From the moment you are born your identity is changing, from self imposed identity from your parents, their beliefs, place of birth, how they raise they, through to school, social groups, peers, incidents both positive and negative. What career path you take, who you marry, having children, death, and divorce. It’s all about identity which in turn provides self worth.
As a former psychology student I know all about identity. I’ve written assignments on it after studying for hours. Yet I’ve still managed to lose mine and with it I have become depressed. I wasn’t depressed when I had my children, or when I moved, or married or divorced, I saw all that as a new chapter in my life. Throughout life my identity has changed from being someone’s child, student, mother, and wife. I’ll never stop being someone’s child or someone’s mother, but I know that relationship will change. One day my parents won’t be alive anymore, one day my children will leave home, I may go into old age alone and not be someone’s wife anymore and I’ve always been aware that this will happen but I would by then have other things that make me, me.
Employment, study, where I live, friends, they’d still be there, maybe different from what I started out with, but in essence the same things brought around by gradual changes to my life, some internal (the desire to learn more) some external (moving, changing jobs) But now those things have been taken from me and I’m a little bit lost.
Maybe that sounds a little harsh ‘Taken from me’ I chose to support my husband, uproot my family, leave my parents and adult children and friends behind in the UK while we restarted a new life in South Africa. But I didn’t choose to lose everything, employment, friends, and relationships with family. I naively thought it would all come with me, different but still there. It’s the law here that prevents me from working, continuing with my degree. I never realised how hard it was to make friends when you don’t have a work place or a school play ground to hang round in. That’s how I’d always done things, I’d progressed from one thing to another, losing people along the way and gaining new friends as I moved on either through work or the children’s school or my own education. Some of the acquaintances I had in the UK have now become firm friends; others have drifted by the way side. They never realised how much I needed their support, clung onto contact with them. Because they’d all been a part of whom I was and without them, without employment and education I had nothing. I lost my identity.
At this point I hear you sigh ‘melodramatic, got an easy life, sun, pool, no need to work, what on earth has she got to complain about?’ Some days I can’t physically get out of bed, Hubby takes the kids to school and at 1.30pm I drag myself out of bed, half dress to collect the kids from school, other days I’m manic, up at 3.30am housework, cooking, baking, shopping, coffee, volunteer work, getting things done, staying up till midnight, crying with tiredness, sewing, reading, writing letters, blogging, tweeting. At the moment I’m going through the ‘eating everything in the house’ stage. I’ve put on 6 kilos, that’s nearly a stone in weight. I’m still going to the gym daily and swimming, but the length of time I spend in the pool is less and less, it’s more about routine than keeping fit. I have lists, that all I seem to do is rewrite, reorder whilst drinking coke and eating sweets. I’ve been on anti depressants, I’ve told people what’s going on, but I’ve never described how I feel. I fell lost, empty, lonely and sad.
The medication helps me deal with these issues but it doesn’t take away those feelings. Lots of people including hubby say ‘go home, return to the UK’ I don’t want to, I don’t give a stuff if you think it’s because I don’t want to be a failure, It’s because I want to and know that I will succeed, that we will succeed, that this move will have been worth it for all of us, not just hubbies career or the children’s education but for the life experience we have gained from being here, the opportunities that have arisen. I know that by talking openly about depression will help me, will help others and maybe my experiences can one day be used to a greater good.
Right now I just sound ungrateful, miserable, depressing. I’m lucky, to have these opportunities, to have my health, that my children are healthy and achieving both here and back in the UK, but the reality is I’m none of the above by choice. I am depressed, bare with me.
It took me 39 years to be who I was, to form an identity. So far it’s been 2 years of grieving for what I’ve lost, who I’ve become, because the problem is after two years I just haven’t become anyone else yet. It takes time to create a new identity, I need a few more experiences, meet new people, develop existing friendships and find a purpose to my life other than that of a daughter, wife and mother.