Who are you really? Are you your namesake? Your father’s son? Whoever you want to be?
Whoever you are, you know you’re you. Unless you don’t. Unless, like me, you have a diagnosis that limits and pervades your ability to form a stable self-image.
You may be a chameleon, mimicking the thoughts and behaviours of those around you. You may be certain of your identity one day, resolute and determined on a set career path or lifestyle – only to find the next moment you’re hopelessly lost, disconnected, desperately unsure of who you are and what you want.
You may look in the mirror and not even recognise the person looking back. You may act irrationally, out of extreme desperation to be someone, anyone. To feel something that you yearn to believe is you, genuinely and completely you.
It’s terrifying to not have a clear sense of who you are. Whilst most people experience this feeling a handful of times throughout their lives, those diagnosed with BPD may be fraught with a constant onslaught of crises surrounding their internal and external identity.
So whose life is it anyway? If you don’t feel real, if you don’t feel like you can even relate to yourself, or you can’t recognise who you might really be because you’ve spent your life wearing thousands of different masks and now whoever you were underneath them all is lost to the ether?
How do you find that stability? How do you find yourself and keep it around?
What if you’re nobody? What if there’s nothing left under the surface? What if this is all you are? What if this is all that’s left? A pile of empty clothes, the silence of an empty room, a shell of something that once was?
A blank slate? A fresh start? A reinvention? A second chance?
The foundation of your identity house is your physical presence. You just have to lay some bricks. Mix up some mortar and fill in the gaps. Build a few windows, let people see inside, eventually, maybe even install a door and let someone in.
It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick. It won’t even be something you like doing at first.
But once you start finding some building materials, note them down. Write where you found them, your degree of interest in them, or their abilities to keep your identity house strong and resilient.
And remember; you can always tear down some walls that didn’t work, shut some windows, open more doors, do some renovations, let more light in and add an extension or two.
Building up a sense of who you are is fluid and transient, no house lasts forever, and you may need some help to repair bits you don’t know how to mend.
But that’s okay, because everyone is working on themselves constantly; but you get to start again.