One unfortunate effect of living with a mental health condition is it’s easy to blur the lines between a symptom and your personality. For a while, my depression loved to tell me that I was just lazy and ungrateful for the life I’ve been given. When I really looked at how toxic that mentality is, I realized I’m not lazy, my symptoms of depression just make me come off that way.
I’m not going to lie to you: Things in your life change when you have a mental health condition. But this doesn’t mean it has to change your identity. You can’t control certain things related to your mental health condition, but you can control your viewpoint on yourself.
Give yourself grace during this time! Don’t assume your behavior or how you manage your mental health condition will always be the same. The way you learn to deal with your mental health condition will change over time.
Learn to separate your symptoms from yourself. Look at your symptoms of your mental health condition as just that – symptoms. They’re not characteristics of your personality. It doesn’t make up who you are. It is a PART of who you are, but not the whole part by far. Remind yourself that there are many things to love about yourself.
Your mental health condition isn’t the only thing about you. If you’re worried about others attaching your mental health condition to your identity, unfortunately, we can’t control how others view us. But I’ve learned that when you focus on positive things about yourself, so will others.
Find a passion and pour your extra time into it. Let that be a part of your identity. Let your love for art, music, your family, animals, etc. be what defines you. This will not only help you maintain your feelings of identity outside of your mental health condition, but also can improve your symptoms.
Remember that your identity is what YOU shape it to be. What you CHOOSE for it to be. I choose to identify myself with my passion for mental health awareness. I pour a lot of my extra time into helping others and advocating for mental health. This is what I identify myself as!
Identifying with something that helps others is a great positive coping skill for me. This gives me a purpose and helps my mind to not always focus on my own struggles with depression. It pulls me out of my own head and back into the outside world.
My point is you can be whoever you want to be. Grass grows where you water it, so water things in your life that bring you joy and make you a better person. Your mental health condition doesn’t have to be the only thing you focus on in your life.
Don’t get me wrong; sometimes it’s necessary to focus on your mental health, but don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Be defined for your kindness, passion, compassion, intelligence, gentleness, and humor.
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