Tune in each Tuesday in May for #TellUsAboutIt Tuesday where we will check back in with a few individuals who participated in last year’s Let’s Face It campaign and learn about their experience as well as what they’ve been up to since participating in the campaign.
Dustin didn’t participate in the Let’s Face It campaign because he wanted to be out there, he did it for his past self who needed to hear what he was now able to say, “I want to let other people know who may be going through a similar thing, that they’re not alone”.
“I want to do something like this because I’m looking to get the gratification. I never want to feel like I’m more important than the work itself,” he said. When not on stage, Dustin feels safest keeping to himself. When given the opportunity to speak personally and vulnerably in last year’s #LetsFaceIt campaign he agreed, not with the intention of flexing his own ego, but because sharing his story meant something bigger than himself.
Dustin’s in the music scene and he’s out there enough that he sometimes gets recognized by folks who know of him and his music. “When I’m out on stage,” he says, “that’s a persona, but the minute I walk off stage I am that 12-year-old fat kid in the back of the class who no one wanted to talk to.”
The day Dustin’s story was published as a part of the Let’s Face It campaign, he was working the door at an event for legendary singer song writer Stephen Rodgers and his release party, trying to make the whole night about Stephen, “while standing there celebrating Steve, people would come up to me and celebrate me,” he says, “Saying things like, oh you know I saw that piece online man, and I feel like the same thing, and thank you.”
Through this experience, Dustin was also able to reconnect with his father’s family. Dustin’s aunt brought up how reading his story made her wish she had known him before, and she even thanked him for sharing his story and for the opportunity to get to know him a little bit through it.
“Sharing my story,” he says, “it’s made me more comfortable in my awkwardness. It also takes away other people’s bullies. When you can be super accepting of who you are, embracing and owning that, it’s as important for onlookers as it is for yourself.”
It’s clear that his children have helped encourage Dustin to be more comfortable in his skin. Dustin’s oldest child is now six months through transition therapy, and she even went to her first high school dance in a dress. Dustin acknowledges his daughter’s bravery. “She had the mental fortitude enough to be genuinely herself in those moments.” Dustin also has two younger twins who are about to finish up 8th grade and go into high school. “Seeing them grow and evolve, and really be themselves, has been incredibly rewarding.”
At some point over the past year, Dustin hit a dark moment, to the point where he almost lost an entire week. “I have decided to take the next step in my mental health journey,” he says, “I am going to look at some medications, and I’ve started to take that journey public as well, so that people know that it is okay to not be okay, but it’s also okay to let people know you’re not okay.”
Gifts from the Let’s Face It campaign help to support the launch of The Art of Wellbeing, an arts and wellness program at the Hispanic Health Council’s (HHC) Family Wellness and Cultural Heritage Center in downtown Hartford. A donation to the #LetsFaceIt campaign is an investment in the safe and welcoming environments for those we serve and it’s an investment in our future.
Stay in touch with us on social media @mentalhealthct and keep up with our blog posts so you don’t miss a #TellUsAboutItTuesday in May!