When I decided to remove my mask last summer I had to face how lonely I was, how isolated I had become. In a desperate need to present only my best self at work, on social occasions and even at home, I had withdrawn, hiding the not-so-great parts of myself from everyone.

I was deeply unhappy. Unwilling and unable to face that pain, I numbed myself with TV, video gaming, social media and pornography. I’m lucky. Other men in similar situations turn to alcohol or drugs as more self-destructive means of checking out.

Yet, the sad truth is that whatever we are afraid to face in our lives only becomes stronger, bigger, more intractable, more overwhelming the longer we try to resist or ignore it. And as our fear about facing these parts of ourselves grows, we need to numb ourselves to a greater and greater degree.

Choosing to be honest about where I found myself was just a first step. To keep myself honest I needed support from other men. Men willing to have open, authentic, vulnerable, supportive conversations about what is really going on in our lives. Men willing to hold me accountable.

I started by deepening my connections to men I already knew. Slowly, I was able to build a circle of men from across North America with whom I connect regularly – sometimes one-on-one, sometimes in virtual groups.

I was surprised. Many of the men I approached were eager to engage this way. They were hungry for a space to share the parts of themselves they usually kept hidden. They were yearning for deeper connection to other men. They were just waiting to be asked, to be invited in.

The conversations we share are incredibly nourishing. I have strengthened existing friendships and built incredible new ones from this. We honour and celebrate each other. I am lighter and no longer afraid for close male friends to see me at my lowest ebb. I trust they will hear me and help lift me into the man I want to be, into the man they know I can be. This trust has given me the courage to look more deeply at the shadowy parts of my character, my soul, and begin the work necessary to heal those areas.

Instead of resisting my pain, I embrace it, eager to identify the lesson contained therein. Now, I resist all the ways I used to check out and run away from myself. An added bonus is now I am much more comfortable being vulnerable, authentic and present in all of my relationships, with friends, family, work colleagues and my partner.

I would like to invite other men in. I would like to create a space in Whitehorse for men to share their vulnerable, authentic selves and build deeper, honest connections with other men.

Did your heart just start to beat faster? Is it panic or excitement?

I am seeking men who are yearning for such a space, yearning for a deeper brotherhood. I’m seeking men who are interested in diving deeper. I’m seeking brave men, because to be willing to be seen as you truly are takes tremendous courage.

What we fear most when we shy away from being vulnerable with other people is that they will reject us. We believe that if others truly knew the darkness in our souls they would turn away, but to have a circle of men witness our pain, our shame, our anger, our frustration, our weakness, actually helps wash that away. We feel cleansed, supported, and loved, even if we struggle to find this within ourselves.

If this article has spoken to you, if your heart is beating a little faster, contact me directly at mjvernon@gmail.com. I am creating a men’s circle to begin in early May.