Who were you before depression?
This is one of the most complex questions I have ever been asked. I don’t remember when I started feeling this way. There was never a switch that was flipped, turning on the depression and anxiety- it has been present for as long as I can remember. I have always been a perfectionist… in the 1st grade, I had a complete meltdown because I received a B instead of an A on an interim report. But the anxiety that comes from the pursuit of perfection and the resulting depression when that ideal isn’t obtained… I know it wasn’t always there. It crept in slowly over time.
I do know when I was officially diagnosed, then re-diagnosed, and then re-diagnosed again. Who was I before the phrase “mental illness” entered my life? When I think back, I try to compare the person that I was when I walked into the doctors office to the person I was when I left. She was the same person, albeit with more clarity and a tear-stained face. Putting a title to the feelings that I had felt for so long didn’t change who I was or how I felt. It simply made it easier to overcome each day’s challenges by giving me treatment options.
Who were you before depression? I was me- the same me that I am today.
Having a mental illness didn’t change the person I am. Yes, it made me more resilient, reflective, compassionate, and kind; but, at my core, I am still the same person that I was before the feelings wiggled their way in and before my therapist stamped her diagnosis onto my chart. My depression doesn’t define who I am. It is simply a part of my life… like an unwelcome relative who refuses to leave, even after Thanksgiving dinner is over. It hangs out, occasionally meddling in my affairs and asserting its position within my life. Yet it has no impact on WHO I am. I am the only one that gets to decide that.
Depression isn’t who I am. I am a person, not an illness.