It has been about a year since my first book was published, Simply Because We Are Human: A Memoir by K.J. Joseph. I recently rewrote and submitted my screenplay based on my book for the third year of screenplay competitions. Fingers crossed that this year it will get more attention at competitions and at Austin Film Festival.
I have been fortunate to have a full-time career outside of my writing. Not all writers get the opportunity to write outside of their income needs and timelines. I get to write about what I want to. Yes, I worked hard to create that situation for myself, but it still is something that I remind myself daily not to take for granted.
It was a no brainer to write my first book about my journey struggling with clinical depression from age eight to the present time. The first time I realized that I really wanted to write about my mental illness to help others was after a track friend of mine in high school committed suicide at the age of seventeen. Matt Pelant not only was the first person I knew that had struggles like my own, but I didn’t even know about them until he was gone. That didn’t sit well with me in infinite ways.
The very stigmas that are associated with mental illness play a direct role in keeping people from getting the help they need. Also, dealing with the brain before it is emotionally developed fully makes treatment even more difficult. Most people are dealing with it long before they fully develop. Treatment is different for every person. It takes time to find that balance and time aligned with darkness isn’t on our side.
Medication alone can lead a patient to a trial an error path of hell. For example, my first medication made me worse. I was more depressed and suicidal thoughts crept in. It took a long time before I found the correct medication for me. I took many other medications prior to finding my correct medication type and dosage. Some of these medications made me feel ill. Some side effects I experienced were loss of appetite, weight gain, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, loss of sleep, lack of concentration, and numbness. Going through the trial-and-error process to find treatment can be harder than the actual mental illness at times. It can also cause people to stop treatment all together.
Since I released my book last April, I have been able to talk to many people about their own stories. I have had the opportunity to speak about how running has been a huge part of how I create balance in my own life. I have been fortunate enough to speak to a large group of interns who were figuring out ways in which they could improve communication between mental health clients, providers, and clinicians more efficiently. My story exposed some gaps and possible improvements that could be made in the system.
My journey continues to be fulfilling. Yes, I am fortunate to have been able to find a treatment that allows me to find a functional balance in my life. Let me be clear that my journey doesn't just end after finding treatment. Mental illness isn't something that is cured. Mental illness is a long-life struggle of being self-aware, adjusting my medications, and changing my life habits to healthier ones through the years. It is a constant moving target that aligns with my every changing body in order to find balance for my true soul to shine through.
Let me tell you I wouldn't change a thing because it brought me to this point in my life. However, I would pay money not to relive some of the darker moments I've experienced.
In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness month, please find time to read my story or pass it on to someone else. If there has been anything that I’ve learned through my story, it is that you never know who currently is going through life in darkness and just needs to NOT feel alone.
Thank you all,
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