Several years ago, my therapist asked me if I knew who I was. I couldn’t answer. It is a strange and deeply unsettling feeling, not being able to answer a question like that. Perhaps the hole left by that unanswered question has left the perfect hiding place for the darkness of my depression and anxiety to fester.
Perhaps one of the biggest motivators for me has been escaping the ghosts of the past. Mistakes that I’ve made and that others have made have defined me by who I don’t want to be. But if I focus only on who I don’t want to be, how will I ever know who I am?
It is important, essential even, to have values, to have moral no-fly zones if you will. Yet nothing positive can come out of a purely negative focus.
Yesterday, my therapist tried driving this point home. The ghosts of my past, the harms that
helped give rise to my demons, they are a piece of me for sure, but only one piece of the puzzle. Putting the puzzle together is how I answer the question, who am I? More importantly, how I answer it in a way that isn’t negative, that isn’t focused on who I am not.
Not having an answer to this question has haunted me, robbing me of self confidence and allowing anxiety disorders to dwell in the hole left behind. It has led to some of my darkest nights, nights when I didn’t care about my well being and I flirted so dangerously with intentionally self destructive behavior.
Those dark days are a piece of the puzzle. My depression and anxiety are a part of me and accepting that is an important step to learning how to manage my disorders. Yet it is not the most important piece, rather it fits in alongside the truly bright moments in my life, forming a picture that is dark and full of shadows in some places, and overwhelmed by brilliance in others, and that is me. That is who I am. For better or worse. And putting that puzzle together will finally allow me to answer the question that my demons have used to so torment me.