When You Can't Remember Who You Were Before Depression

One of the most unexpected things I realized during my recovery from depression is that I don’t remember who I was without it. I feel like I lost my identity. I think a huge part of this is due to losing interest in things I used to enjoy. For me, my hobbies were my identity, mainly playing viola and writing. During the time I was struggling, I went long stretches of time without doing either. I had no motivation to do anything.

This loss of identity makes recovery really difficult sometimes. It makes it hard to even want to recover.  When you can’t remember who you were before your diagnosis, it can be a scary thing. A lot of people are scared of the unknown, and when you don’t know how to be yourself anymore, it makes you feel like your mental illness is your identity. You can get really comfortable in depression. You make a home in your sadness. The dark thoughts become your friends, and when you don’t know who you are without them, you don’t want them to go away.

For me, I had to relearn what I enjoyed. I was out of practice with writing and playing my viola. For a while, I thought that I had just outgrown those interests, but really I just had to get back into them. I also realized other things I enjoy, like drawing and painting. It’s confusing when you don’t know whether you stopped doing an activity because of your depression or because you grew out of it. That’s why it’s important to try everything. You never know what new experience is going to help you in your recovery, because even if a part of you doesn’t want to recover for fear of getting out of your comfort zone, there is a part of you deep down that wants nothing more than to get better.

So sing, draw, write, play sports, hike, swim, act, paint, play an instrument, cook — do everything until you find the things that click with you. And when you find the thing that helps you cope, that makes you happy, don’t stop doing it. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself should be a priority. If you aren’t healthy, then nothing else you do is going to be as good as if you could put your full energy and effort into it. You are more important than any test, project, performance or competition.

It’s also important to remember you don’t have to have an identity that’s completely separate from your mental illness. Depression is a part of who you are. That’s OK. It’s only a small part, and there are so many other things that make you who you are. Your hobbies can express your negative feelings. You can deal with your depression by singing about it, making art or exercising. Just remember depression is only a piece of your identity and not the whole puzzle.

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Thinkstock photo via Rively

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