Author David Wyley Long to speak about his book as part of Jewish Family Service’s Mental Health Matters program.
According to Jewish Family Service Clinical Director, Toni Jacobsen, there has been an increase in anxiety and depression brought on by the COVID19 pandemic. To address the issue, JFS created Mental Health Matters, a series of programs and services designed to support and provide resources to the community. The latest offering, scheduled for April 5th, is a lecture by local author and JFS client, David Wyley Long, whose book, Up Against the Wind: Chasing David Wiley, details his struggles from his birth in New Jersey, to a troubled childhood in Detroit, to finding family in New York City, and finally, to Nashville where his journey continues. Jacobsen says, “This is that rare opportunity when a client of ours comes forward to share his story.”
Long’s life story can be described as a tangled web that blurs the line between truth and fiction, exploring the nature of family, attachment, sexuality, and the search for unconditional love. He says the book was an effort to come to terms with his past, “It took five years to be able to share in print the pain and trauma of my life. With the help of Jewish Family Service, I realized my life wasn’t normal. But I wanted people to see me reach the other side.”
To get to the other side, Long learns that the woman who raised him was not his biological mother, but rather a distant cousin. After his mother’s death, he spends time in New Jersey connecting with her family and discovers the challenges that come with shared living quarters. He grapples with broken trust and loss and learns about personal responsibility and self-care. He speeds through romantic relationships while exploring his sexuality, eventually discovering he has HIV. Ever the optimist, he creates several businesses, among them, a dating service catering primarily to gay, black, men.
Long studied to become an addition counselor, although he is not an addict or in recovery. “I’m not an addict, but I understand how to process trauma,” he says. He spent several years as a counselor in New York City, and eventually made his way to Nashville, where he struggled to adapt to life in the South. Looking for help, found his way to JFS and has been in therapy since 2014.
Writing the book was itself a complicated process that took him to the island of St. Croix in search of some solitude. What he found there was a beach, plenty of sunshine, and distraction. Back in Nashville, he tried to buckle down and then the COVID19 pandemic gave him plenty of the alone time he needed. “I finally ran out of excuses. It was time to stand in my truth and release my pain.” Toni Jacobsen says she watched Long struggle through and persevere against some tough obstacles. “A lot of people would have abandoned the book. But David is very driven. When he sets out to do something, he finishes it.” As a testament to his drive, Long recently completed a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Tennessee State University and created yet another small business.
It is clear in reading Long’s book that the challenges with mental health loom large over his life story. The lessons he would like readers to learn are straightforward. “First of all, therapy works,” he says, “Talk to someone, be willing to be vulnerable with someone you trust. Second, people should be open to learning from one another. And finally, always lead with love. I have struggled with the conditions of love but it’s important to respect each other, to understand each other, and to be inclusive.”
Long’s appearance is part of Jewish Family Service’s Mental Health Matters programming. This event is scheduled for April 5th, 6:00pm at the Gordon Jewish Community Center, and via livestream. For more information, contact Toni Jacobsen, firstname.lastname@example.org.