Stories: Larry

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Larry Bryant

When did you first become aware that you had a mental illness?

I was first aware of something ‘not quite right’ as a sophomore in high school.  Through college and my 20s, that ‘something’ became more evident – and troublesome – in my regular everyday life.

Did you talk about it with anyone? Who? If no, why not?

While in high school I did meet with counselors at school.  However actual therapy was never suggested or sought.  Instead it was suggested that seeking therapy would be seen as a weakness and detrimental to receiving an athletic scholarship.

As a teenager I rarely talked about my feelings.  Despite my family finding out about my (first) suicide attempt in high school, I refused to share the pain I felt and the causes.  I’m sure for a while they felt helpless to do anything to help me.

What does a “bad” day feel like? What color? What sound? What physicality?

On a ‘bad’ day I feel like I am moving through quicksand, my body aches, and sometimes my skin hurts.  It’s very difficult to leave my apartment or even get out of bed.  I surround myself with silence and try to remain patient waiting for the darkness to pass.

Why is it important for you to tell your story?

It’s important for me to share my story to reach other Black men, and other Black families.  To let them know that mental illness is as real and devastating as racism.  It’s as emotionally deteriorating.  And if it’s unchecked and untreated, it eclipses any hope for recovery.

I was brought up in a moderately conservative Black community in D.C., the oldest child of six.  I was also exposed to a variety of communities around the country as an Air Force brat.

Growing up, mental illness wasn’t talked about.  Also, as a young boy I was encouraged to shake it off if I felt down or depressed – being tough without complaint was the expectation.

Has NAMI-NYC changed your relationship with your family?

Being involved with NAMI-NYC has helped me talk about my own issues with depression and anxiety with my family and doing so has helped to explain what was once before unexplained behavior and actions.

Has NAMI-NYC changed how you talk about mental health?

NAMI-NYC has helped me find the words to articulate the importance of mental health. I learn every day that mental health is as important as physical health, and has to be ‘exercised’ and maintained regularly.

You’re also a NAMI-NYC staff member. What do you do here?

  • Manage the Helpline (training/supporting volunteers, updating Helpline resources)
  • Coordinate support groups (scheduling, supporting facilitators, identify new groups, locations, and facilitators)
  • Coordinate the Hope for Recovery class (as well as teach)
  • Manage the NAMI Smarts program (includes scheduling, coordinating workshops)

What’s the question you most often get asked by people who are calling the Helpline?

“What can I do to make my [family member] get better?”

Has NAMI-NYC changed your life?

Yes, learning about, and using, NAMI-NYC programs and services has changed my life for the better.

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