25 years ago I woke up in a hospital with no memory of how I had gotten there. “A Certain Distance” is an ongoing series of images exploring the things I haven’t been able to say to anyone since.

I repeatedly think that these aren’t the images I want to take—that this is a story I do not want to tell. Life now is often measured in the time between cigarettes. This was not the first time, nor the last, and maybe that is what made it so difficult.

That lurking feeling that I should know better. It is so strange that even when things are completely broken, we still try to hold on to the pieces. All those dangerously sharp shards of glass. I didn’t realize that in trying to hold things together I would make it even worse; that the distance I needed to maintain the fantasy would separate me entirely from the people I love. It is impossible to have a connection to someone who can’t connect.

Often identified as a personality trait and not an illness, people with early onset dysthymia are able to hide their symptoms in many social situations, while accepting major depression, anxiety and other personality disorders as an inevitable part of their daily lives. The cumulative effects of these co-occurring conditions pushes people to the periphery of society. The isolation becomes a kind of deliberate un-belonging, a vicious circle whereby, as a consequence of protecting oneself—and in an attempt to protect the people they love—they isolate themselves from the people around them.

The images in this series are in some ways fragmented. Lives that no longer exist (and disjointed memories that can’t be trusted) mix with the present. The myth we perceive as ourselves. The photographs exist in that contradictory space between what I know and what I feel.

Dysthymia is seductive. It has its own beauty; like a veil I see through. I can’t remember a time before this, and I can’t imagine a life without this.

—Philip LePage

This project is ongoing. If you’re interested in seeing more work like this, we’d recommend the following articles: Polarity, an intense series that looks at the highs and lows of bipolar disorder; UCP-UMCG, self-portraits made in a mental hospital at the photographer’s lowest point; and Only the Sky Remains Untouched, intimate black-and-white portraits of Dutch soldiers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.