Many things impact and shape our identity throughout life. Depression is one of those things. When diagnosed with depression, our sense of self and how we slot into the world can feel unsteady and the way others relate to us might change.
WHAT IS IDENTITY?
Identity is our sense of who we are. Our likes, dislikes, experiences, opinions, values, and beliefs all contribute to it. Often it influences how we present ourselves to the world and interact with the people and environment around us.
WHY IS IDENTITY SO IMPORTANT?
Our identity helps us to anchor ourselves within the world around us. It helps us with feeling ‘settled’; as though we belong somewhere. Our identity can influence our confidence, decision-making, boundary-setting, and life priorities.
HOW DOES STRUGGLING WITH IDENTITY FEEL?
Struggling with our identity is incredibly unsettling. We sometimes feel “cut loose”, unable to tie ourselves to anything. We might not know who we are, what we like or don’t like, where we fit, or where we’re going.
Thinking about goals or dreams becomes impossible. It can send us into a spiral of “I don’t know”. “I don’t know” spirals often become suicidal spirals as our thoughts quickly whizz to “there’s nothing I want to do”, “I’m rubbish at everything anyway”, and “life is pointless”.
Getting dressed takes forever because we can’t figure out whether we actually like any of our clothes or if they represent “who we are”. We may push others away because we no longer feel connected to them. Leaving the house is tough because we’re not sure where we want to go or what we want to do. Decision-making feels like we’re fumbling around in the dark, guessing every move.
It can feel scary – as though we’re floating in space, with no idea who we are or where we fit. We’re directionless and anchorless. We might feel low, vulnerable, confused, conflicted, anxious, upset, and hopeless.
When depression swallows us whole, it’s difficult to rebuild our lives. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. We might need support and might need to try a few different things, but ever-so-slowly, we can start to regain an identity
As we slowly start to re-find ourselves, we might discover new things that we’ve never tried before, that we actually really enjoy. We might find new groups of people that we like hanging out with.
It can be scary and feel almost like we’re throwing ourselves into nothingness. We don’t have to rebuild a life identical to our pre-depression life (if we can remember that far back!), or to return to a spitting image of the person we left behind.
We can be whoever we want to be.