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By Mike Veny

Identity

"Who am I?" This is a question I silently ask myself right before I meditate each day. Despite my persistence, life hasn't provided me with any clear answers about who I am.

However, I've begun to detect some of the components of my identity.

  1. Spirituality - My spirituality is the most important part of my life. Although I don't participate in organized religion, I am a dedicated student of spirituality from a variety of perspectives. My spiritual walk defines how I LOVE people and how I LIVE my life.
  2. Masculinity - I express my masculinity through my competitiveness, assertiveness, and aggressiveness. When I was a child and had much less awareness than I do as an adult, I expressed my masculinity in destructive ways. This included temper tantrums, rages, fighting, and violence. As an adult, I am on a beautiful journey to define what healthy masculinity is so that I can use it to do good in the world.
  3. A Black Man - I'm also blessed to be a black man. In addition to my skin, I have a bald head, big smile, and broad shoulders. In all honesty, it gives me a sense of power and pride... in most situations. :)

Talking About It

Throughout my childhood, my parents wanted only the best for my brother and me. They were concerned that if people learned about my mental health challenges, then it would have a negative effect on potential job opportunities, friendships, and romantic relationships. At the same time, I saw that the other black boys in my community appeared tough, strong, and cool.

Having mental health challenges was the opposite of tough, strong, and cool.

I WAS TERRIFIED OF ANYONE FINDING OUT.

Symptoms

In my book, Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero, I define "mental health" as "thoughts, feelings, and behavior." You can't see a person's thoughts. You may believe that you can feel their feelings. You can ABSOLUTELY observe their behavior.

Whether it was raging, violence, self-harm, or suicide attempts, my parents knew something was wrong with me.

Sadly, I not only knew something was wrong, I thought that I was wrong.

The Response

No one in my family ever asked me about how my mental health was doing or even how I was feeling. My extended family never said a word about it either, but I knew they saw me differently.

Self-Care

Nowadays, the foundation of my self-care is my relationship with my therapist. I also see a psychiatrist, attend a support group, and take psychiatric medication. I've learned to prioritize self-care and practice it without feeling selfish.

The Black Community

It's #MyStoryMyWay, so I'm just going to speak my mind. There are two things that I believe black people should focus on to take better care of their own mental health and help others who are struggling with mental health challenges:

  1. Social Expectations - In black culture, a lot of effort is spent trying to impress each other. In my opinion, this is done with good intentions, and I believe that it comes from a desire to genuinely feel good about ourselves. It's important that we make sure that we prioritize being authentic over impressing each other.
  2. Vocabulary - It's also important that black people start being proactive about studying the terminology used IN mental health, so we can have more effective conversations ABOUT mental health.

That's all.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read #MyStoryMyWay!


Mike Veny is one of world’s leading mental health keynote speakers and a high-energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He’s the author of the book Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations at meetings and conferences throughout the world. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, Mike was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the health care industry.

Learn more at www.MikeVeny.com.

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