Humans are complex beings; we’re made of so many different aspects that have shaped us throughout our lifetimes. We’re built of layers upon layers consisting of our likes, dislikes, relationships, experiences, choices, decisions, hobbies, achievements, failures and so much more. We are the total sum of everything we’ve ever come across because every single thing influences us and shapes the person we are today. Just like a continuous stream, we consistently go on to encounter more experiences, which continue to shape the person we will become tomorrow.
Odds are you don’t take any one of the various things you are composed of as a multifaceted human being and make them your identity. While yes, you may passionately hate broccoli, you probably don’t go around thinking of yourself as a “broccoli hater” and while you may enjoy a nice cup of coffee every morning, you don’t go around calling yourself a “coffee connoisseur” or “coffee enthusiast.” Also, you might be an engineer or an astronaut, but chances are you don’t make your career your whole identity. Outside of work, you might have hobbies you’re passionate about or maybe even a side business.
These things are a part of one of your many layers, but they do not define who you are as a person and suffering from a mental illness should be treated the same way. Whether you suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness – it is not your identity. You might have depression, but you are not depression. You are so much more than just one aspect of your life. Your mental illness does not define you. It may be a part of one of your many layers, but you are more than merely one aspect of yourself.
You are not your illness; you are more. So much more. You are the courage you show when you get up and face your fears on a daily basis. You are the strength you exude when you keep fighting against your mental illness, even when every fiber of your being wants you to give in and quit. You are the resilience you exhibit when you refuse to give up and let your diagnosis win. You are the bravery you display when you open up about your struggles, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. You are the hope you emit when you go and seek help. You are the determination you radiate when you continuously seek to better yourself and implement the strategies your therapist taught you. You are the faith you feel when you think of better days waiting ahead of you. You are the love, support and care you receive from those surrounding you during your journey.
Do you see even your mental illness in itself is built upon layers and layers? Some negative, but some oh so positive. So, next time you find yourself thinking negatively and reducing yourself to nothing more than a diagnosis, think again. Chances are that even this one little label you’re slapping on yourself has layers upon layers underneath making you who you really are. Your illness does not define you! It is not who/what you are, it is not your identity, it is just one aspect of you.
You are way more than your mental illness. Way more!