Are we our diagnoses, are they us, or is there some sort of medium where we can be us, certainly shaped by our illness(es) but not defined by them. My diagnoses came late in life, after being treated, inaccurately (and thus with a resounding lack of success for almost 20 years), for major depressive disorder. I recently found an old book of poetry I had written back in high school, and one of the poems from when I was 16 could have been written by me, today, in a hypomanic phase. I prefer phase to state, it seems less foreboding and permanent.
I used to pride myself on the fact that my past may have shaped me, but it didn’t define me. Someday I might share with you the rough history that is mine, but not today. Suffice it to say that my therapist used the term “very horrific” to describe my legacy. Unfortunately, I have had to accept that fact that it did do more than shape me, it did, indeed, define me and the numerous ways I see myself.
But that’s ok. Language evolves. Definitions change. And the me that is today, defined by my experiences, does not have to be the me of tomorrow. I can learn to make better choices, do things differently. And when the siren’s songs come, I can make choices toward the future, as opposed to reacting from the past.
Mindfulness, being aware of what you’re doing and WHY you’re reacting a certain way, helps to create new habits, new understandings, and new approaches. Am I there? Not even close. Do I believe? Yeah, today I do. It’s damn hard, but somehow, some way, I will find the strength to overcome. I have to.
The alternative is untenable.