Last night my wife introduced me to a meme based off a Tumblr post and its response. The original post was “I don’t think people realise how hard it is to re-discover the person you were before depression or even try to remember your own personality.” The response was “And if you’ve had depression since early childhood you don’t even know if you have your own personality. You didn’t have time to be a person before depression, and it’s scary having no idea who you are.”
I thought about this and then realized how much it fit my own life. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 15, but my journey began when I was six, after I threw a plate of spaghetti into a fellow student’s parent’s face. My parents thought I had a problem at that point, if nothing else an anger problem, and so I went to see my first psychologist. (I didn’t learn the reason for my first visit until this morning, incidentally.) I remember after the first few visits telling my mother that I wanted to go see someone that knew what they were doing – because I’d read the words “practicing psychologist” on his office door. I remember very little about those early visits. If we had what my doctor called a “good session,” we would play chess or he would allow me to play the very basic little Star Trek game on his TRS-80 computer for a few minutes after the session was over. I never did understand what made a “good session,” though, and to this day I remember little beyond the chess and the computer. (It’s those sessions with Star Trek that fueled my lifelong love of computers, something that I never quite managed to convert into a career, sad to say.)
There was another psychologist that I saw between the first one and the diagnosis. Again, there wasn’t really much that I remember about this guy, other than it was fairly common for me to come in, fall asleep, and have him wake me up to tell me the session was over. In retrospect, I don’t think the guy was a good psychologist, since I kept going and falling asleep, and he evidently never told my parents about it, because I’m sure they would have been appalled to hear that they were paying for me to take a nap. I only saw him for a couple years, though, and still at the time had no idea why I was going to see anybody.
The point is that I had six years of my life to define who I was before my symptoms started manifesting to the point that I went to seek help, and that’s not much time at all to determine who you are. So I very much sympathize with the response to the original Tumblr post that opened this entry: It’s scary having no idea who you are.
For a brief period of about a year, I knew who I was and was confident in that knowledge, even though I was still suffering through some of the worst times my symptoms ever handed me. Then I moved out of state and I quickly lost all confidence in who I’d worked hard to become. I regained a modicum of that person a few years later when I became fairly symptom free, able to easily counter the nagging self-doubt that I was experiencing, but that vanished after a period of several months. I haven’t ever been both sure of who I was and able to combat my symptoms, and that is eventually the goal.
The good thing is that between those two experiences flirting with self-knowledge and self-confidence I know who I want to be. But that’s going to take a lot of work to get to that point, since it’s going to require me returning to the workforce for that to happen, and I’m just not there yet. That’s the end goal, however, and it’s time I stopped dealing with the here and now and started delving into the deeper issues that are holding me back.
The questions for now are: Do I need to figure out who I am before I can become who I want to be? Is it important to know who I am in the interim? Should I focus on being before becoming?
I have a therapist’s appointment tomorrow. I can’t think of a better time to kick off this new focus. I’m sure I’ll be writing about that in tomorrow’s installment. Stay tuned …