Who are you? A question that people are asked almost daily in their day to day life. When you strike up a conversation with a stranger or introduce yourself to a prospective client/friend/partner etc, the question that is always central to all of it is,
Who are you?
Other variants include What do you do? Tell me about yourself and the list goes on.
Now this may seem like a simple question to you but hold on with me for a while and I will show you how complicated it really is. Let’s start with the differentiation between who we are and what we identify with. There is a small but really significant difference between the two.
Who am I? Who is Arjun Gupta?
Well, Arjun Gupta is a lot of things. He is a man. He is a student of Psychology, author, writer, blogger, youtuber (bad one), Arsenal fan, DC Comics fan, Superman fan, Hans Zimmer enthusiast, dog parent, son, brother, mental health proponent, depression survivor, suicide survivor, speaker and so much more.
What I identify with is a whole different issue. My identity is the aspects of my ‘being’ that I get to choose from. So, my identity, the most common one, is
Arjun Gupta, Author and Mental Health Activist.
Out of all the things that I am; there are only a few things that I identify with and of course this identity changes with different situations. Its unlikely I will introduce myself as a Hans Zimmer enthusiast at a job interview (unless I really don’t want the job). My identity, hence, is the traits of my ‘being’ that I believe are the most appropriate ones in a given situation. Out of all these, some aspects are chosen so often that we begin thinking of those ‘aspect of being’, that is, that identity as our sole identity. But as we just saw, that is not always the case.
By now, I am sure you understand the difference between ‘being’ something or someone and identifying with it. Question time.
Do I identify with being a depression and suicide survivor?
Now this a different question from, ‘Am I a depression and suicide survivor?’
Yes, I am one but do I identify with it?
The answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know.
This question troubles me very often and for very different reasons at all times. The question of should I build my identity around an illness and the traumatic experience that followed on from it?
I have arguments in my head both for and against it. They go something like this –
|It will inspire loads of people who may be going through the same thing.||It might lead to me being identified only by my illness.|
|I can inform loads of people about how to tackle the menace of a mental illness.||The uninformed people (majority) will form loads of presumptions about me|
These questions and ideas keep going on in my mind at all times and make me really question the whole idea of an identity. Ever since I have started making connections in the field of mental health awareness in India, I see so many people achieving great success while forming an identity around their illnesses. Almost everything they do or say or post has a connection to their experiences and it doesn’t seem to hinder their progress at all. In turn, it actually helps them to some level as they become ideals of hope and inspiration.
For me, I just don’t feel comfortable in being just my illness. If you have been following me on Instagram, you would know that I had recently made a post about how I don’t want to be just my illness.
The question still is, ‘Can I really escape that part of my life by burying it down somewhere?’ Those two years I struggled with the illness and the long recovery ever since have made a large part of who I am today. Yet, whenever I talk about them, I get this sense of uneasiness within me. Maybe it is a matter of me not being at peace with my own past. Maybe I just need to find the right balance between the two extremes of talking about that all the time and not talking about it at all.
I would love to hear your inputs on this. Maybe discussing things will help me reach a better solutions. After all, I tell people to talk it out all the time. How about we talk it out now? In the meanwhile, you can also think about the various aspects of who you are and who you identify as. What makes you choose one over the other and which aspect is it that makes it uneasy for you to choose.
I will look forward to reading your views 😊