I am me and you are you. Not only is it the laziest title, it is the laziest opening. Because of course you know that I am me and you are you. You don’t even need to have met me to know that. Yet internalizing the implicit reality of this lazy but very important truism shouldn’t be overlooked.
I say that this is important because I am guessing that I’m not the only one who has battled the demons of mental illness and thought that I would be better if only I was stronger, or smarter, or if I had as many Twitter followers as that person, or as many likes on my Facebook posts as this person.
But I am not.
When I was younger, I wanted to be so many things. A firefighter, a tornado chaser, a Coast Guardsman, etc. Yet none of those things were me.
I wanted to be a firefighter because my father was a volunteer firefighter paramedic when I was younger and there was a time in those younger years that I wanted to be just like my father. One of the many problems? I hate heat. Being a firefighter just wasn’t me.
And the storm chaser dream? That came after seeing the movie Twister. Yet I think if I was actually driving and saw a twister pop up in front of me, I would be like, “fuck this,” and drive the other way. Really I think I just wanted to be like Bill Pullman in that movie and hook up with Helen Hunt in the middle of a tornado.
The Coast Guard idea wasn’t idealizing anyone specific, but really I just wanted to be on an ice-breaker. The rest of the military life though was not a fit with my lifestyle as I later learned.
And what is my point from all these examples?
My point is that even before I realized there were demons within me, I realized that I didn’t want others to see the true me. So, I adopted other personas. In high school I didn’t want anyone to see my depression or anxiety so I tried to emulate the “cool kids” to no success.
And why wasn’t I successful? Because it wasn’t me.
I am cursed by demons that sometimes trap me in bed. Yet the victories I achieve over those same demons give me a sense of success others might never know. I am me, full of bright peaks and dark, terrible shadows. There are enough other people in the world. And why would someone build bridges with me if I am merely trying to be a facsimile of someone else?
Because we are a social species. We need connection with other humans. Yet those connections only work if they are authentic. And they are only authentic if they result from someone being their authentic self. I am me. You are you. And this is me acknowledging that I can’t beat my depression by being anyone else. I can only beat it as me, myself, and I. And the same is true of you too.
Being more true to myself won’t cure my depression. No, because depression is far more complex than that. Nor will it cure my anxiety. Because these things are sometimes the result of chemical imbalances that exist regardless of who I choose to be.
But that is what my medications are for. Chemical warfare if you will against my chemical demons. Yet sometimes, sometimes it isn’t the chemicals that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes it is me, acting like someone else. Yet I’m not anyone else. I can’t be. And if you battle something similar, I hope you realize that you are not anyone else either. You are just you. I am just me. And we shouldn’t try to be anyone else.
And maybe once we get past that, we can leave the depression that comes from being inauthentic behind.