Life > How painful experiences can form a positive identity

Posted on November 9, 2016
Image by JEB Photography via flickr

Image by JEB Photography via flickr

Our anonymous writer reflects on the stressful situations that have made her stronger

During my early teens I remember how depressed I felt. How challenging I found it to control my feelings. I could never stay in one mood for long. I was neurotic and I didn’t really understand who I was at the time.

I didn’t know why or how this was happening to me, all I was able to do was to “suck it up” and just try and get on with things.

School was complicated and lonely. I just wanted to have a ‘normal’ life. At the time this felt impossible. I didn’t relate to my classmates and often felt like an outsider. While they were just beginning to date boys and try alcohol, I had already been in a long-term relationship and had been dabbling with drink since the age of 13.

One relationship I had with a boy I met outside of school was especially problematic. Clearly we were both too young to understand what love and respect really meant in a relationship. Two years of emotional turmoil led to me feeling undermined and demoralised.

I began to question if I was a bad person and why was I entangled in such negative relationships and unhealthy behaviour.

Soon after I spilt with my boyfriend my home life began to deteriorate; things became very stressful. I was having relentless arguments with my parents. They weren’t sure how they could support me through this time in my life.

School was complicated and lonely. I just wanted to have a ‘normal’ life. At the time this felt impossible.

My behaviour was likely a sign that I needed to seek help, but I was not able to recognise this at the time. As relentless arguments became more heated, and I became angrier, more agitated and overwhelmed, I decided to leave home.

I moved to supported accommodation at the age of 16. While I was there I spent some time wading through more unhealthy relationships, particularly romantic ones.

Living away from home certainly meant I had to learn a lot of useful life skills such as cooking, cleaning, and being responsible for myself. However it was a hard environment. There was drug abuse going on and many of the people I lived with were quick to anger, most likely because of the bad experiences they had suffered in their past.

I became more and more unsettled and distressed. My mental health worsened. I felt isolated from my family and friends. I had so much to contend with during these months. I barely went to school; I left with just two GCSES.

I moved back home that summer and gradually started to repair the relationship with my parents; this definitely improved my mental health and gave me some positivity to move forward.

Settling your mind is an incredibly powerful skill

I enrolled on to a creative media course, which I found it really fulfilling. I thrived having a platform, to prove to myself as well as to others, that I had ideas, skills and opinions. Keeping myself busy and focused boosted my self-esteem and motivation, which enabled me to cope much better with difficult feelings.

Settling your mind is an incredibly powerful skill, and it can be done through many different mediums. For example many people find drawing or keeping a diary soothing for the mind. Personally I like to write lists, as it helps me stay productive and gives me a chance to clear out all the junk from my mind.

Reflecting on my past, so much of it has helped to shape my identity. I’ve developed important qualities such as independence and resilience. I also feel more equipped to feel empathy for others.

You can become stronger through painful experiences; this can make way for you to find out what really makes you happy and inspired — like they did for me.

A psychologist, Jonathan Haidt states; “people require adversity, trauma and setbacks in order to grow, find fulfilment, develop as a person and find their inner strength.”

So much has changed for me — luckily for the better.

We have not included the writer’s name to protect their identity.


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