Don’t let one thing define you

My life has been one of privilege, but nobody could say it’s been particularly smooth or easy. My history has been one  turbulent mental health issues; for as long as I can remember – back to childhood, younger than 10 – I remember feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, that there was no point in me and that I’d rather disappear.

As a teenager, I was pretty destructive to myself – and continued to be all the way up to my mid twenties. I’m both shocked and grateful that I’m still here, alive, typing, today. Because I probably shouldn’t be, with the amount of effort I put trying to disappear.

I guess I’ve just never really known how to handle myself, my impulses, my emotions. I’d make (mostly) horrendous and rash choices; I’d punish myself for anything, even the slightest of mistakes. 

Slowly, I started shrinking away from the good things. I wouldn’t try. I avoided things. It seems to be in my nature to begin things and never finish them, which is reflected when I reflect back on my life so far: a jumble of roles, passions, homes, and relationships – never quite settled. 

Everything was intense: all or nothing, existing fully or not wanting to exist at all. It’s not really surprising that I was diagnosed with BPD alongside my depression, a diagnoses I now feel wasn’t correct – I currently don’t manage my mental health with medication and feel like the diagnoses of BPD was perhaps made hastily. Either way -to me, BPD label or not, it doesn’t really matter.

I now concentrate mostly on balance.

A balance of  my emotions, my sleep, my diet, my social life. Everything, really. 

I ignore the pressure, the fear of missing out, the need to drink until blackout, the need to look a certain way. 

I try anyway. 

One main thing I am really working on is defining myself. 

The first thing that really gave me purpose and a sense of happiness was finding my way into the vegan and activist movement. 

Veganism, the movement and people that came along with it, gave me a sense of self, a sense of being part of something larger than myself. This is still true for me, but in a less engulfing way than before.

You see, identifying as ‘the vegan’ and letting my life meld around that, was damaging. I’d been neglecting myself since childhood, really, not knowing who I was. Which is probably normal. We’re all spending that time growing into who we are. But I found myself, particularly, holding onto certain defining things in a possible reaction to not wanting to confront who I was.

And it wasn’t just veganism, I also found myself invested in romantic and sexual relationships in an attempt to define myself. And those, mostly, ended really badly because I wasn’t in them for the right reasons. 

As always, in life, things change.

I moved cities, became alienated from my ‘ethical’ community. I was newly (and thankfully) single and just months after a very serious breakdown, and weeks after cutting myself out of an abusive relationship borne of that breakdown. 

On top of my historical issues with knowing myself, I now also had to compete with the difficulty of building myself, mentally, back up, after being broken down by a self-proclaimed sociopath.

And it was weird. I applied for job after job after job, lowering my expectations week by week as the rejections and silences rolled in . I slept on my sister’s sofa bed for months, took up running, and went to the gym daily just to fill the time. I dated, casually. I began building my life up again.

I found bouldering.

I found a new boyfriend – too soon. We were a mix, bad and good for each other. Both equally kind and difficult, and explosive; we were not right for each other. But I will forever cherish him as the person who first put a camera in my hand and encouraged me to use it. It was a gift I’ll forever be grateful for, and one of the most life-changing ones I’ve ever received. 

Here I was. Bouldering, taking photos, playing with video, making new connections in a new place.

I got a temp job working in admin, and then found a place to live with my best friend who’d decided to move to the city I was in.

In between then and now I smashed my ankle bone to pieces (climbing), I have found the love of my life (Tinder), I’ve began working for myself in the creative industry – which is the dream I’ve always had – and I spend so much time in the mountains, in the outdoors, playing around with cameras, writing, climbing. I’m enjoying the new vegan options that are so readily available.

Basically – I diversified.

Experimenting through so many things helped lead me to this point, knowing a little more about who I am by not defining myself as one thing. 

And there are so many things I DID try, that just did not take off! I tried to make jewellery and was terrible at it. I tried to become really good at running, then fate was like nah here’s an ankle break, running is not for you anymore. I thought I wanted to be a full-time copywriter but it just wasn’t for me. 

I don’t feel like any of us should have one hobby or passion that takes over our lives – that defines you. It’s so important to play around, to try different things, even if they don’t work out, to find the things that do. 

I don’t want to be ‘the vegan’, or ‘the photographer’, ‘amateur filmmaker’ or ‘climber’. Or any of those one things.

I can’t have just one of them define me, because if I lose that thing, then who would I be?

2 replies on “ Don’t let one thing define you ”
  1. Great read and was good getting to know you through your words. Your video work is amazing so keep smiling and doing what you love.


  2. I love this article, currently in college and I related hard to lots of this. Especially the difficulty expressing emotions since childhood. It feels really nice to know that there’s others like me out there. It makes me very hopeful for my future and it makes me excited to continue the passions I already have one day with less pressure on myself. I’m really happy you’ve made such progress in your life! thanks for writing 🙂

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