May: (Me)ntal Health Awareness

(Me)ntal Health Awareness

Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the United States. And since the latter 1980’s, when I was diagnosed with chronic depression,  “mental health” began occupying my own awareness. Which is why I would like to take more time this month to write publicly about my experiences with it.

Ten days ago, I posted a poem about one of my worst experiences with depression. The poem regards a road trip with friends to Vail at the end of 1999. There are a handful of fun memories stemming from that trip; like having to break into the condo through the garage attic since my friend had left the keys in Dallas (the poem’s photo depicts us post break-in), and a bonding experience with once younger and newer and now older and greater friends. Unfortunately, when I gaze upon the timeline of my lifetime that period also serves as a demarcation where happiness met with deep sadness.

They say memories change a little bit every time we access them. Therefore, it’s quite possible that I’ve since refashioned both my memory of the events of 1999 and those of my earlier youth, but present-day Josh’s memories say my 1999 bout of depression was the worst of its kind to that point of my life. Perhaps pre-1999 Josh was too green to understand certain feelings, or just too green to even have such deep feelings. Presently, all I can say is that 1999 was the first time in my life that I can recall simultaneously not wanting to live, and not wanting to die. Sleep serving as only a cruelly tenuous escape. It was a literal war of mental attrition, and I was losing.

“But you’re here now,” you posit. “What changed?” Immediately, nothing changed. In fact, 1999 was still years and additional spells of depression removed from my emergence above the proverbial mental clouds. Therapy, sleep, medication, more sleep, more therapy, different medication, even more sleep, holistic medication, different therapist, sleeeeep, no medication, back to the old therapist, sleeeeeeeeeeep…and forcing myself to get out of bed everyday. Telling what seemed like a lie to myself that each day would be a modicum better, even if it wasn’t readily apparent; that if I kept getting up I would get “there,” wherever there was, because I believed there was somewhere in the realm of the living where solace existed, because I’d visited it before. As I would come to discover, there is here: my current mental state.

It is impossible to point to one single event that makes us who we are, because there isn’t. I am who I am today because of all the experiences I’ve had to this point, and tomorrow I won’t be the exact same Josh I was today. Therefore, it’s equally implausible for me to look to just one thing which lead me to that state of mental anguish in 1999. However, it’s not improbable to single out a few notable reasons why I’d gotten to that point: a poor diet, an irregular sleep pattern, a lack of exercise, alcohol, and marijuana.

Which is where I’ll pick up in my next post. I hope you’ll read it. And thank you for reading this.

Have a great, joyous weekend.




Listened to during this post:






december 1999

December 1999

The sun settles behind the mountains
as we wind around another bend
of the valley road.

The SUV's dash flashes in dim neon
as it illuminates
its controls.

Music is on high
as my two best friends are caught
amidst the throes of laughter

stemming from their cacophonous
attempt at singing

We have been driving for almost fourteen hours
and are mere minutes from our destination:

Our final home of a millennium
as the greased dial grinds to "20"
Where better to be when Y2K hails?

I am in the front passenger seat.
I am looking out its window into nothingness.
I am crying.


Friday 5075

Does our longing for Fridays
Shorten the other weekdays?

Alas, it prolongs the days;
Nothing short about Mondays

Nor the longness of Tuesdays
Nor cut short on the Hump Days

But to elongate Thursdays
Means shortening our Fridays

And we’ve long known that Fridays
Ain’t been shortened for no days

(Well, not counting Saturdays
and, of course, restful Sundays).

will you notice?

Shadow 5075

I'm not a chef
But I cooked you a meal

I'm not a gardener
But I grew you a flower

I'm not a musician
But I composed you a song

I'm not a photographer
But I took you a photo

I'm not an author
But I wrote you a story

I'm not a poet
But I wrote you this poem

I'm not an optimist
But I think you'll notice me.

anger, irritability…and depression?

Cloudy Trees 5075

The other morning I heard this very interesting piece on NPR’s Morning Edition, and not only was I happy to hear such a thing addressed on a nationally syndicated radio show (which, granted, is par for the course for the greatness that is NPR), but I was also reminded of my own experiences with depression and how anger and irritability were related to them.

As I wrote here back in 2017, I’ve had my own issues with a temper, just like I’ve had my own bouts of irritability. Now, some of the latter is just life (i.e., I didn’t sleep well; my brothers were being brothers and annoying me; someone just wouldn’t stop talking in a movie; etc.), but in retrospect I can attest that much of that irritability was related to my overall mental state. That said, there’s no question that my temper was the greater signifier of said state. But when you’re dealing with a temper (or irritability), it’s quite easy to focus simply on that and not what could be the underlying problem: depression.

Now, I’m not cautioning you to go out and assume that anyone who flares up in anger or expresses irritability towards you is depressed–that would be a tad presumptuous. But if it seems out of character, or if it’s prolonged in nature, then when things settle down it might not hurt to ask them if they’re OK.


Thanks for reading.




A Portrait of the Artist as a [Middle-Aged] Man
When I began this journey, or blog, back in 2016 I didn’t really know where it would take me. At that time, I was amidst a period of immense growth and felt compelled to write about it. I’d always loved to write; I just didn’t write enough. Therefore, I sought this site as an outlet to do just that: type for me; type for you. If you’re one of the handful that have visited and read, thank you–I hope I’ve been able to offer you back something useful.

In the interim, this site has changed its name (i.e., theroadkindoftraveled to theisswriter), and augmented its content (e.g., poetry and the odd grammar tip), but the purpose has remained the same: typing things; for me; for you. Well, now it’s changing, again. Late last summer, I purchased my first camera that wasn’t either disposable (remember those?) or a phone: a Nikon D3400. I coupled that with a Tamron SP AF17-50mm lens, and then recently added a Tamron SP 70-200mm. Neither the camera itself or the lenses are considered (at all) the best in their respective categories, but the equipment is solid enough to offer me a great starting point for this part of my creative journey.

Cameras 50 75
Former peak camera technology.

I’ve always enjoyed photography–both viewing and taking–but my understanding of anything more complex than what my iPhone, or Android before it, offered me in that realm was beyond me. It was all, “iPhone added the ability to zoom with the camera OMG!,” megapixels, and auto-settings. Now it’s f-stops, ISO’s, and shutter speeds. What? But I’m learning–slowly, but more quickly than I anticipated, thanks to the tutelage of friend and professional photographer Hoss McBain. He answers innumerable questions, often more than once, and always with the same jovial smile and demeanor as the first time. His passion for the craft has been infectious: I’M INFECTED.

The interplay of the arts with our mood, thoughts,
and behavior matters…because it’s real.

Anyhoo, you’ll notice I’ve recently begun adding photos to blog posts (well, not the ones of me as a shirtless or robot-costumed kid, etc.), as well as a “photography” page. My hope is to not only be able to share my progress with you, but to literally add color to my posts. Photos, like music and writing, are evocative–especially to me, and often the idea for a post or poem stems from one, or vice-versa. Personally, it became too banal to simply post mere words. I want you to know what I’m seeing, listening to, or reading about when I write, because the interplay of the arts with our mood, thoughts, and behavior matters…because it’s real. And if I’ve done anything since taking the first step of this journey back in 2016, I hope I’ve been real (to you).

I hope you enjoy the photography.
Thank you for reading (and now viewing).