Hiding My Real Self

This afternoon I read a very real piece from Sista over at Phoenix Fights about anger. She writes very well about hiding her internal anger from her (annoyingly chirpy) therapy group and pretty much all of her friends, resigning herself to the fact that a recent outburst has probably led to the end of one such friendship. It was a post that really made me stop and think today.

How much time do we spend convincing others (and maybe also ourselves?) that we are experiencing socially acceptable emotions? How many “how are you’s” do we answer dishonestly with “oh great” or “much better thanks”. We may go as far as a little “getting there” or even a “one day at a time” but even these will be followed with a cheery smile. And then there’s the shoulder shrug or head bob that always follows such a statement, designed to relieve the other person of any awkward duty to reply, implying that it’s fine to leave it at that.

Why do I not admit that I’m not always okay? Why do I not answer a “how are you” with “not great actually, see that corner over there…well I’d really like to lie down in it, curled up in a ball, for about 14 straight hours”. Who I am I lying to? Who am I lying for? I’m not sure any more. Am I trying to protect my partner from the reality that I’m always going to be a little bit not-okay? Am I trying to pretend due to some unconscious fear that he would leave me if he suspected this was me, forever? Am I trying to convince myself that this slightly-less-than-okay existence is enough for me?

I’m not really sure why I do it, but today I realised that I’m not the only one who does. And I’m guessing Sista and I aren’t the only two! Which makes me wonder…what would happen if we all told the truth?

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Hiding My Real Self

I Love Myself

After reading a great post on Serendipity this morning I’ve been pondering the questions posed at the end of it:

So … how much have you changed from the person you were in your late teens? What, if anything, do you do completely differently? Do you like the person you’ve become? Are you trying to change? Do you fit in? If you met the young you, what would you tell yourself?

I love being 30. That was my very first thought on reading the questions. It’s funny, I can’t truly explain the shift in my thinking but there has been a significant change in Mina since I entered this new age bracket. Or perhaps it’s down to a combination of things other than age; the death of a parent, a lost love, friendships re-evaluated, travelling the world, finding “the one”, moving to London. Who knows. I think I’m very much still evolving into the person I am destined to be but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been on quite a journey thus far.

These days I find I am comfortable in myself for the first time in my life. On a “high” level I know that I am a good person. Friends and lovers have come and gone: I can attribute this to the changing tides of life. I don’t find a common ground in a group of strangers: I find it to be disappointing but nothing more than a tiring evening. I find myself in a politically-oriented discussion with nothing to contribute: I chuckle to myself that if the conversation turned to Austen I would be the one holding court. I no longer attribute these occurrences to some defect in my self. I’ve learned to give myself a break. 

On a “lower” note, I wear yoga pants that may or may not in fact be pyjamas, when I run out for my morning coffee. I just ordered a pair of bright red wellies for the winter rain and last week I finally went all the way and got the pixie cut I’ve been lusting after for some time now. These are all quite superficial things but in this case, the outside has come to reflect the inside. These days my outside reflects an internal self that is far less bothered by the opinion of strangers and far more self-loving than ever before. I have even come so far as to realise that, in my own way, I am beautiful

And so, to the questions:

Do I like the person I have become? Yes, yes I do. I’m not there yet of course, I doubt any of us every truly stop evolving, but I can stand before you today and say that I am happy with the progress I have made so far. Mina: she’s okay! 

Am I trying to change? Of course! I want to continue this evolution, I want to continue to fight my dysthymia and I want to be ready for whatever challenges the world throws at me next. But if this is it, if this is “me” then that’s okay too. I reckon that I can get on quite well for the next 50 years or so with this person.

What would I tell my young self? This is a tough one. When I was younger, I figured the day would come when I would love myself because I would be different…a “better” me. Today, I love myself because I am not different. I am essentially the same me that I was when I was 12 years old, lost and alone, struggling to find my place in the world. Except now, I’ve learned to love that me, to value her uniqueness and to accept her flaws. I would tell my younger self: don’t wish to be different, learn to love yourself for who you are, because one day I promise that you will realise you are already a person worthy of your own love. Of course, if I told that to my 12 year old self she would roll her eyes, turn up her East 17 tape, and go back to dreaming about the future blonde, skinny, genetically re-engineered Mina!

I Love Myself

Jimmy’s Shoes

Today’s Daily Prompt is: Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.


My favourite pair of shoes are my black Jimmy Choo pumps. They’re not particularly exciting: a standard enough pair of pain black, pointy toed pumps. For me, what makes them exciting is what they represent. These shoes were my gift to myself on my 30th birthday. Ever since I was a university student, sitting in my rented flat-share, watching Sex and the City with my flatmates, I have wanted a pair of JCs. To me they represented a life I knew I wanted: an arrival at a position in your life, a declaration of independence and adult-ness. And on my 30th birthday I finally had the resources to buy them and the occasions to wear them. Their representation of all these things would have been diminished had somebody else bought them for me: the whole point was that I was finally in a place where I could achieve this purchase for myself.

As they sit in my wardrobe, carefully stored in their velvet bag, they might seem like a total waste to anybody else. But not to me. If I wore them everyday their “specialness” would be diminished. Because wow, those shoes have taken me to some momentous places: the took me across the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental for my 30th birthday dinner; they took me down the aisle to stand beside my best friend as she married Mr Wonderful; and they took me across Wall St to watch one of my oldest friends take his vows. For me, these shoes not only represent the acknowledgement of an achievement at a point in time in my life, they continue to represent all of the special milestones I’ll never forget. So every now and again, when I spy my shoes sitting patiently in their box, waiting for their next outing, I remember those days that have passed with joy and wonder in excitement at what their next outing will be.

Jimmy’s Shoes

Depression: The Curse of the Strong (Review)

Quite a few months ago I came across a book called Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr. Tim Cantopher*. Naturally, any book that wants to tell me I’m strong has to be worth a read so I clicked that oh-too-simple-to-spend-my-money 1-click-purchase button. The book then lived idly on my Kindle for several months while my money lived actively in the Amazon bank account. I should probably work on my impulse buying! However, I did eventually get around to reading it and I figured I should share some of my thoughts with you all in a review of sorts. So here goes.

I finished this book in about 3 evenings. It’s really simple to read and does quite a good job of explaining without being patronising (about 90% of the time – in some places I think the author went a little overboard with the “you’re so strong” message). This book has divided me. On the one hand, I think those of us suffering from depression could do with a nice dose of positive energy and reassurance that we do indeed suffer from a physical illness. On the other hand I’m not quite sure that the author has carried through on his attention-grabbing title – I found that I closed the book with a little bit more self-love and a sense of strength but no practical ideas for maintaining that state. The suggestions are the usual: rest, relax, ask your boss to reduce your hours, don’t watch TV before bed….nothing I hadn’t heard before. Perhaps I’m looking for a miracle cure but if you author a book for the Type A personality you can’t really expect them to start spontaneously meditating. In fact, I would argue that we are the very people who should be given activities and exercises instead…something to DO! That’s just how we work.

The best chapter in the book is probably the first chapter: “What is depressive illness”. The author does a good job of explaining some fairly complex biological and psychological concepts. Of course, a neuroscientist would probably criticise the simplified diagrams and “electric circuit” analogies but lets face it, if you have depression any explanation of the brain that contains words with more than 3 syllables just isn’t going to work. Some days I have to read the microwave instructions on my soup twice! If it piques your interest my advice would be to pick up a first year university textbook on neuro-psychology for further reading.

The rest of the chapters were disappointing, however if this is the first book you are reading on depression then you’ll probably find them excellent. The author offers a good review of the history of depression (including some fun “ye old treatments” info) and an overview of the main schools of thought on the ever-present “why do I have depression” question. As a first-time reader I think you could do a lot worse than Dr. Cantopher as your guide. As somebody with a background in the field and who has read extensively on the topic I didn’t find anything new here. I did enjoy the author’s style however and I wish I had found this book when I was first starting out on my journey. In chapter 4 the author does introduce some interesting perspectives on positive thinking and introduced me to the concept of being able to “fail well”, i.e. failing, forgiving yourself & learning from it. This is something that I am particularly bad at therefore it was a section of the book that resonated with me and has led me down a path of further reading. I hope to share my thoughts and findings as I go.

I believe that the key to this book might be in what you are looking to get from it. For me, it was refreshing to read a book based entirely on the premise that I am a strong individual, instead of focusing on my negative traits. Unlike self-help books that encourage you to work on your negative traits with the aim of minimising them, this book focuses on your strengths and understanding how they may have contributed to your illness. Dr Cantopher by no means suggests that we should desire to be weaker, only that we recognise what we are doing to ourselves and quite simply: give ourselves a break! I think that is something that all Type A personalities could do with.

Overall, this is a great book for those new to the topic and an interesting read for those of us already possessing knowledge. Within the pages I found a signpost for further explorations, I hope you will too.

Note: Probably one key thing to mention about this book is that it is based on stress-induced depression and is not aimed at those suffering from Bipolar, postnatal depression, SAD, etc. So if you have one of these disorders this probably isn’t the book for you. This work is aimed at us Type A over-achievers who, in a way, have “stressed” ourselves into depression.

* This is an associate link to Amazon. I’m not looking to monetise this blog, it’s never been my intention. I’m just very technologically inquisitive (I’m learning PHP in my spare time) and wondering how this whole affiliate thing works. If you abhor these practices I apologise for this and if you’ve already clicked the link please clear your cache. If you haven’t clicked yet, you can just go to Amazon and search for the title instead of going through this site. Thanks.

Depression: The Curse of the Strong (Review)

High Functioning Depressive

A recent article on the death of Cory Monteith describing him as an atypical “junkie” who didn’t fit the stereotype got me thinking about the concept of a “high-functioning” addict. This is a term I hadn’t come across before until quite recently and it certainly never occurred to me until now that the term might be applicable to myself – a high-functioning depressive.

I guess in order to apply any definition to oneself you have to analyse what exactly does it mean. What is “high-functioning”? I suspect that this is something that will differ from person to person according to their beliefs and values, but for me it means:

Being able to work closely with colleagues without them knowing about my illness and excelling at that work

Some people might define high-functioning more emotionally – being stable more days than not, not doubting oneself, not being dependent on medication for balance – but for me it’s the ability to be a functioning member of the 9-to-5ers that is valuable. I guess that comes down to my high regard for the opinion of others, good or bad as that may be. I have often been described as a Type A personality and a counsellor once said that perhaps my upbringing and the focus on working hard and achievement mean that these are now the measures against which I score myself. Regardless, it’s important to me that I am considered strong and capable. I have a high-pressure job with a lot of people and money balanced on my ability to perform, so any instability would not be looked upon favourably. I love my job and I know I can do it better than a lot of other people – I don’t want to introduce any element of doubt or second-guessing into the mix. I want to be Mina. Not Mina-question-mark.

Maintaining what I deem to be a good social life, though to others it may look entirely antisocial

Again, I think this comes down to personality and values. I value a good meal, a movie, a chat with friends. I no longer think hungover is a good way to spend a Sunday and I don’t like how I feel when I drink on my meds. My move to London was also relatively recent so my social circle has contracted significantly and I spend more nights in than out. However, on the flip side, I spend more days out than in. Something that was unheard of in my 20s. Weekend days especially were for recovery or pre-party preparations. Now I go to museums, I brunch, I sip cappuccinos and read my book while my other half relaxes with his newspaper beside me. And I love love love restaurants.

Having a successful, mutually supportive relationship where I both give and receive love

Well, who doesn’t want that! I suppose the key here is “mutually”. I don’t want a kind, loving partner who strokes my hair and looks after me. Well I do, but I with two caveats: 1) I want to be strong enough to do the same for him and 2) I want him to let me. For several years I was in a relationship with a man who didn’t need me and he would freely admit it. Coupled with the fact that I really needed him at several points during our years together, the relationship was doomed to inevitable failure. Having found a healthy give-and-take relationship it’s important that I strive to keep it as such and not let my illness turn it into a one-way flow in my favour.

So What?

I guess you can look at this post in two ways:

  1. Think I need to be good at everything (cheers Type A personality!) and so I can only live in a world where I perceive myself to be really good at having depression and therefore I should shut the hell up with this high-functioning nonsense; or
  2. Consider that it’s good to have points of reference for yourself, that can only be defined by yourself, that you can check-in with from time to time and see how you’re doing.What do you think of the high-functioning concept? If it strikes a note with you I’d love to know how you’d define it for yourself.
High Functioning Depressive