Have I Let My Illness Define Who I Am?

“Don’t Let Your Struggle Become Your Identity” – Ralston Bowles

I came across this quote on Twitter today and immediately had an “Oh Shit, That’s Me!” moment. I read many quotes every day, and none have had the effect on me that this one has.

I have let my mental health troubles define me. I even say it on my tagline for this blog, “The incoherent ramblings of a mentally ill writer and blogger”.

Everything in my life is in some way connected to my struggle with mental illness.

How did I let that happen? Does it happen to everyone after so many years of struggling? Have I given up the fight and now just use mental illness as the excuse why I don’t do something? How many opportunities have I let slip away because I just happen to be sick?

Everything that I do happen to accomplish is tainted because I spent much of my time worrying if my illness will ruin my efforts. This is nothing new to me; I have been doing it for years.

Then again, as I go back and read what I just wrote, I could be blowing this whole thing out of proportion.

Yes, my mental illness is a big part of my life, but I have done quite a few things despite it. My life has been a whole series of ups and downs. The downs have been horrible and life-changing, but the ups have been brilliant and wonderful.

I think I just need to change my perspective a bit. Maybe I need to change my tagline to “the incoherent ramblings of a writer and blogger, who just happens to have a mental illness”. Kind of long, but you know what I mean. This could work on a number of things. I am a…

  • Father of four
  • Loving husband
  • Grateful son
  • Special friend
  • Amateur writer
  • Blogger extraordinaire
  • Copywriter in-training

…who just happens to have a mental illness.

I like that. What do you think?

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12 thoughts on “Have I Let My Illness Define Who I Am?

  1. I think it sounds great. I can’t speak for the rest, but you are indeed a blogger extraordinaire, and a great contributer to our little community.

    On the other hand …. 😉
    Today I feel as though I am depression. Can’t see past it. Want to escape, but can’t see the way out. Using all my skills to overcome urges.

    Hate my life, as it is. Hate knowing I have so much potential which is simply being wasted at the moment because I feel so useless. Hate feeling like this. Hate seeing myself in the mirror as I clean my teeth. Even hate the pic I chose for my gravatar!

    Got to remember that these feelings are going to be time-bound. I can do this 🙂 Just got to live through it.

    • Yes I know that feeling too when you can’t see past the depression. Anxiety for me has been that way recently. It’s so intense, I can’t feel anything besides it. I hate that it is such a huge part of my life.

      But your right, we just have to live through it and hope one day we can feel the joy, not just the struggle.

      You are a great blogger too…..I always look forward to reading what you write. That has to mean something!

  2. I’ve had this struggle quite a bit. There are so many reminders that I have to be vigilant – taking medication, getting enough sleep, watching for red flags – it is in the forefront of my mind quite often. For many years I thought “I’m a person with mental illness, but not like other people…” and that’s a dangerous position, so there’s a balance! I do think it’s important to reflect on achievements and have goals for the future. I really appreciate your blog and look forward to it; thank you for your thoughtful reflection.

    • It’s so nice that I have this group of people that I can empathize with. It makes me feel just a little less lonely knowing you guys are out there.

      It sucks that we have to come together like this because of pain that we feel every day, but at least we come together.

      Thank you for your great comments, they are always wonderful.

  3. “Don’t Let Your Struggle Become Your Identity”….This has been a really meaningful quote that I’ve tried to remember when I start stepping backward (which is like, every other day!). I remember how hard it was for me as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to start using the word “survivor” instead of “victim.” But that was exactly what that was all about. “Victim” was not how I wanted to be defined. Because it would mean I stayed in that role. Moving forward is a lot of work, for sure. I’ve struggled with depression all my life, but now, I’m trying not to associate words to myself that make me feel like I’m “still there”. I also like that quote: “You’ll see it when you believe it.”

    • When I was writing this post, I thought of you because of the fact that you never ever sound like a victim. I like survivor better. I want to be known as a survivor too.

      This was so hard to write because I have so many conflicting emotions. On one hand, I have a mental illness I can’t ignore, on the other, it’s not the only thing I want to be remembered for.

      Thanks for your comments Mandy.

      • Thank you, that means a lot. Just take things slow. Having mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It will take time for every–in their OWN time–to see how best to live with and manage it. In the meantime, I love the list you made of all the things you like about yourself–you are terrific at all those things. You are a really special person with a lot of offer the world. 🙂

  4. I feel that an illness, physical or mental, can be part of who we are in this life, but not the entirety of who we are.However, I also have a healthy skepticism of a lot of positive thinking, feel-good quote type stuff. Having a mental illness CAN consume a lot of time, both it’s effects and treatment, and it shouldn’t be whitewashed or ignored.

    • That is what made this quote so meaningful for me. I see so many quotes on Twitter and Facebook that I want to vomit, but this one resonated with me in a way that’s hard to describe.

      I agree our illness shouldn’t be whitewashed or ignored, I just don’t want it to keep taking over my life so there is nothing else.

      Thank you….I know I can always expect comments from you that make me think

  5. I am taking the #zerotohero blog challenge and was scrolling through looking for new blogs to follow or comment on. I have to say, the title of this post just shot through me! I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, since I was two according to my mother, and I do feel defined by those things. Constrained, held prisoner, beaten down. It was encouraging to be reminded that I am more than my crazy. Thanks for sharing that reminder!

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