Who are you?
This is a question that we like to avoid. It may be the question that we are always avoiding. There is so much weight to those three words that you can’t help but feel them hit you as your ears and brain correspond to decipher the message. Sure, there are some out there who could stare straight into your eyes and answer with immediate confidence. But for most of us, the journey to self discovery is one full of trial and error, highs and lows, and years and years of experience.
But for those of us who fight a mental illness, the path to discovery becomes even more complicated. How can we define who we are when we often feel that we are two, separate, distinguishable people?
Does my mental illness define me?
What side of me is the real me?
Mental health advocates will be quick to remind you that you are not your mental illness. And I strongly agree with this statement…mostly. You should never let any ailment, mental, physical, or otherwise define who you are. But what is important is that you realize that your mental illness is a part of who you are. It is not the whole package, it may not even be half of you, but your mental illness is, nonetheless, a part of who you are.
And that in and of itself is a journey that takes a long time to get used to.
As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 13 years old I know first hand what it’s like to live in denial. I know what it’s like to live in silence and fight the feelings that I felt like didn’t belong there. It took me years to finally realize that this is something that is going to be with me, most likely forever. And you know what?
Acceptance was a huge step in the process of recovering from one of the lowest points in my life. It is still not easy. There are still days I struggle to get out of bed. There are still days where I question concrete parts of my life because of the doubts my mind makes. There are still days where I feel the weight of the world and want to collapse from all my emotions. I’m still working everyday to be better, but everyday I know I’m not in denial anymore.
And just that simple distinction has changed the world for me.
For so long I wanted to be disconnected from my depression. I felt like a different person, and I often felt like I didn’t know which side was the real me. Was I the outgoing fun guy, or the one who stayed in bed for an entire day forcibly isolating himself?
The truth is that both of those sides are me.
The way I like to describe it is as two sides of the same coin. While the two sides may be different, they still make up the whole. Just like I have a more “depressive” personality, and one that is happier, they are still both me. They are still both Paul Falcone. And by acknowledging both I have a greater understanding of myself as a human being.
We are all going to go through periods of our life full of existential questions and wonders both externally and internally. We may be envious of those who seem to have their lives figured out, but here is the truth of the matter.
The journey never ends.
Don’t be discouraged with progress you’re making in your life, because one day it will fall into place. Keep challenging the thought of who you are at the core of yourself. One day, you may reach a point in your life where you feel you can honestly answer the question who are you? There is true comfort found in this answer. And even then, your journey may change and continue.
But it all comes down to accepting the parts of you that you wish you didn’t have. Because at the end of the day, they will always be with us, no matter how hard we try to ignore them.
You are not alone.
You are loved.
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