Sunday 19 May 2013

"This is Not Me"

"My heart is like a broken cup
I only feel right on my knees...
Who are you
Who are you
Who who who who"
Who Are You lyrics by The Who
This is not me. The sadness, the listlessness, the bland personality, the moments of almost uncontrollable irritability. It's just not me. I have to keep reminding myself of this.
It's hard to keep sight of the person that you really are when mental illness has you in it's grip.
My friend Ashley recently posted a picture on facebook. The photo was one she took of a tabloid magazine at a store checkout. It grabbed her attention, as a fellow mental health advocate, because it said, 'Carrie Fisher: Coping With Being Bipolar.'
BEING bipolar. Hmm. How do you "be" an illness?

We don't say someone is coping with being cancer or being emphysema or being the flu. We don't because you cannot be an illness. You can be yourself and you can have an illness. But you can't BE an illness. Simple, right? Apparently not. The line is much fuzzier when it comes to a mental health issues.

So why is this the case? Why are we so quick to equate who a person is with mental illness? Because it's easy to, first of all. So many of the symptoms of these illnesses are similar to personality traits. When we experience a person acting in a certain way, we tend to believe that is who they are. Sometimes that's true. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you need to scratch the surface a bit and look past temperament.

"You used to be much more...muchier. You have lost your muchness." ~ the Mad Hatter

I have struggled with recognizing and understanding who I really am versus how depression and anxiety make me feel. And I am pretty sure that my friends have struggled with this over the years as well. The really great ones, the ones who are still in my life, were able to figure that out. Over time they, and I, were able to understand that if I retreated for a bit, that wasn't really me - it was the depression and anxiety that were showing their true colours. If I snapped, was impatient, lost my sense of humour, or broke into tears, it was not a commentary on the state of our friendship.  These were symptoms of illness.

There is another reason that we confuse personality and symptoms of mental illness: stigma. There is still so much misunderstanding out there. Those of us who suffer don't always understand the impact - how it affects the relationships in our lives, both personal and professional. If we struggle with understanding then imagine how those who don't must struggle. It's one of the reasons why I chose long ago to be open about my illness. I want to help people understand what it took me years to figure out.

Here's why this is an important topic, why it matters so much. At the end of the day, all we really have is who we are. The dangerous thing about depression is that it infects you with self doubt and feelings of worthlessness. It pulls you away from things that have made you happy or content in the past - hobbies, activities, relationships. As it breaks you down, you begin to forget who you really are. You can't remember what it felt like to really laugh. When that happens it's easy to lose hope. Without hope is a place where no one should ever be.

What I know after many years fighting depression is that I am an aunt whose niece and nephew love very much. I am a good and generous friend. I am a lover of pretty shoes, a silly comedy, a great book, and a delicious meal. I am a hard worker. I am creative. I am a loving daughter and loyal sister. I am someone who has learnt a lot about myself through my struggles. I am not depression.

Who am I? I am me.

And I will be muchier again, soon.

KB xo

P.S. Visit the Not Myself Today page to learn more about Partners for Mental Health and join the fight against stigma!


  1. Once again a great blog. As I tell people, I am no more my illness then I can be diabetes or cancer.I tell them..' the quality of my golf game-( it can be good it can be bad, and it can be outright bloody awful)- is not indicative to who I am as a person" This also goes for my illness, I may have my illness, but I am not my illness.I understand how it feels, as I have been there. Hang in there and I hope you are "muchier" very soon. hang in there and know you are not alone on this journey- it just feels like it at times...

  2. Great post Kristin. I wrote one on the same thing on my blog awhile ago, so I hear you. I saw the same tabloid about Carrie Fishcher and it really made me think. I compare it to my friend who has diabetes. He has to give himself insulin shots. Why is it, that it is acceptable for him to do this at the table in a restaurant in front of all of us, but it is not ok to be sad? This is the question I ask. Ok, I'll stop ranting now. I really believe strongly in this so it is hard to keep my comments to a minimum. Anyhow, big hugs across the Rockies to you. I love how much you do let people know about what you have learned. It makes me think about what I have learned and how to use that in my life.

  3. Big hugs BACK over the Rockies, Danielle!


"Eating Disorders: What Are We Truly Hungry For?"

    For two years in my 30's I had an eating disorder: bulimia. It took me ten years to admit that to anyone, even my doctor. I f...