Every woman says they want a man who's in touch with his feelings, until they actually meet one who makes her realize that she isn't even in touch with her own.
Due to a number of environmental and psychological factors, African Americans are more 20% more likely to experience depression, and only quarter of those diagnosed actually seek treatment. This startling fact has an impact on our quality of life, physical health, and even our romantic lives and has created generational emotional trauma that is seemingly irreconcilable.
One North Carolina native and former football star is seeking to change this dynamic for good.
Rwenshaun Miller struggled with mental illness for 11 years in silence. His condition was unknown to those closest to him until after a number of suicide attempts, masked by his efforts to perpetuate the false ideology that boys don't cry. After going to therapy and receiving a proper diagnosis, the 31-year-old football star used his platform to tell the world that black men need therapy, too.
Rwenshaun is now a therapist by trade, the owner of three businesses, pursuing a PhD, and still finds time to check in with his feelings. Damn, who knew meeting a man who can multitask could be so damn sexy?
The young advocate says that his plans weren't always activism, but as we all know, the universe has a funny way of putting us all where we're supposed to be. After using an anonymous blog to share his battle with mental health, he realized that he could use what he learned about his illness to help the people closest to him. "That's when everything clicked for me because it was like okay," he said. "There's a reason why you're still here."
We recently got a chance to chat with #TherapistBae about his own romantic life and how he's using his platform to help other black men get serious about their mental health.
What have black women meant for you throughout your healing process?
Everything. They are some of the strongest people I've interacted with, and then with being able to show compassion and love and care. Even my aunt, close friends that I've grown up with over the years, even from college on to my adult life. Just being able to bounce ideas off them. To be honest, even though I'm in tune with a lot of stuff that goes on with me, it's hard to talk to another man about certain things, because you just won't get that response.
"Black women are some of the strongest people I've interacted with."
It's just something about that black girl magic.
Right, that's it. But then also them being able to provide that sense of security, that sense of support. It's unmatched. My mom displayed that early on and that's something that I look for in a companion.
So what are those traits?
The ability to be strong but then also still be vulnerable because there [is a] fine line. My mom always made sacrifices to give me the things I needed in my life. But she also was able to show me that stuff ain't always as they seem. She showed me that she struggled at times. She was open and honest with me about her feelings and emotions and didn't hide them from me. And then, we bounced things off of one another, especially as I got older.
She also instilled in me the fact that she's not above asking for help. Whether it was her getting help from her mom and dad, her brothers and sisters, and now she's even asked me for help. That opens it up for me to ask her for help. It's creating a two-way street.
And that takes a lot of courage.
Right, it takes courage. A lot of times people don't think that's vulnerability. That's the ultimate vulnerability, to show that part of you that says, "Okay, yeah tried it but I know I need help. So please help me."
And I know black women are strong, but we all have this innate ability to really be able to be there for somebody. If you ask somebody for help and you allow them to help you, I feel like that's another type of connection. It's much stronger than a connection between people who refuse to be vulnerable with one another. Because that'll break you down in the long run. Just like black men need therapy, black women need therapy. And we don't talk about it either.
"If you ask somebody for help and you allow them to help you, I feel like that's another type of connection."
There's this idea that women have that's like, "I want my man to be a man." I see your story in my father and my brothers and my uncles and my nephew, and it's painful. Every woman says they want a man who's in touch with their feelings, but in reality that can be a challenge. Has your knowledge about mental health affected your own romantic relationships at all?
Every woman wants a man that's in touch with their feelings, but also they don't want a man who's too in touch with their feelings because because they may consider him a punk. They want a man's man but they want them to still communicate. In my instances, before I talked about my mental health challenges, I played into that masculinity role. Like, no I'm not gone talk about the things that hurt me, I'm not gone talk about any aspects that can make me vulnerable and open up my heart to you, and that made relationships very difficult.
I'm familiar with that dynamic, I've been with so many men that made me feel like I was in a relationship with an ice box. I never considered that their emotional walls could have stemmed from a mental health issue. How did you overcome that?
I understand that my best bet is not communicating verbally, especially if I'm mad or sad. I would write letters. It's all about really trying to find ways to communicate, finding that balance, and being able to make each other comfortable when it comes to communicating.
With that being said, what does an ideal relationship look like to you?
I'm a hustler by nature, so I always have a lot of things going on. [She has to] be able to understand that aspect of my life and know that I have a million things going on and knowing that I'm building something larger than me. I'm running three businesses right now and I'm pursuing a PhD. Being able to communicate with each other but also being able to have fun with each other [is also important to me].
Communicating. Fun. I like the way that sounds. So if one of our readers were to shoot her shot via DM, what would a date with #TherapistBae look like?
I like to be out in nature, trying things that aren't status quo. I'd like to try things like skydiving. Things that are different man, that's me! If we do dinner, let's pack a picnic basket and go hiking, and do lunch on top of a mountain somewhere. Just small things like that.
Yasss. I know every woman would rather hear that than the average "wyd" or "come thru." No thank you, sir.
Yes! Honestly, whenever I get into those spaces, nature calms me down. If I'm able to be in a place of serenity with you, I'm more likely to open up about certain things and it's just more time for us to get to know each other, because we break down those walls, we don't have a bunch of distractions. We don't have a movie going on, we aren't trying to figure out what's on the menu, or people watching period. Or trying to figure out who's watching you while you're out. It breaks it down to: we [are] just gonna put on some workout gear and hit the trail.
"If I'm able to be in a place of serenity with you, I'm more likely to open up about certain things and it's just more time for us to get to know each other because we break down those walls."
So really, your ideal date would be anything having to do with being able to communicate without distraction? Now, that's scary.
It is, and honestly I'm a therapist by trade, but I enjoy people so I enjoy learning about people. No matter who I interact with, I feel like I can learn something from you. So even if we don't click romantically, there is something for you to learn from me and and something for me to learn from you. Just to make that connection, period.
I wish more men took that approach. What's your sign?
Oh Lord. I know what that means.
What?! We're passionate!
That they are. And, just to be clear, Rwenshaun is on the market and possibly open to some potential connecting, as long as you can keep up with his busy schedule. He's currently preparing to release a mental health journal in the fall, founding a mental health clinic, and recently launched a campaign to get his book in the hands of 100,000 incarcerated men.
So, yeah. He's pretty busy. But a man who knows himself and uses that knowledge to help others is well worth the wait. Keep up with Rwenshaun on Instagram and visit his website to learn more about our #TherapistBae.