It’s a part of getting older. Or a fight against genetics. Some people try to hold on as long as they can (Lebron James and Tiger Woods), while others let go of it early on– like in their 20s. Personally, I’m trying to hold on to mine as long as I can. I even make sure I only go to one professional, because he knows how picky I am about it. He has also learned how to preserve it without me coaching him (that’s a process that deserves a post of its own). That’s right…I’m referring to my hairline.
What if we treated our mental health like we do our hair?....
We are a couple weeks into the New Year, and how many of you have already given up on your resolutions, reverting back to your old ways? Don't feel bad, it’s happened to me before as well. It's natural to want to stay in your comfort zone. Honestly, as I review the year that’s ending and set goals for the upcoming one, the end and beginning of the year are filled with a lot of emotions for me.
UFR follow's Rwenshaun Miller, a mental health awareness advocate with Eustress, Inc, back to his native town of Bertie County. Where he & four young activists spark an intimate conversation on the ills of mental health. #LetsTalkAboutIt
This quote comes from Kanye West's song FML. For those of you that do not know, Lexipro is a medication used to treat depression and anxiety in adults.
Over the last few weeks years Kanye has made some questionable decisions including his most recent twitter rants and meltdown on SNL. These acts have served as fuel for numerous conversations questioning his sanity but the bars from his song above stood out to me.
“Hey. Im here. You know I’m all about first impressions WELL this is what I walked into. No receptionist, dirty floor, leaves everywhere. I asked a lady sitting here will the receptionist be back? She said he doesn’t have one. He’ll come out and call you. I’m detested just walking in to the condition of the place. The sidewalk was cleaner.” This message made me laugh but it also made me think about my first time visiting a psychologist. I was already terrified because I did not know what to expect and I didn’t want anyone to see me going there (I was still in a denial phase). Similar to my friend that relayed this message, I was observant of every little thing and was hoping to find something that would “justify” me saying….”Nope, I can’t deal with this. The wall is painted blue. Im outta here”.
November 8, 2015 Eustress Inc. teamed up with The WHYL to host the first annual #LetsTalkAboutIt Mental Health Awareness Walk in Chapel Hill, NC. With the help of the student organization D.I.C.E. and UNC's Counseling and Wellness department, the event was a huge success.
Thank you to Ben and Jerry's of Chapel Hill for their sweet donation to the participants.
Thank you Wayne Beatty for capturing this event with video.
Last but not least, Very Special Thank You to all of the participants who walked and those that contributed to a wonderful event by purchasing T-shirts.
I can't wait for the 2nd walk!
I had the opportunity to chop it up with a good friend, Zo Hopper, about the importance of being physically and mentally healthy. I've known him since undergrad but you will be amazed at the things you don't know about a person because we don't talk about certain things. I am glad we were able to get together and simply talk about it! Check out the two part video and his movement to promote wellness. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTu_ymzgkZg&feature=youtu.be[/embed]
The headlines on November 11, 2015 read Elon University Football Player dies after fall from UNC dorm.
Before I saw the news, I received a message via Groupme saying, “Yo somebody jumped from Morrison and died.”
Of course these two messages relayed two different perceptions of the same incident, but that is expected.
The verbiage used in the news normally includes safety measures to show respect to the individual’s family and to avoid jumping to conclusions about their death. The unfiltered message from a friend was based off their prior knowledge of the structure of the dorm that would make one think it is difficult to “just fall” and suggested that the person died by suicide.
Later, news articles reported vice president, Smith Jackson, of Elon University released a statement that the young man had passed away.
Demitri Allison was only 21 years old and individuals were aware that something was wrong when he left campus, however we may never know how long things had been that way and the early warning signs that were possibly ignored.
I did not know this young man, but as a black man and former athlete, I can empathize with his struggle.
As a college athlete, people believe that you have everything and everything is always good. They see and recognize the perks of being an athlete and some even associate it with being spoiled and not having to deal with some of the same struggles as their peers who are not athletes. The name on the back of the jersey, along with the fans in the stands boosting this “fame” makes it is easy to believe that the college athlete lives a lavish lifestyle.
However brief, My days as a college athlete were some of the most stressful times of my life. At this time, my life was personified by at least three different identities; athlete, student, and simply as a person.
The identity of an athlete encompasses the pressure of performance in practice, training, and on the field/court. An athlete wants to remain healthy, secure their position on the team, and hopefully set himself or herself up to advance to the next level. Any disruption in this process creates an added stressor, especially an injury.
As we all know, the identity of a student involves classes, exams, and various other aspects of being in college. Let's be honest…college is hard and it is not for everybody but as an athlete it is a necessary part to continue to pursue your dream. You must make certain grades to remain eligible to play.
Last but not least, these individuals are people. Life can throw a number of curve balls at you including family issues, relationships problems, or financial troubles. Student athletes are not immune to these stressors and must address them as well as everything else that they have on their plate. Sometimes, it can be a hard decision to determine which identity takes precedence.
There are many moving parts of a student athlete’s life that become intertwined and lead to an overwhelming amount of stress. Unfortunately, as long as the athlete is performing well at their sport, other key aspects are ignored, including their mental health.
The main objective is ensure that you succeed at what you are brought in to do, and that is to perform in your athletic arena.
Things are put in place to ensure that a student athlete has an opportunity to perform. Including state of the art athletic facilities complete with everything imaginable; including weights, sports medicine for injuries and separate cafeterias.
Many criticize the NCAA and schools for ignoring the academic aspect for student athletes but I also recognize a disconnect with adhering to their mental and emotional well-being.
I received my diagnosis while on a sports team in college, however, similar to other things available to me, my psychiatric treatment did not come from the athletic department. A number of things contributed to this including:
- In general, I was afraid to talk about what was really going on with me. I was an athlete and I am supposed to be strong. Despite how wrong my thinking was, I believed “I cannot let an inability to manage my thoughts and emotions inhibit my ability to perform”
- I did not feel comfortable talking to anyone in the athletic department. If I do let someone know what is going on with me, can I really trust them? Will they really care or will they just tell me to suck it up and get over it? Will they tell the rest of the team? I can’t risk it.
I would like to send my condolences to the friends and family of Demitri Allison and I hope that when we think about promoting the mental health of individuals, we do not forget to address it with athletes as well.
Athletic programs generate large amounts of revenue for schools and they put systems in place to ensure that athletes are granted an opportunity to develop as a student athlete. Unfortunately, a holistic approach that addresses mental health as well as physical health of student athletes is not always emphasized.
Can student athletes that are taught skills about managing stressors and promoting their own mental health perform better in the classroom and on the field?
Will these skills increase their chances of succeeding after college even if they do not go pro?
Will athletes even utilize these services if they are available and address their diverse mental health needs?
Answers to these questions may vary from person to person but I believe that student athletes are facing an injustice when they are not offered.
How do you think incorporating mental health services with athletic programs will impact student athletes?
November 8, 2015 my Non-Profit, Eustress Inc., will team up with The WHYL to bring you the first #LetsTalkAboutIt Mental Health Awareness Walk in Chapel Hill, NC during #UNCHOMECOMING
In honor of the event we are selling T-shirts (pictured) at www.booster.com/letstalkaboutit. Clickable link in my bio.
Proceeds will go to Eustress Inc. to assist with raising mental health awareness as we continue the fight to break the stigma while helping individuals who suffer in silence.
If you can’t make the event, you can still purchase a shirt and share a picture of yourself wearing it using the hashtag #LetsTalkAboutIt
If you do not want a t-shirt, donations are greatly appreciated at our GoFundMe page www.gofundme.com/letstalkaboutit
Last week, a student on the campus of North Carolina Central University was found deceased in his dorm room. It is unclear if the student died by suicide, however in the news article his family and friends stated that he would never harm himself. I did not know this young man, but I understand the dynamics of our community and our ability to hide things we are experiencing. I attempted to die by suicide and prior to me openly discussing my experience, I’m sure there were plenty of people in my life that would have said the same thing about me.
“I never knew that something was wrong” “He didn’t seem like the type to harm himself” “He had so much going for himself”
Below is a note that I wrote a couple years ago. I recently found this and felt like I should share:
Defining hurt can sometimes be tricky. Pain is described as an emotion that is gauge by a person’s perception but what exactly am I feeling right now.
Many people are with their families celebrating being together while I make my way down this highway. At times in the last couple of years my family gatherings haven't been that great due to the feelings that I have towards some of them and I just haven't felt a connection for some odd reason. I'm lost out here. It's hard for me to find a comfort zone. Yes many people may never know the struggles that I deal with internally on a daily basis but they are nowhere near easy.
Today is Christmas and this has been the worst day ever.
Do I want to cry? Do I want to reach between my legs and grab this smith and Wesson from under my seat? Do I want to load the chamber? Do I want to hold it to my head and pull the trigger? Do I want to aim at my leg and pull the trigger? Because if I aim at my head for sure I'll be dead but if I aim at my leg I will feel pain. Do I just want to experience pain to make sure that what I'm going thru right now isn't pain? Is what I'm going thru right now just a sense of my f***ed up perception? If I shoot myself and the endorphins send a signal to my brain telling it that I'm injured and that it hurts....will it clear up the confusion that I am carrying around right now? Will a simple response do the same thing?
Am I that f***ed up as a person and my mistakes can't be forgiven? The process of learning about oneself and others around you happens on a continuous basis but I’m not learning fast enough.
The voice in my head says, “Yes, you are f***ed up person”
I'm far from perfect and I don't believe I will ever be close to it?
But is the person that I want to be worth even trying to be? Would what I have done so far be etched in stone forever if I was gone? Could the legacy of my actions of the past be overcome by the words that I develop today?
The major question is, Do I f***ing believe I am worth it? No one else really matters when I attempt to answer that question. Mom. Dad. Nobody.
Shaun do you believe you are worth it? I don’t know
When that guy nearly ran me off the road about an hour ago, why didn't I let him? Why didn't I let him smash my front tire and send me to the concrete barricade? Why did I slam on brakes to avoid the collision if I feel the way that I feel?
As I reach in my backseat and grab the bottle of Hennessey I don't believe this can serve as my vice anymore. I have been in deep dark places before but this is beyond that. Way beyond that.
I'm not happy. Haven't been for a long time. But what will make me happy. I don't know if anything will.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and as I read this note, I can picture myself writing as if I was sitting in the passenger seat that day. Fortunately, I didn’t act on my thoughts of grabbing the gun (at that time) but some people who have thoughts of dying by suicide may not have that moment of clarity.
Sometimes all it takes is a small intervention to save a life but we also must be comfortable with discussing when something is wrong.
Monday my timeline was flooded with smiles and couple of frowns of children returning to school. Summer vacation is officially over. I will admit that going back to school was exciting… for the first week. Fresh clothes. Fresh shoes. And I was back with my friends that I hadn’t seen all summer.
Then reality sets in. School is school, and at times it can be stressful.
Teachers, homework and friends are enough to juggle throughout your journey from Kindergarten to High School. Bullying is another component that children deal with and it can take a toll on their mental health.
When I was in school, it was common for friends to crack jokes on one anther. I was always the victim to the “you are so black…”, “your nose so big…”, “your teeth so big…” jokes. Oh yea. Let’s not forget the jokes about being a nerd for making good grades.
I mean sometimes the jokes came so frequent that I had to second guess if these were really my friends because some of the jokes would actually hurt my feelings. But of course, I would simply fire back with jokes of my own.
Luckily, we barely had the Internet (I say barely because we had dial-up) and every kid did not have a cell phone. I did not have to worry about social media and cyber bullying.
I can’t imagine a picture or video being posted of me for the entire world to comment. At a young age, and even for adults, this can be devastating. I have seen it first hand…kids can be ruthless with their comments.
My parents would tell me that it wasn’t nice to pick on others and every family does not have the resources to provide things like the latest sneakers or clothes. But once the adults are not there, the jokes will fly. Not knowing that there can be a thin line between joking and bullying.
Just like some of the jokes that hurt my feelings and affected me in some type of way, I'm sure some of the jokes I said had the same affect on others.
With the start of this school year, let’s keep in mind that making good grades may not be the only problem that a child faces. We must acknowledge and correct the obstacle of bullying that many children face on daily basis.
Being aware of a child’s concerns is a great way to help them deal with any issues on bullying. This begins with listening to them. Not just letting them talk while you text your friend and give an occasional “yea” or “oh ok”. But actually listen to their issues and provide them with the assistance that they need. This goes for parents, teachers, mentors, and whoever else.
We will all be amazed how much we can help a child by simply listening to their needs. Let's help them succeed in making this school year a successful one.
"...when the answer to Why Me? changes from pointing blame to defining your purpose." As I continue to talk about mental illness and mental health, some may believe that I am “fixed” or “cured” from my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder that I received over eight years ago. This is far from the truth, as I attempt to manage my symptoms on a daily basis, even with medication and counseling.
I previously talked about my phase of mania in The Highest of Highs.
The other side of this coin is a state of depression. It is not easy to describe but the first phase that comes to mind is “being in a funk.” Earlier this week I got into this Funk, and was withdrawn from everyone and wanted to be alone with my thoughts.
In this state, “Why?” is a normal part of my thought pattern.
Why can’t I get things right?
Why am I not where I want to be in life?
Why is everything going wrong?
The results of the self-doubt that make up this Funk often include overanalyzing each and every part of my life, pointing out everything that I perceived as negative. It is a vicious cycle of looking at life from the perspective of a glass being half empty instead of half full that can drag on for days, weeks, or even months.
In the past this has not been the best, but this time I was able to channel this energy into my writing (be on the look out for my first book).
I was able to transform the Funk of and self blame-drive "Why me?" thoughts to positive, purpose-driven "Why me?"
Don’t get me wrong, this is not something that is that easy. It took me years to get to this point because I did not address what was really going on and I am far from having all of the answers to avoid the Funk.
Simply being able to write did not solve all of my problems, but it was an outlet. Additionally, my brother physically challenged me to a 6-mile hike in the mountains.
So you can say this week I was able to win two battles that allows me to be stronger in fighting this war.
What are some things that help you get out of your Funk?
"Using the same language in conversation fuels the same mentality and rarely inflicts change.” -Anthony Bartlett
The comment above comes from a conversation I had with a friend this weekend. It made me think about the words that are associated with mental health and mental illness in my own social circles.
Let’s look at the possibly the most noticeable word, Crazy. Depending on who I am talking to, this word can have number or meanings.
Crazy-a situation that is hard to believe “Did you see that game winning shot last night. It was crazy”
Crazy-the person that is misunderstood and may suffer from a mental illness BUT we as a community fail to acknowledge this and treat them like an outcast instead of a person. They may also say that this person belongs in a "crazy house".
Crazy-the person that has the reputation of having a quick temper is a live wire. This may differ from the previous definition because these individuals gain respect for their level of “crazy”. Think about Debo, the neighborhood bully.
Crazy-the person who asks you to do something that you believe is irrational. This could be at work, home, or in the community. “She just asked me to give $100. She must be crazy” (I hear and use something very similar to this a lot LOL).
Our language can be a difficult thing to grasp, but the words that we speak can be powerful, both positive and negative. I am not saying we should never use this word, because even with my own battles with mental illness, I use it but I am conscious of how I use it.
Recently, I ran into an acquaintance that is aware of my work and her first words to me were “I didn’t know you were Bipolar. I never thought of you as being crazy.I always thought you were normal”. Then she laughed.
Knowing her, I understood that she did not mean any harm by her comments but this may not be received well by others. Outside of that, we were able to discuss how mental illness affects people how she believes things need to change.
Similar to the multiple uses of crazy, we utilize many other terms that professionally defined in a the field of Mental Health, but are used loosely in everyday conversations. For example, there is a quick change in the weather. A person may say “this weather is bipolar”.
Conversations about Mental Illness and Mental Health must continue to happen but it is not always an easy talk to have. It does not have to be so formal. We can have fun with it. We must use our language to formulate a connection. Especially across generations, races, and classes to educate and help.
Does the professional language of mental illness, such as a diagnosis or medication, deter you from actually having a conversation?
It is common for men to negate their feelings and emotions because we are never taught how to recognize what is actually going on, how to effectively, shamelessly express those feelings, nor are we taught how to manage those feelings. Without these lessons in dealing with emotion, men with sons often recycle these patterns, and new generations are taught to suppress their emotions to live up to the facade of always being “strong” and emotionless.
My Father taught me how to rise before the sun to knock out things you have to get done in order to have time to do things you want to do later.
My Grandfather taught me that even though you may have individuals in your ear telling you everything that you are doing is wrong (normally my grandmother yelling at him LOL), consistent hard work and dedication will produce the results that YOU are looking for.
My Uncle Jeffrey taught me the value of having your own but sharing what you have to help others. A simply joy in life.
My Uncle Lamont, by far one of the greatest influences in my life, taught me how to be cool while constantly hustling and grinding.
As a child, I learned things from the men in my life. Things you should and should not do as a man. Things that you strive to be as a man. Ways a man is a man.
They were there to set examples.
BUT…there were things that I did not learn or experience.
Feelings and emotions came from the women in my family. The hugs, the nurturing, and the “I Love You’s” came from the women - my mom, grandmother and aunts.
Never from the men.
I didn’t hear “Love you” from my pops until I was in my 20s and it was awkward. Why?
It’s not like I ever doubted that he loves and cares for me, but it is not something that was verbally said or even expressed through a hug. It was limited to a dap and half hug with a pat on the back. For a growing boy internalizing every interaction with males in his life, this helps create the norm of refraining from displaying feelings and emotions.
This is not only an issue between fathers and sons but generally characterizes male interactions between uncles, nephews, and male friends.
As we continue to recreate his emotional disconnect from generation to generation we do not realize the affect it has on our mental health.
To help break stigma associated with mental health and mental illness, men must step up to the plate and talk. This is not limited to just fathers to sons, but also with friends and family. We cannot be afraid of being perceived as weak for expressing and showing emotions. WE ARE ALL HUMAN.
A man recognizing his ability to address and manage his emotions correlates with how other men will address and manage their emotions, especially for boys that will grow up to be men.
Creating an emotional connection and harvesting a child's mental and emotional health goes beyond assuming that they know you care, tell them!
Last weekend, suicide claimed the life of a 25-year-old, former NFL player. I did not know him personally, but it remains a tragedy because a life was lost. Often when this happens, many questions may be asked but are never answered.
What was going on in his head? Was he sick? It couldn’t have been that bad…could it?
I am not sure of all the details of his career and life outside of the game but reading this story made me think of some of my own experiences with sports and my mental health.
Recently, I suffered an injury that required me to have surgery on my right knee and forced me to “sit down”. For people who know me, the hardest thing for me to do is sit still. But with a surgically repaired knee, I didn’t have much of a choice.
I have had plenty of injuries and a number of surgeries. As always, physical pain was not the hardest part to handle, it is the mental struggle that is overwhelming.
When the injury occurred, I knew exactly what happened and how long it would take to recover. As I attempted to wrap my mind around this ill-timed incident, I also had to deal with comments of “you should just leave sports alone”, “you are always getting hurt”, “why do you keep doing this to yourself?”.
It was like I was getting blamed for being active and doing something that I loved to do. I enjoy playing sports. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the camaraderie of teammates. I genuinely love all aspects of sports. It serves as a stress reliever. It is a way for me to cope with this thing we call life, and now I have an injury that disrupts that. It is constant reminder of failure to remain healthy to do something that I love to do.
I do not want to hear “you need to stop because you keep getting hurt”.
A lifestyle change is not something that is easy to accept and actually do. For me, the injuries that I have suffered were not worth giving up something that I have done all of my life and I’m not even paid to do this. So I can only imagine the mental anguish an athlete experiences when they are told that they can no longer play on a level where they are compensated for their life-long dedication.
How would you feel if you dedicated your life to making good grades in school, earn your degree, and cannot find a job in your desired field? Many adults, young and old, are faced with this issue daily.
As we spend time and energy to things in our life; a career, hobby, or even a relationship…we dedicate a piece of ourselves. And if that thing is gone (whether by choice or not) a part of you leaves with it. This is not always easy to cope with but we must realize that we have the ability to continue on and work towards new goals although it may take some time to figure them out.
So, as I reflect on the story about Adrian Robinson, I think about his resilient efforts to pursue his dream. Again, I saw I did not know him personally but I can relate to mental beating it takes to pursue something that you love doing and you are faced with roadblocks on your journey.
What are some things or people who help you when you do not reach a goal that you have set for yourself?
How do you cope with not being able to do the things that you love to do anymore when it is out of your control?