So, I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately and what all can we change in ourselves, if anything. There is a lot of change we control: we change our underwear, our taste in clothes, our skin with tattoos, our body with piercings, our brand of deodorant, our hair style or color or both, and the list goes on and on! (P.S. If you don’t change your underwear, we need to have a natter.)
But, can we change who we are? Parts of our personality? Our ‘core’ to where the changes are actually set, and the old ones washed away? Hmmmm. Here’s what I think: change is a possibility, but not a likelihood for a lot of things.
I believe our personalities are developed during early childhood and are very much influenced by our parents and early experiences. Yes, we are born with a temperament and have hereditary traits which can impact this development, but I am convinced that nurture outweighs nature by a significant amount.
I also have to think about the impact of mental illness. Can we change parts of us, or do our mental illnesses dominate so much of who we are it’s just not possible. Take my impulsivity (I mean actually take it away from me and toss it in a bin). I hate it because it makes me blurt things out without thinking or do things without taking into consideration the consequences.
Money is a good example! I see something…I get it! Then later, I worry about the spending and feel guilty. So, how do I change this? This impulsiveness is much much worse during manic cycles, and I often feel so ‘high’ I can’t see anything else but the minute I’m living in. Last summer, I painted my big, wooden, expensive bed a God-awful color and glued glass stones from the Dollar Tree all over it. After I came down, I thought: What the fuck did I do??
I would really love love love to change how sensitive I am. How I react to things so strongly, when others can simply brush them off. Hearing a criticism is devastating to me. I might have 20 students give me perfect reviews, while another writes a scathing one. I cry over that one and can’t see the positives. Mouthing off to someone makes me feel so bad, I ruminate over it for days and apologize to them again and again. Relationships are the same way: when I love, I love way too hard and am so sensitive to my partners moods, comments, and behavior. As a result of this, I am very good at taking personal blame for things…even when logically I know I shouldn’t.
Now, the question is this: can I change my sensitivity? Is this a genetic trait that’s pre-wired in me? Or, is this a result of my bipolar (which also is centered in my brain)? And if so, is change possible? Can I just turn off that switch in my brain labeled “Kristi’s Emotion” and be done with this piece of me that causes so many of my tears to be shed?
And let’s say I find that switch and turn the damn thing off. Is it REALLY off? Will it come back in times of stress? Is the ‘shut off’ permanent, or can it be flicked on again easily?
What else do I want to change in me? I think it would be my ineptness (thank the lord for the online thesaurus I use) in forming friendships. I can’t do it. I’ve said it before: I’ve always been different from other people. I felt it in Kindergarten…truly. I’d see the girls playing with the kitchen set and I’d go join in, but I felt like an outsider. Like I was looking through a window at what everyone else was doing and then would try to imitate their behavior. I’d be invited to slumber parties throughout elementary and Jr. High and all of the girls would have their besties there. I never had one. It would be just me; so to be noticed, I created this HUGE personality! I’d be the loud one who would do any dare. The funny one. The weird one.
I had a couple of good friends in High School, but I wasn’t their bestie. As an adult, I can honestly say I had 1 really good friend for about 7 years. We did so much together but her bestie lived about 60 miles away, and when she would visit my friend, I was put aside. Ouch.
So how can I change this? Am I truly different inside, but could change it with enough work? Is this feeling of being different a part of my bipolar and anorexia? Obviously, both of these make me very different! Or is this difference just something I feel, but isn’t true in the eyes of others? If I take off the mask I see in the mirror, would it change my awkwardness?
But I also wonder this: do we really need to worry about if or how we can change, or instead just learn to live with who we are? Be happy in our own skin? Accept our challenges?
I feel like we live in a society where being different is bad. Right? It’s almost like there’s an expectation to look a certain way, emote a certain way, act a certain way. And anything that deviates from that is ‘WRONG’. But, what if those of us that are different are the ones that are RIGHT? What a kick in the ass that would be! What if I’m just brave enough to show my sensitivity? Isn’t it a good thing to be sensitive (maybe not to the degree I am, but still…)? And my impulsiveness? That’s helped me accomplish a lot of things in my life I might never have done. And being different from the other girls and people in my life as an adult might mean I’m not a sheep following the herd. Maybe I’m the sheep that’s taking my own path through the meadow and sees flowers the others have trampled on.
So, maybe instead of asking about whether we can fundamentally change, we should be asking: how do I celebrate these things in me and just try to have a bit more control over them. Doesn’t that make more sense? Wouldn’t it be great if all of us with mental illnesses could look in the mirror and say ‘Hey, I am what I am.’ Use our differences to educate others? Let people see we accept ourselves, illnesses and all? Isn’t that a HUGE step in them accepting us too?
I’m 53 fucking years old. I don’t think I’m going to be able to radically change this Kristi that I am. However, I think I could change the way I accept this Kristi who’s been with me on my journey in this life…through the good and the bad. When I think about it, she’s taken care of me pretty well. Maybe I’ll take her shopping for new fancy underwear today; I think she deserves it.