We all have a cruel month, mine is June

June lengthens, rising toward the longest day of the year. This is my most painful, impossible month and this year my awareness of the layering of repeated circles around the sun is taking on a new intensity.

Like a film flickering at the edge of my field of view, Junes of the past keep rolling in and out of focus. This week. Convergence.

Twenty-two years ago today, I was released from a period of involuntary hospitalization. The psychiatric ward was a strange place, with strange characters from the requisite Jesus dispensing wisdom in the dining room, to the young orthopaedic surgeon on suicide watch. I recall my time on the unit as the first opportunity I’d had in years to worry about no one but myself—and plenty of medication to ensure that I didn’t do too much of that either.

I was a manic patient in the process of coming back down to earth.


Eighteen years ago this week I had my first shot of testosterone. My partner of twenty-one years moved out the next morning. I cried for fifteen minutes, dusted myself off and moved on into a new reality. A single parent. A shape-shifter, slowly masculinizing.

Out of madness and into manhood. Or something.

Five years ago this week—summer solstice, 2014—I summited the heights of mania, once more, after a long steady climb over the crumbling rocks of my own sanity. I can only imagine the spectacle I’d become over the final months at the office. I remember trying to hold together an agency that seemed to be coming apart at the seams, everyone looking to me to fix things and ultimately taking the fall when I lost my grip. Nobody intervenes with a madman if that madman is doing a job no one else wants.

Nobody catches him when he falls or helps pick up the pieces. No one sends flowers.

The undignified end of my career forever unresolved. June 20, 2014, a day I can barely remember. A day I will never forget.

Exactly one year later I sought my own closure. Booked a trip to South Africa—the first and sadly only chance I would ever have to spend time with a close friend, queer and bipolar like me, but down a much deeper darker road, one with no escape, as it would turn out.

I timed my arrival so I would be in Cape Town on June 20, 2015. Imagining that I would invert my fortunes by marking winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. That I would stand and face the sun going down and bring to a close a difficult twelve months. Put it all behind me and move forward into a renewed life.

Reinvent myself again.

But of course, closure is a myth and life writes its own lessons. I would have to come to terms with death first. Very nearly my own within a month of returning home. Then my mother’s, my father’s, my friend’s.

I was torn open. Again. I’m still pulling myself together.


This June, for all the added hours of daylight, it’s darkness I am fighting. The malaise, the murky waters of the bipolar cycle were never my habitat until these past few years. To feel my spirit and energy ebb as the seasonal shift ushers colour into this dead brown world is difficult to bear. With the added rainbow intensity of Pride Month, ever reminding me of everything I cannot find within my own queered reality, I keep falling further into the dark corners of my own imagination.

All month I’ve been pushing against this current of discontent.

I can’t stop thinking ahead. This October brings my 59th birthday. Next year I turn 60. I don’t even know how I got here. No other milestone has pressed down on me like this one. I have a number of friends who are over 60, but not one of them is facing their seventh decade alone.

Alone. That is what I didn’t expect at this age. Or if I suspected it, I didn’t think it would hurt like hell. Alone is not a lack of people in your life. It is a lack of something you know is missing, that you cannot even fully define so it’s hard to know how to fill it. A close friend? A lover? Something to give your life meaning?

For me feeling alone is something pervasive. Embodied. Written into the physical and gendered trajectory of my existence. Here. In June. Once again.


June lengthens, rising toward the longest day of the year.

Passing rain. An image that stirs, the shifting light, sun, darkening skies and sun again, on a wet and glittering world. This is summer. Not quite but almost.

I simply have to hold fast.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

13 thoughts on “We all have a cruel month, mine is June”

  1. At the risk of making it sound like a hijack of your narrative – perhaps, we all have cruel time and cruelty lies in the ways of the world… in beliefs, in ideas and in behaviours? I am sorry for what has happened, J. At the same time, I can’t help admire and appreciate the strength with which you have gone about mending the collapses. To wade through these and yet find words is a higher order skill! I learn from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, friend. I don’t feel sorry for the things that have happened as much as aware of the returning cycle and the way certain events, anniversaries align. Naming it I hope is part way to finding a way to push through the down times, as you suggest.


  2. You say you don’t know how you got to this approaching milestone year. You did it by showing huge amounts of courage and determination J, more than most people have to demonstrate in a lifetime and you did it more than once. I cannot begin to imagine how it feels to have to pick yourself back up but the fact is you did it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope you can hold fast, Joe. You have been through so much but you obviously have reserves of strength you may not realise. Be proud of what you’ve done and what you do and remember you have many virtual friends here who care about you. Not the same as ones there in person, I know, but we *are* out here. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, please know that this is a piece I had to write, a kind of letting go, but much less angry and self indulgent than the potential posts that have been circulating through my brain this month. Thank you, as ever, for reading and reaching out. I do so appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jacob, that means so much. My writing was really stifled after my mother’s death but I feel it opening up now. But this is tough work. This little piece is a kind of flushing the system after writing an essay commissioned for an anthology on mental health. I may need to find an editor who is also a psychotherapist if I am ever going to release the story that needs to come out!


  4. We are lucky to have you writing so honestly about all of this, Joe. There is such clear strength and bravery here. So few writers can look at life directly and express this complexity with calm, beauty, and tenderness. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Matt. I am really just feeling the drive and confidence to write return after my mother’s death silenced me a few years ago. I confess I have taken a little inspiration from your spate of free range posting. It echoes a form of meditative daily writing practice I recently started. I want to expand this personal essay/memoir writing, but it is a very draining process. I have to flush out a lot of detritus before only the calm and tenderness remains.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Why does memory hurt us, although we have become someone else? Becoming someone else is never entire. Which is most of why we write, I suppose, but reasoning it out solves very little. Every review you write is deeply conscious of the writer’s problem – why does memory hurt, although we have become someone else? You’re such an assiduous critic. Damn it all that pain makes you good at it.

    Liked by 1 person

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