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?