Identity Crises Exposed

cgoehring78 Community Member January 29, 2008
  • Many people with Bipolar disease suffer from what is called an identity crisis. Individuals with Schizophrenia suffer a break from reality, unable to discern reality from psychotic images they see and hear. The Bipolar sufferer, on the other hand, including myself, substitutes another identity or identities as a result of a loss or transposition of their own identity during a specific time in their past.

     

    In my case, in face-to-face communication with others, in order to compensate for that loss, I temporarily take on the identity of the person with whom I am speaking. I'm a chameleon of sorts. I absorb their traits, their conversational style, their intellectual level of communication or their type of genre of humor; in fact, depending on the strength of the personality, sometimes I take on more than one trait at once. Others may think I am a great conversationalist; after all, who wouldn't want to converse with someone who thinks and acts a lot like you do? Unfortunately, after a while, it gets boring and is not very stimulating. This makes it very difficult for me to be a good conversationalist, since I lack the basic foundation necessary to create the context upon which to base base my identity for that conversation. Once a conversation has begun and content has been provided, I take my cues from the other person and can rely on knowledge I have stored over my lifetime to manage a successful conversation for a reasonable period of time.

     

    This trait becomes extremely complicated and devastating for the BP sufferer in a group situation, when the BP sufferer is expected to communicate with more than one person at a time. The stimulation from being around many people can be so overwhelming that it is nearly impossible to "attach with" a single identity in order to remain grounded, leaving the sufferer with a barrage of wordless noises and swirling confusion that have no meaning and create a threatening and frightening environment for the sufferer.

     

    Another tough area of identity centers around happiness and anger. My general genetic makeup is one of good humor and a positive attitude, so when I am with others who are angry or upset about something, if I am in good mental health, I am capable of maintaining my positive demeanor. But if I am in poor mental health and face-to-face with an angry or rage-filled person, I go into full anxiety mode. The chameleon in me has nowhere to go; since my strength is in being upbeat, the clash is tremendous. Wanting to latch onto the identity confronting me, and not being able to fully identify with that offending beast sends my mind reeling and usually sends me into a corner or onto a couch with a blanket for a long day of anxiety and restless, disturbing sleep.

     

    I am exploring a type of therapy called Systemic Coaching that is intended to resolve the identity break associated with Bipolar disorder. I'd appreciate any feedback on this coaching.

     

    Losing my identity has been tough. I've been looking for the "core" me for a long time. Mellow

  •  

    My motto, as always, remains:

    "Learn, Learn, Learn...and never, ever give up."

     

13 Comments
  • pilbydough
    Jul. 19, 2014

    Thank you for posting - this is the first time I have been able to find someone who experiences the same identity problem I have in groups and was such a relief to find someone writing from a personal experience. What I've found, however, is that when in a group, because I can't make sense of it, after a while I start feeling intense anger and frustration -...

    RHMLucky777

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    Thank you for posting - this is the first time I have been able to find someone who experiences the same identity problem I have in groups and was such a relief to find someone writing from a personal experience. What I've found, however, is that when in a group, because I can't make sense of it, after a while I start feeling intense anger and frustration - like I want to escape but I can't, because they people will think I'm rude/odd, etc. especially if I'm expected to be somewhere for a few hours and want to leave after an hour. It's usually boredom that triggers it, but sometimes it's because I strongly disagree with the other person, but because I've already absorbed their personality, I can't express my opinion without breaking the "image" that I've put up. I'm not sure whether I have BP or BPD as the symtoms I have exist in both.

  • Helen
    Aug. 25, 2011

    It was with great relief that I read the article about identity crisis when one has bi-polar. I have been diagnosed with bi-polar, but only found out about 2 weeks ago. I am 45years old, and it has made me question my past and wonder if all the times I experienced happiness or spiritual awareness were some false chemical imbalance in my brain. I wonder who...

    RHMLucky777

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    It was with great relief that I read the article about identity crisis when one has bi-polar. I have been diagnosed with bi-polar, but only found out about 2 weeks ago. I am 45years old, and it has made me question my past and wonder if all the times I experienced happiness or spiritual awareness were some false chemical imbalance in my brain. I wonder who I relly am? I know that I will sort out these questions in time, but what really struck me was the comment about feeling overwhelmed when in a social group situation.  I always told myself that it was in my nature. I was a one to one person. I too feel completely overwhelmed in a group conversation. I find it utterly uncomfortable, overstimulating and conflicting noise. Its interesting to think it might be a part of the bi-polar. Would anybody have any advice on coming to terms with what is really ones nature and what is really a part of bi-polar? I have Bi-polar 11 so do not experience huge shifts. You see now I am questioning again what was a shift in the past and what was real.

    • cgoehring78
      Aug. 25, 2011

      First off, God Bless You and remember you are always loved and cared about by me and many others like me.

       

      I wish I had the answer to your question. I was diagnosed at 40 and just had another debilitating depressive episode. My psychiatrist now added borderling personality disorder to my charts. I guess I could identify myself by saying I am bipolar and...

      RHMLucky777

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      First off, God Bless You and remember you are always loved and cared about by me and many others like me.

       

      I wish I had the answer to your question. I was diagnosed at 40 and just had another debilitating depressive episode. My psychiatrist now added borderling personality disorder to my charts. I guess I could identify myself by saying I am bipolar and BPD and call it finished. For awhile I was an executive secretary, an office manager, a receptionist, a wife, a daughter, etc. Who I "am" seems to change with whatever major thing is going on in my life at the time. It used to be anyway.

       

      I'm in Christian Biblical counseling which has done more for me than anything else. I finally have some relief and I know where it comes from - God. I'm not trying to push my religion, just offering the answer to my great and horrible problems I've lived with over the last 34 years of life.

       

      I hope you find your answer. Read all you can, ask all the questions of everyone you can, and take time to grieve. And then grow.

       

      God Bless You,

      Cindy 

  • unknown
    Mar. 05, 2008

    I've only been diagnosed with bp2 for 15 months ... and I'm trying to come to terms with who I am, and how to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly that bpd can bring.  When I read your post, I felt like you were able to take my own thoughts and put them into words. 

     

    Since I was young, I have always been very charismatic, outgoing,...

    RHMLucky777

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    I've only been diagnosed with bp2 for 15 months ... and I'm trying to come to terms with who I am, and how to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly that bpd can bring.  When I read your post, I felt like you were able to take my own thoughts and put them into words. 

     

    Since I was young, I have always been very charismatic, outgoing, well-liked ... yet deep down, I felt like I didn't belong and I didn't know who I am.  This has been a constant struggle for me my entire life and I became very good at being a chameleon. 

     

    Recently, I had to attend my Grandmother's funeral in another province, and having to interact with family that I haven't seen in years was incredibly stressful.  I hated making small talk, I hated having to asnwer the question "so, what's new with you?"  Like you, I was trying to interact with so many different types of people, that I didn't know what or WHO I was supposed to be !!  As the weekend progressed, I became very agitated and very frustrated and the only way I knew how to deal, was to escape and try to be alone.  

    Working towards stability, I've become more calm, comfortable and happier in my own skin.  I`ve decided that I`m okay with just being me, but I`ve also found that I no longer like being around large crowds and I hate making small talk !!   I`ve also distanced myself from many casual aquaintences, instead, I`m trying to nurture and strengthen my friendships with people that I trust.  That trust comes from knowing that they accept and love me, just as I am, bipolar disorder and all :)

     

    Thank you for sharing your insight, it`s reassuring to know that there are others who battle these things, just as I do.

    • cgoehring78
      Mar. 06, 2008

      Bethanykat:

       

      You've come so far in 15 months! You must have great personal insight. Many loved ones of those who live with BPD ask me how I survive so well. I tell them I spend a great deal of time standing outside myself and looking in. They swear their loved one is incapable of doing that. I believe it takes patience and learning.

       

      Your comments:...

      RHMLucky777

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      Bethanykat:

       

      You've come so far in 15 months! You must have great personal insight. Many loved ones of those who live with BPD ask me how I survive so well. I tell them I spend a great deal of time standing outside myself and looking in. They swear their loved one is incapable of doing that. I believe it takes patience and learning.

       

      Your comments:

       

      >........Working towards stability, I've become more calm, comfortable and happier in my own skin. I`ve decided that I`m okay with just being me, but I`ve also found that I no longer like being around large crowds and I hate making small talk !! I`ve also distanced myself from many casual aquaintences, instead, I`m trying to nurture and strengthen my friendships with people that I trust. That trust comes from knowing that they accept and love me, just as I am, bipolar disorder and all :).........<

       

      have given me a great sense of peace. It's one thing to know that being around large crowds makes me sick or making small talk creates great anxiety in me - it's another thing to make the decision that I no longer like being around large crowds and I don't like making small talk. Your decision to be proactive instead of reactive is positive. I need that in my life right now! Time for me to get off the victim podium!

       

      Thank you for your message. I feel invigorated about who I am and who I can be, apart from a person who lives with BPD.

       

      Cindy

    • Anonymous
      Mar21
      Mar. 25, 2013
      I like your post. I can identify. I The ultimate chameleon others even called me that in my life and line of work I was proud of it and found it useful. I've lived triple lived at times never really belonging anywhere. I got caught after 20 yrs of marriage in one of these other lives. I was I now see hypo manic and possibly rapid cycling. I've never put anything...
      RHMLucky777
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      I like your post. I can identify. I The ultimate chameleon others even called me that in my life and line of work I was proud of it and found it useful. I've lived triple lived at times never really belonging anywhere. I got caught after 20 yrs of marriage in one of these other lives. I was I now see hypo manic and possibly rapid cycling. I've never put anything in writing or online. Today till now I've been "normal" Manic dancing tirelessly, crying and during which became very aroused which my wife did not appreciate my advances as she's horribly mad because yesterday I friended Facebook a my first love of 34 years ago. I'm rambling - I wish there was someone to trust the minute the lights go on metaphorically in the face of others I assume a rational pose or just leave. I in the past have explained my issue to my wife. But she can't begin to get it so .... I've shown her my natural inclinations during the " crazies" dancing singing, crying hyper sexuality and dangerous behaviour btw I have mostly worked in dangerous or intrigue filled careers. Nothing like feeling suicidal and be spending the day on a rappelling tower. I don't know any more I'm almost 50 yrs old. Spring or fall seem when I get into trouble. Sorry about the typos and grammar I'm on my I phone.
  • Anonymous
    huttleston
    Jan. 31, 2008
    I am so glad that I stumbled on your post today - this is the first time anyone has identified what is for me a difficult to describe feeling - not knowing yourself and changing your manner of speaking and intellect to match who you are conversing with. When I was first diagnosed and very ill, I did exactly that - cloned a friend (who turned out to be pretty...
    RHMLucky777
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    I am so glad that I stumbled on your post today - this is the first time anyone has identified what is for me a difficult to describe feeling - not knowing yourself and changing your manner of speaking and intellect to match who you are conversing with. When I was first diagnosed and very ill, I did exactly that - cloned a friend (who turned out to be pretty destructive). I can stand up to my husband who does get very agitated and angry at times if I am well.
    • cgoehring78
      Feb. 04, 2008

      I think there are a lot of us who experience this and don't know how to explain it. My whole life has been spent this way.

       

      I was unable to stand up to my husband's anger and challenges Until I learned my husband suffers from PTSD. Now that I know his rages are not my fault, my optimistic and pleasant demeanor more readily comes out and I don't...

      RHMLucky777

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      I think there are a lot of us who experience this and don't know how to explain it. My whole life has been spent this way.

       

      I was unable to stand up to my husband's anger and challenges Until I learned my husband suffers from PTSD. Now that I know his rages are not my fault, my optimistic and pleasant demeanor more readily comes out and I don't cower under the covers so much.

       

      I am slowly trying to build a person for myself that isn't so easily swayed. I hope you are able to do the same.

    • huttleston
      Feb. 04, 2008
      Thanks for responding. I am feeling that maybe this would be a good forum for me to participate in - it is more than just talking about medications, but the whole spectrum of the illness and ways to cope and grow. It was nice to have someone to identify with. I will be reading more.
  • TMarie
    Jan. 30, 2008

    Interesting post.

     

    I'm not familiar with the type of coaching you refer to. But I am very into people - I don't mean to do it but instead of talking with them it's like I absorb them. It doesn't cause any ill effects for them - I, too, am usually considered a good conversationalist, because I am sooooo interested. The intensity doesn't...

    RHMLucky777

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    Interesting post.

     

    I'm not familiar with the type of coaching you refer to. But I am very into people - I don't mean to do it but instead of talking with them it's like I absorb them. It doesn't cause any ill effects for them - I, too, am usually considered a good conversationalist, because I am sooooo interested. The intensity doesn't last, after the conversation is done.

     

    But I often am certain that I want to do just what that person does or be just how that person is, for that time. In fact, one of the things I've finally identified as causing me trouble is thinking I need to do everything I come in contact with. (Listening to the radio - I'd be a great newscaster. Seeing my rheumatologist - I want to do what she does, etc.) So, sadly, I see what you're talking about.

     

    It wears me out. (This is why I quit my job in hospitality.) And I find that I assume that others feel things as deeply as I do, so when they talk about worry I feel so bad for them, knowing how horrible deep anxiety can be, etc.

     

    Only recently realized that maybe this way of thinking was not so healthy...

     

     

     

    • cgoehring78
      Feb. 04, 2008

      Hi TMarie,

       

      Thanks for your comment. I'm very in tune with your use of the word "absorb." Sometimes it happens in an opposite way. I find that when I'm in a small group of people, I tend to allow myself to be absorbed by them. For instance, today I had lunch with four speech/linguist researchers. We all identified ourselves as "nerds" and...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Hi TMarie,

       

      Thanks for your comment. I'm very in tune with your use of the word "absorb." Sometimes it happens in an opposite way. I find that when I'm in a small group of people, I tend to allow myself to be absorbed by them. For instance, today I had lunch with four speech/linguist researchers. We all identified ourselves as "nerds" and I relaxed and let the conversation roll.

       

      Conversely, over the weekend I had brunch with a larger group of ladies in my church. There were too many different identities and I felt lost and frightened; I acted out, talked too loud and made a mild fool of myself. I couldn't attach and I couldn't be absorbed. I felt like a non-entity - a non-identity.

       

      cgoehring78

       

       

  • connieh1965
    Jan. 30, 2008
    Hey , That makes alot of sense. I find that I am constantly trying to be or find out who the hell I am and when I find something that fits the rug so to speak gets pulled out from under me. Maybe we can just be.
    • cgoehring78
      Feb. 04, 2008

      Thanks, Connieh1965. I like the idea of "just being." To me it means sitting back rather than sitting forward; or simply relaxing and letting go. When I'm stable on meds, this is much easier for me.