Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Authenticity and Mental Health

Why Authenticity matters in Mental Health

When I started The Romeo Project on the last few days of December, I stated that I wanted to create a self-improvement project that worked for me, someone with a mental illness.
But what exactly does my resolution to ‘Be Authentic’ have to do with mental health?

Sometimes I think my depression and anxiety make me inauthentic. When I’m depressed, I’m not me. I feel like a completely different person.

Could it be that mental illness stops us from being authentic?

Case #1: I love reading books; it’s probably my number one hobby.
 But when I’m down I can’t even finish reading a paragraph. Before I was diagnosed with depression I struggled in school, in college, and just reading for fun. I had zero concentration to get any task done.

Case #2: I generally have a positive outlook on life. Except when my anxiety comes into play.
I believe that something good can come out of every situation. And I love meeting new people and having new experiences.
 But sometimes my anxiety tells me ‘no’. It tells me not to answer the phone. It tells me that I will never get a job. It tells me that I’m inferior and nothing good will ever come my way. It tells me that I can’t do this, or I can’t do that for some irrational reason or another.

Case #3: My Values, as discussed earlier this month, went straight out the window when I developed depression.
Family is probably the most important thing to me. My family and I have always been very close, but when I was 18 and suicidal, being with my family went out the window. I thought that I, and they, would be much better off if I was out of the picture.
Similarly, being conscientious and hardworking didn’t matter in my exams. I didn’t care what I got in the state exams as a 17 year old, and I didn’t study for them.

In many cases mental illness creates barriers to being authentic.
I didn’t study for my state exams because I partly I couldn’t. I didn’t care how I did in them because I saw no future no matter how I did.
I wanted to die, not because I didn’t love my family, but because my illness told me I was worthless and I was nothing.
I can’t read books, or even a single page when I’m depressed because the illness makes it difficult for me to concentrate.

Discovering my ‘authentic self’ has really helped me to explore who I really am. My depression does not define me, but my values do. And it’s been important for me to define what these are.

In fact, I think that knowing who I am really am and what I really stand for has given me some piece of mind this month. I’ve come to realise that I am not this crippled pessimist, anti-social, miserable person.

I am me. I am positive and optimistic. I can crack jokes, on occasion. I can be sociable; providing I put in a bit of effort and stop fearing rejection.

I have values. I have likes and dislikes. I have hobbies.

And mental illness doesn’t change that.

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