3 Changes That Have Made the Biggest Impact on My Mental Health in 2020

Saleam T. Singleton photographed by Gerrie Lim

Gerrie Lim

Meet Byrdie Boy and The Method Male creator Saleam T. Singleton. Ahead, he shares his mental health journey.

Seven months in and 2020 already feels so long. Having spent most of it in solitude, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my mental health. I’ve come a long way, but there was a time when staying in didn’t feel like much of a choice. I was doing my best to manage my depression, which included bouts of self-isolation. I’ve often described it as being trapped in a tower while watching the world outside go on—which is ironic because I consider myself to be an outgoing person. That's the thing about depression and other mental health issues—they aren’t a choice, and they don’t discriminate based on social status, race, age, or gender. Throughout my wellness and self-discovery journey, I’ve gotten to know myself fully. I’ve had to learn what that means for me and have been able to set realistic goals for getting there. I would no longer let my mental health challenges define my life. 

In the past, I would let myself be consumed by an extremely stressful job. Then, I would go home and lose myself in Youtube videos until bedtime, only to do it all again the next day. By the time I realized how unhealthy I was, my employer had already brought it to my attention (twice). I could no longer hide my depressive symptoms, and I could no longer ignore them. I talked a lot about mental health, but had forgotten how to put myself first. Once I became aware of my symptoms, I had to do a lot of self-work to find out where it was all coming from. I knew I had to actively seek healing. I realized that a lot of it started with my habits at home, so I needed to start there. Escaping into self-isolation certainly wasn't the answer.

Until very recently, it was still considered taboo to discuss mental health in some cultures. This is especially true in the African American community. According to The National Institute On Minority Health, about one in five Americans struggle with some form of mental illness; African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological distress. Among men 18 to 44 who experience anxiety or depression, African American men are least likely to receive mental health treatment. Today, the topic is becoming more mainstream, with individuals and organizations coming to the forefront. Celebrities like Kid Cudi and Brandon Marshall have been public about their mental health journeys. It’s becoming normalized for men, and especially Black men, to talk about their issues. Men are learning that support and resources are more available than ever. 

For me, the real work comes outside of therapy. It doesn’t happen overnight and I’m still a work in progress. What I have gained is an awareness of the changes I’ve been able to make and the realization that it's the smallest habits that make the biggest impact on my mental health. I don’t spend idle time at home anymore, especially not in ways that are unproductive towards wellness. I've tried to focus on a few areas that I believe I have the most control over in order to improve my mental well-being, and I'm sharing the ones that have made the biggest impact below.

Improving My Sleeping and Eating Habits

It wasn’t obvious to me until recently how poor sleep and an unhealthy diet were affecting my mental health. I had to learn to prioritize by taking some time to create a schedule. Giving myself a regular bedtime helped a lot (although it’s not always possible to stick to it). For me, more rest means more clarity. I was overindulging in junk food and I found that kept me from eating as properly as I should. I’ve seen the mental and physical benefits of consuming more healthy foods, and especially with preparing whole meals for myself. I haven’t perfected it, but I pay a lot more attention to these particular habits, which have played a major part in my overall wellbeing.  

Investing Time In My Passions

One of the biggest steps I took in my mental health journey was to start making skincare content for @TheMethodMale. At the time, I didn’t realize how much doing this would help me focus on myself as a whole. The creative process provided me with not only catharsis, but allowed me to rediscover something I was passionate about. It didn’t happen immediately; I spent many months building up the confidence to do it again. But once I started, there was no looking back. I discovered the community wasn’t just about beauty—I found a space where I could also discuss self-care and wellness. Despite being in a consumer-based industry, I get to be human and transparent with a lot of my audience. My passion for that has contributed greatly to my mental health today.  

Reconnecting With Friends and Family

I think I forgot the importance of family when I was consumed with my issues. The most freedom came from sharing my experiences with the people I love. Finally, I wasn’t going through things on my own. That has made a huge difference in my overall life and mental health. Previously, I didn’t tell many people how I was feeling, which made it easier for me to isolate. When I started opening up to people, I found out that they had my back. Today, I have people I can talk to whenever I need to—and I’m there for them as well. I’m not saying that it’s simple or easy. I still have to make adjustments to stay on top of things. Today I'm in a much healthier place, but that only comes with awareness, support, and practice. 

There’s no greater self-care investment than your mental health.

The Bottom Line

Today, my apartment feels like home, as opposed to a tower. I’m more present and able to enjoy my time and space. I had to ignore the stigma of discussing mental health issues and be honest with myself. Although there’s still work to be done, it feels good to see the progress I’ve made. It feels even better to be back out there (digitally, at least for now). Even during these times, I’m excited about the future. I’ve spoken about finding purpose through the beauty community and that’s even more true today. There’s no greater self-care investment than your mental health. It’s more important now than ever before. I had to confront my issues and I continue to do so. I take pride in my journey and encourage everyone to make their mental health a priority. Challenges don’t make you weak, and neither does seeking support when you need it. I’m happy to see African American men continue to break the stigma of discussing mental health. It does get better. I always remember the words my mother used to say: With all things, it’s “one day at a time."

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