Back when I had a career, I totally defined myself by it. I was an accountant and business manager, full stop. Then I lost the job, and found myself somewhat rudderless as to who or what I was.
Then as part of my recovery from alcoholism, I got quite active in AA. There, whenever speaking, it’s standard to introduce yourself by name, and the qualifier, “I’m an alcoholic” or some variation there of and I got quite comfortable saying, “Hi, I’m Elizabeth, and I’m an alcoholic.” But that never totally felt right. It felt stigmatizing. It made me feel that I was only my addiction.
Along the way I picked up quite a few psychiatric diagnostic labels, major depression – recurring, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Abuse Disorder – Dependence, Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Social Phobia… I could go on. For a while I was quite wrapped up in my diagnoses reading about them, and learning all I could.
Then I got a bit involved in consumer / survivor organizations, and entered a whole mind field of self-definition – Mad person, consumer, survivor, client, patient (generally not favoured). Personally I like patient. I see a psychiatrist. He’s an MD. MD’s have patients, ergo I’m a patient.
The last seven years have been as much about redefining myself as they have been about my ongoing struggles to battle alcoholism, and mental health issues.
Today I embrace many more roles, So today I can say, Hi my name is Elizabeth, and I’m:
- A sister
- A cousin
- A friend
- A harpist
- A knitter
- A writer
- An accountant (can’t give that one up just yet)
- A blogger
- A psych patient
- A volunteer
- A recovering Alcoholic
- A recovered self-injurer
- A competent woman, who has much to give life (Thank you Women for Sobriety and the 13 statements.
But most importantly I am more than the sum of all my individual labels.
I am me. And I’m starting to be ok with that.