I’m sitting by my window, my new window, I should say, where I can see the beautiful Manhattan skyline better than I have ever before. It’s night, so the lights and the cars on the Williamsburg bridge twinkle, but there is enough water between us that all is quiet. Quiet city living is an oxymoron and I thought I’d never achieve it, but I might have, finally. With the (final) move done, I’m more than relieved and thankful that I will be spending most of my time recovering peacefully in this neighborhood.
Tuesday means it’s therapy day. Therapy has finally been nudging at something in my head that seemed to have been stuck for ages. The core of the problem. It’s one of those times when all the information you need has been there all along, all your past history, the trials and tribulations, but it just hasn’t been processed well. I guess I just defined the point of therapy right there. Six different psychiatrists and a handful of therapists later, it feels like things are moving along.
It all started with talks about my dissociations (the aspect depersonalization especially where I feel like I’m out of my own body), why I dissociate (unintentionally but possibly with some purpose), which led to the discussion about the personalities I have possessed during different times in my life, which then led to the idea of there being a singular sense of self, or whether if I thought I had one. It was a difficult conversation, something that made me vulnerable and rather silly- I said I thought I had a very fluid sense of self. My favorite food, book, movie, color and anything that typically defines a person change for me every few hours, depending on how I feel and who I’m interacting with. I don’t like conflict, so I try to please most people by agreeing with their decisions and preferences within reason (sorry angry-human-in-orange-skin supporters). I think everyone does this to a certain extent (e.g. to look nice to your boss), but this is probably what I do to everyone. “Agreeable” would be putting it nicely, but you could also say that the person has no color to their personality. Could you say that I’m not normal? Perhaps. Is it healthy? Probably not. I could say it has been a survival mechanism since I landed on Canadian soil as an immigrant at the age of ten from the other side of the earth. I was unhappy with how my family was treated for not being able to speak English and not knowing the culture, and I promised myself that I would protect them and that I would be more than a second class citizen when I grew up. (For those who don’t speak a second language as their main language, people will treat you like shit if you don’t speak a language even if you have more degrees then them. Because, well, you’re basically dumb and mute for all they care.) From this point, I threw away my first language and immersed into my second to speak like a native. No mixing “l” and “r” sounds, knowing when things should be silent and not. In a neighborhood that did not share my culture, even with my efforts, I was not accepted well. I was a curiosity for a little while, but to make friends, I had to choose the new culture over my own.
Today I speak English like a native. Some would say better than a native. I achieved my goal, but I started doing something else. Giving up and compromising “myself” started being a habit since that day. I would make a mold of an idealized self and pour everything into becoming that person. Once I got there, the goal changed to something bigger and better. When the mold changed, and I would break the old one to become the new idealized version of what I wanted to be. As my therapist would say, I never let my real self grow, I just pretended to be the different people I wanted to be. I was making these molds and wearing them as my own personality. It took a lot of work, but I could do it. But all this time, I was the empty shell of a person underneath the plaster. Finally, the plaster cracked, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog. I graduated college with honors, got my dream job that I’ve been preparing for, had friends and a boyfriend, and interesting things to do, but I wasn’t happy. Furthermore, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I didn’t feel like I was good at things when I was praised and I didn’t feel like I was good at things when I didn’t get praised. Everyone was trying to fix me, into something acceptable, but they couldn’t put into words on a performance review. It’s hard to pretend to be confident about something when you feel that something is very wrong. In hindsight, I think that was my authentic self speaking out. I didn’t listen for a long time, because I was going after my goal.
Then as you know, hell broke loose. I became suicidal. I was hospitalized, then was soon diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety, eating disorder not specified, then bipolar II. They are just words, these diagnoses. They, in summary, meant you’re doing something wrong with your body and mind. You’re doing you wrong.
My therapy is really taking shape: it’s about discovering who I am and living authentically, as cliche as that sounds. Twenty-four-years is a long enough time to live as someone else.
I’d love to hear your stories if you’ve been through something similar!