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Something is wrong.
You can't pinpoint it, but you know it's there.
Or not there.
Something is off, and you don't feel like yourself.
In fact, it's starting to negatively impact your life.
Wouldn't it be nice to know what to do about it?
To solve the problem once and for all?
But what if it isn't about doing?
What if it's about being?
About internalizing a few very important, very simple steps?
"I Don't Feel Like Myself" (A Short Story From My Life)
Let's start with a short story, and then we'll dive right into the lessons and next steps to be gleaned from it.
I'm in my early twenties, about ten years younger than I am now.
I'm out of college and out of a failed stint with the Peace Corps, where I had to leave after only 8 months due to health issues and bureaucratic failure.
But it is I who feels like a failure, and I certainly don't feel like myself.
Luckily, I see some signs to head out to Montana, and I find a way to get out there.
I accept a position with AmeriCorps to complete a service year helping a nonprofit in the state's capital.
But I just don't feel like myself.
Because I don't know who I'm supposed to be.
I make friends within the AmeriCorps program.
I get involved in the local political scene.
I try to position myself for success after my service year is up.
I hike as much as possible.
I travel as much as I can on my service-year stipend.
It's a beautiful place I'm in, and that feels like the only saving grace for my spinning mind.
I'm doing a lot, but I'm not understanding why I'm doing it.
I'm trying so hard to impress others and do it all when it hits me.
Is this who I even want to be?
Who am I?
Understanding Your Identity: What It Means to Feel Like Yourself / Find Yourself
This, I think, is where it starts.
To not know who you are is a good thing.
It's the start of something big. Something healthy.
Because when you question who you are, it means you're curious enough to know if there is a real you, if there's a person that is authentic, whole, and complete.
It's where it all begins.
If you're not feeling like yourself, you might have some of these thoughts:
Why don't I feel like myself anymore?
What does "feeling like myself" even mean?
Why do I feel this way?
My life doesn't feel like my own.
What am I supposed to be doing?
This isn't me.
I don't want to be doing any of this.
These seem like bad thoughts, but hold on just a second.
The bad is where the good comes from. There are two sides to everything.
It's in that odd reality that you find yourself.
Diving Deeper Into Your Identity
First, what's your identity?
And where do you get your sense of identity?
For most people, their personal identity forms, or starts to form, when they are a child.
But there's no reason why what takes shape when you are a little kid has to be your identity when you are an adult.
Again, questions can be helpful.
What did your parents--or primary caregivers--say to you when you were younger? What did they want you to believe? How did they want you to act? What norms were common in your family growing up?
In short, what kind of expectations were boxing you in?
This is the start, but it's not where you end. If you're asking, "Why don't I feel like myself?" deep down you know that you don't have a constant identity.
Your child identity is not your adolescent identity is not your adult identity.
You get to choose what "yourself" means.
Because deep down, mental health is simply the intuitive act of knowing yourself, of choosing who you truly are over and over.
Yes, mental health conditions are real. You can be diagnosed with depression by a mental health professional, but are they the one who is going to tell you who you are inside?
You might be told that you have a mental health symptom of "being disconnected from reality," and that might be true.
To an extent.
But when you're not feeling like yourself, you're disconnected from your personal reality, not someone else's
Only you can figure this out.
You are the one who has to live your daily life, and you are the one who has to make meaning of your life experience.
Feeling Out of Your Body
Feeling like yourself has many components, one of which is the feeling you have within your body.
I don't know about you, but I didn't even know what it meant to feel my body for the first 20 years of my life.
I lived in my head. That's just how it was for me.
But the body knows where you've been.
It remembers your every move, even if your mind can't always recall it.
And to come back to yourself, you must first come back to your body.
You must check in with how you're feeling.
How you do this must meet your natural style, but here are a few ideas:
- Set times throughout the day to check in with your body. Set a reminder on your phone if you need to.
- Start a deep breathing habit. Breathing deeply can actually change your physiology. You don't need to learn a martial art to be in tune with your body.
- Choose a body-focused activity, and do it for 15 minutes. Go for a walk. Do some sit-ups. Walk up and down stairs. Movement pulls you out of your head and into the physical awareness that your body needs.
Feeling Out of Your Mind
I mentally have not felt like myself for periods of time over the last year.
This instability can have deep, cascading effects.
Because the mind is linked to who you and I are.
It's linked to our bodies and our hearts.
It's connected to our sense of place and our understanding of being.
If the body is the vessel, the mind is the navigation.
And what good is the vessel if the navigation is stuck?
So, feeling like yourself requires that you tap into your mental awareness.
And the BEST way I've ever found to do this is to get the thoughts out of my head.
In my head, thoughts take on a life of their own.
But thoughts that become words that are spoken, or written down on paper, or shared with a friend or significant other, well, they become something else entirely.
They become what they are again.
Just thoughts--and nothing more.
Simple Steps for Becoming and Feeling Like Yourself and Regaining Your Mental Health
It's important to remember that simple doesn't mean easy, but when you're not feeling like yourself, you need to get back to basics.
Follow these 10 steps to feel like yourself again.
Post them on a mirror. Be present with what happens:
- Lean into the negative emotions
- Acknowledge the negative emotions, whatever that means for you
- Start to consider what the negative feelings are telling you
- Realize your body knows who you are at your core
- Realize that if you have negative emotions, they are still telling you something about yourself
- Start to consider what's on the other side of the negative emotion
- Know that you are a complex, yet whole, individual
- Grasp for the other side of the negative
- Really try to understand what the negative is telling you
- Follow that path, with complete curiosity, wherever it takes you
At the end of the day, I can't tell you how to know yourself in a blog post. These steps are guiding principles, not directions on a map to buried treasure.
You are the living and breathing person who needs to make it happen, but I know you can do it.
It's when your world shifts that your self, your very understanding of who you are, must shift along with it.
To facilitate this difficult process, it can be helpful to have some guiding lights.
These two categories are the ones I turn to when times are tough and the world is spinning out of control.
In Conclusion: Trust Your Experience, and Be the Person You Know You Are
Again, simple does not mean easy.
Simple does not mean guaranteed.
What it means is a basic acknowledgment of what's going on for you, in your life.
Because the weight of the world can be crushing.
There will always be people who demand your time and attention. There will always be somewhere to be and something to do.
And that is why it's so very important to follow the simple path back to yourself.
It's a journey of question and answer, of black and white.
But who you are is in there, somewhere in the solid middle ground, if only you carve out the space and time to discover it.