Slowly but surely, we’re watching the world come back to something we recognize. Quarantines are lifting, vaccines are rolling out, and the struggle to find ways to be entertained indoors is fading back into the familiar struggle of balancing the personal, the professional, and the aspirational (i.e., life). That says nothing of the day-to-day experience that is Blackness in America.
July marks BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. This month originally named Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (for writer and mental health activist Bebe More) calls us to interrogate the experience of being non-white in America and its effect on our mental health; an experience University of Utah Researcher William A. Smith defined as racial battle fatigue. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “Suicide was the second leading cause of death amongst Black males between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2019.” Beyond that, Black people are overrepresented in the number of Americans managing depression with those living below the poverty line being twice as likely to report serious psychological distress.
Despite numerous systemic barriers, the conversation around mental health in the Black community is gaining momentum and becoming a priority. As the host and driving force behind Black Love’s Man to Man, David explores mental health and more with the men who join him for in-depth discussions that have reached thousands. In telling their unique stories and describing how they’ve overcome challenges, Man to Man gives listeners and viewers insight into the different ways Black people can navigate wellness, knowing there is no one right way to do it, but that it must be done. For BIPOC Awareness Wasicki reflects on fatherhood, his NYC upbringing, and the lessons he learned that not only expanded his idea of mental health beyond traditional therapy but made it a leading priority for him.
How do you describe yourself?
I’m an ambivert, balancing being an extrovert and an introvert. I also make wellness a priority for my well-being and the well-being of those around me.
Tell me about your mental health journey
That journey began years ago when I had a rough bout of depression for a year and a half in my early twenties. I was in the New York hustle reconciling where I was, where I thought I should be, and my humble beginnings. I felt like I was struggling in all aspects – finances, confidence, motivation, etc. – and the stress was starting to give me regular headaches.
I didn’t really have a concept of what mental health was. Coming from where I’m from, that’s just something you deal with, and going to a shrink is essentially sacrilege. So I started to ask the people around me who seemed to be in a better place, and someone recommended I try meditating to help me sleep at night. Once I saw how effective that was, it just grew from there. Now I’m in a place where I consider wellness to be a passion of mine that I want to share with those in my community, even hosting a man-to-man wellness series on our Instagram Live and an upcoming podcast.
How has that work affected your physical health?
After I saw progress with my mental health, I wanted to tackle other areas, and that led me directly to physical health. I stopped feeling like I was in a constant battle with my thoughts. It made me want to hit the gym, eat better, and be better. The funny thing is that the more focus I placed on physical and mental health, the more those words became interchangeable. To this day, working out gives me mental clarity and allows me to flow better, and makes me want to choose healthier food options. Eventually, they become habits, and it’s just a big snowball effect of wellness.
What changes have you noticed in your life?
That snowball effect actually had me drinking alcohol way less and being outdoors way more, looking for opportunities to be present without a distraction like my phone or the tv. I look at things from a cost-benefit analysis now. If I go over my two drink max, what does my morning routine tomorrow look like? How do I operate with my family if we have a function to attend? Everything carries a momentum factor, good and bad, so I’m a lot more intentional. Because of #DadLife, the most important thing I do is intentionally building in that “me time” – my 5 a.m. morning routine when I’m up before the house and the sun. I have time for stillness, some physical movement, and just being in the moment to hopefully allow that good momentum to start moving and fuel my day.
Has that journey changed the way you see yourself?
Oh, for sure! I was a lot more passive before, going with the flow of whatever the norms were. Now I find myself making choices that I know will make me feel good. I went from being the dude who stayed for the last song in the club after one too many drinks, to the guy who gets excited about prioritizing his rest to be up early and make the most of my morning. I feel more complete, like I have more to offer to my family and myself. Like I can serve them and myself at a higher level with fewer regrets, less time worrying about my health, less time being wasted and more time being present.
I mean I was 40 when we had my daughter, but I feel younger now, ten years later than I did then in terms of energy and focus! And we’re leading by example because I see my daughter imitating the self-care activities she sees my wife and I doing. It’s so small, but I feel like I’m getting a head start so that things like this will be second nature to her as she gets older.
To learn more about David and view past episodes of our series Man to Man, catch up on YouTube and via IGTV.