In this interview I sat down with my significant other, De’Haven. We chatted about mental health, his struggles with Asperger’s, depression, anxiety, and more.
JM: – Tell me a little about yourself:
DC: – My name is De’Haven, I’m 22-years-old. Uh, I like to write music. I like to create. I like the form of writing and I’m getting into audio engineering. I like the whole process, from writing it down to bringing it to life.
JM: – For starters, I want to know how you define mental health. When you hear mental health, what do you think about?
DC: – Mental health to me is your overall mental well-being. To me it could mean psychological issues, mental illness, or somebody who has a bad or good way of thinking and how it affects that person’s life.
JM: – I think that’s a good way to explain it because a lot of times people get mental health and mental illness confused. It’s like physical health. You can have good physical health, you can have bad physical health.
JM: – Have you struggled with any mental health conditions or had any mental health struggles.
DC: – Yeah. I’m on the autism spectrum. I think they’ve changed the name, but it used to be called Asperger’s syndrome. It’s part of the spectrum and is like high functioning. So, I can function in day to day life. Usually when people hear autism, they automatically think you’re in a special education class. The lower you are the harder it is for you to function in day to day activities. I really need to go to the doctor. I got diagnosed when I was younger and for the most part of my life, I didn’t know I had it. As I got older, I found out and I just want to know more about it. I do my own little research but talking to a professional gives you a different feel. So, there’s that. I sometimes suffer from depression and after looking into it I also think I suffer from anxiety. I used to think anxiety was just bad breathing, but I realize it could be so much more.
JM: – You said you sometimes struggle with depression. Can you elaborate a little bit? What does it look like for you when you are struggling with depression?
DC: – The way I describe it is when a dark shadow just covers your whole being. Sometimes I just want to shut the world away. I want to turn off everything and if I could hide in the corner I probably would. You know, not wanting to talk. Getting irritated when someone talks to me even though it’s not their fault. When I was younger, I noticed it used to affect my eating. I would not eat at all for days. I would have the worst opinion about everybody and think everyone was against me. It’s like my mental health just turns all types of negative. Which is really the opposite of me because I’m usually a very positive person. But when that happens you get this whole different person.
JM: – So we talked a bit about you being on the autism spectrum and you struggling with depression and you say that you’re doing more research and you’re pretty sure you struggle with anxiety. So, what are some of your anxiety symptoms?
DC: – Sometimes I overthink, and it could be the worse outcome. For example, say I’m at work and at home we have a disagreement the previous night and I go to work the next morning, and in my mind, I’ll think how am I going to bring this up to her so we can squash our beef. When I think about that, the worst stuff comes to my mind. Oh, she’s going to say this, then I’m going to say this and it’s going to blow the hell up. And that makes me upset even though it comes from my mind. It’s usually never like that and even though that’s the case in my mind I’m going out of control.
And I’m not really good in an environment full of people. When I was younger, I went to a party and I was in the corner thinking something was finna pop up so I’m just looking around like, what y’all finna do. Especially if I don’t know them.
JM: – Was mental health talked about in your household growing up?
DC: – No. Not at all. I can’t even say I heard the word mental health growing up. It wasn’t bashed or anything it just wasn’t talked about. I feel like some of the older people knew about it. I probably would have felt better if they’d told me about it. Having mental health conditions and not knowing about it and going through every day is a challenge cause you don’t know what’s going on. You see other people doing fine then there’s you and you don’t understand why you’re like this.
JM: – As far as your feelings and mental health challenges, do you feel as a man there are certain things you can’t discuss.
DC: – I feel like it’s hard to be a man or a woman period. There’s different challenges but I don’t think you should dismiss someone else’s challenges cause you’re not them. From a man’s perspective, everything is pushing us not to show feelings and to get the job done.
For me, I didn’t see my pops or other grown men show emotion. I just seen them get the job done. How they feel or how they deal with with, I don’t know. Some drink, some smoke weed. Some do whatever. To me, and I’m sure for most men it’s a new concept. It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to show your feelings. You spend your whole life not doing that and, in your mind, you think that’s how it’s supposed to go. We’re not allowed to be vulnerable and vulnerable for us means being emotional or showing any type of weakness. A lot of times people look at mental illness as a type of weakness so if we do know about it, we’re not going to tell you about it.
JM: Why do you think there’s so much stigma around mental health in the Black community? We hear a lot about when black parents children are struggling with mental illness it’s just swept under the rug. A lot of times their told to go to church or pray about it. There’s not any actual conversation happening surround mental health or mental illness.
DC: – I think it’s a multitude of reasons. A lot of it is traditional. I’ve heard this term from so many black families including my own. What happens in this family stays in this family. You don’t go out for help. I think a lot of people just don’t want to deal with it.
They don’t want to deal with letting it happen or feeling like, damn I can’t protect them. Cause when you’re a parent, I assume when something terrible happens it hits deep.
Overall, I think the issue is mental health itself and what I mean by that is grandparents and parents didn’t know about mental health. I would say it’s generational.
JM: – What do you think needs to change to reduce stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness?
DC: – First off, people need to get an understanding of what it actually is. The more you know, the more your eyes will open. It’ll open more doors and have people looking at themselves and others differently. It’ll be more understanding and patience. It needs to be spoken about more. I feel like they should offer a course in school. So, people have an idea of what is is.
I also think reading books helps. I’ve been reading this one book, The Happiness Code and it’s a book I really like. I think it really can help somebody. Although it’s not talking about any medical conditions, I think it’ll be good for your mental health. It’ll change your perspective on things.
JM: – What are some ways that you take care of yourself?
DC: – A lot of it is about doing what I love. Writing music. Doing things I love that’ll be healthy and beneficial for me. Looking at things, reading things. That question is a real question cause it’s all about knowing who you are and what you like. Giving myself what I know I need. I like to be alone so if I feel like I want to be by myself, and you’re in the room, I might just stay in a different room or I’ll tell you and you may leave for a couple hours. Sometimes I might just write music to vent or watch my favorite show. I may learn something new, like I said I’m trying to learn how to audio engineer. It’s about just doing things for myself.
You know yourself more than anybody.
JM: – What are five things you love about yourself?
DC: – I’m a chocolate, Black man.
I like my musical abilities. I like that I’m able to paint a picture and I’m not just rapping lyrics just to rap lyrics. It’s an actual art. It’s not just me talking about money, guns, and h*es when you hear it, you’re going to either be like, I can see it, or I can feel it. I get to give myself the music I want to hear.
I’m very understanding. I think it’s very important, not just for relationships but for life period. Cause if you keep going down thinking things are supposed to go your way and you want to go to war every time things don’t go your way, you’re gonna end up in hell. You can control your part, but you can’t control the other aspects.
I love my drive. Sometimes I want to be like fuck it and give up on people and things, but something keeps me going and I can say I wouldn’t be here in this space if I would have said fuck it and just succumbed to people, situations, or depression. I wouldn’t be on the path I’m going on and I love this path.
My hair. When you look at it, it just tells me. Some of my dreads are bigger, smaller, thicker, thinner. And it’s different. Every loc is different but regardless of all that it’s still growing and healthy. Much like myself. Each dread itself tells a story cause I started out with cultivated locs. Those are the locs you see a lot. Now I’m transforming to semi-freeform locs. Freeform locs is when you let your locs grow and do whatever. If they combine, become two or three that’s just what happens. You literally let your hair grow and do whatever it wants to do. You still wash it you just don’t manipulate it. Semi-freeform locs is the same but you do a little maintenance. I went from cultivated to semi-freeform as a representation of me getting back to my roots. You know, me going deep within. It’s like, be yourself. Stop manipulating yourself to fit a certain mold.
JM: To wrap up, I want to know what you would say to those who are struggling with their mental health.
DC: – To those struggling with mental health I would say, be strong. I know it ain’t easy. You’re probably in school or wherever you’re at and feel like you’re the only person in the world. One thing I figured out is mental illness just makes you different. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my Asperger’s or depression. I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things if it wasn’t for that. I wouldn’t be able to write about those things if it wasn’t for that. It made me a different person and at first, I didn’t like it because I grew up to think I’m supposed to be like a certain type of people. It’s ok not to be like everybody else. You just gotta figure out how can it benefit you and it might involve you having to do things differently. Be strong. Learn to embrace it. Look at it like I’m wired differently. And there’s nothing wrong with that.