Thoughts about identity

At college today, we were set a photography project exploring personal identity and what that means. I found this really, really hard because I’m finding it difficult at the moment to feel ‘real’ and that I actually exist outside of mental illness, and that I actually have an identity at all. Which got me thinking a lot about what identity actually is in the first place and what it means. We had to get into pairs to discuss and make a mind map about identity, and it was really interesting to hear other people’s views- about personality, hobbies, interests, memorabilia, clothes and lots of other things. I’m still not totally sure what it actually ‘is’ though.

It got me thinking a lot about this year in particular and how my own concept of ‘identity’ has changed especially over lockdown. Before, my identity used to be work and the children I worked with, and that felt like my main focus and purpose in life. But then lockdown happened, school closed and suddenly all I was left with was ‘me’ outside of work which I found really difficult to deal with. And then things got more complicated, I handed my notice in and now I feel like I don’t really exist at all. I’m still ‘doing’ things- I’m back at college, I volunteer at a homeless shelter and have just started volunteering back at school again, I work in a supermarket and occasionally at a pub but I still don’t feel like any of that is ‘me’ and I really miss having the kids I mentored to focus on and have as my ‘purpose’.

Lockdown was horrendous- I really didn’t cope with being on my own in the house all the time and felt rubbish nearly all the time. I couldn’t focus on anything and had no energy, I stopped running, I hardly wrote at all and spent a lot of the time crying or sleeping, and it’s been hard to get out of that pattern. I still don’t feel ‘real’ or like I actually exist as a person and it’s horrible. I think mental illness really does take away a massive part of your identity and sucks it into itself, and I don’t know how to get out of that when you can’t seem to fully engage with anything else. Which makes this project doubly hard!

I wrote a Facebook status a while ago asking friends what they associated with me because of how I was feeling and I’m planning to work the answers into an art piece to try to make a visual representation of who I actually am so that I can look at it when I feel particularly bad and try to feel more like an actual person, and I might try to use some of those answers in the photography project. Sorry this post isn’t massively long or interesting- I’m still finding it hard to focus on or engage with anything! But will try to keep the blog more updated and maybe post some work from college at some point…


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