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'Which part is the real me?'

'My mother comforted me and told me to cry it out, because crying is healing'

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A reader asks: I have a problem with expressing my true self, even to myself. I did not notice when or how did this problem began, but it was a month ago when something took place that pushed me so far so I broke down and cried in a way I very rarely do. My mother comforted me and told me to cry it out, because crying is healing. However, I stopped after 10 minutes of sobbing and instantly became almost emotionless. She asked me if I feel better and I answered honestly that I don't know. She told me not to hold it in but I told her I can't cry it out anymore. I just can't. She asked me about how I feel at the moment and I told her that I feel untouched; like I am looking at what happened from afar and seeing the advantages and disadvantages of it. Then she asked me if I could explain what I personally feel about what happened and it was then when I noticed that I was incapable of feeling it personally, at least for that moment.

After that, I noticed that I usually see things objectively as a whole to the extent where I was once accused for being 'cold'. Like how I once contemplated on committing suicide (I was much younger then) because I believe that I was bringing bad influence to my younger siblings as the eldest and they would be better off without me. I even go to the extent of wondering how could I carry it out without causing suspicion even after I did it (maybe running in front of a fast car and make it seem like an accident) and most of the time, I thought about all these without emotion. Like it's just a task that should be done.

However, I have a very strong emotional and reckless side, which comes out when I'm in a passionate state. I often get very angry very easily and act violently. It is also the side that makes me cry like a baby when I watch a sentimental scene on TV even though I know it's a movie. Or the part that made me laugh like a madwoman when I'm feeling happy. However, I find myself to be very irrational when my emotional side appears so I usually give it less attention.

The way I explain it to people if they ask is like I have two different sides constantly trying to win me over inside me. The rather obnoxious, paranoid, calm and objective side as well as the violent, passionate, emotional and impulsive side. Both sides are caring and attempt to achieve the greater good, but the paranoid side tend to wish for what's best as a whole (to the country, community, future, etc), while the emotional side wishes for the best for an individual's present state (like to give the person love, care and happiness and sometimes this could be for myself too). It used to bother my everyday life but I have long learned how to make peace with them and giving them both time to lay down their arguments before I make a decision and slice carefully between them.

However, as a result of my duality, lying comes to me as a second nature as at times I don't even know what exactly do I feel about something. After all, which part is the real me? I can't even answer that question. This is also partly why it is easy for me to get along with people; because I can pull off whichever character I need to suit for the occasion. Sadly, this gives an image to others that I am a cold psychopath. I don't believe so. I care deeply for the people around me and I have always dreamed of doing something big for the society. I have enjoyed humanitarian work where I could make things better for all.

Lately my mother is starting to worry about me and thinks I need to talk to a psychologist or a counsellor. I thought then that she was overreacting, but now I'm starting to wonder if I do have a problem I need to attend to? If it helps, I am 19-years old and I'm a college student.

I really hope that you could give me some insights. Thank you very much.

Carey Kirk (M.Ed, Counseling Psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia, Dubai) replies: From your letter, it sounds as though the duality you feel inside yourself is impacting you both emotionally and socially. Feeling as though you have two distinct parts of yourself can be incredibly confusing and naturally brings up the question you mentioned: "Which part is the real me?" It can also create distance between yourself and others as they also wonder what is real.  

In order to investigate this and to develop a clearer understanding of yourself, I recommend meeting with a psychiatrist for a diagnostic assessment. A diagnostic assessment usually takes place over one to two sessions during which a psychiatrist would talk to you about your life and experiences and would be able to help identify what they feel may be going on for you. A psychiatrist would be able to rule out or identify diagnoses as well as help you identify the course of action that will help guide you in your process feeling more connected to and integrated with yourself.

Additionally, the kinds of detached experiences you mention sound as though you could be experiencing some instances of depersonalization. Depersonalization is a form of dissociation in which we can feel separate from ourselves and our emotional state. During these times, we can feel numb or emotionless - as if we have somehow become disconnected from ourselves. Sometimes we can feel distanced from ourselves, as if we were merely observing ourselves and our actions. These episodes of depersonalization can last for hours or days and can feel very strange, however, these types of experiences are common in the general population. If you feel that these sensations of being disconnected from yourself or emotionless are occurring at increasing frequency and are becoming longer in duration, I recommend also discussing these with a psychiatrist.

I hope this information helps you in your journey to gain insights into yourself, your emotions, and your life.

DisclaimerThis blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.