is your goal to educate and promote understanding or are you speaking more directly to those individuals suffering from depression?
LIDSTONE: Both, I want to help those that suffer from it to understand they aren’t alone and there is help. And I want people without depression to understand how they can help.
RJ: What has your experience been like from diagnosis to finding the proper medication/s?
LIDSTONE: It took four months to even start the diagnosis process. Over the next year, my psych changed the diagnosis three times and couldn’t decide on a consistent diagnosis at all. He tried me on many different drugs, most of which had no effect at all and the ones that did have an effect only drained my motivation more—although they did reduce my negative emotions.
RJ: You mentioned you wanted to extend your non-fiction brand to video, audio, books, etc. Looking into the Podcast scene myself, I can attest to how frustrating and time consuming the research is just to get the right equipment and editing software. Do you have a timeline set or certain goals you’re trying to meet to keep you on track as you build your brand?
LIDSTONE: I have only just started setting goals. I don’t have much planned out yet. I decided to start by just recording some audio/video and see what happens from there. I tend to plan things to death and never get to the action stage of doing something, so I decided to just record some things and plan the next step once I have a bunch of videos recorded.
I record with Zoom. It’s a video call software with which I can record myself or perform video interviews. It has the added feature of producing a file with video and audio or a strictly audio file, so I can use the program for different platforms. I plan to record 25 or so episodes to get the feel of it. Then I’ll re-record the ones that need improvement, so I don’t have to edit them. Once I’ve got those to play with, then I’ll look into adding intros and things to them before I upload them to YouTube or a podcast platform.
RJ: You also mentioned you have a few fiction short stories. Do you have any plans for those—maybe your own anthology of short stories?
LIDSTONE: I plan to publish all my short stories and eventually some novellas and novels on most eBook platforms. That way I can publish each story on its own without having to buddle them. Some will be free; the longer ones won’t be free. It’s all down the road a little.
RJ: Is there a project you’re currently working on now that you’d like to talk about?
LIDSTONE: My brand. I’m calling it Unconditional as in “Unconditional Men,” “Unconditional Women,” “Unconditional Relationships,” etc. It’s based off the blog I started, but I’m expanding it to include a few books and a video series, as well as a podcast or two. I hope to help people treat themselves and each other unconditionally. I’d like people to learn that the easiest way to remove negativity from their lives is to remove expectations. And the quickest way to happiness is to learn to accept and be grateful for the things you have and the things others bring into your life: to live and love—unconditionally.
RJ: What advice would you give to new authors?
LIDSTONE Stick with it. Carve out the time you can give it. Forgive yourself all the negative feelings you have. Forgive all the times you feel you’ve failed and keep going. Don’t expect you’ll succeed with this formula or that one. Pick the thing that works for you (or at least the one that is the least hard) and go with it until you find a better one. Doing something—anything—is better than planning the next big thing. There are a thousand paths to success and a million ways to stumble along the way, but the only failure is to tell yourself you won’t try.