I am a chameleon

Malagasy giant chameleon, Furcifer oustaleti, Sharon Jones, http://sharonjones38.daportfolio.com/

I just realized that in my last post I referred to this post, which hadn’t been finished…oops.

Up until about 10 years ago, who I was and how I acted was closely choreographed. My mother wanted me to be the person she never was able to be, my ex wanted me to be some bizarre form of what he felt the perfect woman was, and when I finally escaped with my children (I was 47) I was taken under the wing by some well-meaning women. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was still so used to being told who I was supposed to be that I just went along with the one who had the strongest personality.

Although I could feel someone deep inside struggling to emerge, I just kept tamping her down because I had no idea who she would be and how much trouble she would get me into. That’s right, trouble. Throughout my previous life, if I dared to stray from the person someone wanted me to be, there would be consequences. My parents took the hands-off approach, they were into Transactional Analysis (TA), and even had a book called TA for Tots. It’s where the term “I’m OK You’re OK” comes from (a Baby Boomer thing). No rules, no punishment, no boundaries…fend for yourself. On the other hand, if I didn’t do what was implied to be correct, I was a disappointment…very confusing. Than I married someone who was just the opposite, strict rules for everything; but that’s another story.

I was so good at being a chameleon that when I could no longer hide my depression/mental illness at work, co-workers were flabbergasted. Every one of them said “I had no idea there was anything wrong.” Same with most of my peers. I was a high functioning Office Manager by day, barely functioning adult by night.

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, that seemed to have given me a bit of a guideline of who (or why) I was. Of course, that makes sense, I have a mental illness. I was always told I was crazy, moody, wild, etc. Then I found that people in the world around me weren’t comfortable with that persona, so if I wanted to keep friends I had to keep it to myself. Well that didn’t work well, I didn’t escape from control to allow myself to be controlled. For a while I adopted what I call the Popeye philosophy “I yam what I yam,” but that was uncomfortable as well. The proper lady/perfect wife ideal was so ingrained into my head that when I was around other “normal” people I had a hard time. Feeling fearful that I would make a mistake, or say the wrong thing, or do something embarrassing, I began to isolate. It is so much easier to just be alone.

Oops, I fell in love. But again the Popeye philosophy took over, and lo and behold I am loved. A bizarre new experience, this unconditional love, I stupidly fight it almost everyday. Unfortunately this hasn’t spilled over into the rest of my life. I’m getting better, although I’m still not sure what my identity is, which seems to be important.

When my diagnosis was recently changed it threw me for a loop. All of a sudden I figured I must be someone different, but that makes no sense. As my therapist explained, “a diagnosis is the number we code on your bill so the insurance company will pay for your visit.”

Friends in the real world (outside of the Social Media) are still elusive to me. I do have a few who see me unmasked, but for the most part when I volunteer, attend Rotary, or go to a social event, I’m the competent-self-assured-Sheri. But then while I’m lying in bed at night, I tear apart everything I’ve said or done in public and wonder if others noticed what a stupid idiot I was. Most of the time I feel lonely (no pity parties please-I choose this), but I’m afraid of making friends, never mind the fact that I still feel socially inept and don’t even know how to meet people as “me.”

Who the hell am I? I still don’t know, maybe I never really will. Maybe it’s a Baby Boomer thing to need to know who we are, that self-discovery shit, the classic middle-aged crisis.

Maybe it’s not important to define myself but just be.

Tagged: mental illness, personality, self-discovery

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