So you think you’re special?

It’s within human nature to want to stand out. Even through the need to fit in, there emerges a desire to have some personal quality or achievement that is special, above all those around you. After reflecting on a difficult couple of weeks, I come to the same conclusion I have before, time and time again. One overriding barrier to my own recovery is this need to excel or stand out somewhere or somehow. Society puts pressure on every young person and adult to talk about qualities of themselves, to talk in a way that puts them above the rest. But what if you have never found that thing that puts you ahead?

Being average in intelligence, average in personality, average in socialising, average in looks, average in sports, average in arts, average in drama, average but never outstanding. The list of mediocre qualities never ends. So perhaps this sense of never being good enough is the weight that forever causes doubt in the ability to recover, to find oneself, to feel confident to face demons. Yet mental illness is debilitating, scary, and just as fatal as any physical illness, so why would I, or anyone want to hold onto it?

I think too often, that an eating disorder is the only thing that makes me different to anyone else, even as weight restored – somehow I want it to be ‘my thing’, to the extent I almost self-sabotage my recovery, so I don’t lose the safety net of my identity. It can be the same for depression, having changed my nature and outlook so much, that I fall back on it as ‘who I am’, in comfort of a fear that I am not enough to be ‘me’. Perhaps mental health and talking about it is all I have to offer? But one should not forget; mental illness is not unique, it is not special, in fact it’s one of the most prominent and common factors in society. The reality is, there will always be someone better than us at something, one cannot strive for perfection, but instead can strive for progress. Our lives aren’t meant to look like anyone else’s, our journey is our own and that journey in itself, with all it’s paths, obstacles and goals is what truly makes us unique.

For so long, I have hidden behind my diagnoses, identifying myself by their name and not my own. I think it’s time to change.

Advertisements

Identify yourself

When someone questions how we would define ourselves or to sum ourselves up into an articulated list of characteristics, it can be a very challenging task. Suddenly we have to put into words an entire essence of who we are and how we see ourselves to be; do we say how we think others would describe us? How we see ourselves? Or perhaps we are just totally flustered and unsure of what to say that we rummage through our brains to find the most simple description of ourselves, such as being caring or having blonde hair or simply a job description in fear that we could sound too big headed.

Whatever or however we see ourselves, one thing is for certain; an illness does not define you. If someone asks you to describe your auntie Betty (and it so happens that she has leukaemia), you’re not going to say ‘Oh you know Betty, the leukaemic!’ It would just be wrong.. You would want to describe auntie Betty by the way she looks or by her bubbly personality perhaps. Now suppose you’re asked to describe your friends; Bill and Bob; one has schizophrenia and the other has anorexia, these illnesses  could change the appearances of Bill and Bob, making them look tired or unwell, and of course it will change their emotions and interaction with the world (just as cancer can to Betty), and again you are asked to describe them. In society, it seems we often refer to those with such mental illnesses as ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘anorexic‘, yet this ‘ic’ on the end of the word appears to depersonalise the individual entirely; stripping them of their true self and replacing them with nothing more than an undesirable illness, no longer accepting that Bill and Bob are friendly, kind hearted or good looking but simply seeing them as outsiders to society. This ‘ic’ on the end of their diagnosis overshadows everything healthy and desirable within the individual. Having a mental illness can make ones sense of self less clear as it is, but with the added stigma of the ‘ic‘ in society, it means that not only will the individual feel the need to define themselves by their illness but others around them will too, making it near impossible to escape the disorder and harder to keep reaching for recovery.

Someone’s illness, whether it be physical or mental is no way to refer to someone, there is no active choice to develop depression, just as there is no choice to have cancer, having a mental illness or disorder is nothing to be ashamed of but there is always a lot more to a person than the diagnosed jumble of words on a doctors note so; think before you speak.