Dealing with Loss of Identity in Depression
Many of us face the loss of identity in depression. It feels as if there is a stranger living inside of us. We don't recognize the person we see in the mirror. It's as if depression has stripped us as bare as a tree in the midst of a long, cold winter. It's difficult, but I deal with a loss of identity in depression and so can you.
Some Ways Depression Causes the Loss of Identity
One of the things that depression has changed about my identity is my memory (Depression and Memory Loss: Causes, Effects, Treatments). Before my battle with depression began, I was able to remember names, important dates, plans with friends, past events, and almost everything else. Now I can't remember what happened yesterday or whether or not I got the tickets for a show (I recently didn't. We had to turn around and go back for them.) I've cried several times in frustration and in mourning of the person I used to be. I've cried in anger toward depression for this part of my identity.
Afterward, though, I realized I had to find some logical ways to beat this. I now use both a paper calendar and the calendar on my phone for keeping up with important appointments. I make lists and post them where I'll be sure to see them. I also set timers and alarms on my phone. Even though my memory isn't what it used to be, I can still keep track of things -- with some help.
Losing the Ability to Find Pleasure from Once-Favorite Activities
Another aspect of identity loss that depression causes for many people is the ability to find pleasure in activities they once enjoyed (How to Recognize Depression Symptoms). If you've always enjoyed a particular hobby and suddenly you receive no joy from it, it can be quite painful. When going out with friends was always one of your favorite things to do, but then it becomes unbearable because you have to act like you're having fun when you're actually miserable, it's painful. It feels as if you're slowly sinking into deep, dark water and being covered up bit by bit. This is what it feels like when depression is stripping away another part of your identity.
So, how have I coped with this part of depression? First of all, I sought professional help. I currently take medication and I've had therapy. In therapy, I learned how to get to know myself again and I also learned how important it is to practice self-care. I let go of some of my old hobbies and discovered new ones, which I found breathed fresh life into me. So, try rediscovering some old hobbies and branch out and try some new hobbies, too.
As for my friends, now I'm honest with them about how I'm feeling. When I feel like going out, I go out. If I'm more comfortable staying in, then my friends will gladly come over for coffee or dinner. It is important to have a support system to encourage and support you through your depression and your struggle to maintain (or grow) your identity (How to Effectively Communicate Your Mental Health Needs).
Finally, one loss of identity that depression often causes, yet many don't want to mention, is the loss of or decrease in libido. Depression affects sex and relationships; I deal with this problem and it affects both my husband and me. Prior to depression, we had no issues in the area of our sex life. Now, we have to make plans and put in more effort in order for things to go well. Sometimes I grieve the person I used to be, and at times I also feel guilty because my husband does not have the same me he used to have.
However, in spite of these and other challenges, we still keep this part of our marriage alive. We believe that being together in this way is worth the extra work it takes. I've learned to communicate with my husband about my needs. He listens and does everything he can to make our time together as wonderful as can be. If you struggle in this area, don't give up. Be honest with your partner. Together you can find some things that work. You can also talk with your about sexual concerns. There is help available. Don't allow depression to take this part of your identity away.
Don't Let Depression Take Away Your Identity Completely
While depression might change parts of our identity, there are ways to keep it from taking away our identity completely. For me, it has been a journey of reclaiming myself piece by piece and also becoming someone new, too. I hope you will discover a stronger and more beautiful identity underneath your exterior of depression.
Smith, J. (2018, March 21). Dealing with Loss of Identity in Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2018/03/dealing-with-identity-loss-in-loss-depression
Author: Jennifer Smith
Really good post. Thanks for sharing!