Normal (adjective): Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected; (of a person) free from physical or mental disorders; (of a line, ray, or other linear feature) intersecting a given line or surface at right angles.
Origin: Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘right-angled’): from Latin normalis, from norma ‘carpenter’s square’ (see norm).
I long to be normal. In the way of being free from physical and mental disorders, not so much in the linear, straight forward, boring kind of way. Yet at the same time I loathe people who say that it is normal to feel the way I feel. They are trying to be nice, helpful, supportive. They don’t know it any better. They draw on their own personal experiences and use those to help you.
But it isn’t the same kind of helplessness, sadness, tiredness that you experience when something in your life goes wrong. For starters, it is there just for the sakes of it. There isn’t always a reason. There might be triggers, but even if they are identified it can sit on top of you and smother any sense of hope or zap any last shimmer of light from your world. And then there is nothing left but darkness. Are you telling me that this is normal?
What exactly are you trying to say? That it is normal to have this dry lump sitting in my throat but no tears to cry while still smiling? That it is normal to dread going to a social event and even if I go to feel like I’m trapped inside a tiger’s enclosure? That it is normal I feel I have to act on every new idea or suggestion right there and then and if I don’t I will beat myself up for missing out a great opportunity?
Is it indeed normal that I can’t think straight and every word I say has taken what feels like a million years to be carefully chosen and presented and then still to worry that I said the wrong thing? That it is normal to still think about long gone arguments and still play out different scenarios and alternative endings? Is it normal to think that everyone is talking about you behind your back?
Is it normal to keep noticing my fingers are once again in a tight grip only when they begin to hurt? That it is normal to avoid eye contact out of fear that someone might actually want to talk to me? That it is normal to not want to talk to people even if I really need directions or can’t find what I need? That it is normal to go into various shops and leave soon after empty handed because I felt like if I don’t leave immediately I will never make it out again alive? That it is normal to avoid meeting friends because I wouldn’t know what to say or talk about anyway? Is it normal that you feel overwhelmed when a colleague asks you to confirm their 60th birthday party
Is it normal to either overeat or restrict your diet depending on how you feel? That it is normal you can’t stand to hear and see others eat? To worry certain foods will make me ill so I actually feel ill before I even eat them? That it is normal you absentmindedly let slip “I want to die” if you can’t find anything you fancy on the pudding menu? That it is normal that you let your boyfriend pay for all your meals out because you can’t handle the awkwardness of giving a tip? That it is normal to not know whether you do or don’t love your boyfriend because you simply can’t feel anything? Is it normal to look for a new place to live every now and again because you somehow convinced yourself that your relationship doesn’t work anymore?
Is it normal to put off having a shower because it is too much effort? That it is normal to be unable to travel to see your family due to sheer mental and emotional overload? To not sit down on the train as you might not be able to get out without talking to people? Or to faint on a fully packed train? Is it normal to lose interest in your hobbies because you fail to see the point in any of it? Is it normal that you don’t answer the phone unless the call is expected? Or not to answer the door bell unless you know who it is?
Do you think it’s normal to take antidepressants to at least attempt to deal with any of these? Is it normal to self harm? Is it normal for your heart to beat so much you feel out of breath even though you are lying in bed trying to sleep? To shout for help in your head when waiting in a very slow cue in the shops? Is it normal to go blank when someone asks you a question? To feel like you’re carrying bricks in your gut?
Is it normal to feel trapped, to literally run away when things get on top of you, to feel like being executed when criticised and to feel a huge electric shock at the mere thought of having forgotten something? Is it normal to jumble your words because your mind is racing and your short-term memory doesn’t work? To still fear the dark? To keep smiling because you don’t want to give away how sad and lost you actually feel out of fear that nobody will understand because there is actually no reason to feel that way? That it is normal to plan your own death because you can’t bear that turmoil and pain anymore?
Is it normal to still feel tired after having slept thirteen hours? Is it normal to feel overwhelmed and tensed up when entering the town centre or the office? That everything feels ten times harder than it probably should?
Sure, some of these will be normal to some people at some point. But all of these, on continuous loop, all of the time amount to a lot of anxiety. So when people say that it is normal to feel the way I feel, not only does my memory not allow for much recollection of the carefully written words above, but also does my anxiety cause a major blackout during which I simply smile and carry on.
And that ain’t normal either!
I feel misunderstood without the right words to explain how I really feel. So other than waiting for some medications and therapy that are actually working, I have no other solution. I have tried most things of the conventional and alternative and am still none the wiser.
I have long played the game of “being normal”, to fit in, even to not fit in, to be different, but I don’t seem to belong anywhere and the symptoms are just getting worse. Two more weeks until my psychiatric review, and maybe we will learn yet something new.