I have recently found myself in a psychologically challenging place, racked with anxiety and weighed down by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. These feelings have left me questioning who I am and what it is I stand for. I have a very blessed life and from the outside appear to have everything I need to make my life complete. I have a home, a loving partner who I adore, a wonderful family, amazing friends and a secure job all of which I am extremely grateful for, yet I still feel a huge sense of emptiness.
We all have social identities, for example, we can identify ourselves according to vocation, religion or our relationships but strip these away and what are we left with? Do we really know who we are on the inside? The sum of our external identities is far less than the whole of our being.
I have struggled with mental health issues for much of my life and when you spend years identifying with a mental illness it becomes hard to remember who you are without it. Depression, anxiety and eating disorders can skew your thoughts and cloud your identity, making you lose your sense of self and leave you feeling very alone. Loss of identity may also follow all sorts of change; changes in living circumstances, the workplace, loss of a job, loss of a relationship or a loved one. All of which can leave a gap, an empty space.
The first step to rediscovering who we are needs to come from acceptance. One thing I have realised is that the more I try to resist the way I am feeling the more anxiety and unhappiness I feel. So if you are feeling sad, depressed, lonely or angry try to accept how you feel and stop blaming and shaming yourself. Emotions are there to be felt. The key is to acknowledge them and stop fighting against them. By seeing thoughts arise, dwell and eventually dissolve, you can learn how to unhook yourself from your identification with them. This can help you to better manage your thoughts rather than being overwhelmed or led by them.
Focusing on self-love can also help. This is something I really struggle with at times, as I think we all do but self-nourishment is so important. Take time for you and remind yourself of your qualities and talents. Immerse yourself in things that make you feel good and the things that you enjoy. Be curious, rediscover old interests or learn something new.
Being present in the moment is also very important. Most of the time we act on autopilot and our thoughts and behaviours are very repetitive. Being in the ‘moment’ can really help you to experience life more fully and remind you of the things you love.
Surround yourself with positive people and relationships that nourish you. Sometimes when we are feeling a little lost or alone, it is the people we love the most that remind us of what’s important and of who we are. When you surround yourself with positive people, you create a supportive and healing space that fosters greater growth, understanding, and love of yourself.
And finally, whatever happens don’t allow your past to define you. Your struggles are not your identity and always remember that nobody else is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So live as only you can. Be who you came here to be.