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.

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Even More on Identity

I promise this is the last one.  Really.  I just wanted to link to a blog post that made me cry because it was so relevant.

Yesterday, I talked about how mental illness and disability can contribute to someone’s identity.  Here’s an awesome blog post I’ve had bookmarked for ages.  It made me cry the first time I read it.  It made me cry again reading it just now.  That’s a pretty big deal since I rarely if ever cry.

So here is a blog post about wanting a diagnosis written by Nattily over at Notes on Crazy.

More On Identity

Yesterday I wrote about values and how that’s important to identity.  It’s the obvious thing people think about when they discuss the idea of identity.  I’ve been thinking lately of another aspect of identity that is often overlooked because it doesn’t apply to everyone, but one that can be very, very important to the people that it does apply to.

Disability.  Mental illness.

Those aren’t things that people often think about when they think about identity, but they’re important.  Here’s why.

When I was younger, I struggled with many things (you can read about one of them here, but I also had other difficulties with social skills, motor coordination etc.).  I’ve been called all kinds of things.  ‘Lazy’, ‘stupid’, ‘stubborn’…  But in the sixth grade (after a learning specialist at my school suggested it for the second time), my parents took me to an educational psychologist who gave me a provisional diagnosis of ADHD.  Although I do not actually believe I have ADHD, the label was and is so important to me, because for the first time, I allowed myself to consider the possibility that I might actually not be broken or weird.  That I might just be a different kind of normal.  That there might be others out there who struggle the same way I do (which there are… I’ve found a few, although at the time I felt really alone).

It’s so easy to say “don’t let [diagnosis] define you/your child”.  It’s so easy to think that nobody wants to have labels like ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia…  That’s not really true, or at least it isn’t true for me.  I’d rather have a word to describe my struggles, because it lends validation to the very real challenges I face in my life.  Because ‘anxiety’ is always a better label than ‘overreacting’ and if I had ADHD, that would be a better label than ‘lazy’ or ‘stubborn’.  [I read an excellent post about how labels are great as long as they’re the right label, but I can’t remember for the life of me which post it was or even where I saw it.   This post was heavily influenced by that one and I’d love to credit the author.  I will edit to include a link if I can remember.]

Having depression as an identity to validate the fact that certain things are harder for me than they are for people who don’t struggle with depression is really different from using my depression identity as an excuse to not make an effort to minimise the impact depression has on my life.  I try not to do too much of the excuse-making.  In fact, if someday I’m lucky enough to recover from depression, I’m (hopefully) not going to give up on recovery because I’m afraid of losing the identity.  But for now, I do have depression, and having that identity is better than being called lazy on those days when I simply cannot do something because getting up out of bed in the morning is the hardest and bravest thing I can manage for that day.

Identity

Being a teenager is as scary as it is exciting.  It’s a time of change, for better or for worse.  It’s the time of our lives when we’ll make some incredibly great choices, and some incredibly stupid ones.

If I tried to summarise the entire teenage experience into a sentence, it would be this: adolescence is about finding our identity.  It’s the hardest thing we’ll ever do, and probably the most important.  Because adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, for most of us, it also is the time where we dump out the values that our parents have taught us and try to determine for ourselves the kind of people we want to be, the things we hold important and ultimately what we want our life to look like.

For me, personally, I’m finding that in searching for my identity, I am dumping a lot of what my parents have taught me.  In my society, that isn’t really done.  I’m supposed to respect my parents and honour them by accepting their teachings, but increasingly I’m finding that I do not want to be like them at all.  I want to value honesty above all else, while they think that being practical is more important and that honesty isn’t so important as long as I don’t use dishonesty to hurt others.  I want to believe in following one’s dreams and laying it all on the line for things that are important, rather than pursuing the most practical option.  I want to be the kind of person others can turn to for support and validation; the kind of person who believes that mental illnesses are real and scary and that the people who struggle with them do not need to be told that they’re doing it for attention or that they’re just making up problems.  But I also want to believe that not agreeing with my parents doesn’t mean that I don’t respect them.  I know they see it that way, but I don’t.   I try to understand why they feel the way they do, and I certainly respect their right to hold their own values, and respect that they have very strong reasons for holding the values they’ve chosen to hold.  I very much respect them.  I just don’t agree with them.  And that’s another thing I value that they don’t.  The ability to respect someone who is very, very different from me.  To respect someone who’s made a conscious decision to be very different from the person I’ve chosen to be.

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.