“When depression takes hold, I lose myself, I become a shadow of who I really am.”
Depression can be all consuming. It can leave us feeling hollow and disconnected from the world. Sometimes it can feel as though we are outside looking in on life. Things that were once important to us fade into the blackness and make it difficult for us to connect to anything we find meaningful or enjoyable.
This is a problem. Because when we are unengaged with life and the things that would ordinarily make us feel good, we are less likely to be able to slow down or reverse the negative spiral.
It may be helpful therefore to try an exercise which reminds us of who we are without the veil of depression hanging over us. Asserting “this is me” can be a powerful reminder of the things we can get enjoyment from and the things that matter to us as an individual.
Identity is often described in terms of opposites. With two ends of a spectrum representing the extreme, and most of us sitting somewhere in the middle. Whilst this view of identity is limited, it can be a good starting point.
Begin by thinking in terms of opposites.
The world is full of opposites. When we use these opposites to position our identity, it tells us something about ourselves.
To what extent we align ourselves tells us something about our preferences. This knowledge can help us make decisions in life. For example, as an introvert looking for a new job, the idea of remote homeworking may appeal.
But for an extrovert, this would likely result in poor job satisfaction. Focusing on how you identify can help you pick a job with working conditions that are likely to be suited to you, hopefully resulting in you being happier at work.
Thinking about how you identify can also remind you of the types of activities you enjoy. This can be useful when trying to plan activities which will help lift your mood.
Some of your positionings can help you re-connect to the issues and causes you find important. This can help you find like-minded people and feel as though you belong to a group (which is important – even for introverts).
Additionally, sometimes how we identify can help us spot potential issues that may be contributing to our depression. For example, if you identified yourself as highly submissive in life, it could be worth considering if you are truly living your life the way you want to, or if you are bending and conforming to the way other people expect you to live.
Avoid opposites that are only going to make you feel worse.
I know that when you are depressed it is extremely easy to list numerous negative adjectives that you feel describe you. But whilst it is easy to position yourself as “worthless” rather than “worthwhile” or “ugly” instead or “beautiful”, I urge you not to.
The point of the exercise is to help you remember the aspects of your identity that have been pushed to one side and therefore reconnect you to yourself and your life without depression.
As a guide, ask yourself “Is one end of this scale inherently negative?”, if the answer is “yes”, then don’t use that scale. Whilst you may place higher value on one trait over the other, both words should technically be neutral.
Progress to thinking past opposites.
Although opposites can be a good start, often the words or labels we use to identify ourselves fall outside of an opposite relationship.
For example, bisexual is not the opposite of asexual and socialist may be similar to liberal, but have a slightly different meaning to the person using the word to define themselves.
That’s why a next good step is to start adding in all those things that make you who you are that don’t fit neatly into a questionnaire style personality test. You can begin to include things which contradict how you would ordinarily identify (such as being an introvert who loves cosplay and conventions). Or you could include things that simply make you feel good about who you are (like being able to cook an awesome spaghetti bolognaise).
Use what you know about yourself to change.
Once you feel you are done you should have a pretty good picture of who you are. You can then use this as a basis for making positive changes in your life. Aim to write down changes you would like to make based on your collection of words and phrases. Then number them, starting from the easiest through to the most difficult.
Remember, these are changes you want to make. So, if something is difficult and you don’t really want to do it, it does not belong on this list! This list is all about getting you back to you and making you feel happy once again.
An example list may look something like this:
- Cook Spaghetti Bolognese for a friend.
- Spend 2 hours sketching.
- Call a family member.
- Zoom call a friend and do yoga together.
- Join a book club.
Work with a counsellor to build your changes into your life.
A counsellor can help you schedule the rewarding activities you just identified into your daily life. They can help you challenge any negative thoughts that stop you from acting, and help you tackle any underlying issues that may be holding you back from recovery.
Speak to me today by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on: 07588 117305 and let’s get you back on track!