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The 3 Biggest Threats to Men’s Mental & Emotional Health | Pierre Azzam | Better Man Podcast Ep. 097

The 3 Biggest Threats to Men’s Mental & Emotional Health | Pierre Azzam | Better Man Podcast Ep. 097

There is a certain epidemic that’s strangling men’s mental and emotional health. But since it’s sneakier for men than it is for women, many mental health clinicians don’t even know how to spot the signs. 

I’m referring to depression, isolation, and a lack of connection with other men. 

Men are lonelier than perhaps ever before. But we experience depressive symptoms in a more subtle way than women—and this further exacerbates our mental health. 

That’s why I invited one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about this topic onto today’s episode in Pierre Azzam. Pierre is a physician and professional coach with over a decade of experience in neuroscience and mental health—including battling lifelong depression himself. 

Through his clinical work, Pierre recognized that the mental health industry as a whole is terribly unaware of men’s mental health problems. Since then, he’s founded Braver Man (and then Braver Collective) to address these issues men face in an effective manner. 

In today’s episode, Pierre and I discuss… 

  • Why depressive symptoms show up differently for men than women
  • How postpartum depression also affects new fathers 
  • The exact amount of time it takes to rewire your brain and free yourself from depression 
  • The 3 biggest threats men face to their overall mental and emotional wellbeing 

And more

The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!

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Show Highlights with Pierre Azzam

  • Does your fear stop you from doing things that would enhance your life? Here’s what Pierre recommends to conquer this fear (6:10) 
  • How to feel more comfortable with being vulnerable and acknowledging your emotions (even if you got bullied for this as a child) (13:48) 
  • Why the postpartum period can cause intense mental health risks for not only mothers, but fathers too (22:56) 
  • The major hormonal changes men go through after becoming fathers—that almost no new father realizes (25:43) 
  • How judging yourself morphs into toxic shame that causes more angry outbursts with your loved ones (31:13) 
  • Why the most common depressive symptoms for men are commonly missed (even by mental health clinicians) (31:58) 
  • This book reveals all the various ways men cover up their depression (37:04) 
  • Why practicing gratitude when you notice depressive symptoms is a massive step forward (even if it doesn’t feel huge in the moment) (51:13) 
  • The exact amount of time it takes to rewire your brain’s neuroplasticity to free yourself from depression (56:36) 
  • Why shared experience between other men can save your mental health (and even your life) (1:05:22) 
  • The 3 biggest threats almost all men face to their overall mental and emotional wellbeing (1:12:42)
Episode 097 – The 3 Biggest Threats to Men’s Mental & Emotional Health | Pierre Azzam – Transcript

Dean Pohlman: Hey guys, it’s Dean. Welcome to the Better Man podcast. Today’s episode we have peer ism of the Braver Collective. And we’re going to be talking about men’s mental well-being and emotional well-being today. So peer, thanks for joining me.

Pierre Azzam: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: So I start these talking about how I know the guest. So here I can’t quite remember I think. Did you reach out to me on Instagram or did I. Okay. You sent me a very well worded message. And, as you do as I’ve come to, as I’ve come to learn about your correspondence, very, very well worded. And, I looked at, you know, I looked at your account, I looked at the brand.

Dean Pohlman: It was all very clean. It was all very organized. I understood what it was immediately. I was like, whoa, this guy is on to something. This guy is building something really cool, and, And. Yeah. So, I love what you’re doing. I love your background and how you came to your mission, and, Yeah, I think it’d be a good, I actually, we were talking about, you know, how are you doing right now?

Dean Pohlman: I think this is a good, a good, opportunity to, to role model.

Pierre Azzam: Checking.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. People. And asking what they’re doing. So, you were joking me that, you had, just lost someone close to you, and, you know about that process?

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, I have, you know, it’s funny because I, I think in most cases, I find myself to responding to that question, how are you doing with the sort of usual. Fine. the sort of very typical cover up. but that doesn’t always reflect what’s really happening. I think that doesn’t always really reflect what’s happening for for most men, but it’s almost conditioned that we respond in that way.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, right. It’s just part of culture. You’re just how are you? Oh I’m good. How are you? Oh, this person is also a human being. Got it. Cool. Check. Right. It’s just, it’s just a system of checks to make sure that the person that you’re having a conversation with is normal.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah. and sometimes, circumstances are not so normal. Right? Right.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I almost never respond to people. Good. How are you? Unless, like, I don’t want to. Unless I don’t want to have a conversation. And I’m. I’m just like, this is not going to go anywhere. Because usually if I respond with how I’m actually doing or I’d be myself to very, superficial interactions, like if I’m talking with someone at the at the checkout or if I’m talking with someone just in passing it, it always just comes across as super weird to them.

Dean Pohlman: And they’re like, why is this guy, what is this guy doing? Remember, I was at TJ Max and she asked me like, did you find everything today? And I looked at her. I was like, did I find everything we’re in TJ Max, how could you find anything like or what could you not find? And she looked back at me and she was like, I don’t know what to make of this man.

Dean Pohlman: And, I think she thought I was mad, but in reality, I was just like, no, this is just, this is just what I’m thinking.

Pierre Azzam: So, Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: Anyways, very long segue to, to. Yeah. How how of, how have you been doing? Have you been dealing with, you know, the loss of your friend.

Pierre Azzam: with a lot of reflection and connecting? I went back to Pittsburgh a couple of times. This is someone that I met very early on when I first started my work in psychiatry and was at a clinic that I worked in for several years. And, she grew to be more like family. And, her death was unexpected.

Pierre Azzam: And also being able to return to celebrate her life meant running into and seeing old patients, old coworkers, people who I haven’t seen in 10 or 15 years. And so it was, the circumstances aside, it was beautiful to, to be able to connect and celebrate a life limb, especially that one. I think in a lot of ways, her name was Thelma.

Pierre Azzam: And, very inspiring. Lived a really inspired life. Yeah, yeah. So I think in a lot of ways I’m coming in with some heaviness from the last few weeks, but also a lot of a lot of love. Yeah, yeah. So what’s,

Dean Pohlman: What in particular has helped you during that time, like in, you know, connecting with other people or, you know, and the reflections that you’ve had or what have you realized about your own life and about how you want to live your life or, you know, what are those things that have been coming up?

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, I think the probably the biggest one has been where I might be held back by fear, and realizing I don’t have to have it all figured out or perfected before I actually pick up something new, before I actually do something that feels really meaningful to me. I think when I looked at, when I looked at Thelma’s obituary, I realize it could have described four different lifetimes.

Pierre Azzam: And in many ways, I realized how how strongly I hold myself back when I’m feeling afraid and how often that fear is disproportionate to reality. How much stronger I could connect if I were just a little more honest with people.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. We were talking about that before. I mean, I love the name of of what you’ve created Braver Collective because.

Pierre Azzam: Bravery.

Dean Pohlman: I think bravery today isn’t.

Pierre Azzam: What.

Dean Pohlman: We historically think of as bravery because, you know, if we’re if you’re listening to this, there’s a good chance that you are in a fortunate enough position to be in relative safety. Right? So the.

Pierre Azzam: True.

Dean Pohlman: You know, not saying that physical harm and danger does not exist and obviously does, but to a much lesser extent than it used to. And if you’re in, you know, if you’re in the United States, if you’re whatever, if you’re in a relatively safe location, then bravery doesn’t exist to the extent that I did in a, in a, in a sense of protecting yourself from physical harm.

Dean Pohlman: And for the, the, the greater opportunity for bravery lies not in, you know, acts of violence to protect yourself, but or defensive acts to protect yourself and your family, your loved ones. But the greater opportunity for bravery today lies in the willingness to be honest, to be authentically yourself, to say the things that you think will make somebody uncomfortable, to be willing to say the things that might lose you friends or might lose respect of other people, or might sever connections that you know really weren’t that important to you.

Dean Pohlman: And so that’s why I like the concept of, of bravery in this idea of men’s mental well-being. Because in order to in order to have optimal mental and emotional well-being, there is a level of truth and honesty required to that to to be your to be your true self, and to express the things that you aren’t you you you shouldn’t be holding in because that’s that’s what leads to disconnection.

Dean Pohlman: That’s what leads to building resentment with the people around you. That’s what leads to you, not being happy, holding that stress in and turning that into, you know, that turning into something that literally eats away at you and drains your energy and saps your motivation, your willpower. So that was a very long, a long, very long reflection on the idea of bravery.

Dean Pohlman: but anyways, point is to say that I like the name.

Pierre Azzam: Thank you. starting Braverman was really.

Pierre Azzam: About.

Pierre Azzam: Rethinking what it means to be brave. and recognizing that bravery comes with both shared strength and vulnerability. And without that authenticity, without acknowledging the things that nowadays and perhaps have always frightened us and kept us from connecting and moving forward, we’re essentially being brave or experiencing the fear that naturally emerges within us and moving forward in service of something more important than that fear.

Pierre Azzam: And I think for many men, that is fulfillment and connection and purpose. Meaning. Hard to really touch upon and without.

Dean Pohlman: Purpose.

Pierre Azzam: And hard to really touch upon, without without feeling some fear naturally. yeah. That,

Dean Pohlman: That sounds very, that resonates really strong with me. I’m just thinking of, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I think I grew up with avoiding that, that feeling of vulnerability. You know, it’s that feeling that you have when you say something truthful that you. Wow. Now I’m now I’m just having difficulty describing what it feels like to express something and be vulnerable.

Dean Pohlman: But, you know, for me, that feeling of vulnerability was always very uncomfortable and, and icky and like, and, and it was also met with, why are you talking about, you know, love or like, you know, why are you sharing that? And, and so to, to go, you know, to be in this later stage of life in this later stage.

Dean Pohlman: I’m in my 60s now. I’m not, but, say that like I have, but I have I’ve gone, I’ve definitely moved on to a different stage than I was when I was in my teens and in my, my college years. And, and now to remember now to associate that feeling with bravery instead. it’s, it’s cool feeling, but it’s still uncomfortable, and it’s still hard.

Pierre Azzam: Agreed. I feel it. So I definitely have always felt it. there’s, feeling of fear with getting to vulnerable. And I think really looking back, a lot of that, a lot of that was feeling like I needed to show up in a particular way home together or maybe really poised, perfect. and anything short of that felt like it was a judgment or, or worse, that it was a shortcoming.

Pierre Azzam: Frankly. and, and I think for many guys, many men, certainly many boys growing up, the expression of vulnerability is not always met with safety. It’s often a time for bullying or, or rocking the boat in some way. And that usually. Isn’t met with love. And so I think for boys growing up, it’s were very frequently told to, hold in emotion or.

Pierre Azzam: Power through it, but not never really to acknowledge it or sit with it or allow it. It’s almost like it’s something that has got to be tamped down or controlled.

Dean Pohlman: Compartmentalized.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So yeah, but now we’re, learning to, to undo all that and it hurts. You know, I think, I’m reflecting on right now, my son is in daycare and, and, you know, I think there’s this idea, that, there’s this idea that children left on their own will just be perfect, wonderful, kind human beings.

Dean Pohlman: And they’re not. Kids are.

Pierre Azzam: Mean.

Dean Pohlman: Kids are mean. So, like, you know, so it’s it’s up to the, it’s up to to adults to show them how to behave in a way that is get is kind. but as that’s happening, kids also learn to act in a certain way and they repress, you know, certain behaviors. And so, yes, we’re, you know, we’re helping them to be, more civilized.

Dean Pohlman: but also, you know, as a result, the, the unintended, the unintended consequences that we learn to avoid certain behaviors and to clamp down certain emotions, because that’s what we need to do in order to be accepted. So, you know, so we’re all just trying to figure out, we all, and we’ve talked about this a lot on the podcast, but, most of us are trying to, in a way, address what, whatever behaviors we learned to fit in as we get older and, trying to undo those in a way so that we can be more of our true selves, which sounds very, you know, I say our true selves

Dean Pohlman: and, it sounds very lofty and very, I don’t know, it sounds very, it’s hard to comprehend what that means without it being fit into a buzzword or fit into a an idea of preconceived notions. So, Yeah, but the question that I, that I’m kind of sitting with, I want to go back to your experience in clinical psychology and how that eventually led you to, you know, create the brain of a collective.

Dean Pohlman: So what were you noticing in your work there that, inspired you to start working with men more?

Pierre Azzam: Yeah. Well, interesting, because Braverman started for me. When I became interested in fatherhood. So I’m not a father and a really only small portion of my work found me helping.

Pierre Azzam: Helping obstetricians to help moms to withdraw safely from opioids and alcohol. and that’s something that I was trained to do pretty easily. Not really a huge part of my work. but what I was most struck by was how challenging early fatherhood is for men from a mental health standpoint. Wonderful. And I think in many ways, most men would describe it as a really.

Pierre Azzam: Overwhelmingly positive period. And also, it’s it’s a time of risk for mental health. And there are not enough services for moms, but there’s almost no services for fathers when it comes to specifically paternal mental health. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: And so.

Pierre Azzam: yeah.

Dean Pohlman: Just I want to chime in. My wife.

Pierre Azzam: was.

Dean Pohlman: A friend of my wife, you know, just had a just had a baby. I think she’s about, she’s in that fun time right now, which is like the three month age. Yeah. Which is, you know, if you’ve had a child, then you’ll know that that is like the. Oh, my God, this is terrible. I’m never going to sleep again phase.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And and she’s in that right now and she’s, you know, having an awful time. She’s, you know, waking up to feed the baby. She’s waking up to pump. She’s not sleeping. She’s trying to do her job at the same time. And, and that’s really, really difficult. On the other hand, it’s also, you know, to a lesser extent, there’s also, you know, the man is the husband or, you know, whatever family situation, you have the other partners there.

Dean Pohlman: And they’re also, you know, they’re also there for that. They’re maybe they’re not doing as much as the primary caregiver or the mother, but they’re there with that mom who’s postpartum. And, that is not an easy situation. I don’t there were very few times of the early infant stage that I was like, this is awesome. 90% of it was not fun.

Dean Pohlman: you know, I remember showing up for work and trying to do videos and like, having sometimes to do like 15, 20 takes just because my, my brain was so fried and I was so tired and frazzled and stressed that I couldn’t even I could barely do what I needed to do. And, you know, then I’d come home and it was incredibly stressful environment there.

Dean Pohlman: So, you know, the idea that you the the having a baby and like those first, like, you know, it’s just a magical time is no, it’s not it’s a very hard time, which is, which is sometimes you experience these amazing moments during it where you’re like, oh, wow. He just smiled. He looked at me and smiled. But that’s like, 60s out of the day where you’re like, this is cool.

Dean Pohlman: And then, you know, a lot of the other time you’re just like, wow, you’re still screaming and it’s been 45 minutes and you’re still screaming and you’re not going to stop, are you? Okay? So, yeah, I just, yeah, I my wife is really big on this, but about normalizing the, normalizing the, the overall experience of having a of having a child.

Dean Pohlman: Right. because it’s not this this. Yes. It’s this beautiful process, but it is not, an entirely positive process. There’s lots of different things that happen, and it’s really, really hard.

Pierre Azzam: So,

Dean Pohlman: Yeah.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, it sure is. And your wife could likely attest to this directly, but, there’s quite a lot of pressure on moms to be the sort of the perfect mother, whatever that means, right?

Dean Pohlman: Yeah.

Pierre Azzam: And it’s usually you.

Dean Pohlman: Got to be able to handle the baby, do the pumping, wash everything, clean everything, get the house ready. you know, and that’s something that we very quickly realized what’s not going to happen. And, I don’t think she ever expected it.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: And if you don’t have help, you know, if you don’t have grandparents nearby to help out, then good luck. You know, it’s tough.

Pierre Azzam: It is. And. The reality is not, picture perfect, as you’ve said. I think for most fathers, I that’s too sweeping. Perhaps a statement for me to say most fathers, but I think many fathers are not aware of that. the postnatal period is actually a time of mental health risk. Even, you know, well into, psychiatric practice for me was the first time that I recognized or realized or learned, frankly, that postpartum depression was not limited to mom, but in fact, about 10% of fathers will experience major depression in the first year postpartum.

Pierre Azzam: And usually that peaks for men between 3 and 6 months postpartum. But it can happen anytime from the beginning of pregnancy to, to really the first year after delivery.

Dean Pohlman: And what are some of the contributing factors to that, do you think it’s, the, I mean, from my personal experience, you know, the three things that come up are suddenly you don’t have time for yourself. number two, the your partner, who you used to rely on for, attention, affection, love. she’s suddenly, entirely consumed with this new being.

Dean Pohlman: And you’re like, hey, what about me? And, you also have a and not only that, but you also now your interactions with your partner are like, why didn’t you wash the bottle? It’s like, can you get up this time? You know, it’s not like, so, yeah. So what are the factors there that that lead to, men, having, postpartum depression?

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, there are quite a few. I mean, you know, when I talk to, most guys about the risk, there’s often, an expectation that it’s sort of the three S’s that you lose a sense of self, that you’re certainly losing sleep and that you’re losing sex and intimacy. and yes, those are all contributors, and they sort of work by directionally.

Pierre Azzam: And that major depression will impact all three of those things. The way I see myself, the ways in which I connect intimately or sexually and, and certainly the way in which I sleep. But actually there are a number of additional contributors that, that. That we really don’t think about. For starters, men’s hormonal experiences change pretty dramatically during pregnancy, in the postpartum.

Pierre Azzam: And in many ways that is evolutionary. There’s a drop in testosterone, an increase in oxytocin. They’re usually fluctuations in estrogen and cortisol, the stress hormone.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Do you know how much the testosterone level changes?

Pierre Azzam: Oh, that’s a good question.

Dean Pohlman: I know that there’s yeah.

Pierre Azzam: It’s, it’s significant enough to marketers and okay, I don’t know that there’s a particular number. Yeah. So the question I learn. Yeah, it would be and I don’t know that there have been well, surely there have been studies of the degree to which that number, I don’t know, but it’s substantial enough for it to be a contributor to increased depression risk.

Pierre Azzam: So in many ways, these are all evolutionary changes that are designed to increase paternal baby bonding.

Pierre Azzam: And secondarily, they also increase the risk for for depression. So it’s not sort of nature versus nurture I think in this case it’s both but both are substantial contributors to, major depression risk during that time. And for me personally, I was ten years into practice before I even realized this. And I thought, well, here I’m I’m essentially working in, psychiatric practice designed to designed to help all people.

Pierre Azzam: And I didn’t know this. And so I’d imagine most people don’t, who don’t have a tie to, a mental health profession. And so I became I had long been interested in the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental health conditions for men, but I suddenly became very interested in, in early fatherhood and and really in part because I was seeing these dads struggle and want to show up as better men for their families, but also finding themselves judging themselves really harshly for not being the perfect dad, for feeling like they couldn’t show up with as much certainty.

Pierre Azzam: Calm, collected nurse as much control of emotion as they wanted. And so there was a lot of judgment and negative self-talk that was that was interfering with men really showing up in a way that they could be proud of. And that’s what really began to have me interested in working with men and searching for ways that my make mental health care or help in general, more approachable for men.

Pierre Azzam: And and that’s really when I sought out training and professional coaching, largely in my eyes, to help complement the work that I was doing as a psychiatrist. I didn’t really think then that I would be starting something, that would have me taking on a very different path in, in life and certainly not starting something, something like Braverman, but it very much has been for me, a calling.

Pierre Azzam: It’s very much been something to which I am committed. And while the sort of, you know, the usual entrepreneurial stuff gets a little scary sometimes, I always feel very connected to this mission. And so I think for me, sometimes just keeping in mind the whole idea of bravery, sometimes when I get really afraid that I’m going to screw it all up or that I’m not going to make it so successfully, I return to the whole point of it all, which is to help men show up more strongly in ways that would make us proud.

Pierre Azzam: And in service of our values, our families, our communities, our world. I think we’re seeing the need for that now more than ever.

Dean Pohlman: So as you were so I want to go back to you, you know, the men that you were working with and, and the the feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy and, and shame because they weren’t showing up the way that they wanted to. And I’m curious, what did you do with them? What was the one on one work that you did with them?

Dean Pohlman: What did that look like?

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, well, a lot of it was normalizing the experience and recognizing when there was an added element of judgment. On top of that experience that was leading men to feel shame. and a big part of why I became interested in coaching was really helping men shore up strengths. In a lot of these cases, the men weren’t necessarily experiencing major depression, but they were.

Pierre Azzam: There was a drop in mood and a sense of effectiveness. and so a big part of it is recognizing what’s important, recognizing how emotion is going to show up. For me, how do I communicate it with my partner or my wife, or what might I need in order to respond more in line with the ways in which, in which I serve my my family healthily rather than, rather than in angry outbursts or irritability, which is really common with major depression.

Pierre Azzam: So for men who experience major depression, particularly in, postpartum period, some of the features aren’t really the same as what we often think about with major depression at large. For guys often we find ourselves feeling really depleted, feeling fatigued, feeling quite easily irritated, having attacks of anger. not wanting to receive any help and sort of almost having, really sort of demand for autonomy.

Pierre Azzam: Just leave me alone. and, and so these are often experiences that most clinicians aren’t on the lookout for because they don’t really fit into the usual symptomatology of depression, but they’re common features in men. And and so they’re commonly missed guys. Most of us aren’t super forthcoming when it comes to our own mental health experiences, and so it’s important that those of us who are trained to define, to identify, define, treat mental health conditions, be aware of how these show up.

Pierre Azzam: And oftentimes these aren’t things that are taught very well, the sort of male specific experiences of depression. And so it’s important that men also are aware that this may not be just part of who I am. This may be part of a condition that I’m experiencing given changes physiologically and emotionally and psychologically and personally from, just identity standpoint.

Pierre Azzam: And so, I think the first bit is just identifying what is happening, normalizing it, removing or sort of separating the judgment from it, helping men to appreciate what they’re experiencing and how to communicate it in ways that serve them, rather than ways that might hurt them. So really that’s a lot of the one on one work.

Pierre Azzam: I will say where. And that’s since extended beyond early fatherhood. Most of the men with whom I work now in Braverman are. Many are fathers but most are not in in that first year period, many can look back and say, I think that might have been what I experienced.

Dean Pohlman: They don’t have time. You don’t have time to go sign up. You don’t have time to go sign up and join a men’s group when you’re, yeah.

Pierre Azzam:

Dean Pohlman: You’ve got a six month old. yeah, I actually joined, I remember joining a, I joined a men’s group here in Austin called, front row dads. And, cool. I think my son was. I forgot how old he was. Maybe. Maybe a year or year and a half. And eventually I had to. I had to leave because my wife was like, I can’t, like, do this.

Dean Pohlman: I can’t do this on my own. like, you can’t just, like, take off on a Saturday for a few hours. And, you know, I’ve been watching the baby all, you know, and watching on all, all during the week. And like, I can’t do it again on the weekend by myself.

Pierre Azzam: So,

Dean Pohlman: But I wanted to just talk about the, touch on depression in men. The the angry outburst, easily irritated the demand for autonomy. Those are all things that I was experiencing in that postpartum period. And, it was almost this sense of, I have to make myself happy. Like, I can’t make myself happy in this situation. So I need to be out of this situation.

Dean Pohlman: I need to be able to, like, go out and fill my tank so that when I come back home, I can be ready to deal with the shit show that is this, this, this early, you know, this infant stage. And, and, there’s a book that talks about a lot of these different ways that men cover up their depression or they cope with it.

Dean Pohlman: We heard of, Terrance Reel and, Yeah, yeah. And the book is called, the the I don’t want to talk about it overcoming a secret Legacy of male depression. And, I’ve read it a couple of times, and each chapter that I read, I was like, oh, this is me, this is me. Oh my God, this is me.

Dean Pohlman: And you know, every, every chapter had something to it. Or I was like, oh, wow, I can really like, I can I resonate with this? this, this, this, this situation and how I’m covering it up with, you know, largely anger because that was the, that was the emotion that I, that I got validation for or that I learned helped me get what I wanted.

Dean Pohlman: So, you know, that’s, it was a it was, by the way, if you’re listening to this book, to this and if you’re listening to this, you are listening to this. I don’t know why I always say that, but the, that’s a really good book to to just learn a bit more about, about men’s health and the.

Dean Pohlman: Do you want to explain it? Because you’re probably better at explaining it than I am. But, just the overall idea of the book and how men tend to cover up depression, how it doesn’t show up in this traditional sense of, you know, being depressed and sitting in your bed and not doing anything and wallowing the days away.

Dean Pohlman: But there’s there’s other ways that depression occurs.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, most certainly it’s a great book. And there are, I think it resonates for many men, even men who don’t experience major depression. So, I do, and for that reason, I think it’s particularly it was particularly.

Pierre Azzam: Eye opening, not only not only as someone who works with men who face major depression, but also as one who does myself and I think, you know, for me, looking back, I can identify periods of depression from probably early 20s, maybe earlier. we often think of major depression is showing up with two or more weeks, low mood, with changes to sleep and energy, concentration, appetite, motivation, hopefulness, sense of worth.

Pierre Azzam: And in extreme cases, hopelessness or suicidal thinking. And all of those experiences can show up for men. Certainly. But the experience for men. Is often dominated by a few features that. That may be harder to identify. One is, a frank loss of.

Pierre Azzam: Of self-assuredness. It’s almost like, a sense that I’ve experienced as well, not being able to trust my decisions or not being very decisive. And, and often the cognitive features, the thought base features feeling like much more cynical and pessimistic. Much less able to focus.

Pierre Azzam: Very strongly. sense of, self diminution and shame. And that usually leads us to hide. And when we do, Often that the exchanges with other people tend to be really snappy, really irritable, really angry at times. And men are more common, more likely to externalize as well. We’re more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol, porn, gambling, things that might just sort of numbness for a little bit.

Pierre Azzam: And unfortunately, a lot of the experiences, these experiences, for many men, are emasculating. They sort of take away the things, we identify as being strong, as being really manly. If we, for sort of a lack of a better word to describe it, it sort of takes away the very things that we can feel proud of.

Pierre Azzam: Most of us strength, competency, stoicism, the ability to, to connect and and feel confident in ourselves. A lot of those things get diminished. And so most of us don’t want to share that we’re not really being shown very safe, masculine approaches to being vulnerable and authentic when it comes to our emotion. And so often it gets hidden.

Pierre Azzam: And that hiding unfortunately means that for many of us, there’s an extra layer of, guilt over hiding. And so it’s sort of compounded. I’m already feeling terrible, but I have to hide it. No one knows about it. I’m somehow weird and on my own, and the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a common experience for men.

Pierre Azzam: It’s not so common that more men have it than not, but we’re talking about 1 in 8 men over the course of a lifetime who will experience at least one episode of major depression. And while we think about it in terms of a two week stretch for most men, actually the experience of depression, lasts for somewhere between 4 and 12 months.

Pierre Azzam: So this is a pretty substantial duration of time now for fathers in the sort of that early period, the peak in, in depression risk is at about 3 to 6 months postpartum. And there have been some theories around why that is partly, one of perhaps the biggest theories is that it represents the time of greatest change for men, moms, if they’re if we’re talking about a two parent sort of a two parent household, both the parents, both parents working, it’s often the time that mom is going back to work.

Pierre Azzam: And so, things become a little more real for dad. There’s some evidence around potential changes, hormonal and neurotransmitter changes during that time as well. but that’s a period of risk. And now, some would argue that, that men don’t experience depression as much in the first sort of three months postpartum. But I think actually what happens is quite different.

Pierre Azzam: and this is anecdotal, but I think what happens is that, the changes are pretty insidious for men. They’re very slow. They’re not very, dramatic. There’s often a sense that dad’s personality is changing, but I think what’s happening is that men are not. Hey, we don’t know that there’s this poses a risk for depression, and the people around us don’t.

Pierre Azzam: So I think most men in that first few month period are trying to stay afloat by hiding. And then at about 3 to 6 months, symptoms become substantial enough that nothing no longer can hide. And and so I don’t know that it just doesn’t it doesn’t happen in the first three month period. And then suddenly there’s a big jump.

Pierre Azzam: I think what happens is that, most new dads try to compensate, and after a while, the walls start, to crumble and what’s really happening begins to show.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: I’m trying to, you know, the only thing that I can speak to is with certainty, as my own experience here. But,

Pierre Azzam: But.

Dean Pohlman: The 3 to 6 month period is. I mean, that’s the time when baby is the most difficult. We had a I’ve learned a lot about my colicky baby, on this, on this podcast. And, you know, Declan was a difficult baby. He did not smile a lot. and, yeah, the 3 to 6 month period was.

Pierre Azzam:

Dean Pohlman: Really hard hours. The. It’s the 12. Sorry. It’s the it’s the six week to 12 week period. That’s really hard. So the, the 3 to 6 month period, that makes sense with women in this, in this country at least having to go back to work at three months.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: and then more pressure on on dad. Yeah. The, you know, my, my experience was during we had Declan during the pandemic and, it was this sense of, I think a lot of the things that you mentioned and then also this sense of, oh, I can’t even leave the house to go, you know, like I’ll get yelled at if I go to the grocery store or like, you know, like, or I’ll get, you know, I’ll get, I’ll get in trouble if I, if I go to Home Depot, like, you know, or something like that.

Dean Pohlman: So, like, there was a, there was this there’s this definitely this sense of walls closing in and, you know, I don’t know what, you know, definitely, behavioral cognitive therapy is one way to to deal with that. For me, what really helped was I identified the three biggest stressors in my life at the time, which was, wow, my relationship with my wife is really difficult right now.

Dean Pohlman: my son is apparently making my life very difficult as well, and I have this sense of not being able to have autonomy. So I added identified those three things and I identified and every day I concentrated on a reality that proved that that was not true. So I wrote about what am I grateful for? For my life?

Dean Pohlman: What am I grateful for about my son? What’s something that I was able to do today to expand my idea of what is possible? And I found that doing that for 30 days, at the end of it, I felt like, okay, I feel like I’m like out of this, but tunnel, right? I’m out of this, out of this pit a little bit.

Dean Pohlman: And, but it takes a conscious effort, right? It’s not something that just goes away. There has to be, conscious action involved, and that could be through, you know, that could be through journaling. That could be through there talking about it, through shared experience. But, yeah, that was, that was definitely one of the harder, harder times in my life.

Dean Pohlman: And, you know, that’s just my personal health, but also like the, you know, the relationship is that’s a time when, you know, relationships are really pushed to their limits. You’re like, oh, God, if we can get through this, we can get through anything, right? you know, try doing that, getting through the early infant period. but also doing that during a pandemic, which in some ways was in some ways was helpful because we were with each other.

Dean Pohlman: We got to spend a lot of time together. But then on the other hand, you know, there’s, we had different ideas about germs. So, you know, this is like everything that came into the house had to be Clorox and sanitized. And, you know, lots of showers were taken. and, you know, lots of precautions were taken.

Dean Pohlman: And, you know, it was.

Pierre Azzam:

Dean Pohlman: There’s a lot of, a lot of stress. I remember I had a friend had a friend come say hi. he and his wife came by and said hi, and, he gave me a hug, and Marissa was furious with me for hours. I had to go, like, wash. I had to take all of the couch, cushions off and wash them all, like, deep clean them, because that’s where he sat.

Dean Pohlman: And that’s like, I’m like, this doesn’t make any you know, this doesn’t make any sense, right? But like, he just, So yeah, that was a, this is a stressful period.

Pierre Azzam: So interesting time looking back. Yeah, yeah. Well, it sounds like you identified. You identified some of the biggest and most important. Areas of stress for you and began to tackle them. Yeah. And I think that that that alone feels like it’s really important for men navigating mental health and is certainly for has been for me. I often find myself experiencing like a desire to just shut away and close off and sit with my thoughts when I find myself in at my lowest points and and usually that extra like sometimes that’s important.

Pierre Azzam: Being able to do that with some intention in order to recharge is really important. But that’s never really that was never for me, really recharging. In large part, it felt like it felt like I wasn’t doing it intentionally. It was something that that almost came over me. And so being able to identify ways in which to to work through some of the more challenging barriers to feeling well and actually doing something about it, even if it didn’t always feel like it was super productive.

Pierre Azzam: just recognizing that for which I’m grateful, is massive. It may not feel like a huge shift, but in the moment it is a massive shift between feeling like you’re owned by something outside of you and taking charge of it. And I would say it’s a it’s a brave move because in many ways it puts you face to face with, with the stuff that you might fear.

Pierre Azzam: and so I think in general, approachability for improving men’s mental health has got to have a little bit of action within it, because most of us, many of us are not, super comfortable with the idea of just, delving into our past and trying to, to to just talk about it in many ways, that requires some action that will move us forward in a directed way, won’t be perfect and really can’t be.

Pierre Azzam: But small and steady feels like it is most valuable. And for you, it sounds like after 30 days of engaging in CBT based work, you were able to at least see things differently, have a different perspective on some of what might have caused, or contributed to, to your feeling angsty or low? I think that’s probably the biggest challenge.

Pierre Azzam: And just getting started for men that in many cases we don’t identify what’s happening when I haven’t identified what’s happening and I’m feeling pulled by by depression. then I start to feel like I have less of a say in how I’m doing. I start to feel like I’m out of control in some way, and and that can be really diminishing.

Pierre Azzam: So it’s almost.

Dean Pohlman: Hard. I don’t yeah. You don’t feel it happening. You don’t recognize what’s happening. You have to be in it for a while until you realize like, oh, this is what’s happening right? You can’t like it’s not like you’re looking at a map and you’re like, oh, I’m in depression. Time to get out of it. You’re like, you have to be there for a while to realize, oh, this isn’t just a bad day that I’m having.

Dean Pohlman: There’s like, this is a consistent theme. Like, I’m in this new place and with the, you know, the little things like practicing gratitude, it doesn’t feel significant in the moment. It’s like, you know, it’d be like, you know, sometimes you do a yoga workout for the first time and you’re like, wow, like, this feels great. I feel amazing, but sometimes you do it and you’re like, why isn’t my back better yet?

Dean Pohlman: You know, like, yeah, so it takes, you know, it only works if you only start noticing that it’s working after doing it for a long period of time. Right. So it takes like, you know, for me, it took a month where I was like, okay, I’m feeling like this made a significant improvement. but for the first couple of weeks, when you’re not noticing that it’s doing anything, you’re just doing it based on, you know, based on the overwhelming, aggregate experience of humankind, which is if you practice gratitude, you will be happier.

Dean Pohlman: But you don’t really, you know, you can’t experience that improved happiness within the first, you know, one time you could. But like, you have to keep doing it. And that’s with a lot of self-care. It’s aggregate effects. It’s not an immediate thing, for sure.

Pierre Azzam: And particularly for depression. I mean, think if we take a look at some of the contributors to resolving depression. So this is true for medications. Often this has been cited as, parallel for psychotherapy that often some of the impact to wiring neural sort of neurologic wiring, particularly in the limbic system and the parts of your brain that are responsible for for emotional importance and memory, and really where the to kind of connect that it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for, for neural plasticity to change wiring that even if even if, for example, someone were to take, a serotonin or inject medication, a medication that would increase levels of serotonin in the

Pierre Azzam: brain, those levels will increase pretty quickly. But the effect of those medications on mood and on anxiety, they take weeks, several months to take effect. And so, that actually that timeline fits in with the time it takes for your brain to essentially recreate connections within your limbic system. So it’s very likely that what’s happening is not just that you’re getting acclimated to the experience of gratitude or a yoga practice, but that during that stretch of time, you’re your neurologic wiring is actually changing so that you’re able to connect your everyday experience to your emotion in a different way that has you feeling less sad or less hopeless.

Dean Pohlman: so that’s that’s good to know that for the six week period, I think is is good for people to understand so that when they are starting to do that work, then they understand, okay, I’m two weeks in right now. Like, it should it could take up to six weeks. So I have to trust the process and keep going.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. My question is, my next question would be what are the areas that men need to discuss to move forward? You know, like so I had my my personal example was I, you know, after being in that headspace long enough, I had the intuition to understand that if I started flipping the way that I look at these three things, then I can move to a better place.

Dean Pohlman: but what are the other you know, we’ve talked about examining childhood dreams. What are the things that, what are the areas that men need to discuss in order to get out of the place that they’re that they’re in or they’re stuck in?

Pierre Azzam: Oh, that’s a really good question. You know, I, I asked this of men who joined the collective. At the start of our work almost every 12 weeks. What are the conversations that we men are not having but need to have? and I think there are many. Connection feels like perhaps the most important of them. Like if we are honest about how men connect to one another and what we actually want in those connections, I think that usually sparks a lot of conversation around what it means to seek support, to offer support to one another, because that alone is a really nebulous, squishy concept.

Pierre Azzam: How do I ask for help? What does that even mean? Do I ask for anything if I can’t ask for an actual fix? Like if I’m not calling you and asking you to, I don’t know, to borrow your truck for a move, can I call and ask for help? What does that mean?

Dean Pohlman: So can you. How do I help in ways that aren’t like a specific task? Just say like, hey, like I need to talk to you. I need you to, I’m going through a really tough time right now, and what does that mean? What does the request for that look like? What would that look? Yeah.

Pierre Azzam: What would that. Yeah, for.

Dean Pohlman: You know.

Pierre Azzam: Dean, we both made a face at that. I mean, I think it’s the face that most guys make when I ask the question, what support do you need? Like, we don’t even know where to begin there. Yeah. And so identifying what it might actually mean to have the open space to share my experience, is almost, it almost feels like it shouldn’t be, an explicit conversation.

Pierre Azzam: It almost feels like we ought to just know how to do that. But we don’t. In most of the time when we get together, there’s superficiality, there’s one upmanship. There’s a sense that I’ve got to get in my stuff.

Dean Pohlman: I know sports that’s better than you.

Pierre Azzam: Cool. Exactly. So that’s great. Wonderful. Good for you. Yeah. And, you know, it extends beyond that. So when I think even when we get to a place of struggle, there’s almost a sense that if a man starts to, share his own struggle, that, means have to one up you. It’s not even. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: It’s like my day shittier than yours.

Pierre Azzam: Exactly. Or like my relationships shittier than yours is, right? Or my boss is shittier than yours is. And so it sort of ends up diminishing each man’s experience. It’s not. I don’t think it’s intentional, but I do think that there’s something to be said for how to show up for one another and support.

Dean Pohlman: Well, it feels good in the moment, right? Being a victim in the moment absolves you of responsibility, and you don’t have to feel bad about it because you’re you’re blaming something else. Yeah. So it’s like.

Pierre Azzam: Totally.

Dean Pohlman: It’s like eating sugar. It’s yeah, it feels good until, you know, an hour later when you’re like, oh no, you’re crash.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah for sure. But it feels uncomfortable to just hold space for a man and not chime in to try to fix it. Sort of like seeing it’s seeing something around you that you can’t control. And boy, I don’t know that. I don’t know a man who doesn’t like to feel in control. And so oftentimes I think, we don’t put aside our egos in in the sharing of space to provide support to actually let a man.

Pierre Azzam: Acknowledge and articulate his experience and feel heard. And so I think that’s a big part of it, how we actually relate to one another. And I would say that’s that’s been the biggest impetus behind turning Braverman, which really started as a platform for men’s mental health awareness and one on one coaching work into more of a collective because.

Pierre Azzam: Because in large part, the biggest barrier, I think I would say, and this is just anecdotal and my own opinion. And to, men’s mental wellness is our our sense of loneliness and isolation from one another. and so when I was finding myself doing one on one work and still do most of the work that I do with men is one on one, there was a connective element.

Pierre Azzam: I was connecting to this man. This man was able to share his own experience and ideally connect to other people in his life. But it really wasn’t until starting to turn this work into something more communal that I could even touch upon that sort of the shared experience element that is so important for men that we not feel like a we’re alone in, in a situation, or I’m alone in a great situation and I can’t celebrate it with people who care about me.

Pierre Azzam: And so in many ways, the isolation has this isolation has this feeling like somehow we’re different. We don’t belong. Our problems are our own. We don’t have a person that we can turn to at 3 a.m.. and I think that’s the case for most men, unfortunately. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: I mean, just from a, from a physical standpoint and just from I think a lot of the expectations of, you know, being a man or a partner in the household, you that’s where you spend your time and you don’t you know, you don’t get bro time, you don’t get to go out and and even if you do, even if there’s this sense of, there’s a sense of you’re you’re being selfish if you are.

Pierre Azzam:

Dean Pohlman: And I don’t think that’s true in all communities. I think there is like, I think in, in I don’t want to say like any I can’t think of, like how to designate one community from the other in this case. But I think that in some communities it is something that is accepted as like, no, this is good. You should go hang out with, you know, the guys.

Dean Pohlman:

Pierre Azzam: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: But in a lot of communities, it isn’t something that is, that is recognized as though this is good. It’s like, oh, this is being selfish. You’re going to go hang out with the guys. So there is this sense of being isolated, being separated from other men. if you have a family. The other thing that I was thinking of is I think a lot of guys just don’t understand how helpful the experience of shared experience can be when you actually talk with someone about, hey, I’m going through this.

Dean Pohlman: Do you go through this like I, a few weeks ago, I think I think I talked about this on a solo episode. I did, but I was going through a difficult, you know, a difficult little bout of anxiety, just about just about business, you know, I was just like, wow. Like, what if this doesn’t work out?

Dean Pohlman: What if all this stuff just stops working? And I, I texted a couple of my friends who are also entrepreneurs, and I said, like, hey, I’m like, what do you or do you ever feel like this is just like, everything’s just crashing down? You’re like, you’re just, I’m just going to everything is going to fail. And they all responded like, yes, all the time.

Dean Pohlman: This happens all the time. I’m like, oh, okay, cool. And you know, I felt better immediately after that. So I think a lot of guys just haven’t tried doing it. And so once you try it a couple of times, you’re like, oh, I know that I can get relief by doing this. And it wasn’t like I called them.

Dean Pohlman: I just sent them a text message and it was, you know, a couple back and forths and that was it. And I felt better knowing that somebody else who was in a similar position as I am also goes through a similar experience. So there are things that can be really helpful. just really basic strategies that I think we just don’t know they work unless we try them.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, that’s super powerful. And I share your entrepreneurial experience. It feels like that is, constant, a constant element. Yeah. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: That’s a thing.

Pierre Azzam: It is a thing. And also, I found generally that it’s helpful to remember what I’m committed to and, what I might do if, if everything fell apart. and it often means, I just find new ways to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s so important, and.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I mean, if you do it.

Pierre Azzam: So follow.

Dean Pohlman: The. Yeah. I mean, you’ve got to be reassured in your mission. I am, yeah. For sure. I also am reassured in the process because I’ve been through the process many times and I understand where I am in this stage of this particular process, and that this is the part where you haven’t seen the results of it yet or, oh, this is the part where it kind of sucks because it’s the hard part.

Dean Pohlman: but but yeah, that’s that’s all helpful. I, I forgot what I was going to say, but, I do have here in my notes that I wanted to be sure to mention that my wife was going through a really difficult time as she was making making demands of me. So it’s not her fault. it was just, of.

Pierre Azzam: Course.

Dean Pohlman: Time for her. And I don’t want to appear like I was, she attacking my wife, but, But, yeah, these are all things that we’ve discussed in that we’ve, we’ve, we’ve moved on from. And, couples counseling is a wonderful thing. learning how to communicate partner is a really good thing. So, and those, you know, and looking at those periods of, of, of struggle as there is an opportunity here for connection, right?

Dean Pohlman: This is something that we could really connect about. It’s not just connecting with people about the good things, but connecting with people in, in the bad things as well. Those are those are also opportunities, to grow. I don’t know why I took the conversation over there, but what were you talking about?

Pierre Azzam: You were talking. Well, you know what? We were talking about how sometimes connecting over shared experience can be really bonding. And sometimes, sometimes that’s over a shared challenging experience, quite often over a shared challenging experience. So I appreciate that that you have clarified and you weren’t shit talking your wife and also, and also it strikes me that your ability to, to navigate together the challenging situation that is early parenthood and to be able to communicate your needs and your emotions is likely brought you even closer together.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I mean, if we didn’t make it through that, then we wouldn’t be together. So it was the option was, you know, we make it through it and we get closer or we, we don’t make it through it. And go, oh, we tried.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah. So, on you, man.

Dean Pohlman: More things. So, are there any other areas that you wanted to mention? things that men need to work on in order to move forward?

Pierre Azzam: Yeah. You know, I think there are a couple of them. One is ego and how much it gets in our way.

Pierre Azzam: And another big one that feels like it comes up routinely in my work with men, particularly in team. Is in her criticism. Yeah. Essentially the ways in which we talk to ourselves and experience our own self-doubt. And that can show up with things like perfectionism or imposter syndrome with, holding back in order to show up in a specific way.

Pierre Azzam: So I don’t look like, but whatever. I don’t look like a dick, or I don’t act like an asshole essentially ways that ultimately end up. Protecting us. But doing it in a way that feels like it criticizes or undermines us along the way. So I think for many men, and I would say, just like touching upon the entrepreneurial bit, there is a sense of there is a sense of holding back so that we stay safe, wanting things to be perfect in the first get go, being afraid of falling on our faces or making a fool of myself.

Pierre Azzam: These are all things that that we experience internally that are designed to protect us. They’re designed to help us maintain safety, but they hold us back from doing things that we really need or want to do. like release a podcast or start a business. And and oftentimes they’re held in because they’re so shame laden that men don’t share them.

Pierre Azzam: We don’t tell each other I my, you know, I’m, I’ve got this, like, perfectionistic inner critic that’s just driving me mad. and so we a lot of times guys think that they’re experiencing it on their own. it’s really amazing when we have these conversations to recognize how strongly these parts of us can hold us back, and how we can maneuver through them and even use them to our advantage.

Pierre Azzam: So I would say those are probably some of the biggest areas of conversation. How do we show up in a way as to connect with one another? What does it actually mean to be fulfilled? Because we live in this, hustle culture and maybe get this are seeing more and more of this sort of tension between go out there and work at all cost.

Pierre Azzam: And, you know, make sure that you also. Engage in self-care and self-love and, and and it feels very sort of.

Dean Pohlman: Stop talking about me.

Pierre Azzam: Right? Absolutely. Right. Exactly. And, you know, I think it’s shared. Right. And it’s a it’s are diametrically opposed. But what does it actually mean for me? Am I? yes.

Dean Pohlman: So sitting down and actually taking the time to write these questions out and get clear on your beliefs on them feels important.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah. So I’d say connection our egos because they get in the way a whole lot. Inner criticism. And what does it mean for me to actually be fulfilled? do I go this way or the other? Surely there’s some middle ground that works best for me, may not work best for another person, and that’s okay too. yeah.

Pierre Azzam: But I think trying to live life in accordance with one person’s, with another person’s values and not my own is sort of a recipe for unhappiness.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I think most people certainly I think most people don’t actually ask themselves those question and consciously take the time to do it. So.

Pierre Azzam: I think so too.

Dean Pohlman: I think asking yourself, what does it mean for me to be fulfilled is a really good one, really good one to ask and to speak to the negative self-talk, the inner criticism. So I started a, a beta launch for something called mindful Yoga Engage, which is a, new, more intensive community focused on overall health and wellbeing, not just our physical fitness, which is what a lot of what mental yoga is, right?

Dean Pohlman: It’s programs, it’s workouts, tutorials. This goes beyond that and goes into overall health and wellbeing. And one of the things that we saw in a huge amount of the questionnaires that we had people fill out when they joined is this negative self-talk, this inner criticism. And, we had, a group calls last week and for people to be able to get together in a group and realize that, oh, you go through this negative self-talk too.

Dean Pohlman: You have an inner critic that holds you back was just really helpful for so many people. So, you know, combining those two things or connection and, and talking about, the shared experience of negative self-talk, the inner critic, I think just realizing that, you know, all of us are go through that to, to a certain extent.

Dean Pohlman: and I think that could be a conversation for another time. But like, at what point does the inner critic become a true mental health crisis versus, this like, what’s the line between clinically depressed and, I just to have an inner critic sometimes.

Pierre Azzam: You know, I’m so that’s a great question. Yeah, that’s a really great question. Yeah. I think part of appreciating and I don’t have a quick answer for it, nor do I have a great answer for it. I think part of recognizing. Part of acknowledging it is recognizing. It’s not it’s not me. It’s not. This is a part of me.

Pierre Azzam: Yes. It’s a part of me that is very active. And also I can create some perspective where I understand this part of me. I don’t necessarily vilify it, but I don’t over identify with it so that I believe everything that it says.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I think there’s a difference between like the your true self, which is way up here, and then you have your brain, which is just all these thoughts, right? And being able to say like, I am not my thoughts. There’s a difference between that for sure.

Pierre Azzam: Most definitely. I think one of the things that I noticed when, when men experienced depression, certainly when I experienced depression, is that I lose that perspective, that I lose the perspective to say that’s not actually true, that fear is out of proportion to reality. Because it it feels so powerful that my emotions start to become more of more attached to who I am in those states.

Pierre Azzam: And I lose that perspective. And I think a lot of men do as well. It it really touches on the experience of hopelessness and men and, and I think because we tend to be so isolated either absolutely or or or relatively I mean, many of us are absolutely isolated. We don’t have people with whom we interact, but a lot of times we can be sort of functionally isolated or lonely, surrounded by people.

Pierre Azzam: But held back by our own, our own filter, our own wall. Yeah. And so when that happens, often, you don’t I don’t get the mirror to say to someone I know and care about, this is what I’m thinking. And I think I’m just like a really big fuck up. And I don’t have the, the sort of playback to say, but wow, what’s it like?

Pierre Azzam: What’s behind that? I don’t see you in that way. The world doesn’t see you in that way. And so when you’re in hiding and you don’t really have a mirror around you to to see yourself, it’s almost like it becomes your brain becomes sort of like an echo chamber of criticism, and it’s overwhelming. And so I think that’s often for many men, the experience of going down a rabbit hole of hopelessness.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah. And and unfortunately, that in too many cases leads to not wanting to be alive, to suicidal thinking. And, you know, it’s hard in those moments to separate oneself from those thoughts without a connection to someone else. and so, I, you know, I think in a lot of ways, bringing people together in community in the way you’re doing with the Man Flow yoga community is likely more helpful than then you realize.

Pierre Azzam: I think perhaps that feels important to remember when your inner critic is going wild and saying, it’s not going exactly how I thought it might go or how quickly it might go. it’s super important. And I would say any, any person who is operating a space around building men’s mental health and physical health can only grow stronger with community because it’s so necessary for for a sense of belonging and hopefulness for men.

Pierre Azzam: And it’s so lacking. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: I agree with that. So I want to move into.

Pierre Azzam:

Dean Pohlman: My, my wrap up, which is rapid fire questions. So these are just. Yeah, go for questions that, that I’ve developed that I ask everybody. So the first question is what do you think is one have a belief or mindset that has helped you the most in terms of your overall happiness?

Pierre Azzam: Oh, taking time for mindfulness and meditation. Yeah. Slowing down.

Dean Pohlman: what’s one thing that you do for your health that you think is overlooked or undervalued by others?

Pierre Azzam: Sleep. I really love to sleep. And I think when I, when I give myself, duration of sleep that I like, and I need, far and away. And that is a whole lot more than sometimes I think I do. Yep.

Dean Pohlman: what’s the most important activity you regularly do for your overall stress management?

Pierre Azzam:

Pierre Azzam: Who? I spend the first, hour of my day reading, and, you know, I don’t. I don’t think I’ve always thought of my. It’s not always so organized. But now, just in looking at it, I find myself. Yeah, I find myself engaging in a lot of, like, in a lot of reading in the first hour of my day and it and I notice now when I don’t the, something is off.

Pierre Azzam: But I don’t think I’ve always thought about it in this way. It’s kind of funny because I, I don’t find myself just sort of reading the same thing, but I’m always on, I’m always in one place, and there are always a few books around and they start jogging my ideas. And I think on days when I don’t have that, then I really feel it in that I’m not as grounded and I’m not swimming with ideas for things to write or talk about around the topic of men’s health.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: What’s the most stressful part of your day to day life?

Pierre Azzam: My fucking inner critic. It’s, loud. It’s a little bit obnoxious. It’s. Treats me in ways that, I wouldn’t trade anyone else. It’s highly perfectionistic and, robs me of some joy.

Dean Pohlman: How do you deal with it?

Pierre Azzam: Fuck.

Pierre Azzam: I don’t try to fight it as much anymore, even though, Dean, we’re talking about it, and I feel like I suddenly went into a sweat episode here. how do I deal with it? You know, I think I recognize that it’s not. It’s not always so rooted in reality that the point of it is for me to be safe, secure.

Pierre Azzam: Enough. And I, I have to remind myself that I am in a place of security and safety or else, the messaging of the inner critic. I start to believe. Yeah. So a lot of it is right. Groundedness into and awareness of what my motivation is that my motivation is not perfection, but it’s not a million likes or, $1 million that it’s really about staying true to helping men and that is a slow and steady process.

Pierre Azzam: And the process is it I mean, that is that is it. I’m not. like when I actually stopped to think about this, I realize that while my inner critic says you should be way farther ahead of where you are, I realize, too, that my motivation is really all about the one on one connection. And if I tried to speed up, I would lose that.

Pierre Azzam: So I think I remind myself what is actually important in the moment, and remind myself that I am in a place of safety and security, and that the world isn’t going to fall apart if I do something imperfectly, which I do plenty of like, I don’t actually mind the imperfection as much as my brain tells me, but it’s scary.

Pierre Azzam: Okay.

Dean Pohlman: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing men and their well-being right now?

Pierre Azzam: Isolation for sure. Loneliness.

Dean Pohlman: okay. All right. Here. Thank you for joining me.

Pierre Azzam: thank you for having me.

Dean Pohlman: I think we covered a lot of really good topics here. And hopefully, gave gave men some tools and also just helped them to recognize that they’re not going through whatever they’re going through alone and that it’s normal. So, so. Yeah, what’s that? what are some ways that people can keep up with the work that you’re doing?

Dean Pohlman: Peer.

Pierre Azzam: Yeah, probably the easiest is on Instagram. The handle is at Braverman. Okay, cool.

Dean Pohlman: All right, guys, well, thanks for listening. Thanks for tuning in. I hope this episode inspires you to be a better man. And I’ll see you on the next one.


Resources mentioned on this episode: 

  1. Braver Man Coaching & Braver Man Collective: If you’re interested in working with Pierre in one-on-one coaching or a greater collective of other men, you can learn more about each on his site here: https://www.bravermancoaching.com/ 
  2. Follow Pierre on Instagram: The best way to keep up-to-date with how Pierre’s improving men’s mental health is by following him on Instagram here: @braver.man

Want to unlock more flexibility and strength, reduce your risk of injury, and feel your absolute best over the next 7 days? Then join the FREE 7-Day Beginner’s Yoga for Men Challenge here: https://ManFlowYoga.com/7dc

Tired of doing a form of yoga that causes more injuries than it helps prevent? The cold, hard truth is men need yoga specifically designed for them. Well, here’s some good news: You can start your 7-day free trial to Man Flow Yoga by visiting https://ManFlowYoga.com/join.

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