I don’t know who I am anymore.
My partner is unwell and I have become their carer, I am no longer working, my social activities have disappeared and I am depressed.
I don’t know what to do or where to start.
There’s a great scene in Ted Lasso where Roy Kent is contemplating what his life Iooks like and who he is, if he isn’t a footballer anymore. “It’s who I am, it’s all I am”
His niece is asked to describe her Uncle Roy and she mentions all the things he is to her and not one of them includes being a footballer.
When we aren’t clear on who we are it can help to see how others view us. Often what we think of ourselves can be very different to how others see us.
And probably somewhere in the middle between how others view us and how we see ourselves is the truth.
It’s been a lot these past couple of years. There is a lot of processing that still needs to happen. Pre-pandemic, When life circumstances change like family becoming unwell or losing work, you have the rest of your life activities to gain meaning and identity from. However, if all of those things are stripped away, it can be hard to get a sense of who you are.
I have a friend J. He’s tall, dark and handsome. He’s got beautiful eyes and a cheeky smile.
He is curious and smart, funny, thoughtful and creative. He is passionate about the environment and food and has incredible knowledge about plants. We talk fashion and crypto. He is an excellent conversationalist and can talk to anybody about anything. He is self aware and one of the most emotionally articulate people I’ve ever met. He challenges me and I’m so glad he exists in the world.
He also experiences depression.
J could feel himself experiencing some depression the further we went into the pandemic. He has experienced depression on and off for years. When telling me about how he was feeling, I asked him how I could support him and he said something interesting to me that I have thought about a lot.
He said “This is where I am right now”
Notice he didn’t say This is WHO I am right now but this is WHERE I am right now.
That distinction is important.
This is where you are right now.
J might be swimming in a sea of depression but it isn’t core to who he is.
When I experienced a bout of depression, I remember someone saying to me, that when you are feeling depressed, it means that you need “deep rest”
That makes sense. We all need deep rest right now.
We are all tired, exhausted and mentally spent. Everything looks worse through tired eyes.
It can be hard to see yourself through others eyes but sometimes I think they have a better view of who we actually are underneath.
When I was in year 7, at the end of the year, our teacher got everyone to write their name on a piece of cardboard and then that piece of card was given to everyone else in the room to write something nice about you or something they liked about you. Your card came back with nearly 30 comments about how people saw you. I still have mine.
We don’t tell people enough all the good things about who they are. We should do it more.
Ask some of the important people in your life to describe you.
I think you'll be surprised by what you hear.
Don’t ask everyone. Ask those whose opinion matters to you. It won’t be many people. Bear in mind, Brene Brown’s idea that it won’t be more than 5 people.
Often, we get attached to identities rather than character traits.
I imagine when you ask the important people in your life to describe you, they won’t be describing the job you do but your personality traits that they know and love. If you’re in marketing, I imagine that’s because you curious about human behaviour or what makes people do what they do, if you’re a writer, it might be because you love words or stories.
What is it underlying your work, not the title, but the things that made you get into that job? Those things will still be in you, even if the job title and work are not there right now.
It’s been a big few years. Really big. I imagine when we look back on them in years to come, we will be astounded by our strength and resilience for all that we went through.
You can look back at your 2019 self and look at the person you were and be proud of that person you were then. But that person doesn’t exist anymore. Parts of you might, but when you go through something big, You are changed. When we bear witness to change, we also change. And we don’t know the extent in ways we have have changed. The world is different. And so are we.
But there is something else that I can guarantee. You will continue to change. I also imagine that there are ways you have changed that you might not even recognise yet. You are stronger than you thought, you are kinder, more resilient and able to be more flexible and adaptable.
Seeing how others see us gives an insight into ourselves
However, what matters most is how you see yourself.
What are you most proud of?
When have you been kind?
Who do you love?
What are the good things about yourself?
If you answer some of the above questions and then put your answers alongside your loved ones comments about you, somewhere in there, a picture will start to form of who you are.
But it doesn’t stop there. We are the sum of our experiences, our relationships, our circumstances. Layer upon layer. We don’t know the future. We don’t know what’s to come.
But there is something that you can control.
WHO do you want to be? You get to choose that person.
If you think of the person you want to be in years to come, who is that person?
Are they kind?
Are they fun?
What sorts of things do they do?
What habits do they have?
What are they passionate about?
You get to choose.
You are both a work in progress and a masterpiece.
At any given time, we get to make our choices on who we want to be. Sure, there will be muddy circumstances to swim in but we get to decide what sort of person we want to be. And if you don’t like the person you are today, tomorrow is a new day.
And so somewhere between how others see you, how you see yourself and who you want to be in the world, that’s all of you, the past, the present and the future you.
**There is wisdom in our stories. Each and every one of us has something to share and something to learn from each other. These letters are a way to learn about yourself and hopefully find some wisdom or compassion that you can apply to yourself and/or each other.
These letters are for informational purposes only. They do not constitute medical or psychological advice and is not a substitute for medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or medical professional.**