Patient Blogs | Depression
Don’t Let Your Mental Health Condition Affect Your Identity
photo of woman looking out to sea

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.




Photo Credit: Dougal Waters / Stone via Getty Images

Tell us what you think of this post?
0 Like
0 Sad
0 Cheered up
0 Empowered
0 Care
WebMD Patient Blog © 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Katharine Hartleb

Katharine Hartleb

Diagnosed since 2014

Katharine Hartleb was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2014, at age 16. She has a passion for helping others and plans on becoming a mental health counselor. Hartleb lives in Charleston, SC, and is a recovery coach at a substance use disorder facility. She is also a young adult presenter for NAMI, sharing her personal story. Connect with her through her personal Instagram and her kat4kindness Instagram.

Latest Blog Posts From Katharine Hartleb

What It’s Like to Have Depression as a Teenager

What It’s Like to Have Depression as a Teenager

Being a teenager is hard enough as it is. Add in some depression or other mental illness and being a teenager just got 10 times harder ....

Read more
I Just Got Diagnosed With Depression, Now What?

I Just Got Diagnosed With Depression, Now What?

Getting diagnosed with depression can be scary if you don’t know much about it. It can also be scary if you’re familiar with depression ....

Read more