Where did my personality go?

Who am I?

Why am I like this?

Am I really still the one in charge?

Questions I ask myself regularly in bed, normally in the dead of night or when I wake up and feel that dazed and confused strangeness. But the questions happen for a reason. Things have changed since my mental health went downhill and the changes include (what feels like) a personality lobotomy.

Unfortunately this is a subject I don’t think I have any answers for yet, but it’s still important so I chose to post about it anyway. I wanted to highlight that discovering personality changes, for me, has become normal. I have no idea if this is something other people experience and although I hope I’m not alone, I also hope no one else feels as bereft of their old selves as I do.

And just to be clear, this isn’t a post talking about how unhappy I am with my current life. I love my partner, daughter and dog with every fibre of my being. But I would give just as much to be able to show them all that I can be more than the useless, aimless, vanilla person I feel I am today.

They deserve the old, happy, confident me.

I don’t know where she is.

This could be a mistake, but lets see what happens.

Who was I before?

Before I was aware of my problems I was the life and soul of the party. I was always invited because I was always the one getting everyone else to have a good time. I had funny anecdotes, stories from my past and embarrassments I was open enough to share just to get a laugh. People would cry at the way I delivered those memories, used swear words liberally and passed-on tales from others. In fact, making people laugh gave me strength and pleasure. The more they laughed, the better (I thought) I felt.

I was also agreeable. I would help anyone who needed it. From handing out cash to mopping up tears, fixing family fueds and spending time with someone lonely. I wanted to help, I wanted people to think I was reliable and useful. I wanted people to be glad of my existence.

I had courage and confidence. Arguments and conflict didn’t bother me in the slightest, so if you needed help in a fued, I’d show up. I worked with the police to make the neighbourhood a safer place. I had a well-respected job in (what was then) a male dominated industry. Customers knew I was a font of factual and handy knowledge and would often approach me just for advice. I was never bothered by the extra work I had to put in to prove myself as a woman in that world. I loved having earned that respect. I could speak publicly. I could entertain a crowd. It just didn’t bother me.

I had a busy social life. Every weekend and weekday evenings were spent with people I cared about and who I thought cared about me. We’d have dinners, parties, special occasions, celebrations, commiserations and sadness to navigate and, again, I was always there to take part, enjoy and / or help.

I was fat. I’m not exactly Kate Moss now, but in the day I was much bigger. People used to regularly mistake me for the larger (and far more beautiful) Adele. I was, without doubt, unhealthily large and looking back, people were laughing at me. It didn’t bother me though, and I certainly wasn’t scared of anyone who had a comment to make about my size. I reluctantly accepted I was plus size and made the most of what I had. Then I got on with life.

Until around 8 years ago, these were all the aspects of my life that made me who I was. This was my DNA, my coding. I was funny, helpful, confident, busy and fat and I was fulfilled by all those things. I miss those days, not because I want to change what I have today, but I’d love to be able to get those old traits back and add them to my current existence.

What happened?

Alot. And I have to think carefully about how much detail to give here, so I’m going to add a TRIGGER WARNING as some of the things I talk about in this section could be jarring for someone else right now.

Grief is my biggest problem, without question. I’ve been plagued with it throughout life, but the worst started in my late 20’s and it seemed to snowball from there. I’ve never processed it or recovered from it.

Being deliberately brief so I don’t cause anyone else to relive any deep memories, I lost my mum to cancer before she hit 60, then our first daughter was born sleeping 6 years later, 2 miscarriages and then my father passed a year later. This all happened within a decade and it was a lot to even try to process. With my parents it was hard to see them die. I was there in the room and it’s another memory that’s indelibly marked on my heart and head. Then there’s the baby losses, probably a story for another day, safe to say this was a difficult period for me and my partner and added a layer of guilt to my grief cake.

A wonderful therapist who took the time to get to know me properly in 2021 talked about my grief in great detail. She told me that I’m not just sad for the losses of people and children, but also the loss of my old self, my health (I lost the weight, then gained it all back in my depression and now I’m losing again – 13 stone lost so far 😊) my friends and my life in general. This was an eye-opening and validating comment for me. I’d been silently ruminating with frustration and anger over the people that disappeared, the laughter that stopped and my inability to be active and get about with ease. They were all taken by an unknown, faceless, vindictive monster and I struggle to accept that it’s something I can’t change or fix somehow.

So my 2 griefs – the ones that died and the ones that changed – are the main reason I still struggle today.

My second pain is guilt. I will not allow myself to believe that anyone but me is to blame for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that happened. I did something wrong, I wasn’t healthy enough, I upset someone, I forgot something, I was rude, I left my old life, I should have done more, I’m not supportive enough, I’m a bad partner, I’m ugly. Bloody hell, I could write reasons I believe it’s my fault for days.

Then there’s heartache. I’m in love today. I wouldn’t want to lose, change or break-up with my partner for anyone or anything. But the pain of my past heartaches is as raw now as it was back in the day. I’m talking about my first love at school, my first kiss, my first fumble, my first sexual partner, my first obsession, my first real boyfriend. They all broke my heart into a million pieces and I still find myself pondering what I did wrong and why they treated me the way they did? In most cases (if not all) I was just a kid. No older than 19 for all of these memories, but the events are as clear as yesterday, as is the feeling I was left with. Being dumped, dropped, abandoned, ignored, laughed at and used all leave you with a feeling of dread and torment like nothing else.

So when all these things were put together and I had to try and manage everything…my brain just couldn’t take it. I needed a rescue and recovery service. I was on the hard shoulder of the motorway at rush hour, watching as the cars of life passed me by while I was still, silent and rigid with fear of the past.

In the end it’s true that if you close yourself off to what happened then the feelings become magnified. They balloon and are almost impossible to compute. So I’ve been left with thoughts and sadness that seem so huge, with so much information, I can’t even begin to try to talk about it. I wouldn’t know where to start.

Who am I now?

I take anti depressants and anti anxiety medication. They probably saved my life at one point, so I should be grateful for their part in my existence. But they took away me. The stuff that used to make me ‘Steph’ is gone and I don’t know or understand the person that’s left behind.

New Steph is a dick. She’s sad all the time. She’s afraid of everything. She has no friends. She’s boring. She’s useless. She’s a burden.

If you don’t know much about me or my life from the blog so far, than in reality I can tell you that literally means;

  1. I’m sad. I struggle daily not to cry and fall into a pit of depression. I regularly think I should just run away and save everyone from having to spend time with someone so pointless. I’m ashamed that I’m not more involved in the normal aspects of life, I’m ashamed that I’ve turned out to be nothing and no one. I feel deeply sad for those that have passed and look at pictures of them daily, reminding myself of what I’m missing and what they’ve missed too. I wonder desperately what life could have been like if all the griefs hadn’t happened, I wonder if I’d feel better and be more able. I cry for the old me. I cry for the flashbacks. I cry for my family, who deserve better.
  2. I’m lonely. If my partner is out for work I can go for 9 hours straight without a single conversation or message. My phone beeps or rings and my heart sinks when it turns out to be marketing or sales people wanting money I don’t have. There are no real friends in my life. I didn’t get a text or call for Christmas or New Year in 2021. No one laughs at my shit jokes, no one asks for my advice, no one wants a chat with a cuppa, no one is interested in my life. I’m not sure of all the reasons, partly it’s because of my previous marriage and the inevitable siding of friends, then there’s the friends who moved on or moved away, the friends that decided I wasn’t useful to them any more and finally the friends who think they are STILL friends, but are never there at all.
  3. I’m trapped. I gradually became so afraid that I no longer leave the house. It’s been 8 months now and I’m still deathly afraid of the outside world. I look better, healthier, I’m also 13 stone lighter and I have better clothes to wear. I’m better at make-up, which used to be my mask for a night out. Physically I should have the confidence I used to, but I don’t. My greatest fear, the thing that keeps me locked away the most, is a stranger making a comment about my appearance and / or causing my family any embarrassment. More than anything, having to use crutches and a wheelchair to get about causes me some real mental trouble. I believe that one way or another, someone will laugh at my situation as i pass them, so for that reason alone I’ve been indoors for 8 months. And counting.

And I know in my heart that this is sodding madness (excuse the poor choice of words, but it is). And living like this is no easy gig nor is it pleasing or helpful. I know that on paper my confidence and pride in myself and my achievements should be huge, but it’s non-existent. What is success if there’s no one to share it with or celebrate with?

What’s next?

I have one last resort to try and fix some of this. One possibility to give me some help to start working these splinters out of my skin and letting myself live again. I need to build up a fuller life with friends that I care for, talk to and share our lives with each other. Be successful as a blogger and writer and feel free to allow myself to celebrate the successes I have with them. Be confident in the way I look and care less about what a stranger on the pavement thinks.

Talking therapy.

It’s been 8 years, and all I’ve had in the way of therapy is a 6 week programme of grief counselling. The brevity of the sessions just made things worse. I’d talk about one death then move on to the next without closing the lid on the previous session. It left me with open, painful grief wounds, exposing them to the air again and putting me back into the pit. It made things worse.

When my Support Worker suggested trying a full year of psychiatry I thought it might actually help if it’s done right. The amount of time we had would allow me to fully open and re-close each box safely.

I had just one concern…

As I keep trying to explain, I can’t just open up everything to a fucking stranger. I have trouble saying these things to my partner, how would someone I’ve never met be able to get it out of me? Therapy is incredibly powerful and can be the key to someones freedom from mental health struggles. But for me, I need a personal connection and to build trust with someone I’m going to work with in this way. The things I have to disclose, the situations (or SHITuations as I call them) I’m unable to process are very private and personal events, the details of which I couldn’t just blurt out to any bastard. I know I’ve mentioned them here, but it’s the tiny details that haunt me. They are things I’d never mention in my blog. Those details are what I need to be able to deal with daily. That and the tsunami of tears – I’m surely going to run out of them eventually?

Will it work?

The honest answer is I don’t know. I have so much love and time to give to others, I just wish I was able to do it.

My problems might seem extreme or petty to you, but to me they are huge and have a massive impact on my daily life. I’m restricted so heavily that some days I feel like the restriction is spreading to my breathing and I find it hard not to panic.

One thing is certain.

Silence is most certainly NOT golden.

I’ve said this before and I’ve proved it again.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: