A new perspective: Josh Villalpando
Josh Villalpando, an Etched in Stone staff member, sat down to talk about his experience with mental health. Influenced by today’s climate in handling mental health, Josh opened up about his past experiences and current outlook as he heads towards the end of senior year.
Josh has spikes of depression, but does not feel the label fits. “I just have really bad anxiety which I know isn’t as bad as what others have to deal with,” he said, “but because of it I often don’t acknowledge myself and I put others above myself to the point where I don’t matter. For the longest time I would kind of invalidate myself like, ‘Why are you upset? You have a perfectly good family, life is good, you’re good.’”
“I don’t ever give myself time and that’s mostly because whenever I have a problem mentally, I just push it back and tell myself I’m in a good place. I kind of force myself into positions of that,” he explained, “that’s why I went to see a counselor in the first place.”
Josh recalled his reasoning for counseling, and what drew him to it in the first place, saying, “It was one night in particular. There was just a lot of stress in the school year and then I went to Comic Con with my friends. It was really fun but there was just a breaking point for me…I needed to get away from it, so I went to the Con floor away from them by myself and it was the first time I’d really been alone in a big city. I had a panic attack. I’d had them before but never at that scale. It took me a while to calm down. After that I realized something’s up and I’ve got to actually look for help or at least find a way to try to explain this.”
Counseling has a negative connotation to some, but Josh was never bothered. “I am who I am. I don’t really care what others have to say,” he said. “I wasn’t ever really uncomfortable about having to go when I said I needed to go, but definitely, I was opened up to how some people perceive it as not normal or people who are worried about their image. I recognize the fears in it.”
In terms of his compassion for others, Josh first credited his parents, saying “I’ve always been raised with the number one rule being ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’” He also added, “I’ve been in a place of having no friends and having no one to talk to. It came from a place of feeling so lonely then and I always had a general sense of loneliness throughout my life. I hate being in that place so I want to keep others from feeling like they have to be in that place.”
Josh is constantly taking care of his friends and family, helping them through difficult times and in moments of need. “Helping others is something that makes me happy. Especially since joining TV, friends have always been a huge thing for me with never taking them for granted. It’s just been an important part of my life to help my friends. It’s just coming from a place of such loneliness that I want to keep friends from ever feeling that way,” he said. “I don’t really tend to open up to people because I put others first. A lot of the time I’ll put on a happy face and try to cheer others up when really I’m not doing well at all. In the past I’ve felt like my issues don’t matter as much as theirs,” he added.
Though Josh tends act positively for those around him, he has come to recognize that he needs help too. “There’s an aspect of me that’s always paranoid like ‘you’re screwing something up, you’re doing something wrong.’ No matter what I do, I will always see a fault in it because it’s you, you’re your harshest critic. I always have a sense of paranoia. I definitely take things in my head of what someone’s done like ‘wait what does that mean’ and it freaks me out. It’s kind of the reason I shut myself out. I don’t know how to feel around compliments.”
To his past self, Josh advised, “Definitely keep what you’re doing in helping others, but don’t let it destroy you. It’s a wonderful thing to present yourself as an outlet for others, but when you need help you need to acknowledge it. Don’t beat yourself up over things that are making you sad because while they may seem small, they are still what make you sad and upset.”
As far as coping mechanisms, Josh commented, “I’m an introvert. I love hanging out with people but there are definitely points where I’d much rather just be at home on my computer just making stuff or doing stuff. Whenever I’m stressed, I tend to listen to music a lot. I probably shouldn’t listen to as angry of music as I do, but if I need to rock a little bit to get out of that mindset, I’ll do it. Another outlet is Dungeons and Dragons. I create characters or draw worlds or whatever. It’s an outlet where you feel like you’re not creative or whatever but you can make whatever you want. Another big release is video games.”
As a society, Josh sees improvements on the front of mental health, explaining, “I feel like we’re doing better but we’re not great still. There’s so many political issues that stem from mental health that are blamed on something else. Mental health just isn’t addressed, it’s never brought up as a core issue because it’s kind of just brushed off by both sides.”
Schools are facing new struggles in the way they handle student mental health. “It’s getting better”, Josh said. “There are people that are helping and making sure it does get addressed—like Gallagher for example.” Brendan Gallagher, the Ridge TV teacher, is always working to improve connections made between students and teachers. There’s been entire class periods where we’ve just vented to him as a whole class and talked. As a whole, though, we’re still not there yet.”
Looking forward, Josh sees potential in the way people handle mental health. “People need to be more willing to talk to each other. People are so adamant on taking sides and getting heated or being right that they never take the time to listen to their opinions much less their issues. People just need to honestly talk and listen to each other more. It’s just taking that extra step of ‘Stop, let’s hear what they have to say and what I can do for them,’” he proposed.
Throughout his experience with mental illness, Josh has always seen the positive. He said, “You are who you are and it doesn’t change you. I mean it makes a big difference, but you can still be you.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please reach out. Hotlines and text lines are linked above. You are not alone.