Who am I?
I thought I knew myself. I was driven, a perfectionist, an introvert, opinionated, inflexible, an overachiever and extremely responsible. I could also be easily irritated and had anger outbursts for no obvious reasons. Break-downs and depression were part of life. In my thinking I was weak for not being able to stick things out. Consequently, my self-esteem was pretty low, I felt unlovable. Also, I couldn’t really see any positive side of myself. And if I did, the positive aspects were soon overthrown by the negative.
When in January 2007 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (BD), it was a relief to know that some of those characteristics were inherent to the illness. Sudden anger outburst? Irritability? Inflexible? Break-downs? All part and parcel of BD.
As I struggled through the next years a lot of time and energy went into surviving my circumstances. It felt like passing through an enormous desert with no end in sight. Only recently I started emerging from there, leaving the sand behind, feeling stronger footing underneath.
This whole journey of survival, moving internationally twice, being homeless, jobless, and having BD has been an extraordinary challenge.
It also left me wondering: Who am I?
Dictionary.com describes the word ‘identity’ as follows:
- The state of having unique identifying characteristics held by no other person.
- The individual characteristics by which a person or thing is recognized.
In other words, you have distinguishing features that makes you, well, you!
Your identity is made up of genetic, biological, psychological and social attributes. In fact, you are very intricately made. There are so many factors that makes you, you.
But my trouble is: what constitutes the illness and what comprises ‘me’?
Yes, I have a predisposition for BD, say the genetic and biological characteristics. But the psycho-social environment has its own influence, both in upbringing and today.
The difference for me, is that during my upbringing others were in control, while now *I* am in control. Or at least that is the goal.
So, what part of me is BD and what part is ‘me’?
The last couple of weeks I have been doing really well. To such an extent that I am checking myself constantly if I am getting hypomanic. So far, so good. I think.
You see, I still don’t know what my ‘normal’ is. Since my diagnosis my circumstances have never been stable. Only recently things have been looking up.
I do know and recognize my bipolar traits really well, for me, that is not the issue. It is the personal side that I am wondering about.
What about you?
Do you know who you are? Is it important to you to know your identity apart from your illness?