When Depression and Anxiety Take Control of Your Identity
The ability to identify myself with actual characteristics of what makes me, me has always been a struggle. The concept of identity is a significant part of understanding your own needs, goals and desires. So to be unable to formulate an identity is something that has left me feeling lost and isolated.
Growing up, I focused on myself as a person with determination, who was constantly striving for a goal. I had a plan to go through high school with a near 4.0 GPA, gain plenty of scholarships and get accepted into a good post-secondary school. I based my worth and myself upon these goals. Goals are not an identity, unfortunately, but I did not realize this till I met my goals and was left floundering in a post-secondary institution without a clue as to what I wanted.
The unknown has always been something that has terrified me in its resolve to remind me I have no direction or path. That all I was and am is now. That may sound confusing, but what it means is that I could not exist outside the limitations of the present. So to not have a path set before me to follow left me stranded on an island of my own thoughts. Suddenly, I was confused, leisurely and without aim. This made me isolate from myself because I could no longer recognize this directionless person I became. I could not hide behind the concepts of a future which left me stuck in the present, realizing I had no idea who I was.
The feeling of having no identity is something that came with my depression. My depression would leave me depleted and exhausted at the end of every day. I would only have time for what appeared to be one thing. I prioritized education, intelligence and a future. This was because I felt the only worth that could be attached to me as a person was not my inherit character, but what I was able to achieve. And should I not be able to achieve anything, then I would remain nothing.
Depersonalization was the part of depression I was never able to recognize. I could not envision how my complete lack of identity and the concept of simply being a bystander in my own life instead of an active participant would emotionally and mentally drain me. I would make decisions based on what I felt I was supposed to do. I never made decisions based on my own desire and well-being. Suddenly this driven, goal-oriented girl I thought I was became a sham. She was simply someone who strived for the sake of striving. I had no real goals to obtain because I had no idea who I was or what that person would want from life. The feeling of floating outside of your body and becoming secondary has been one of the biggest struggles that arose from my depression.
My depression also does not exist without anxiety. Suddenly, they were running the show as I floated outside begging to take a seat at the captain’s chair and being unable. My anxiety made me debilitatingly indecisive. It’s gotten to the point where I spend hours the night before any concrete plans, frozen in my bed going over possible scenarios. It makes me cancel plans with people I struggle to keep in my life at the last minute. It makes me nauseous at the thought of a spontaneous plan, or a last-minute sleepover instead of a sky train home. It leaves me alone in a room of thoughts tugging me in every direction.
This is what my anxiety does. The depression joins the party by pulling me outside of my body, watching myself close people out, cancel plans, put off any joy and leaves me believing that I deserve this. That I deserve the turmoil, the guilt and the isolation from friends. Together they are a deadly combo. Together they have control. The hardest part of therapy is trying to understand how to regain that control.
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Thinkstock photo via harshvardhanroy