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Struggling With Lack of Identity
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Bipolar Disorder is also known as "Manic Depressive Disorder". This forum is for questions and support for people with, or for loved ones of people with Bipolar Disorder. The forum covers topics ranging from Aggressive Behavior, Affect on friends and Family, Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Appetite Changes, Chronic Pain, Denial, Depression, Difficulty Concentrating, Euphoria, Guilt, Manic Depression, Medications, Mood Swings, Poor Judgment, and Sleep Disorders

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Struggling With Lack of Identity

I'm a 50-year old female diagnosed BP1 nine years ago. I've been bipolar all my life and continue to struggle. Each mood swing is another reminder that I don't have a solid identity, or at least a solid grasp of a baseline understanding of who I am - ME - the person underneath the illness. I feel like a mix of crazy-happy-out-of-control and sad-sick-depressed bed-ridden.

How does someone get to a point where there is a real person on a day-to-day basis?

Heavy sigh.
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1167245_tn?1353882100
After my mood problems started, I started to lose little pieces of my identity here or there: being a good student no long applied, being a person with many close friends no longer applied, being a person with big dreams and goals no longer applied, etc. etc. So, piece by piece it just kind of fell away until there wasn't too much left. After so many episodes, I think a person is kind of just left with no clue who is the 'real' version of them, and who is the 'sick' version of them. Are they different, or are they one and the same? These are hard questions to answer.

For me, I've come to realize that that vacuum was filled by identifying strongly with the diagnosis. Because I had lost every that I had previously used to identify myself and what I'm all about, I became simply a manifestation of the illness. It was what I was all about, because there was nothing else there for a while. It was comforting to have something to fill in that identity void.

But now that I recognize what happened, I'm slowly starting to rebuild my identity. It's hard to let go of over-identifying with bipolar disorder, with pathologizing everything that I think and experience, but I think I'm working toward getting back a real identity where the illness is only a small part, rather than the core.

Then again, this is all easier said that done, and it's especially hard when one is actually in the midst of a mood episode. For the purposes of self-preservation, it's sometimes helpful to identify with the diagnosis so you know what is happening and what you must do to get out of it. I think it's just a long, long, long process. I'm hoping that whenever my next mood episode rears its ugly head, I will be more able to cope with it by viewing it as only one part of who I am while retaining the other parts of my identity.

I don't know if any of this makes sense, or if it's what you're talking about, but I think I can definitely relate!
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603015_tn?1329866573
Hi I hear you and understand, when I was diagnosed I felt like I had been stripped of who I was, that my life before knowing was somehow fake, I was happy with who I was before an up and down girl who was a little quirky sometimes, quite conservative but then let loose, I was happy with that until I was diagnosed, I am only BPII so I deal with mainly depression and some hypomania, I miss the old me, pre medicated, pre labled and I still feel a little lost sometimes. Someone once said to me that Bipolar is imprinted on a persons personality and the person is still unique under the illness, this gave me some comfort for some reason and I try to remember this when I feel like I will never be the same person again. Take Care
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Avatar_f_tn
Wow - I had just posted about how after my last episode I felt a change... and I think your description might be what I feel. I think I'm stable, but I don't know.

I second guess everything now (is it mania making me do this? Am I really mad, or is it agitation from an up or down?). I hope I'm 'just happy' or 'just sad', but never know. I feel like my bipolar is a huge part of me... it seems like more of my choices and feelings are bipolar than me.

The worst part for me is that my bipolar is getting worse. I just had my first real manic/mixed episode, and got switched to bp1. So I have to get used to this and dig around to find myself apparently.
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1167245_tn?1353882100
After my mood problems started, I started to lose little pieces of my identity here or there: being a good student no long applied, being a person with many close friends no longer applied, being a person with big dreams and goals no longer applied, etc. etc. So, piece by piece it just kind of fell away until there wasn't too much left. After so many episodes, I think a person is kind of just left with no clue who is the 'real' version of them, and who is the 'sick' version of them. Are they different, or are they one and the same? These are hard questions to answer.

For me, I've come to realize that that vacuum was filled by identifying strongly with the diagnosis. Because I had lost every that I had previously used to identify myself and what I'm all about, I became simply a manifestation of the illness. It was what I was all about, because there was nothing else there for a while. It was comforting to have something to fill in that identity void.

But now that I recognize what happened, I'm slowly starting to rebuild my identity. It's hard to let go of over-identifying with bipolar disorder, with pathologizing everything that I think and experience, but I think I'm working toward getting back a real identity where the illness is only a small part, rather than the core.

Then again, this is all easier said that done, and it's especially hard when one is actually in the midst of a mood episode. For the purposes of self-preservation, it's sometimes helpful to identify with the diagnosis so you know what is happening and what you must do to get out of it. I think it's just a long, long, long process. I'm hoping that whenever my next mood episode rears its ugly head, I will be more able to cope with it by viewing it as only one part of who I am while retaining the other parts of my identity.

I don't know if any of this makes sense, or if it's what you're talking about, but I think I can definitely relate!
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81112_tn?1274756197
Thank you so much for your responses. Your comments do help. It's so true about looking back at my life and feeling that some portion is one part of my disorder and another portion is another part of my disorder, etc...no longer MY LIFE or just ME. This seeps into my day-to-day life, too.

A perfect recent example is a conversation between my husband and me that went somewhat like this, ME: "I'm glad I can say how I feel about these things with you." HUBBY: "I don't like it too much." ME: "You never really like it when I get assertive with you." HUBBY: "I think you're manic."

Okay - am I manic, or assertive? I like being assertive, but do I only feel  assertive when I'm manic or am I really being manic and not assertive at all? What the h*ll? Was I really aggressive and not assertive? Or is he overly sensitive? (To a degree, yes.) I'm so confused.
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952564_tn?1268372247
I say your husband just does not want to deal with emotions. Men can be like that. If he doesn't like what you are doing or saying he will say you're manic or depressed, that's what it sounds like to me. Sounds like a something a couple's therapist might be helpful for, one that understand bipolar.

Also, here's the thing. When I was in my early 20s I had this episode where I believed these people were after me, it was a huge delusional thing. Sure, that was caused by bipolar. But it was still ME. I was still there.

I don't define myself by my episodes or moods. I can tell you who I am this way: I'm a mom, a wife, a writer, I work at a job and I'm a daughter. I like to play video games, watch movies, and make people laugh. I enjoy having my family around me. I also happen to wear glasses and am bipolar. Sometimes the things I like aren't that fun and other times I like to have a lot more fun than normal. Sometimes I talk to much, hear phones ringing, or think aliens are out to get me. But, I am all of these things. There isn't a me and a not me. I am my mania. I am my depression. I am weird and quirky and I need to take medicine for it, LOL. I still like to wear socks with stripes, though. Because I'm still the same person I was before. Just because now my weirdness has a name doesn't mean it's not still who I am, was, and always will be.

We are the sum of our many parts, good and bad. When I took psychology oh so long ago, the instructor had an egg on his desk that was like a nesting egg. The outer shell was full of holes. Inside the shell was another egg covered with random things. Spikes, mirrors, sponges, etc. He said this egg is an identity. On the outside is what we choose to display, but what is going on under the shell always peeks thorugh, diagnosed or not.

A person with cancer is not cancer. A person with diabetes is not diabets. A person with bipolar is not bipolar. We have bipolar, which is different. And if you fight your bipolar you can say you're a bipolar warrior. :)
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81112_tn?1274756197
I still walk around in this body that's mine, but this mind is not. This mind is controlled by some other source that decides who I'm going to be when I wake up. And when I battle with my husband I don't know if it's real or if I'm manic or I'm depressed. Crap. Do I stand up for what I just said or stand down and apologize? Was it me or mania? Was it real or Memorex? Anyway. I need to re-read what you have all written and talk with my therapist. I seem to be going around in circles and it's making me sick to my stomach. So tired. Will check in tomorrow. I had to put a pet to sleep today. God Bless. Cindy
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Avatar_f_tn
Oh my - I am so sorry for your loss. Pets are a part of our family, and I know how bad it hurts to lose a furry friend.

I go through the same process - both in my head and with my husband. I don't ever know whether it's because I'm manic or depressed or whether I really am that mad/upset/whatever and stable.

I, too, have this on my list of things to talk to my psychiatrist about on Tuesday...
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81112_tn?1274756197
I would love to know what you and your pdoc come up with if you don't feel uncomfortable sharing. I have to schedule some time with my therapist soon. I cancelled last week due to "weather." We can cancel online through Kaiser, but they require a reason. With only 3 reasons available in their drop-down menu, weather was the closest I could come to telling the truth.

And how do I "re-establish a living pattern that is right for me" when my whole life is a scattered disaster? What piece do I start with? Me? My marriage? My health? My family? My routine? My sleep? My schedule? My husband? My needs? My husband's needs? My relationship with my God? With my Savior? My online time? My game time? My cleaning time? My time with my mom? My nephews? My sister? My friends? Running errands? Dr. appts? Watching TV? Walking the dog? Taking showers? Helping my homeless friend find a home so she can move out of our trailer that we sold to another couple who now would like to move into their new home? Volunteering? Exercising? Applying for SSDI? Listening to my husband? Giving my husband support? Oh God. I don't know what to do.
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1344677_tn?1278347764
I lost all identity before I started treatment over one year ago. I was drinking to make everything go away.  I didn't know who I am.  I was alone. No one to talk to.  Friends and family didn't understand and no one offered to help.  I was and still in it by myself.  I  have no partner.  I lose things a lot and I will try and find them.  But then I mania or maniac kicks in and find myself just walking in circles not knowing what I'm doing.  I make myself go to my room,close my eyes and be silent.  That's hard for me.  I opened my eyes and I looked down and there was the brush I was looking for.  I had already looked there and it wasn't there.  I've been wondering if I have a dual personality or something else is going on.  Loosing your identity is easy when no one understands you.
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