As a Black gay man, I stay healthy by placing my mental and spiritual health at the top of my priorities.
In my experience I have found that all forms of health start with a positive mental outlook and my health radiates outward from within.
Growing up I was exposed to the effects that mental health issues like addiction and depression can have on an individual and their families. While we were all aware of issues within our family we chose in a very passive manner to ignore them and live in denial. My family and I went through trauma after trauma without acknowledging the challenges we had faced and overcome, paying little attention to how they affected us as a family and as individuals.
Like most African-American families, we lived in denial about the mental health issues that we faced and because of this I internalized stigma about confronting these issues and had several fears about getting help.
It wasn't until I found myself at my wits end in college that I sought help to confront my personal challenges and to learn skills to cope with emotional pain.
From other people's perspective I had it all, I was a young man in the prime of my life who had just achieved a major victory by becoming one of the first people in my family to go to college. Internally I was struggling, I still felt not at peace within my own mind.
In a span of 5 years I had survived the tragic death of close loved ones, the “coming out” process and the effects that the addictions of other relatives had on me with the almost non-existent coping skills of a young adult away from home for the first time. At my university I was able to take advantage of counseling services and quickly found out that going to therapy doesn't indicate character defects but actually in many cases denotes incredible strength of character. To put it simply, I believe therapy saved my life and prevented me from repeating the cycle of drug addiction and self-destruction that I had seen within my family in so many people.
Depression is more common than most people realize, within African-American gay communities depression is several times more common amongst Black gay men. Treating this depression can take several forms and employ a variety of methods. Together my therapist and I agreed that counseling and physical activity like 30 minutes of daily exercise was best for me.
After a few shorts months of working through my issues under the counselors guidance and creating a clear plan of action to resolve disputes and forgive those that I had issues with, I felt like a new and healthier version of myself.
I still have challenges, I am human and still manage to have bad days and get involved in situations that do not promote my well-being.
However, I still have those skills that my counselor equipped me with and the courage to breakthrough my fears to achieve a healthy state of mind anytime I need to. Putting my mental health at the top of my list of priorities has made it easier for me to make other choices that promote my well being like maintaining an optimal level of physical fitness, excellent nutrition and avoiding drug addiction.
Making this choice has made it much easier for me to move towards loving and caring for myself in powerful ways and has helped me to stay healthy.
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