Wesley is an ambitious 29-year-old African American male living in Greensboro, North Carolina who likes to set and reach his goals. He loves basketball, sneakers, and graphic design. He spends a lot of time with his family at home, travelling, or at family reunions.
Listen to Wesley talk about his childhood here:
He describes his childhood with his brother, sister, and parents as ‘good’ and ‘fun’. He did well in school up until college, where he started to struggle academically. He attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to study graphic design until he was put on academic probation, and he moved home and worked for some time. Then, he returned to school to continue studying, and this is when he told a friend he was feeling “awkward energy he wasn’t familiar with.”
Listen to Wesley talk about the emergence of his symptoms here:
His friend recommended church, so they went to church together. However, Wesley continued to feel “an intense negative vibe,” and started to experience auditory and visual hallucinations. He saw the word “devil” and had many conversations with his roommates in his mind. He recalls one roommate trying to coach him on how to forget what he was experiencing.
Wesley’s strange experiences continued, and he felt he was in a predicament. On one hand, he realized something could be wrong and should address his experiences, and on the other hand, he thought he should ignore his symptoms because he knew the hallucinations were not real. He thought the symptoms may go away on their own. When he came home from school, he went to the hospital twice, but he wasn’t always sure about how to respond to questions from medical professionals about hallucinations. The doctors gave him medicine, which may have made his symptoms less severe, but he still hallucinated.
While Wesley doesn’t hallucinate as much as before, perhaps due to the medicine he takes, he can still hear a voice saying “get it right” if he listens closely. He says he feels freer now than he did two or three years ago, but he’s still very conscious about the daily decisions he makes. He tends to spend a lot of time with his decision-making processes.
Wesley: I feel a little more free, but I think I also have times where I’m just really—like I might be getting ready to drink sweet tea instead of water, and I’m very conscious of like, how is that going to affect my body, how is that going to affect my mind? Maybe I should just—I got to be strong and steer away from that because water is obviously the healthier choice and in the long run it’s going to [be] beneficial for my thought process. All this is going through my mind when I just make a simple decision like that. And when I go through other decisions in life, I’m doing a lot of thinking. Sometimes I still do things that I don’t really think about it because I’m like, life is short, I got to make something happen now. I don’t want to overthink it. Some things I’ll just spur-of-the-moment do, just because I want to have fun.
When asked about things that help Wesley make good decisions or cope, Wesley thinks of his love and respect for family. He says his parents are helpful and inspiring, but he looks up to his brother and sister because they are closer to his age. He comments on the importance of really listening to what others have to say, whether he is listening to family members or public figures:
Wesley is very close with his family, and travelling is one of his favorite activities to do with them. Though he experienced traveling along the east coast with his family throughout his life, he highlights an international trip to Morocco, Spain, and France. His sister was completing a study abroad trip in Morocco, and Wesley and his family visited for the last couple of weeks. It was the first international trip for multiple family members, and Wesley describes the trip as an unforgettable experience.
Wesley: We went there, we visited Sevilla, Spain, and we visited Paris. I just remember telling them that it was such—it was a great trip, a lot of good things happened. A lot of fun things happened, but if there’s one thing I’m thankful for, I’m glad that we did it together. Because I could’ve took a—you know, she could’ve ended that trip by herself, I could’ve went on a trip like that by myself and it would’ve been fun to travel, but doing it with my family, I think that was my—I believe that was my mom’s first time out of the country. I know it was my dad’s first time out of the country. My aunt, I think she had traveled before, but my brother, he’s been all kinds of places. [laughter] Yeah. But for us to all do that together, that was an unforgettable experience. That was probably one of the biggest family experiences of my life.
In addition to traveling with his family, Wesley enjoys seeing his immediate and extended family frequently. Social media helps Wesley stay up-to-date with family, but he looks forward to cookouts and family gatherings because it helps him keep up with his family members’ lives. He may even randomly drop in at his grandma’s home to visit with another family member.
At the time of the interview, Wesley had been working at a safety shoe company for two and a half years. Although he doesn’t work in the design department, working with a shoe company is in-line with his ultimate goal of designing sneakers for athletes. It’s his dream to transform the world of shoe design in order to design the best shoes for athletes and aspiring athletes while using environmentally-friendly materials. He also hopes to change the world by helping with mental illness awareness.
Wesley: So maybe just become a great designer overall and change a lot of things in the world through that. However I would do it, by the time I got there, if I got there. So maybe change the world through that, and help make a big difference with mental illness. I think that’s another thing that I’ve kind of gathered or gained interest in over the years, especially after my experience. I’d like to help out mental illness—mental health awareness and stuff like that a lot.
A typical day for Wesley starts with a good breakfast followed by a trip to the gym or listening to music, then going to work. After work, he routinely checks his email, Facebook, and other websites while he watches TV. He tends to fall asleep in front of the TV until his dad tells him to go up to bed early in the morning. On the days he doesn’t work, he tries to go to counselling and visit other individuals at a nonprofit for adults with mental illness that emphasizes psychosocial rehabilitation. About once a month, he works on sketches or designs. You can find some of his art at the bottom of this page.
Wesley finds a lot of joy in the game of basketball and is helping to give back by teaching young kids how to play. Basketball has taught him teamwork, patience, and working together for a goal. He believes it’s important to work hard for your passions, respect positive figures, and listen and pay attention when someone is telling you something.
Wesley told his story to help raise awareness for mental illness because he is one piece of a bigger narrative for mental illness. He describes this experience as helpful because he hasn’t ever talked about his story “to this degree.” It brought up positive feelings for him, especially regarding family.