Guest Post: Storytelling will Save the World… Yes, Even Yours

Please join me in welcoming Josh Rivedal to myfoggybrain! I welcome his guest post on a serious topic that is very close to my heart… Thanks Josh for reaching out and sharing your story!!

Josh Rivedal, The impossible Project


Josh Rivedal (executive director of The i’Mpossible Project) is an author, actor, and international speaker on suicide prevention, mental health, and diversity. He curated the 50-story inspirational anthology The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life Creating a New You. He wrote the one-man play, Kicking My Blue Genes in The Butt (KMBB), which has toured extensively throughout the world. He writes for the Huffington Post. His memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, based on KMBB and published by Skookum Hill in 2013, is on The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s recommended reading list.


Captain’s log, Stardate January 2011. Where unfortunately many have gone before. I’m twenty-six years old and thinking about dying… actually I’m not being entirely truthful. I’m dangling halfway out the fourth floor window of my bedroom in New York City. I don’t really want to die. I just want the emotional pain to stop… and I don’t know how to do that. Hell, two guys in my life—my father and grandfather—each didn’t know how to make their own terrible personal pain stop and now both are…dead.

My grandfather, Haakon—a Norwegian guy who served in the Royal Air Force (35th Squadron as a tail gunner) in World War II—killed himself in 1966 because of the overwhelming post traumatic stress he suffered after the war.

My father, Douglas—an American guy who was a chronically unhappy and abusive man—killed himself in 2009, the catalysts being a divorce with my mother along with some long-term depression and other mental health issues.

How did I get to such a dismal place in my own life so quickly, just a month shy of my twenty-seventh birthday? Coming out of secondary school and high on optimism, I thought by the time I reached my mid-twenties I’d have it all together. I pictured myself singing on Broadway, scoring a few bit parts on Law & Order, and transitioning seamlessly to being cast with Will Smith in the summer’s biggest blockbuster – after which, my getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and my face would grace the cover of National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Not to mention, I’d have my perfect wife and perfect family by my side to share in my success.

But instead, “perfect” was unattainable (it always is). I only managed to perform in some small professional theatre gigs and on one embarrassing reality television show; and over the course of the previous eighteen months my father killed himself, my mother betrayed me and sued me for my father’s inheritance, and my girlfriend of six years broke up with me.

This storm of calamity and crisis had ravaged my life… and I wasn’t talking about it to anyone. My silence led to crisis and poor decisions—to the extent that I was clinging to a fourth story window.

Both my grandfather Haakon and father Douglas suffered their pain in silence because of the stigma surrounding talking about mental illness and getting help. I too felt that same stigma—like I’d be seen as “crazy” or “less of a man” if I talked about what I was going through. But I didn’t want to die and so I had to take a chance.

I started talking. I pulled myself back inside and first called my mom. She helped me through that initial crisis and we became friends again. She never called me “crazy.” I then started reaching out to the positive friends I had in my life. They hugged me and helped me with open arms.They never told me I was “less than a man.” Soon I got more help by seeing a professional counselor, and by writing down what I was going through in a journal.

But this idea of keeping silent continued to bother me. I did some research while in my recovery and found out that each year, suicide kills over one million people worldwide… and that many of those one million never speak up about their emotional pain because of stigma.

I had to figure out a way to reach people like that. So, like any other actor, writer, or comedian living in New York City whose life dealt them a crappy hand, I created a one-man show… and it toured theatres and universities in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia—and people were getting help.

But I had to keep talking because this isn’t just my family’s problem or a United States problem… it’s a world problem.

i'mpossible-logo-paper-G+2

I had to get other people to tell their stories, so I started The i’Mpossible Project. Why? Because storytelling is one of ou
r oldest traditions. Stories can make us laugh or cry… or both at the same time. They can teach, inspire and even ignite an entire movement.

The stories of The i’Mpossible Project are about overcoming obstacles, reengaging with life, and creating new possibilities—a son’s homicide, a transgender man finding love, and even coming back from the brink of suicide (you can read a couple of the stories HERE)… because it’s okay to be struggling, it’s okay to need help; people have your back… there’s hope.

It’s been four years since my crisis and life is definitely looking up. The acting and writing thing is going well, I have a great girlfriend; but most important I’m able to give and receive help and love, and with hard work I’m able to stay mentally well—all because I took a risk and told my story.

No matter what society says, it’s COOL (as in “okay”) to talk about your feelings. Don’t ever forget that you are important, and your story needs to be heard so we, the human race, can learn how to live and love better. #iampossible #mentalhealth

Let Go and Let God… Be Blessed!

4:44am… this is the time i woke up this morning. Every time I sit down to write I feel like I start with the mindset of how crazy life is… or how much of a roller coaster I feel like I’m on with the pain and emotion. 4:44am… for the last few weeks I keep waking up between 3 and 5 in the morning. Most days I force myself to stay in bed. I read or just lay there and eventually I doze off for another hour. Today I decided I’d go downstairs and check my blog.

It’s such a blessing to me to see how many folks visit my blog and to those of you that take the time to share your thoughts, I say a ginormous (I love that word)… THANK YOU! I still can’t get over the fact that over 35,000 people have stopped by. This is definitely one of the life accomplishments I am most proud of. Quietly proud as I don’t really talk about my blog. I have been asked many times for interviews… I’m more than happy to contribute via email or writing up something for a specific purpose. The times that I am asked for interviews over the phone or video… I feel very honored, I just can’t bring myself to do it. This blog is so personal to me, it’s like my private diary… for many years I wrote anonymously. The thought of talking out loud about it completely freaks me out. For the most part I only share what I’m going through with all of you. I trust that you all know what I’m talking about, what I share is nothing surprising or new… it’s meant to be validation that we are are not alone in our pain.

IMG_0041These last few months have been … well, they’ve been painful in so many ways. We lost an amazing, AMAZING woman much too soon in life. She taught me so many things over the years. This loss has been so very painful. It’s not as if you can put a number to the pain one feels when losing family or friends. Without Jennifer and her daughter, my best friend, I would never have accepted God into my life. I would have never known what it means to be a gracious host or how to make a table look bountiful and beautiful. Jennifer gave me tips on everything from simply how to make my hair look shiny, how to cut vegetables, how to handle itchy skin (Sarna lotion does wonders) to the most complex things like how to raise children and how to read the bible and Believe. It was an honor to be by her side the last few weeks of her life. She died with dignity and she showed me yet another lesson… to the end she fought to be independent. She had a strength in her spirit that even in her last days she wanted everyone to know that God is the final answer, not doctors. Only God knows the path and timing. Let go and let God. A very strong message and one that so many of us forget. Thank you for that and so much more Jennifer. There are hundreds of lives that you touched, many of them children that you helped to raise and mold into the wonderful human beings that they are today. What a treasure.

Also, these painful times bring out the best and worst in people. Thankfully I have the most giving people in my life. When in need, I know I can count on these women to lend a helping hand. My way of healing is always to stay busy and give in some kind of way. Friends just doesn’t seem enough of a word… my family of friends have come together countless times now to put together memory boards. It is during these times I am able to quietly grieve and creatively pull together a lifetime of memories through pictures and scrapbook pages to share. Working alongside these beautiful souls makes my days so much easier. There is no way to ever thank these ladies enough for the help, the meals, the friendship. To know what I’m going through… and with very limited communication… these ladies just say “What can I do to help?” and then they show up at my door. It’s amazing. They are amazing.

There have been many sad and challenging events in the past weeks. Some I have handled well, others not so well. But I have done my best and that’s all I can hope for. I can see the world changing before me and I am really trying to move with the changes. I am not that small child who can lift my hand to my mom and dad for help. It’s my turn to help them… or at least I feel like it should be my time to help them… although let’s be honest, at my age I do still turn to them for guidance and support. And in their moment of need… like a grease fire in their kitchen. Instead of asking me for help, they are telling me to focus on grieving and helping my friend and not worry about them. I can only hope that my husband and I can be half the parents mine have been to us. If we are supposed to make our children better, my parents have definitely done an awesome job with teaching my husband and me… and our children… and those people that have taken advantage of their life experiences and wisdom. So when I lift my hand to my mom and dad, although I’m not that small child… I do still and will always look up to them.

IMG_1795There are days when I want to just curl up in the fetal position and get in bed, pull the covers over my head and close my eyes. But I have to face the challenges and accept that we are getting older, we are all getting older. Age brings the knowledge that life is precious, tomorrow is not promised so we need to try to live each day as if it is our last. Don’t have regrets, focus on what is most important. What is most important to you? For me, it is my family and friends. My goddaughter’s senior night, taking pictures of my daughter and her friends before the homecoming dance, spending those precious moments with my son just talking… spending the day with friends and family in the city. Going to quilt festivals and crafting. And yes, even taking time for myself to relax in front of the TV and catch up on my General Hospital (stuff is about to get real with Jake/Jason!).

It always comes back to this for me… count your blessings. Okay don’t count them, you don’t want to focus on numbers. BE blessed. Just be blessed. Let yourself enjoy life and focus on the good and not the bad. You will have pain of all sorts, but do your best to overcome it and spend your days feeling the best you possibly can. Laugh as much as you can, I hear it’s the best medicine. :)

Have an awesome day!

Tamiko