One of the difficult things for me about having a mental health problem is the loss of identity. For many years, before my diagnosis, I struggled with the idea of who I was. I often felt as if I was playing a character and the ‘person’ I presented to the world was a mask I wore.
I adopted mannerisms and characteristics of the people around me who I wanted to like me or who I liked and respected. I would do this subconsciously and until I started therapy I hadn’t noticed. I still do it at times. A few years ago, I began laughing on the intake of air, like Jimmy Carr, and now I cannot stop it.
Once I began therapy and noticed that I had done this for a while, I became worried. When my Counsellor picked up on this, I blurted out “I think I might be a sociopath.” My Counsellor calmed me down and explained worrying about that probably meant I wasn’t. This didn’t stop me researching it for a while.
Another aspect of this lack of identity was my firm belief that I was a bad person and the nice and friendly exterior was just a front for the diabolical wretch within. There was no evidence I was a bad person. I am always courteous, helpful and believe in equality for all, but that didn’t stop that nagging doubt that surfaced from time to time.
Because of having crippling low self-esteem and a fear that people wouldn’t like me, I allowed myself to put everyone else first to the detriment of me. Even people who had no respect for me. That has changed. Plus, who says everyone has to like you. I was told, “what right did I have to dictate how someone has to feel about you?” and they were right. I wouldn’t allow myself to be told who I had to like so why didn’t I extend that courtesy to others.
I had always looked forward to changing surroundings (University, new jobs, etc), where people did not know me, so that I could reinvent myself. Each time I vowed that I would be a stronger, more confident person. Each time I failed and reverted back to who I was, but that person is strong and confident I just didn’t know it at the time.
It is six years today that I began my mental health journey and I have come to accept myself for me. My striving to be the perfect person was causing damage to me and my mental health. My Counsellor told me a brilliant quote, “The only thing a person is perfect at is being imperfect.” Humans are flawed and fallible, that’s just a fact of life. I now accept that I can only do my best.
So, who am I? Like it or not, I am me!