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#TMDPresents : Inside Out , The Man Defined original series where we look into the many faces and phases of mental illness straight from those who’ve experienced the affects of it firsthand. These men share their stories of triumph, survival and their candid journeys to optimal mental health and wellness.

 

Rwenshaun Miller is from a small town in North Carolina but his ambition, character and heart is anything but small.  Read on as scholar, former standout athlete and founder of  the mental health awareness nonprofit Eustress, Inc., shares his story of coping with and surviving, Bipolar Disorder, alcoholism and depression.

 

MEET RWENSHAUN MILLER

The Man Defined - [TMD Presents ] Inside Out: A Mental Health Story ft. Rwenshaun Miller

The Man Defined: Tell us about growing up in North Carolina.

Rwenshaun Miller: I am from Lewiston-Woodville, a small rural town in North Carolina.  Think about the stuff you see on TV with only stoplight and everybody knows everybody.   Yea…that pretty much sums it up. LOL. However, I really enjoyed it when I was younger. Riding my bike for miles to my friend’s house, making up things to do outside and learning how to do things you may not learn in a city, like how to drive a tractor or actually priming (picking) tobacco.  That’s when I realized I had to stay in school because I wasn’t made for that life.   I also was a great student and pretty good athlete so many people knew me in our community.

TMD: Tell us about some of your accomplishments prior to/during your depression.

RM: During my bouts of depression and alcoholism, I managed to graduate “on time” even after withdrawing from school once I was released from the hospital. I overloaded on coursework each semester and went to summer school each session because I wanted to finish college within that 4 year period people think you should be done. I know better than that now.

TMD: What was your first episode with depression?

RM: My first battle with depression occurred during my sophomore year and I locked myself away in my dorm room.  I withdrew from everyone, limited my conversation with my family, talking to my mom on occasions so that she wouldn’t worry, and I would just sit there.  I would not eat, sleep, or even shower. I did not care about those things because I was constantly battling with my racing thoughts.

TMD: When did you first realize that what you were experiencing were symptoms of mental health issues?

RM: I didn’t realize what it was until after being hospitalized and receiving my diagnosis. Even then I did not know what it really meant and it wasn’t my major concern.  In 2006 I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, Most Recent Episode Manic, Severe with Psychotic Features. I was 20 years old but I first experienced symptoms my second year in college when I was 19 years old.  I was reluctant to get the help that I needed and was forced to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital by my family. I was literally fighting during this intervention. After a stay in the hospital, I was able to get the help I needed after withdrawing from school. This included therapy, medication and learning ways to cope. I got better.  However, I wanted to go back to school and didn’t want people to know what I been through.My top priority was no one finding out that I had been in the hospital.  And of course in my head I felt like I was “cured”.  So I stopped going to therapy and taking meds.   The symptoms started back and I started self medicating with alcohol. 

 

His battles with his mental health and alcoholism  eventually lead to Rwenshaun attempting suicide. Thankfully, it proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to end his life and alternatively became a rather pivotal point towards Rwenshaun’s life journey and purpose…

 

RM: My life changed when the gun didn’t discharge when I pulled the trigger as the barrel touched my temple during this third attempt. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder 7 years prior and did not know how to handle it because I did not understand what it meant and didn’t stick to the help that I was receiving which lead to multiple suicide attempts.   So after that day, my passion has been to help people understand that its okay to not be okay, and its okay to get help when it’s needed.   This passion led to the formation of Eustress, Inc., a nonprofit that strives to raise awareness around mental health particularly in the black community.

 
The Man Defined - [TMD Presents ] Inside Out: A Mental Health Story ft. Rwenshaun Miller

Currently, Eustress hosts three annual walks (Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Bertie County) with over 500 participants in the past with our reach constantly increasing as we create spaces for people to feel comfortable talking about issues and learning ways to protect their mental health. In addition to this, I hold a weekly conference call for men, Locker Room Talk.  We discuss various things, including relationships, work, and whatever else, that can affect our mental health but we rarely discuss them in any other setting. I also started a men’s yoga class with my friend, Danielle Terrell, to teach men how to do yoga and the benefits that it can have on your mental health. To be mentally healthy does not always include medication and/or therapy.

 

To be mentally healthy does not always include medication and/or therapy. Click To Tweet

 

TMD: If someone is feeling like you once felt – what are tangible steps they can take for improvement (based on your opinion)? 

RM: I think the first step is finding someone that they are comfortable talking to. Having the ability to freely discuss your experiences helps tremendously. Sometimes you can’t even find the words but just having someone there who is not too pushy is a major key.   Outside of talking to a friend or loved one, finding a counselor to speak to is important. Having an assessment completed by a professional can take the guess work out of what you need to do next and they can also help determine the severity of your situation.  For college students, utilize your counseling center on campus.  If you are not a student and need to find counselor, the Internet is your friend. Start with Psychology Today

 

TMD: Do you think that the stigmas about mental health are still prevalent today?

RM: Definitely. I see it all of the time when I interact with individuals at workshops or various engagements.  So people clump mental health in one category—crazy, and no one wants to be viewed as crazy.  So they hide whatever issues they may be dealing with and suffer in silence. There is also a belief that having a mental illness means that you have to in a psychiatric hospital, on medication, or cannot live a “normal” life.  When the truth is, mental health challenges range from mild to severe and ALL OF US deal with something at some point in our life.

 

TMD: What’s the future looking like for you?

RM: Be on the look out for my book and workshops about mental health. We also look forward to hosting walks in different cities to help break down the stigma of mental health and mental illness. Mental Health First Aid is a great course and we will be hosting classes in the community to teach individuals how to recognize signs, symptoms and how they should respond.

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Man Defined - [TMD Presents ] Inside Out: A Mental Health Story ft. Rwenshaun Miller

 

As  Black men, we allow fear, ignorance, and ego determines our actions by not pursuing the help that we needed to manage our symptoms. Having a mental health challenge does not make you weak and getting help is not you admitting that you are crazy. It simply means you care about yourself and want to be best you that you can be. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.  

 

Having a mental health challenge does not make you weak and getting help is not you admitting that you are crazy. It simply means you care about yourself and want to be best you that you can be. – Rwenshaun Miller

 

 

 

You can connect with Rwenshaun via IG or his blog. Be sure to check out his website www.rwenshaun.com !

 

Do you have a #TMDPresents : Inside Out story you’d like to share? Contact us: stories@themandefined.com

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