Today’s guest blogger is Anthony Simeone, whose excellent blog is Live the Hero.
Have you heard of a guy named Joseph Campbell?
It’s getting sorta trendy to talk about a concept he championed: the hero’s journey. Mr. Campbell (or Joe, as I like to call him) named it the monomyth, but that’s not as sexy as calling it the hero’s journey.
Joe was a mythologist, and before you fall asleep from boredom, hear me out. Joe studied mythologies from countless cultures, and discovered that their hero stories all had a similar structure: someone becomes brave enough to venture beyond the comforts of the world they know, goes on an adventure fraught with danger and discovery, and eventually returns home a much wiser (and usually wealthier) person.
There is something within us as a species that yearns for heroic stories. We’ve continually created them, year after year, century after century, civilization after civilization. We’re still creating hero stories to this day, as evidenced by the flood of superhero movies that have come out in the last decade alone.
But why do we do it? Sure, we can say that it’s just about escapism. We can be cynical and chalk it up to “an unwillingness to face reality,” and a yearning to daydream about being rescued, because we’re “powerless.”
But let’s not be cynical, shall we?
Because the hero’s journey isn’t about escapism. Rather, heroic tales are meant to educate as well as entertain. They’re meant to give us hope, and inspire us to emulate the power, intelligence, and resilience of the legends we create.
Ultimately, the hero’s journey is really about a metaphorical journey through one’s own life, and not just in the physical world. It’s really about the journey we all must make within ourselves, through our own minds, to make peace with ourselves and tap into the inherent strength we all have inside.
And for those who suffer with mental illness, the journey can seem all the more challenging.
The Cave You Fear to Enter
I have bipolar disorder. Like many of us who have this condition, I went through a dark time in my life where I was hurting others with my actions, and hurting myself in the process.
I betrayed the trust of those I loved the most, and lost the ability to enjoy life while my thoughts and emotions swirled out of control.
Eventually, I got help. I went to a string of therapists and psychiatrists, to get counseling and to start taking medication. These were absolutely necessary steps on my path to wellness, for sure.
But I felt like something was missing. Eventually, I realized that I needed to do some independent work on my own. And one big step was to finally take a long, hard, honest look within myself.
In other words, I needed to take a trip through my own mind. As many of us know, an unhealthy mind can be a very scary place.
But, as Joe Campbell said, “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” Was there ever a better metaphor for a mind in the grips of uncontrolled mental illness? The inner workings of one’s own mind can indeed seem to be a dark, monster-haunted underground lair.
But remember the second part of his quote: there’s treasure within that cave. In this case, the treasure is one’s true self, the part of us that is healthy, self-confident, and resilient.
There is great reward awaiting us if we get into the habit of being honest and brave about our mental illness. In combination with traditional therapy and medication, a personal hero’s journey of self-discovery is critical to the path toward condition management.
The Never-Ending Adventure
Notice I use the word “management.”
Make no mistake, the journey to managed mental illness is an ongoing journey, one that many of us must make for the rest of our lives. But it is a journey that is very doable for all who suffer with mental illness. As I experienced myself, it took a conscious decision to believe the journey to a more stable mind was possible.
Belief is a non-negotiable first step of the journey. I had to let myself believe—give myself permission—that I was stronger than my condition.
There will be setbacks. There will be times of necessary rest to recover your energy for the challenges that spring up. But eventually, we must rise to our feet again and get back on the road to a better self.
So, I ask you to try seeing your own mental health not as a struggle, but an adventure. Trust me, that’s a much healthier way to see things. Let yourself believe that you can become a hero to yourself, and that the journey is one of self-awareness, self-discovery, and self-healing.
Good luck, fellow adventurer! I hope to see you on the road sometime!
About the Author
Anthony Simeone is a writer, speaker, personal development activist, and social change warrior with over two decades of experience studying the practical application of literature, philosophy, psychology, and other disciplines. The culmination of his work is the Live the Hero concept, which he offers as a “life path” for use in overcoming daily obstacles. Live the Hero combines the wisdom found in the arts and humanities with the latest discoveries related to modern neuroscience. You can contact Anthony and learn more about his work at livethehero.com.