Staying True to Yourself

A lot of people like to change themselves when they get into relationships.  To a certain extent, that’s understandable.  After all, if you really care about someone, you should be willing to put in some effort to make it work.  That said, there’s a huge difference between making compromises and changing who you fundamentally are to please another person.

“I don’t want you to give up your life, I just want to have you in mine.” – Harry, from Secret Diary of a Call Girl,  Episode 4.8

If you’re in a relationship, you need to love the other person for who they are.  And you need to feel comfortable with who you are.

“And I can’t love him and ask him to be someone different.”- Kari, from If Only by Cherise Sinclair

Being in a relationship and being true to yourself should never be mutually exclusive.

This applies to every kind of relationships, not just romantic relationships.  I’ve found that in all my relationships, I try to change myself to be more like what I think the other person wants from me.  Sometimes, I’ve found that they really just wanted me to by myself and that they’d truly love me for who I am.  There were, however, times when I knew that being who I am meant losing the relationship.  It’s sad when that happens, but I’m starting to see that a relationship like that is never going to work out and is only going to hurt me in the end.  It’s sad, but I just have to let those toxic relationships go.

In Which I Ramble About Anxiety and Self-Diagnosis

I’m in the hospital so I now have a lot of free time to write stuff so I can get a few things off my chest. Wednesday was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. A lot of stuff happened and because I’m not currently in a depressive episode, I felt a lot of it pretty intensely.
I finished my mock exams. Chemistry. Three papers of it in a day. I was feeling really, really apprehensive about it because I feel a lot of pressure to do well because I’ve always been good at chemistry and therefore people have high expectations, or at least I think they do. I was also feeling a bit excited because my chemistry teacher had said that he thought I’d find the questions fun (which in his language, means they’d be really hard, but interesting…that didn’t help with the apprehension much). Anyways, the exams were fun, as promised, but because I hadn’t studied and because I missed a week of school right when we were doing the chapter on carbonyls, I found there were quite a few questions I wasn’t confident about answering.
Cue anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder enters stage right. Honestly, I was kind of expecting that I’d have anxiety about the chemistry exam afterwards no matter what. That’s how my anxiety disorder works. I worry about everything, but particularly about things where the public perception of my intelligence and/or ability might be at stake. Reason and logic do not play a role in anxiety and even when I know how to answer a question, I worry about getting it wrong, or writing a technically correct but silly answer. Couple that with having to be assessed in a subject taught by my favourite teacher and it’s a near certainty that I will spend a great deal of time worrying about how I did.
Lately I’ve been having a new kind of anxiety. In addition to my performance/social/scared-of-the-dark/checking-behind-doors anxiety, I’ve started to have anxiety about my identity. Specifically about appropriating struggles of other people. I was initially self-diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Having that self-diagnosis made it possible for me to ask for help from a therapist (otherwise I would have thought my problems were too insignificant to deserve help) and it allowed me to accept that certain things are difficult for me due to my mental illnesses. The emotional validation of a diagnosis, even a self diagnosis was, for me at least, a major part of self acceptance and taking the steps I needed to take to improve my life and move forward. I didn’t take self diagnosis lightly at all and I carefully considered my symptoms against the diagnostic criteria and against the stories of personal experiences of people with depression and anxiety. Even so, I did have a certain degree of self-doubt, wondering if maybe I was overreacting and exaggerating (professional confirmation of my depression and anxiety made this worry go away, thankfully). More recently, I’ve been wondering if I might be autistic. On one hand, I see a lot of myself in some of the autistic people I’ve met, I identify with many of the things autistic bloggers write about and as far as I can tell, I meet the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder according to the DSM-5 and ICD-10 (I don’t meet the criteria according to the Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service, but on that one, the only criteria I don’t meet are the ones for lack of imagination).  My mother has mentioned that she can see why I might be autistic.  A few autistic individuals I’ve met online as well as my counselor who has an autistic son believe that I might be autistic.  Despite this, and despite my previous self-diagnosis having been confirmed to be correct, I worry nearly constantly that I’m appropriating the real struggles of real autistic individuals.

Part of that self-doubt comes from the fact that I realise that I have a certain bias in this.  I want an autism diagnosis.  That sounds like an odd thing to say, because who would want to have a disorder?  But if you look at it another way, whether or not I have the diagnosis, I am who I am.  Getting a diagnosis won’t make me magically and suddenly autistic.  The only thing a diagnosis can change is how I approach who I am.  An autism diagnosis could help me learn to accept why I am the way that I am, and that is really important.

Some people don’t get that labels can make you feel like you belong. They can make you feel you have a place where you fit in. And that means a lot when you’ve felt like you don’t belong, like you’re disconnected… Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. Please quit attacking people for labeling themselves when it helps them to realize they’re not alone. What others label themselves really doesn’t affect you.

lirpaiswolf

I don’t know if any of that made any sense, and I don’t think I really have a point I was trying to make.  If it didn’t make sense, I apologise, my painkillers are making the world feel a bit distant at the moment so my reality is distorted.

Depression

My father has struggled with depression for as long as I can remember.  Several members of my extended family do as well.  This year, a classmate confessed to me she has depression.  It’s not really so uncommon as most people think.

I’d been starting to feel low a few years ago, but at the start of last year, it got to the point where doing even small things took an incredible amount of effort, doing the things I loved didn’t make me happy anymore and life just didn’t seem wort living.  My grades started falling, I started to avoid my friends, and I dreaded going anywhere.  All I wanted to do was to sit around and think of ways to kill myself.

Because my grades were dropping, my parents started to put more pressure on me to pull myself together, and my friends started to wonder why I was pulling away from everyone, and finally, finally they got me to realise that something was wrong.  I went to see the school counsellor and she said she thought I might have depression.  I suppose I should have realised sooner, especially since my father had been going through pretty much the same thing, but it was still hard to accept this.  To realise that there was really something wrong.  That was kind of scary.  But it was also a relief to realise that I was not alone, that what I faced had a name.  And to realise that there was hope.

One of the hardest things to do was to decide who to tell and who not to tell.  I did tell a couple of close friends, and eventually got up the nerve to tell my parents.  That didn’t go so well.  “Just snap out of it, you’re doing this to yourself” from my mother.  “I know what depression is like, and you clearly don’t have it” from my father.  It was hard, not having their support and it hurt even more that they didn’t believe that my problems were real.  I even doubted myself.

When my third term grades came out, even worse than before, and when my grades in my favourite subject began to drop, my mother finally was willing to acknowledge that something was wrong and got me professional help outside of school.

I spent a really long time thinking of how to conclude this post.  But I honestly don’t know how.  The thing is, there isn’t really a conclusion.  I’m getting a bit better.  Every now and again, I’ll have an easier day, where it feels like the metaphorical sun is still shining and I believe that there’s genuinely something to look forward to in this world.  And that’s good.  I live for days like that.  But on the other days, it’s still hard.  And I wonder if I’m ever going to really recover.