Finding your identity while dealing with depression.

Finding your identity while dealing with depression.

July 2018

by Steven R.A. Markin

If you are like me, then you have had many changing ideas of who you are and what you want to be throughout your lifetime. I have wanted to be Batman, most of the Ninja Turtles (too dumb to be Donatello), a Ghostbuster, and a writer, and pretty much anything that I have had an interest in. I still want to be Batman, but I don’t think it is going to happen, because, I mean, you have to be Bruce Wayne to be Batman, and I have no idea how to be a Billionaire; therefore, I am a writer.

I have had quite the imagination and always wanted to be important to people. As life has gone on, life events have inevitably occurred, I have lost more than I thought I could handle, and I have had to learn that being an older sibling and first born comes with great responsibly (almost a Spiderman reference!). I have saved my mom’s life, twice. But I have felt lost, and still do most days, when it comes to what I want to be. My friends are in relationships, working in their careers, and coming home to their spouse and even children (and dogs – I want a puppy!). Which is excellent, and I am happy for them, but what am I doing wrong? Sure, they seem stressed, and when I would ride my bike or go to the gym for 3 hours, I wasn’t very stressed, and some of them were jealous, but I was jealous of them for working towards what they wanted. When asked what I do, I say that I am a writer, and occasionally, someone takes an interest in what I have to say, and this motivated me to learn more.

But I am a time waster. I have been lazy and putting my focus in the wrong direction. In a relationship, I am one of those people who focus on the other person too damn much. I end up losing myself after a period of time because of no longer doing the things that make me, me. Instead of writing at night, as I almost always do when I am single, I will be watching a movie and cuddling. Lovely, I know, and I miss it, but why do I stop altogether? I never stop talking about being a writer, or telling people that I am working on a short story, or a poem, or I am a part of the Alberta Writers Guild . . . Blah blah blah. The thing is, I don’t balance my time well, and I should find time for both the relationship with my significant other and the person I am dating (it’s funny to me). Seriously, there needs to be a balance, time for yourself. Keep working at your craft because saying that I am something gives me purpose.

What gives me a sense of identity, being a writer does remember? Although I have had many journals, and I have loved creative writing in class, I have had a hard time with words: pronouncing words, understanding words, and remembering them have been a great challenge for me. My vocabulary is quite limited to how I talk if I don’t use my resources, but this also makes my stories more understood to a broader range of audience. In university, I would do rather well with creativity and understanding of the content, but I was significantly penalized because of grammatic errors. I got tired of losing senseless marks. It is hard to say you are something when you aren’t good at being that something, but I am a writer.

So, I went to workshops. I went to plenty, even ones that I already thought I knew about, and I came out with learning something new, even if it were just one thing. (I am surprised how many students do not use workshops that we pay for in our tuition!). I purchased grammar books and read them on my way to school most mornings and during summer break, and re-read them, and again. Boring, I know, but I hated not understanding my craft. I wasn’t good at English, but I am a writer. In college, I won an English Award and on the envelop read Engblish. Sums up my life. Anyway, I worked at learning and gaining tools that helped me identify myself as a writer. The idea of identity provides a purpose for me, and, allows me to look at life in a certain way. I am often listening to others and paying attention to conversations (yup, I admit it), but it allows me to wander through life being more active and listening. I use a lot of what I see and hear, life experiences, in my work (a lot of depressing undertones – haha); although most of my work sits in piles and in journals and in my head (which is a different story), I have plenty to offer. But one thing is for sure, my mindset is that of a writer.

How do I put my identity into practice?

  • I joined a writer’s guild. It is free for students, and when I joined it, I looked for others who are involved.
  • I listened to what they had to offer, not so much their work because I don’t have too much time to spend.
  • I look to see what events are being held, contests in magazines, or seminars, I try to be proactive in experiencing as much as I can on writing that not only allows me to gain knowledge of my craft but helps me to see the bigger picture: that being someone is important to me.

Why is having an identity so crucial for someone who suffers from depression?
I don’t know. Maybe because it keeps me active and provides a feeling of importance. I have spent the better part of this year trying to finish my work and as mentioned, being included with others who are like-minded. This has given me a lot. Yes, I have come a long way from secluding myself in 2007 (downright isolating myself for nearly 3 years), I am depressed some days, and somedays working and even getting out of bed is too much, and then I think of how I feel when I am working on my craft, when I am writing poems or a short story. Sure, I often try for a 20-minute walk to clear my head and if my depression is too severe, I stand outback focusing on my breathing, but something happens, I get an urge to do what makes me feel like me, and that is to write or to do something that is associated with being creative. And to be honest, writing has saved my life. Not only just to get out of bed some days, or to help me sleep once I get a lot out of my head onto paper, but without this identity that I have given myself, I would be completely lost and even feeling worthless. I would rather be lost in life but with a purpose (because I am a writer).

Our attitudes towards ourselves and perceptions of life are essential. I don’t believe in being positive all the time. I think this is like lying to yourself, so be honest and real, and just know that you can and will make it through. Do your best to stay true to yourself, find who you are, and learn all you can because we experience life differently, which is exciting to be different, but some people share a lot in common, find these groups if needed. And maybe being different is for a reason: more diversity and more identities, and perhaps even a richer life (not Bruce Wayne rich, but, like, with a purpose.)

Thanks for reading.

My acrylic paintings for sale on etsy