Becoming (Momentarily) Famous

It started with a tweet, “I don’t know you, @joshkozelj27 but I love you for writing this. I see you and I am so glad you exist in this world!”

And it kept on going from there. A doctor from Ontario wrote a letter to the editor three days after my piece came out, “Bravo, Josh. My thanks for the insight Josh Kozelj offered in his essay describing his struggle with mental health. Every school counsellor should keep a copy and hand it out to all his/her students who are seeking help. We need to tell our children life has all kinds of bumps and lumps but we can overcome them. Josh Kozelj’s personal journey is a testament to all kids who have life/emotional problems that these are surmountable with support.” 

After publishing my personal essay two weeks ago in the Globe and Mail, I’ve received a whirlwind of support from Canadians across the country that’s almost been overwhelming.

I want to respond with care, support, and give advice to those who reached out to me detailing their own encounters with mental health. I want to acknowledge that it’s so brave of them to describe their depression and anxiety to me. I want to let them know they aren’t alone.

But with the constant ringing of my phone, it nearly became impossible to respond to everyone right away with specific replies and advice. In the days that followed my piece being published, I started to leave my phone at home and go for a walk.

I’d hike around Mt. Doug, climb to the summit, and overlook the grassy plains running parallel to Lochside trail to the west, and the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Georgia to the east of me. It was like a momentary oasis—a breath of fresh air—before I returned to give the people that reached out to me the dedicated time and response from me that they deserve.

I hope that I’m not coming off looking selfish, or self-centred, needing to escape from the bombardment of messages on my phone—I know so many friends of mine that would kill for their articles to be blowing up on the internet, or getting notifications from hundreds of retweets or likes—but mental health is an issue I’m very passionate about, and take very seriously, that I want to carve out enough time to respond to everyone appropriately. 

Although the article is out now, it doesn’t change my battle with depression. It’s a fight I’ll have to go through my entire life. It’s just knowing, however, when I’m starting to get those low thoughts, thinking I’m worthless, and challenging those beliefs.

Being aware of when you’re falling down that rabbit hole is the key, in my opinion, to managing depression. It’s ok to be sad, too. As long as you get back up. Realizing your emotions is what makes you more aware about yourself. If you need it, carve out that time to cry, sulk, listen to “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith. 

However, when you’re ready, the important next step is to find what makes you happy.

Maybe it’s going out with a group or friends, or calling your mom on the phone. For me, it’s writing down my thoughts, and going for a run. But whatever it may be, find that go-to remedy that will get your mood back up.

All the text messages of congratulations doesn’t change what’s happened to me in the past year and a half. My parents splitting up, my aunt passing away from cancer, my toy poodle Bentley passing away, my high school friend committing suicide, or the sudden end to my first intimate relationship. But all those events have helped make me a stronger human, more resilient to other everyday problems in life, and aware of my fluctuating mood and how to cope with it.

So, especially with exams winding up, be sure to carve out time with people you care about most this Holiday season. Because, from what I know, I’m always happiest when I’m around people I love. As I said to Canadian Running, if my story can help just one person, then it will be worth it.


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1 Response

  1. CB says:

    Wonderful post, Josh! We’re all so very proud of you and your tremendous bravery. It’s never easy to open up and share such personal struggles in such a public forum. You’re a role model for many!