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:
- All Melody, Nils Frahm