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.

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.




clouds smaller 2

I like to let my poems speak for themselves, therefore I’m not particularly keen on prefacing them with any sort of context such as this. However, I feel it necessary to break that wall now so that I’m clear on one thing: I’m not depressed. If you’ve read within this space before, you’re aware that I enjoy writing about mental health–particularly my experiences with it.  This is one such occasion. As always, thanks for reading:

A thought is lurking

Inside me

I'm aware of its 


But I've chosen to 

Ignore it

Not so much ignore

As push it

Beyond other thoughts


Defending myself
From its pain

This is unhealthy

I know this

What else shall I do

To forestall?

Away, away please

Go away

Past the clouds into 

Deepest blue

I'm certain we will

Meet again

Until then, away

Away you.


Highland TER


My life in vintage colors
Memories of simpler times
Silver robots; red wagons
Silly neighbors; street parades

A life of unhinged laughter
Amens before the altar
Real Santa’s; make-believe friends
Rabbit-like cars; in-car phones

Within the Heights of Richmond
On a Terrace named Highland
Dreams wake; reality sleeps
The imagined; magic reigns.



I wish I were a skylight; a lamp atop the tallest building in my city; I want to look out from my lookout; I want to be urban; not sub but above urban; apart from you yet a part of your experience; not a subject, but a mere object; individually insignificant, collectively brilliant; just like you, but not like you; I want you to notice me, but not see me; to light your way, while staying out of it; eradicate shadows, yet staying in mine; my facade, faceless; your afterthought, thinking about you; extroverted travel to you 299,792,458 meters per second, from the introverted refuge of my bulb.