Mental Illness and Identity
To put it bluntly; I’ve been mentally ill for a long time.
I started therapy when I was roughly five years old, with my first diagnoses being anxiety and OCD. From there I snagged a couple more labels; social anxiety and depression. And later on, Borderline Personality Disorder was added to the list.
So lately I’ve been thinking about how this longstanding mental health mess of mine has effected my identity. And I think that there are a lot of answers to that question.
All that I know
Having and dealing with mental illness is all that I know. There was no before and after. Nothing to look back on and compare.
So how much of who I am is real, predisposed, and untouched by outside influence? And how much of me was altered by mental illness?
I’m sure it’s a bit of both.
I think all of us have a good mix of genetic, social, and environmental influence. But I think I would have been completely different if I somehow never ended up with mental illness.
Having a personality disorder alone makes this even more nuanced. It’s even in the name; ‘personality’.
My BPD is sewn throughout the fabric of my being. Making this an interlocking messy pair of identity and illness that I can’t seem to untwine.
Who the heck even am I?
Even one of the symptoms of BPD is a lack of identity.
I get wrapped up in why I am the way that I am. Is it because of my BPD? Or am I intrinsically wired this way?
I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. Huddled over quizzes in teen magazines, taking Buzzfeed-esq tests, researching my Myers-Briggs type and Enneagram number.
Carefully dissecting every bit of myself trying to piece together some sort of identity.
I often get caught up in these labels. Googling everything about these illnesses, going over facts and information with a fine tooth comb. It’s hard to see a separation between these labels and myself.
I am not one without my mental illness and my mental illness is not one without me.
In the gray
Something that I always have to remind myself is that things aren’t always black and white.
Yes, mental illness is a big part of my life and has been for a very long time, but that doesn’t mean that’s all that I am.
Striking a balance between knowing and honoring my mental health history, but being able to take a step back if I find it consuming me, will benefit me well.
I am multi-dimensional and a mixture of mine and my ancestors history. It doesn’t matter about the what ifs and what could have beens. I am who I am regardless of labels.