Patient Blogs | Depression
How Mental Illness Affects Your Identity
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Who am I? The question I have asked myself a million times throughout my life. When I am not depressed, the response comes more easily: I am a passionate, creative, sensitive person. I am a writer, a good friend, a dog lover, a girlfriend, and an extrovert. I am organized, energetic, and friendly. But on the days when the depression cloud weighs heavy, I am none of those things. I am nothing.

Everyone with depression experiences it differently, but for me, it’s a shadow that shows up and numbs all the good feelings a person can experience. Excitement and joy are replaced with sadness and anger.

My dreams and energy turn to hopelessness and dread. I feel like a hollowed-out shell, forgetting who I am, what I like, what my purpose is, and what my future could look like. The years ahead of me warp into a dark, endless tunnel.

My depression skews my reality, convincing me of lies about myself that I know deep down aren’t true. I am worthless. I am a burden. I am a mess. My life means nothing. I am nothing. What is the point? Who am I?

I tell myself I am the worst -- talentless, annoying, incapable, dumb, inconsiderate, selfish. I am so sure that I am what my depression tells me I am, and in those moments, there are simply no words that exist that could convince me otherwise.

Once the cloud fades away though, I see the light again. I see myself as I truly am, and I’m in disbelief that I ever saw something else.

The way depression takes over your rationality is horrifying. It is insidious, emptying every true perception of myself. Since it warps my thoughts, it makes me feel like I somehow have control over it, like this is my truest self. But in reality, depression completely blocks my rational thoughts. It twists them into dull gloom and wraps them in its heavy arms.

Nothing it tells me is true. Even though it feels like everything is.

As a child of immigrants, I have struggled with my identity my whole life. I have reckoned with the boxes to check on school forms, pondered why I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me, and questioned my “American-ness” when other kids did.

It has taken me a while to understand that there is no worth in deciphering who I am by looking to others. I’m the only one that decides who I am. Through living, learning, and becoming more self-aware, I have recognized my own unique traits and identity, apart from other people’s opinions. I’ve learned to embrace my looks, honor my heritage, and hone my talents.

Depression still attempts to erase this growth I’ve experienced. It lurks behind me, whispering the insecurities that I’ve dug deep into my skin. When it knocks me off my feet once again, my depression attempts to bury the possibility of accurate self-awareness and sufficient self-confidence. It pulls me all the way back on my journey of self-love and acceptance.

My depression makes my life infinitely harder than it should be. When I start to listen to its voice, I no longer recognize me, the real Kristen, hidden beneath all the emptiness. I fight to overpower it, to quell the lies, and subdue them with my loved ones’ support. I try to extinguish the darkness with self-care and therapy, medication, and coping skills. I sometimes feel like I may not overcome it. I don’t wish this fight on anyone.

Who am I? Who am I?

I ignore my depression and to my list of identity traits, I add “strong.”



Photo Credit: Buena Vista Images / Photodisc via Getty Images

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Kristen Luft

Kristen Luft

Diagnosed since 2013

Kristen Luft is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate who has been living with depression since 2013. She is currently a marketing professional in North Carolina. Kristen is also a mental health advocate and writer, sharing her story to offer hope that we can all live full lives in recovery. When she's not working or writing, you can find her reading or spending time with her loved ones and dogs. Connect with Kristen on Instagram.

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