Places of Exile


I haven’t written anything for this site in a while, and despite the fact that I could fabricate any number of plausible excuses, the truth is that I’ve been dealing with mental health issues. I feel very strongly that mental health is something there should be more open dialogue about, but I can’t say that it’s easy or comfortable to talk about my own in any detail. There’s a beautifully insightful quote by Albert Camus that captures the difficulty of facing these issues: “We all carry within us places of exile”. He was discussing revolution, but what strikes me about this quote is how much it also applies to those struggling with mental health, especially depression. I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life, but it’s only been this year that I’ve pursued actual treatment for it. What I’ve discovered is that all that stuff people say about the first step being the hardest, an asking for help taking courage, is all more true than I believed.

Here’s the thing about depression: It really sucks. It’s difficult and frightening, and getting help for it isn’t just a choice you make once. Every time you have a meltdown in therapy, or fear it isn’t working, or just don’t feel like going, you have to make that decision all over again. Every time you face those parts of your mind you were afraid of looking at, or have a relapse, or wonder if you even deserve help, you have to decide to receive it for the first time again. And you have to do this knowing that as much work as you’ve done, you’re still taking that first step; that taking it will last much longer and be much harder than anyone would want. Add to this that while you’re waist-deep in your own psychological muck, there will never be a shortage of people telling you that you’re exaggerating the problem, that it’s all in your head, that you’re weak for seeking out help and delusional for thinking you need it.

But here’s the other thing about depression: it always makes you feel more alone than you are. Despite how much time you’ve spent in exile, and how complete you believe your isolation to be, there are millions of people in the same place as you. There are people who will understand you better than you could believe; who will respect the courage and strength it takes to live your life. And as hard as it is to keep picking yourself up and move forward again, it can be done, and it is worth it. If anyone reading this has their own struggles with depression, or any mental health issue, please know that you have my admiration and esteem. Weather or not you’re being treated, the fact that you’re still standing is the best hope that I have for myself and others like us. You’re an inspiration, and you deserve to be recognized for it.

Instead of asking a question, like I usually do, I’d like turn any discussion over to you, to share any stories or advice about your own experiences you feel comfortable sharing.

One comment

  • February 28, 2014 - 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I commend your bravery in facing the enigma of mental illness for so long… you could have done so many other things instead, but you didn’t! I commend your humility and bravery in seeking treatment as well. That is a big, complicated unknown.

    I’m diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Basically, it’s in between schizophrenia and bipolar I, because two of the manic episodes I had were so severe. I prefer people to meet me as I am, which I’m very happy with. I seek to grow, and use my experiences to benefit other people and stab the demons to death that sought to kill me and people like me, with pen and paper to start. I need people like you to inspire me to keep going with that notion of making a difference in the awful stigma associated with mental illness and tearing down the isolation and other barriers for those afflicted and their loved ones.

    I hope we can talk more!

  • Hello! Please feel free to convert the neural activity encased in your skull into to digital representations of phonic components.