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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Rively


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

What Reading Fantasy Books Taught Me About My Anxiety and Depression

I have always been a lover of fantasy. There is something appealing about grand adventures, a dark force personified, sensational abilities, battles and a happy ending. The details change, but a lot of fantasy has these basic elements, and I fall in love with it every time. Real life seems so much more messy in comparison. There [...]
BoJack Horseman

Netflix Renews 'BoJack Horseman' for a Fifth Season

BoJack Horseman, an animated show about a horse with depression who tries to make a comeback in acting, has been renewed for a fifth season on Netflix. BIG NEWS, GUYS A post shared by BoJack Horseman (@bojackhorseman) on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:59am PDT The series has never strayed from addressing issues related to mental [...]
a woman lays on a bed with her head in her hands

Depression and Suicidal Ideations Are the Monsters Inside My Head

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, have lost someone to suicide or self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. It’s true. My parents didn’t lie to me. There is no monster under my bed. He doesn’t lurk in the shadows or [...]
a girl wearing a hat is blurry

Dear Self, I Know It's Hard Struggling With Depression

Dear Self, I know it’s hard. It’s hard to put your feelings into the proper words to be able to describe how empty, numb and alone you feel. I know that you struggle with depression. I know it’s not what you think of as the stereotypical self-harm. I know that doesn’t make it any less [...]