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Dez is THAT person - always laughing and always making you laugh. But his story is a reflection of what it's like to live day to day with a mask. Take a look at his interview below.
Elyse: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
Dez: I am Dez Arnez - I do a quite a few things, radio personality, I guess socialite and CDL Drive. So those are like the three things that I do right now.
Well, I actually come from a social work background. My mother was a social worker, so I was exposed to like mental illness at an early age. I'm one of four boys. A dynamic that, as I grew up, I know wasn't so common, my mother and father are still together. They're married. So, like, when I was younger, I thought it was normal. But when I was in school, people would always me, “You and your brothers have the same mom and dad and they’re still together?” And I'm like, yeah!
It didn’t really didn't hit me until I got to high school, like, why so many people thought it was like, weird. I remember finding myself in middle school kind of mad because people would have step moms and dads and step brothers and I’m like, “Why don’t I have step brothers?” I didn’t get it, I didn’t get it until I got to
E: That’s interesting!
Dez: Yeah and I was like, oh ok, a lot of people don’t have both parents in the household and all of their siblings aren’t from the same parents and really just coming from a house of love. Like, the older I got, the more I understood, you know, showing love wasn't so common.
And that's one thing that I'm forever grateful for with my family, even though I have brothers. I mean, of course, we fought with each other and rough with each other but we love each other.
I mean, the word was thrown around a lot, you know, between us until we got older. But, you know, it was just there. I didn't get when people would be like, “I hate my parents or I hate my brother” and they really meant it. I'll be like, “That's crazy.”
But, all in all, I'm was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio - a proud, proud, representative of Columbus. I love the city.
E: You really just unleashed a lot, which like goes into all of the complexities of just being black and being black in America. But I think that something that you brought up that is really interesting and it's a great perspective that, a lot of us don't have is that you come from a home of love, and you’re coming from a parent that has a background in social work, so you that that foundation of mental health isn't foreign to you. So my question to you is, have you ever experienced challenges with mental health?
Dez: As I got older, I definitely did. I would say depression was one of the biggest ones. I think, when someone would hear that from me, they wouldn't see it because, I'm a bubbly person, a happy person, and typically like the life of the party type of person.
A lot of times, you know, it's hard. And one thing that I noticed is that some of my saddest moments, in retrospect, was when I was around others but it was probably the happiest moments, right? So, like typically, like I learned the older I got, being funny, being fun was a defense mechanism for me.
So, going out and telling people like you're sad or whatever, wasn't really a cool thing to do. You will kind of get made fun or people, you know. It just wasn't a comfortable thing to do. So I would just hide my pain behind the jokes and the smiles and the laughs and the having fun just to mask it because, I really didn’t feel comfortable telling people how I felt and what was going on with me or whatever.
E: So can you talk me through some of those moments of depression?
Dez: The older I got, I guess I was kind of having, like a hard time finding my purpose, right? I mean, there was a point there was a point in my life where I was attaining things that I thought, “Ok, this is it. This is the moment is what I was waiting for.” But when things weren't really hitting, how I expected to hit things kind of got rough.
And then there was a point in time where there was like multiple things that were going wrong all at once. And it was just hard to fight through it because it seemed like it was just a fire in every place. Like when I would try to put this out, then this one would get bigger.
So I was just constantly pulling myself to stretch myself, trying to make everybody happy. But it felt like, whenever I would make one person happy, another person will be mad and it was just tiring and challenging and hard. But in the midst of doing all of that, I was never happy.
E: In those moments of depression, what would that look like? Like those moments of sadness, what would that look like? You know, when people say when they do feel depressed they sleep a lot or they don't eat or, you know, there's times where people want to harm themselves. Like, how did that show up for you?
Dez: I think I went through I went through all those phases. I mean, I lost a lot of weight at one point. I typically fluctuate between 220 - 225 but at one point, I got all the way down to 210 pounds. I wasn’t eating,I didn’t want to go outside, I didn’t want to be seen. I won’t lie, there were moments of me contemplating, doing things to myself. But that was always tough for me because I felt like I would be very selfish if I did that, to leave everybody else with the pain to carry with me taking myself out.
E: What would help you to overcome those moments, because purpose is an ever evolving thing. It’s not necessarily something like, a moment of achievement, you know what I’m saying, because we are always growing. So how do you balance yourself in terms of your happiness and knowing that, “Ok, I'm always going to be working towards something, but I am successful.”
Dez: Absolutely. I think that was one of the biggest things, at one point in time with all of the depressed moments in those dark times, it was like I found myself like trying to compare myself, trying to compare myself to others. So I'm seeing and hearing all these success stories and all this imagery around you and with social media and peers and things like that and it was just like, “Dang, why haven’t I hit yet?” And I kind of felt like I was good at making and helping others, but I wasn't really good at helping myself. So I was just having this battle of, “Why am I always helping everybody else? I'm not really good at helping myself.” So what helped me out a lot, and what I'm currently doing now is - I realized I had a problem, so I sought therapy.
I was doing counselor sessions with my guy, Pastor Julius Lancaster, and that's really still a person that I reach out to, to this day. He's easy to relate to. He's able to give me what I need, and he's able to just break it down. And I don't have to think so much. And it's not so complex. He's able to you give it to me uncensored. And then, not too long ago, I reached out - I wanted to get a black female therapist because I'm fresh out of a long term relationship and it took a lot out of me, and I kind of just wanted to get a non-biased opinion from a black woman and just not only to better myself, but to be a better mate in my next relationship. And I'm going to say right here, my next and FINAL relationship. So I took it upon myself to do that and I feel like I think it was one of the best things that I've ever done.
I definitely recommend therapy, especially to black men. So Coach P, she kind of broke it down into two different sessions. Like, first, she helped me with the relationship part, and now we're moving on to this new segment is called Portrait of a Man, which is a phenomenal session that I'm going through with her. So I think those really help me out a lot because I was able to get stuff off my chest and not feel judged, right? Because sometimes even when you got friends, you got peers but sometimes you just don't feel for whatever reason, you don't feel comfortable, like opening all the way up like that in those type of settings. I think that's what's really helped me out a lot.
E: That portrait of a man sounds like pretty phenomenal. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? A little bit more.
Dez: So basically what portrait of a man is - actually, I'm the first, so I'm kind of like the guinea pig of this of work session that she put together. But basically, right now she has a list of words. And with these words, I had to give the first thing that comes to my mind or, like, the first two things that come to my mind when I see these words or whatever. And then after I got done with the list of words we put the list to the different categories on how they relate to me. It’s like six different categories. So that's part of the session, right. And then there's other things that's going to come along with it. But I truly enjoy my sessions with Coach P.
And I tell you, like, some days I wake up and I'll be like, “I really don't want to go,” but every time I go, I always find myself, like, crying. But it'd be good, though! I get it out. And I would be like, “Man, I'm so glad I came to see Coach P,” because I was trying to find a way out. But every time I try to find a way out, I always feel like I'm glad I didn't do it. So big, big shout out to Coach P. I really love that woman, and I'm loving this whole thing that I'm going through. It’s just really just helping instill confidence in me. It really just, it is really just helps me touch a lot of key factors in my personal self to just grow and be a better person, to be a better man.
E: And do you have or can you recall in the past, any specific tools or outlets that motivated you through those moments of depression? I know you talked about therapy, but are there any other things that kind of helped you through?
Dez: I would definitely say a lot of my friends just seeing, you know, seeing the success stories and just know where they came from and knowing that things weren’t given to them. They really had to work to get to the places that they got. And just knowing that it's possible. I think I think that's one of the biggest issues I would say, especially in the black community, that I feel like a lot of people feel stuck in their environments. So they don't really see nothing outside of, for example, they don't really see nothing outside of the East side of Columbus or I really see nothing outside of I-270. I feel like their imaginations are only so big, and they feel like there’s a ceiling. And they feel like they can only be so big. I think over the past couple of years, you hear entrepreneurship a lot. Entrepreneurship, ownership and stuff like that. But they don't personally know an entrepreneur. They don't personally know - they can’t touch or talk or successful people, they only see them on the Internet. So they kind of think it's not real. I mean, I've been blessed to have an elite group of friends where a lot of them are entrepreneurs. A lot of them have their own businesses and things of that nature. So just seeing that and seeing how they push through and keep it moving, it keeps me motivated. Like who wants to be the weakest link of the crew? So I would say I would say that's been one of my biggest motivation, honestly.
E: And that kind of goes into the next question, what does your support system look like? I know your friends play a big role, but and it sounds like you're very family oriented. So it sounds like that's your team.
Dez: Absolutely. So some of the biggest people I was saying is my mother,
Sharon Scales, my sister-in-law, Pastor Julius Lancaster, Coach P, my main man Yaves Ellis, I mean the whole accountability chat. That whole chat because they're all successful and we all push each other. Sometimes we play too much but for the most part - those guys, when it's time to get serious, we definitely get on it. We keep each other on the straight path. So I would say the chat and my brothers. I got three brothers, so I'm the third of four, so those guys, I can always reach out to them.
E: And you talking about this is a really big deal because we obviously know, like, that is a huge stigma in our community in terms of just discussing mental health in general, but especially black men talking about it. To wrap things up, how do you maintain a good mental space? The mental and emotional space?
Dez: What I try to do is try to maintain what I'm consuming, right? Like, you know what? I'm watching who I'm surrounding myself with, what I’m listening to, even though it's kind of hard because everybody knows I’m ghetto and I love Trap Music but like, be careful of the company that you keep. I think that is extremely important, because if you are around negative people all day, then you're going to eventually fall into that negative pit. I mean, if you're around successful people all day, you’re going to want to be successful as well. And so I would say, just trying to keep a good, healthy balance of the those components around me at all times. And it kind of it keeps from being so hard to myself I think that's one of my biggest problems. Like, I'm extremely tough on myself. I get worked up easily, and I just I find myself just like, not really feeling like where I need to be at in life. So you kind of get caught up in society stigmas and the numbers. And at this age, you should have “this” at this age. You should have “that.”
So then you kind of start getting down on yourself. And then, you get on social media and social media is quick to be like, “Oh, if you don't got this, then you aren't a real man and if you ain't got that, you ain't a real man.” Sometimes, I have to disengage to keep my psyche up.