“I struggled with my mental health as a child a lot. It was in regards to my own body. I always felt fat, and believed no one would like me or date me because of it. It was only in my 20s that I let that belief go, and then I discovered anxiety about other issues. But the main struggles in my life were always about my sense of unlovability. I just didn’t feel worthy of connection or love and if I don’t keep on top of that, it comes up in my life today.”
“There’s no reason why the conversations around motherhood shouldn’t speak to the totality of who a woman is. We have to stop telling women that when they become mothers they must become martyrs. No one EVER asks a man how he is going to have a family and hold down a job. No one ever tells a man that he must give up the parts of himself that make him human, that give him life. But we always tell women that she can’t both work and raise kids or that she must give up her dreams, whatever they may be. It’s time we stop that.”
I say, often, to clients that it would be shocking if we were not experiencing mental health struggles in the context of the overwhelming racial disparities our communities are forced to deal with (e.g. housing, education, food security, employment). As people of color, we are having very natural mental health responses to a system that is set up to fail us in many domains.
What is one key message you want people to take away from the mental health conversation?
Dustin: I think the general misconception is that PTSD means you are permanently broken. It is just not the case. We know that we can save someone’s life. The only thing they need to do is show up.
“The most crucial part is finding the right psychiatrist. There are not enough good psychiatrists in the mental health field, and that is just the truth. Find someone who sees you as an individual and will listen to your wants and needs. Many psychiatrists would put me on meds that sedated me to the extent that I could not work. I started voicing my concerns around that and did not give up my search.”
“With the country in lockdown due to COVID-19, there has been an enormous increase in discussions around mental health, mindfulness and self-care. The coloring book phenomenon, while not art therapy, stems from people experiencing how using coloring books can be therapeutic in alleviating stress. The uptick in people embracing creative pastimes during this crisis, whether making art, cooking or knitting, is very encouraging as these activities help us manage our stress and improve our mood.”
“Beyond the factors that commonly trigger mental health issues, Black men must also carry the day to day stress of being a Black man, which often presents itself unconsciously in normal activities. Black men report experiencing racial microaggressions —insults, invalidations, and interpersonal slights (subtle and sometimes unintentional) – which are linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression. Black men also suffer from impostor syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his accomplishments in professional settings and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud….. My general belief is that human beings have long held the answers to how to live well. Somewhere along the way, we lost our knowledge of the importance of self-care and restorative practices that help us cope with stress. I think the loss is wrapped up in a myriad of reasons, including western work culture and increased exposure to technology. The bottom line is that we were not designed to be as busy as we are.”