Who Are You?

It’s finally snowing in London! Albeit fartily and pessimistically! Although the church looks suitably romantic, sneakily hiding the sludge being kicked to its rotting gravestones.  Neither of us slept last night, so we went out at 5am to leave footprints, me in my pyjamas.

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Robert promptly fell asleep when we got back.

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I didn’t, and am on hour number 40 awake.  So!

An open question to you all!  Who the hell are you?

In the past few months, have you may have guessed, I’ve been thinking about identity. It had been on my mind for a while.    Personality and identity are different; personality is who we are as a whole, composed of traits, identity is what we define ourselves as or by.  Personality I find easy- I’m me, there you go!  I’m pretty much the same where you find me.  Identity, that’s more complicated.

I have always found it odd that people have an impression of me from this blog. I’m not sure what that impression is (comments and emails give me a hint), but naturally, over time, regular readers would have formed an idea of who I am. Likewise, with the radio play-adapted from a blog, which was written selectively, in certain moods, at certain times.  (The play being quite a bit more interesting!)  There are periods in which I grandstand somewhat, forcing humour.  Or times when I am too dramatic, in ranting moods.

I too have formed impressions of you, readers and other bloggers!  Purely from what’s disclosed on the internet, in a fairly specialist area- and that, I think, is a little bit dangerous.

Then there’s Facebook and Twitter, in which everybody- maybe not consciously, but they do- crafts a persona. We present highlights, overly jovial tidbits from our uniform lives, or use it as an outlet for every annoyance, every niggle.

And, with me and many of you- mental illness. All the defining syndromes, in which people are prone to make gross generalisations, are generalisations. “The Mentally Ill”. “HIV Positive People”. “Drug Addicts”. “Alcoholics”. And so on. They are defined socially- in many cases, negatively- in a way that other illnesses aren’t so much. Some illnesses- like cancer- might have a hand in defining you through how you live with it. But in the eyes of the world at large, the definitions they, often wrongly, apply to you are largely positive ones. Very few alcoholics are brave, to those who use the term.  (My dad was brave).

People get filtered through this and that, until you find you don’t recognise the person other people perceive you to be.  In my case, in some circumstances, I feel that way.

I think that because there is so much stigma attached to certain conditions, when you get diagnosed with one of them, and are in your right mind enough to absorb it, you can become defiant and it becomes a part of your identity. It’s understandable and something I’ve done.  I realised the dangers- obviously- of identifying myself too much with a particular diagnosis when that one was dismissed in quite a tactless way, and I still haven’t resolved it.   That aside, though, when something affects your mood, your behaviour, who you are at times- it’s difficult to separate it from your core self.   Especially if you are in the system, when a lot of who you are is pathologised.  Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, guilt.  What is me, what is it?  Is there a difference?

I have felt defined by mental illness sometimes- certainly, given that I write this blog, it is part of me.  There are parts that have shaped me; I don’t think I would be the same person at all if I hadn’t experienced some of those things.   Speaking earlier to Robert talking about our ways of interacting with people (he is getting much better at it), I mentioned that in terms of mentalism, some of it had been very isolating, because I acted in ways that sometimes people didn’t understand, that I found profoundly embarrassing afterwards.  So now, I’m quite guarded about making new friends when I feel alright, and when I’m down, I’m a recluse anyway.  That’s been something big, which I didn’t really understand until fairly recently. (I went into it a little on my anti-social anxiety post). In terms of personality, at least, I’m not particularly depressive- if we were talking a “spectrum” of mood, my normal mood is quite cheerful.  But I am lonely, often, without the balls to actually ring up people and say, “Include me, please!” because I have let so much slide.  So I am annoyed at myself for it.  At the same time, it’s helped me with a bit of balls and confidence.  I know I can be quite scary when I want to be, and I know I can be dominating, and that’s partly borne out of resilience after years of my brain being a bastard.  And living with this stuff has helped me, in some ways, to be a bit of a thrill-seeker, in a way I don’t think I would have been.  I tend to do stuff just to do it, however silly it is.

I identified with manic depression a lot, because it seemed to me to finally explain some things I hadn’t understood, and to give me the language with which to explain it to others.   I identify less now because I’m not sure it’s accurate, but I do still think in terms of highs and lows, and when I try to talk about it, it’s the only language I can find, it’s what I grasp towards, it’s what I touch.  I want to reclaim my own language.

But I also have other aspects of my identity that are bugger all to do with mental illness.  When I was younger, my music taste meant a lot to me, whereas it doesn’t now. I’m not sure why I value it less now than I did. I don’t enjoy gigs, particularly, so it might be down to the fact that I often prefer to be alone, and music can feel intrusive.  I find it hard to talk about music I love- it feels personal, private, in the same way discusses a lover does.  I prefer to read, or to write with something- sometimes music, sometimes the television- on in the background, quietly, politely.  I identify a little as, “comedy fan”.  I identify as a writer.  Whatever a writer is- someone who writes, who likes to write, who does it for a job? There are various political things I identify as- one being as a woman. Which in itself is a political act, to define yourself by your gender. My womanness is central to my identity- as a feminist, as a blogger, as a human being. Being born with a vagina has meant that most of my experiences have been dictated by it ever since.

I identify- quite forcefully at times!- as Irish.  That, again, is part defiance.  I’m from West Belfast, a very Republican area of Northern Ireland.   It’s a little pocket, largely spun from the lore of the ’60s and ’70s, the good fight.  The good fight, of course, involving murder.  My family were never particularly insular, despite being very Republican.  Lots of people from my area had- when I lived there- never met someone from another country, and regarded Protestants as The Enemy.  My family- my immediate family- aren’t like that, so they didn’t hassle me for being in love with an Englishman,  having two best friends who were dirty Huns or my decision to unceremoniously bugger off to London when I was seventeen.

But I grew up being told, repeatedly, that I was British, when my love was entrenched in Irish mythology, when I studied Irish language, when our accents marked us out as Taigs.  Though Northern Ireland doesn’t have its own culture, not much of one, but that’s something for another post.  People from the South used to say I was a half-bake, neither British nor Irish, when I regarded myself as more Irish than them because I fought for the right to call myself so.

Since I moved to England, I felt even more Irish than my teenage pouter alleged to be, when people were astonished at the closeness of my family, at the way we dealt with life- in a quite common Irish way, i.e by shouting a lot, drinking a lot and taking the piss, a lot.

And so I identify myself too as part of a family.  I am a Molloy.  We are fiercely protective of one another- possibly to the point of stupidity- but there it is!  Up your arse.

Likewise, I tend to identify as working class, though few would peg me to be, largely due to the grotesque and blind way people view those of “the underclass” or working class as being rather like, “The Drug Addicts”, “The Alcoholics”- a one, a mass- if particularly ignorant, then one and the same. I dress, “eccentrically”, I seem clever, I like to read and I’m not an alcoholic or drug addict- how could I have been raised by an alcoholic early retired man and a woman on benefits on various council estate in West Belfast?  That is their fault, not mine.  I’m aware of some stereotypically middle class behaviour in myself.  I have not the money, nor the background, to be authetically middle class, but I do have three types of pasta and two different types of sugar, which, if most British stand-up comedy is to believed, makes me middle class.  I also read the Guardian and Independent now instead of the Andytown News and An Phoblacht, so I am middle class.

Now I can’t go out this afternoon because my social worker appointment has been gipped around and I need to go for more form filling in reasons.  Sometimes, I feel I know where I stand all too well!

So, I’m curious- what defines you?  Do you feel your mental illness has a hand in your identity?  What else does?  As life goes on, does your identity change?  Do you become a mum, or a patient, or a doctor, or anything and then it becomes you?

Tell me what you think, I have five ears.

EDIT:  Someone in the comments said it would be interesting to ask the people who know us.  I did that earlier, when I was ruminating over the things I wanted to say here.    In terms of mentalism, his position is, “to some extent” but it’s not how he thinks of me, nor the first thing he thinks about me, that other things are more important and more persuavive.  There are things about it he almost admires- my ability to do without sleep and to function very happily without it- and he sometimes doesn’t understand why I go through periods of feeling intense, overwhelming  guilt until he connects it to the periods of depression.  So, in his eyes, at least, it’s an irritating backseat passenger, whispering into my ear, “You’re a cunt”.

38 Responses

  1. I guess it would be interesting to ask the people who know you if they think it has an impact on ‘who’ you are and your personality.

    From my own experience and talking to my own friends, they have the same view of me and my personality whether they know about my mental health issues or not.

    Also, it’s a bit of a chicken and the egg conundrum – does your mental illness influence your personality or the other way round?

  2. A resident of my town first, then Norn Irish, then British-Irish – which I know sounds weird, but I don’t identify with one more strongly than the other. In relative terms, I’m middle-class and tend to still think of myself as such, despite the fact I’m on beneftits and am in excruciating debt.

    In terms of personality, not to be one forfalse modesty, I first and foremost consider myself intelligent. Then eccentric (or, as my Spanish teacher used to put it, “individual”). Since my most recent breakdown, then comes mentally ill, basically for the reasons you’ve stated – rebellion against stigma and false societal conceptions and stereotypes. For a while, I identified strongly as someone with BPD, though I feel that much less now. Still mentally ill, though, and fiercely opposed to the ideals of anti-psychiatry.

    Beyond that, a loyal friend, irreverent, a bit daft and even dippy despite having an intellect, thirsty for knowledge, a debater, a woman with a masculine brain, a feminist whose best friends are male and who rejects and despises misandry, a nerd, gamer, rock chick, a pro-choice and pro-euthanasia opiner (not that that’s a word) and an increasingly centre-left supporter, lover of alternative clothing and IBS and migraine sufferer.

  3. Lately I have to explain that I have depression, I do it a bit reluctantly and if I could do without it I would. It just that it affects too much of my life. The people I know in real life place a lot of importance in education and work and so one of the first things they will focus on is what I’m studying or where I’m working, and to explain that I’m doing neither requires me to bring out that I’m mentally ill. Sometimes it also requires to remember that I have an illness so I don’t beat myself with so much guilt. But I don’t identify excesively with my education, work, or lack thereof. Not even when I WAS studying.

    Apart from that, I wouldn’t say I’m a depressive person. My personal identity is generally based on intelligence and introversion, and according to some people, bits of involuntary cuteness and kind of a lame sense of humor.

    I don’t really identify with being a Colombian, much less with being someone from the town I live in. If I suddenly showed up in another place in the world and someone told me that it was my home town, I would probably shrug.

    Having an androgynous SO, I realize I DO identify with being female, although an atypical kind.

    And most of my inner world is composed of more images than sounds or any other kind of information. So music doesn’t matter that much to me while visual art does. Eyegasms are some of the best kind.

    • Your being Columbian has always interested me in the way that knowing you, at least through the mediums I do, there seems to be little difference between your every day and mine. I don’t know why but from such a volatile place, I expected something different. I hope that’s not offensive!

      • Not offensive! I’ve gotten that from other people too so that’s understandable. I think there are two factors here. One, is how Colombia is portrayed internationally, and two, that I’m not very much of a representative of what it means to be Colombian.

        One time I got asked if I was constantly dodging bullets. The confict in here could take years of studying to understand, but one of the characteristics is that it is mostly a cold kind of war with most of the “action” taking place in remote rural areas. Cities are pretty much like any other city in the world with a few exceptions. Another thing is that people have lived hearing about terrorism and deaths and this or that for so long that they don’t notice it unless something happens near them. Getting used to the conflict is one of the main problems of the society over here these days, but it’s a necessary defense mechanism sometimes. I’ve had real bombs going off only a couple of blocks from where I’ve been at least twice in my life. But I don’t really remember this unless I’m dealing with the topic. Some days ago the guerrilla went to my university and forcefully stopped the elections that were taking place in there.

        I’ve never been a very traditional Colombian, I don’t like the music that most people like or talk about many of the things that people talk about here, I think it was partly caused by my lack of social life while growing up. I watched telenovelas sometimes, and went to family parties by the shore of a river with sanchocho and other traditional food and took a swim in the warm waters of the river. Deal with heat, humidity and mosquitos (but I wouldn’t if I lived in Bogota since weather depends on altitude). Caught a huge iguana with my arms that was trapped in the ceiling.

        Apart from that, I can’t dance salsa or cumbia (I headbang better). I’m an atheist though >90% of the people here are catholic. I’m pro-choice, bisexual, don’t drink coffee, I think in English even though the language here is Spanish (which I’m good at anyway). I don’t even look excessively indigenous or mestizo. In a way I’m only Colombian because I was born within the borders of this particular imaginary division and still live here.

  4. Schwarzenegger’s action movie ‘Total Recall’ has a few ideas on identity… ‘If I’m not me then who the hell am?’ is one. Another is ‘A man is defined by his actions not by his memories’. So if a man (or woman) is defined by her (or his) actions, your actions (those I know about) have brought enlightenment and laughter to those whose lives you have touched and this makes you a wise comedian. If you then become a nurse this makes you a wise comedian healer, not a bad identity really. I guess if we let our memories define us it makes it harder to leave our past behind us. I will shut up now before I start an argument with myself by saying ‘Yes Hatman, but if you’re defined by your actions and you do nothing then surely you are nothing.’

    • Definition by memory is dangerous, though- what if you can’t remember? I have massive gaps in my memory due to extremes of mood- in that case, I would be a phantom. It’s why I place such high importance on photos and blogging- I need to remember!

  5. this is something that’s been on my mind a lot recently too. my T recently said that she thinks i’m borderline (it’d been mooted before by several docs and although she can’t diagnose, i trust her judgement mostly), and the more i think about it the more i think she has a point. i’m not saying that’s what i identify with but the more i think about myself the more i realise my identity over time has shifted a *lot* or at least that’s how it seems to me. i don’t mean shifted in the normal growing up kind of way (although part of it is that) but my persona as well changes quite dramatically every so often and i go from being a “this” to a “that” very quickly and to a point that’s obsessive and then suddenly i’ll be a “the other”. that’s a very generalised statement but to me it makes me wonder if (well, that along with various other things) she’s right about borderline.

    i don’t think she thinks bipolar doesn’t apply (and that’s something i definitely and probably consciously identify with, mainly because saying you’re bipolar (nb i usually say that, not that i have bipolar) is easier than describing all the various issues therewith and quicker too.

    as for more general things, well that’s something i struggle with, let’s just leave it there🙂

  6. I’m very lucky in that my friends always reach out to include, whether I’m sick or well, and aren’t at all offended when I turn them down. They never give up asking, and they’re very supportive.

    As far as how other people perceive me, I’ve been told that I startle when I swear or become angry because I seem very sweet tempered and kind. This can be to my advantage with Doctors, most times, because I’m so easy to deal with that when I put my foot down they fold. In reality, I filter what I say very much because I’m afraid of saying something I don’t mean when I’m sick,

    I’ve been told by several people that I’m the best friend they’ve ever had because I listen and I’m very accepting and sometimes just because I remember that they’ve been sick and inquire. At the same time, they tell me that I have challenged them to question who they are and what they want to be and pushed them to answer that question and become more than they would have been otherwise. I think this is mostly because I’m very good at keeping an updated mental tally of other people’s health and news and because if I’m going to be mentally ill and have people put up with my odd behaviors than I feel I have to accommodate theirs. For questioning, I don’t really understand that, although I’m very fond of asking ‘why?’ until I get an answer that satisfies and makes sense.

    I see someone who is volatile and takes and takes and takes, especially when I’m sick, and they tell me otherwise, very firmly. It’s a little uncomfortable, because I hate who I am very strongly sometimes, and they seem to feel, just as strongly and often more so, that I’ve been kind to them and that they owe me help and support in return. This is one of the few times that I make people angry, and they can be very, VERY insistent and upset.

    I do know that I’m very, very good at reading posture and tone of voice and knowing what to say and how to say it (barring times when I’ve gone somewhere into left field with being sick) and knowing when someone needs me to ask more than ‘how are you doing?’, but I can’t account for what they see otherwise.

    It can be very awkward if someone thanks me. I don’t believe what they say and become upset. It seems like a cruel joke to me.

    They seem to know someone entirely different from the horribly flawed me that I see. :/

    Still, I can’t be upset about this, because I have a fiance who helps me and stands with me through thick and thin. He calls me his ‘hedgehog’ because I sometimes stick out my quills and stab at everyone around me, just because I’m hurting. I have six or so friends that I trust absolutely and who are there for me in all things. I have very, VERY many close friends and so many casual that I can’t keep up with all of them. Making (and keeping friends) comes easily to me, as well as prompting people to help me.

    I’m very, very good at faking normal, is what I’m told far too often. People sometimes don’t believe I’m ill. I’m fairly well educated, and I speak well, and this is a large part of why it has been a struggle to GET the mental health I need. I can smile and play the social game even while I’m struggling with the urge to kill myself RIGHT NOW.

    I think, sometimes, that they see the face I created for myself, the person I wanted desperately to be, as real. I can’t believe that I’ve become that person; they can’t believe I’m not them already.

    :C

    I read this a dozen times, mostly because it seems like a very self centered response!

  7. Interesting post. I have been thinking alot about identity, inspired when was asked twice if I am female (I am). I’m less than I want to be. Who am I? Maybe I should be focusing on Who do I WANT to be?
    I am friendly but have lost my friends mostly, I am educated but am wasting it, I am hardworking but not working, I am a statistic and I want to hide. I have bpd but few people know. Hard stuff.

  8. I am so many things. I try to be loyal, honest, careful, empathetic, friendly and kind. How much of that actually comes through is difficult to know, as I can’t see myself from another person’s point of view. No matter how much I want to.

    I’m very shy, but I can be excessively loud and very intense. I’m anxious about what people think of me, recently I’ve started thinking that my teachers don’t like me – as well as the almost constant niggling that none of my friends like me. This is terribly annoying.

    I dress quite strangely (I have a kilt pin in my ear and I’m wearing an amnesty international t-shirt right now) and I have dreadlocks, so a lot of people think I go out drinking regularly and socialise and take drugs. I really don’t. I’m scared of becoming an alcoholic, partially because I’ve seen the effect alcohol has had on certain members of my family. I have never taken recreational drugs (excluding alcohol, which I have learned to enjoy in moderation). I’m also quite a loner. I’m scared of inviting people out because I assume they’ll only say yes because they feel they should. I’m also cautious of going out by myself, because I don’t want to look like a loner in a social situation, like a pub.

    Demographically speaking: I am 18 in a week, I attend sixth form college and I see myself as part of the working class. I have applied to read Medicine at university, which is a huge part of who I am. I am very smart, and I love the subject. I love science and the pathology of medicine as well as learning how it affects every individual in a holistic manner.

    I have a boyfriend, who loves me very much, even when I don’t believe him. Even when my mood swings several times in a day, he’ll still tell me he loves me. Unconditional love he says.

    I vary between thinking I am amazing, to thinking I’m a complete mess, to thinking I’m a worthless nothing. So unfortunately, yes, having a mental illness impacts on who I am. But it doesn’t make a difference to who I could be, if I went for it.

    Uhm. There you go.

  9. I suppose I’m an officially mad, queer, trans-everything wandering poet. I’m quite capable of inventing a hundred new names/life stories/habits depending on who’s asking. I don’t think it’s a problem – the rush of blood through the body is a generous but mostly futile exercise.

    I think identity is so fluid that to try and pin it is like trying to catch music in glass jars. The only thing I’m reasonably sure about is being an existentialist taoist – and even I don’t know how that’s supposed to work.

    N.

  10. this is a very tough question, particularly since i find personality to be synonymous with identity. still, i’ll answer best i can.

    i am a loving person who is strong willed, inquisitive, honest, and intelligent. i have sophisticated tastes and i am thoroughly an aries – fiery and independent.

    being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder has set me on a path dedicated to whole health and, to a great extent, separates me from my friends and family.

  11. From my regular readings of your words, I would say that you are finding your identity as you write and will continue doing so as you write/breathe/live.you’re doing rather well something we all do eventually – you’re growing up. You had the misfortune to be diagnosed young, a not surprising consequence of the travails of your earlier years. You are, you own, your identity which shines through despite your conflicting diagnoses. Ignoring the labels for the moment, I saw you as a very bright, sassy (although I doubt that’s a pc permissible adjective) young woman who has a wicked way with words and you are very very good at writing and self-expressing (I’m not just saying that, I know about these things because I am well read) . You have made yourself a powerful voice, whether or not you choose to use is entirely up to you.

  12. I feel like I’ve left little bits fractured identities all over the place like discarded crisp bags. I’ve been many things to many different people at many times. I’ve projected whatever identity I thought I should adopt at a particular point in my life, a different one for every occassion.

    Were any of them real? I’m not sure, it feels like my fairly patchy memories were happening to someone else. How then should I be judged? I’ve done good things & bad things, maybe the good outweighs the bad.

    I think I’ve grown up a lot & become more comfortable in my own skin. I know roughly how I work & I think I have a fair idea of how I got here. I think, I feel, I’m in love, I experience, often very intensely. I’m not sure what is at the centre of that though, when I try to look for it, it’s not there. Is there some sort of defining quality called “personality” that is supposed to sit in the middle of all that stuff or am I looking for something that doesn’t exist?

    Also I want to say that I’ve stopped reading MH related blogs for my own sake. The only one that I continue to read is yours because of the quality of the writing. I think you should consider yourself a writer on the strength of this blog alone.

    • To put it more succinctly. I think that the self is a sort of self-referential story but should it feel like there is someone telling the story or should the story tell itself?

  13. I would have to say that my “illness” is a key part of my identity. Sometimes I reject this and others I embrace it, but it is always true.

    I think this is at least partially because the anxiety and depression I experience that reaches extremes sufficient for clinical diagnosis are just the far edges of a spectrum of states of being that are part of who I am.

    Part of what lets me think this way is the fact that others in my family have had strikingly similar experiences. All of my relatives that have struggled with mental illness also exhibit to some degree a certain cluster of personality traits. We all think too much, we’re worriers, we’re incredibly sensitive in all regards, but particularly in social situations. We all have a quiet, thoughtful side and a wild, extravagant, loud side that people are frequently surprised can exist in the same person.

    Certain aspects of my experience with mental illness have allowed me to make a very clear distinction of me vs. the illness. For instance, severe depression doesn’t feel to me like my own personality just spinning a bit out of control, it feels like an invader, a dark cloud that comes in and takes over. Panic attacks are also a distinct dysfunction. But my constant, chronic anxiety, my crippling insecurities? The fact that I’ve never really liked myself? The sense that being happy/cheerful requires sustained effort? I have never NOT felt those things, as far as I can remember.

    I make this sound so awful, but as much as I hate feeling so fucking fragile, this “overly pensive/sensitive/reactive” personality type isn’t 100% bad news. There is kind of a sense that everything is a little bit more real to me, that I’m a mess because I feel everything so strongly, I’m so painfully ALIVE. And sometimes, that is nice. Sometimes, I feel like my extremes and sensitivities give me access to levels of pleasure and passion that people without them do not have.

    And this is why I’ve given up hope entirely on a “cure” for my depression and anxiety. I think they’re two incredibly awful effects of a personality type that for better or for worse IS me. I can control them, and I try, I really do. I take antidepressants and they knock my sensitivity down a notch, and move up my natural “normal” mood to something a bit closer to ‘happy’ than it would be otherwise.

    I sometimes wonder if, given the choice, I would get rid of all of this, become a completely different person, to escape the worst of the consequences. And honestly… at my lowest lows, or at the points when the panic gets so bad I go days without ever feeling like I can catch my breath… I would, absolutely. I don’t know that I’d recognize myself on the other side but it might just be worth it.

    blargh. What a bunch of whiny nonsense.

  14. I’ve been trying to write a blogpost about this. It’s such an interesting topic but I just can’t seem to get the words out!

  15. I’ve thought about this question a lot. When I’m low I feel like I have no identity; I have such a mixed-up background it’s hard to choose what to identify with without feeling like an impostor, or that I’m denying other parts of myself. But I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t have to pick and choose one fact of myself. An example: in fourth grade, my teacher made classroom awards for everyone. Mine was “most well-rounded,” and I HATED it. It seemed like a pitiful nothing of an accolade; I wanted to be SOMEthing, not a little bit of everything. My friends got best artist, best athlete, best grades, best sense of humor, etc. I wanted a “thing” to excel in, but I’ve always been a dabbler. In school, I loved literature, art and writing but was pretty good at math and biology. I chose my major in college because it allowed me to use both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of myself. I have come to value my dilettante ways, but still feel pressure to specialize further for career purposes.

    Other mixed-up mes:

    I am an Army brat. For all of my childhood, I moved every three years, and that has impacted my life immensely from the way I define myself (confusedly) to the way I form relationships (skittishly) and the way I form memory (poorly–it’s hard to remember things without triggers of people and place). I grew up in a hierarchical, military culture. For a long time, I didn’t have a geography I identified with: no sense of history or tradition. I think I consider myself a Chicagoan now. I’ve lived here for five years, which is the longest I’ve been anywhere contiguously, and I love it. Being an Army brat also makes me crave stability and want to put down roots, since I think I lack those in my life. This is an unpopular stance for high-achieving 20-somethings: you’re supposed to go wherever you need to go to advance your career or Take Advantage of Your Youth or something.

    I consider myself an intellectual, a writer, and a progressive. I went to an elite college and have a job that pays me to think and write about public policy that impacts people of color and the poor. More importantly than those external markers, written language is the most comfortable venue for me–once I get into the groove of thinking about words, I feel very much at home. I have an active interest in people’s welfare and the forces that affect it.

    I think I am a loyal friend and lover–I’ve been with the same guy forevs and love him deeply–but, like I said, not have long-term relationships has left me with Issues of trust and faith in people. I also worry excessively about people. I’m working on it.

    I’m a work in progress.

    I’m of a mixed cultural background; my dad is Puerto Rican, my mom is Irish-American. Raised Catholic, and my dad’s culture figured much more prominently in my childhood. I am trying to get to know my mom’s story better now. But I have a definite relationship to the food, culture, and language of PR.

    By the time I graduated from high school, my family was firmly upper-middle-class. I now am lower-middle or middle class. I doubt I will ever make as much money as my father does, barring a huge change in career path or marriage to a rich-ish suitor. Who knows. I was very lucky financially.

    I’m not mentally ill, I think, though I see a therapist weekly. My life has been irrevocably touched by it. I’m a highly anxious person, though I don’t know if it’s pathological. My mom and brother have issues with depression and anxiety; my brother is having a lot of trouble getting on with life because of it.

    There, way more than you ever wanted to know about me.

    • @Katie – Well done for writing all the above, many sympathies with your army brat childhood, only know you from what you’ve written but I’d say that you’re well into the process of finding your identity, are you blogging any where that you’d care to share?

  16. I believe for the benefit of clarity, felicity and mutual understanding it would be nice if your correspondents came to accord upon the meaning and usage of the epithets “identity”, “personality”, “character”, “persona” and “self”. I myself am content to stay indoors and eat too many cashew nuts.

  17. My diagnosis of panic disorder took over my identity. I have no idea who I am.

  18. Hello…just found this by random clicks on the computer and the topic comes in and out of my mind often. Five years ago I was bold enough to interview people from my past about me. It’s an interesting and helpfull type of experiment if the person is willing to be honest and you’re brave enough to hear it. Being “crazy” before diagnosis and now officially loony does help explain frightening embarrassing behavior that defined me, defines me… and maybe the meds define me now. I know it is a topic that most people would not bother with. The search of thy self in the mind of a manic-depressed woman is to say the least elusive…but always a neccesity.
    Best, Holly Nash-Hodges
    Huntington Beach California

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