Living With A Mental Illness: A Lesson From Kanye West

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.

Choosing A New Therapist As A Black Man: Other Things I Wish I Would Have Known

Choosing A New Therapist As A Black Man: Other Things I Wish I Would Have Known

I was nervous. I wanted and needed help but I did not want to be disappointed. All I could do was reflect on my previous encounters. I could literally feel my heart beat increase and I was breathing heavy. A part of me wanted to come up with an excuse to go back home and ball back up in the bed.

First Time Seeing A Counselor: Things I Wish I Would Have Known

First Time Seeing A Counselor: Things I Wish I Would Have Known

“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”.

#LetsTalkAboutIt Mental Health Awareness Walk Recap

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!

 

[embed]https://youtu.be/TBtm11Zketo[/embed]

#LetsTalkAboutIt with Zo Hopper

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]

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soaS8cXQGzo[/embed]

Helping Beyond the Field

[embed]https://twitter.com/elonuniversity/status/664610074887741440/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[/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.

"He had left the Elon campus yesterday and his teammates, friends and family asked police to look for him because they were concerned for his well-being and emotional state"

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?

#LetsTalkAboutIt

#LetsTalkAboutIt Walk

12074518_1710280169194723_4874577344967687556_n Lets Talk About It Shirt

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

I'ma Let These Jokes Fly

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.

Initial Symptoms

Hallucinations...Hearing Voices. Seeing things that are not really there. No, I was not seeing aliens or talking to an imaginary playmate. No, I was not walking around with a tin foil cap on my head, thinking that some strange creatures were trying to steal my thoughts.

I considered myself a “normal” kid, who possessed ambition to do something great with my life; not only to make my family and community proud, but to also create something positive for others. But now this…

Is this what it means to “go crazy”? I used to joke with and about people that “normal” people would consider a little off, but this is not supposed to happen to me. Right? I’ve been normal all of my life (19 years at the time).

Maybe if I just sit here and ride it out, it will go away. People will never know that I hear voices or see things and I can play it off as still being “normal”. I should just keep this to myself. No real need to be alarmed.   Yep, that’s what I will do…just ride it out.

But how long will this last? How long can I stay “strong”?

“Nothing is wrong with me!”

Fear. Ego. Ignorance. Stigma. Those were the things that made me “believe” that I didn’t have a problem when nothing in my life seemed to be going right. I constantly told myself “this can’t be life”. Unable to concentrate on any one thing, I sat in the same spot for hours. Feeling alone. Feeling confused. Feeling that no one could understand what I was going through and that no one really cared. Frustrations increased as those who attempted to lend a helping hand were ineffective, while alcohol and other drugs enabled me to momentarily ease the pain by altering my state of mind…reinforcing the belief that “Nothing is wrong with me!”. However, this was a lie.

Fear. Ego. Ignorance. Stigma.

Psychological disorders are not new and affect millions on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these four characteristics result in stories similar to the one I described above.

Fear…of the hit that my ego may experience when I admit that something is wrong. Leaving me vulnerable for others to make assumptions based on stigmas associated with psychological disorders that are mainly rooted from ignorance.

Ego…controlled many of my actions that would not allow me to succumb to fear my symptoms and promoted my ignorance by not educating myself about my experiences.

Ignorance…about how many people deal with many of the same issues, but many think that psychological disorders only affect certain populations.

Stigma…on who should seek and receive help.

These factors contributed to the wait I endured before seeking help. I learned that mental health issues must be acknowledged first and then addressed with the necessary treatment.  Unfortunately, some people never acknowledge their issue and never receive treatment before something drastic happens. I choose to share my experiences with hopes of preventing this fate for at least one person.

Monumental Monomental

Monumental. I believe that mental health awareness is “Monumental” for all communities. The fact that it is highly stigmatized and effortlessly avoided creates the need to lay emphasis on the subject. On a large scale this awareness is shunned and serves as a silent “assassin” to the suffering individuals and those around them with acts such as suicide and mass killings. Monomental. Mono. Oneness. The connection and unification in understanding individuals who suffer from a form of mental illness. Mental health issues are not limited to any particular group and affect all communities. We must all educate ourselves on the struggle that these disorders can have on each of our lives.

I hope this site provides some insight into an arena that can impact everyone’s lives. Feel free to share your comments and stories as well.