We asked our Instagram community how they separate their mental illness from their identity. Much to our surprise, we learned that most people who answered actually don’t separate the two. Continue reading to learn more.


1. “I don’t separate it. My mental illness is part of who I am. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s easier to accept that it’s part of my life, part of me than it is to try and separate it. My life with mental illness shapes me and it’s the reason I’m so driven to have a career in the field of mental health and awareness. It’s part of my identity and I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t struggle with mental illness, and I rather like being me.”

2. “I don’t think an illness should define us, although one that controls our head… It is very difficult to separate it apart. I would, in fact, say that it has helped me in some ways to understand people and human pain. I think those who have mental illnesses are compassionate and are able to see a side to the world and people that others dismiss. And therefore after years of hating the effect, it’s had, I’ve realized it’s made me connect with people so deeply that they’ve in fact shaped my identity. Does it define who we are? Not to me personally. Does it shape our identity every day? Yes, most definitely. Who knows who I’ll be tomorrow, how I’ll feel…”

3. “I’ve found that a clean separation is something hard to achieve. I have severe depression, OCD, ADHD, and have had issues with addiction/substance abuse. The way I deal with the issue of what role my disorders play is I’ve come to accept that they are a part of me. Dealing with them has been part of informing how I treat others, the kind of art I create, subjects that interest me, and other aspects that make me who I am. Just as experiences are part of forming who we are, I consider my mental illness to do the same and while they may play in forming us, they fall far short of defining us.”

4. “I don’t identify with that anymore but when I struggled with the separation, one of the things I did was to compare it to a common cold. If I catch a cold, I’ll most likely get a sore throat, cough, and fatigue. If I’m abused and raped, I’ll most likely feel depressed, anxious, PTSD etc. The second one just takes longer to heal. It helped me tremendously to realize my thoughts and challenges are very common for people with similar trauma; I’d even say THAT made me stop identifying with my illness completely.”

5. “Sometimes it’s better not to separate it… So that We could see the true colors of our friends and family that they really care/pretend to care about our disorder/issue that we have and live it for every single day of our life… Cause that’s what I’ve been through in the past few years…”

6. “My disorder might be some sort of biological malfunction. My identity is what I am doing with this life.”

7. “I wouldn’t be who I am without my illness. It’s taught me patience, humility, compassion and a depth and breadth of understanding of people I would never have the same appreciation for. I curse my illness all the same – there’s no denying that, but I count the blessings too.”

8. “if you mean each specific illness it depends on which one you’re talking about tbh. though I don’t make an effort to distance any of them from my identity, there’s just some that feel more like they’re an important part of me and some that feel like purely a thing I’m trying to cope with. but if you mean whether mental illness, in general, is a part of my identity, it is. I don’t try to distance myself from that because mental illness, in general, has had such a big impact on my life that it’d be pretty difficult to not consider it a part of my identity. plus, the main feature of one of my illnesses is a fractured sense of identity so yeah, there’s no separating myself from that, really.”

9. “At the very core of my identity, I am a creative and an empathetic individual. My illness has given me something to say through my creativity that has weight and meaning to it, and it has increased my compassion and understanding. It doesn’t define me but it plays a part in shaping who I am, so personally I wouldn’t separate it from my identity–I would simply say that I am so much more than just a line in my medical records: I am me, everything that entails, illness and all.”

10. “I wouldn’t be who I am without my illness.”


*Image credit: @fusillo.foto

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