Ryan Brown, URMND Founder
I remember when I woke up and realized that something was not right with me. On the outside looking in, everything seemed fine. I was going to class, I have a great family, my social life was pretty dope, but on the inside there were some physical and mental demons. The really bad sweats, the difficulty breathing and the weirdly timed headaches that forced me to be in bed for days at a time as an undergrad. Even now, I prefer to not be around large groups of people unless I've had my second or third glass of whiskey.
College was the best four years of my life, but it was also this isolated blur of drugs, lack of self-identity and terrible psychotic breaks that no one knew about.
Even I thought it was normal.
“People go through things,” I would have to tell myself. As long as it was not interrupting my full time classload or my full-time job, I can have a moment of weakness here and there. Strolling down to a therapist’s office was not going to be a thing. I was already working in mental health then and had a set plan on it being a long term career, so I cannot be the crazy one.
My mental health (and possible slight dependence to booze) was an untouched issue until I was in my mid-20s. It was not a conversation when I was young because mental health issues are not only taboo in African Americans, but vastly undertreated. In college and a couple years post grad, I was self medicating just like everyone else. But once I was out in the real world, I had to learn to deal with my mental health differently.
According to a recent study, people who accept their negative emotional experiences and mental health issues are more likely to report greater psychological health six months later. This was proven to be true regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Learning to cope with your experiences positively such as therapy and opening up the dialogue can lead to reduced guilt and overall negative self-image.
Basically, I had to realize that my mental health was in shambles before I dealt with what the problem was. It’s like being a full-blown addict and you think you are just having fun and enjoying life, until you are way more broke than you used to be. You have less friends than you used to have. And then your life is just centered around getting high.
My bad mental health ruined so many relationships. My mom and I were constantly at each other throats at this time, I could not have a decent romantic life and I felt none of this was really my doing.
“Nah. YOU are the one with the problem.”
I have said that one too many times in my personal life, but it was definitely me.
Then there was the break that changed everything. I was finished with my Master’s maybe five months. I was working two full time jobs and I got fired from both of them.
One of the jobs (a children’s mental health facility), a kid who was severely oppositional defiant lied and told the Program Director that I put him in an illegal hold when he was being combative and no one was around. I would never be that stupid and be around one of those kids by myself, but he thought it would be funny payback because hours prior I found contraband in his room and turned it in.
They allowed me to quit before firing me.
I was so depressed about losing that job I loved that I just stopped going to the other one altogether. I slept for a couple days accidentally and my supervisor took me off my cases. I had a huge psychotic break. I turned my apartment upside down in anger and admitted myself to the hospital at 4am solely because I could not get my breathing together or heart rate down and I was losing my eyesight temporarily.
12 hours in the hospital. Not a soul knew. Not my girlfriend at the time, not my friends and not my parents. I just paid the bill out of pocket because I did not want this expense to show up on my parent’s insurance. It was traumatizing. It was embarrassing. But, in a moment of reflection, I at least realized that I was not as healthy as I made myself out to be.
Acceptance meant everything. I knew at that point that I was not taking care of myself like I should have been. My mental health was way too important to be having an episode and not doing anything about it. Taking pills will never be an option due to my history, so I tend to rely on holistic ways of treatment such as eating better, juicing, reading. writing, acupuncture, meditation, surrounding myself with incredible people and just good ole working out.
Life is a lot better. Of course I’ve had plenty of jobs since then, communicating has been easier and I am working smarter. Things will never be perfect and I’ve accepted that. But the important part was learning to accept myself and my health that I had neglected for so long.