Does Living With a Mental Illness Mean I'm Not Normal?
What a silly title, right? After we reach adult maturity--hopefully before--we understand that the word 'normal' means very little. It is socially constructed and does not do anyone any good. But that does not mean it is not attached to our psyche, our feelings, in one way or another.
'Normal' is a Feeling
Yes, it can be a feeling. The word itself is useless, many words are, but this one carries some baggage and a strange juxtaposition.
Some people don't want to be 'normal'. They see it as a curse.
"What do you mean I'm normal? That's so boring!" Ahem.
Perhaps, this person has a life involving socially 'normal' things such as working eight hours a day, a relationship that looks pretty good on paper, maybe a damn white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a 12 pound yapping dog that runs laps around the manicured backyard, irritating neighbors (sorry, that last bit involves my neighbors).
Let's assume they are content--I liken a state of 'content' with relative 'happiness' (another silly word)--but maybe feel they are missing out on something. On life!
Maybe they should travel more; jump out of an airplane! Sure, the job is great. The family is a unit, as a family should be, they believe. But they think to themselves, maybe late at night when they remember being younger and dancing: "My life is so normal!"
And said person wakes up, goes to work, and maybe comes home smiling. This person cannot define normal but they can attach feelings to it.
A person recently diagnosed with a mental illness. Life has become pretty hectic, or maybe it has always been, that's part of the illness. The life before recovery is found, claimed and cherished.
This person might think, while unable to sleep, "Why can't I be normal!" A perfectly reasonably, human thought. Said person might think of other people in their lives; maybe their neighbor with the yapping dog they would not mind kicking (metaphorically, of course).
It is reasonable for this person to believe that a white picket fence and 2.5-ish kids is normal.
Feeling as if we want to be something else, act in a different way, and have more control of our life is a human experience. It is part of the human condition.
'Normal' is Just a Word: Mental Illness is a Diagnosis
So, now we have sort of established this: 'Normal' is a word--it is a word that, when connected to mental illness, increases stigma. A generally useless word. If we apply this word to our mental health, if we try to obtain a state that does not exist, recovery is more difficult.
Instead of idealizing 'normal' focus on the word recovery. Recovery is a journey and eliminating the word 'normal', all of the idiotic connotations associated with it, allows us to focus on what really matters: becoming well and staying well.
Champagne, N. (2012, August 13). Does Living With a Mental Illness Mean I'm Not Normal?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2012/08/does-living-with-a-mental-illness-mean-im-not-normal
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
Yes it is just a silly word with even sillier connotations:) "A mental contruct" is an ideal term---thank you for the comment!
I think it's something we all think about. It would be strange if we did not but I also think it's a large part of moving towards a state of acceptance--as difficult as that is. Thanks for your comment, Natalie.
"I’ve learned a lot over the years and I am still learning, and I will never stop trying to learn. I used to think that what was wrong with me was that I was not normal, and I wanted to be normal and live a normal life regardless of whether or not I knew exactly what it was. I now think differently. I’ve heard a few times now, from people with similar injuries and experiences talking about “returning to normal”. While I understand a desire to return to the way things were, if things like the ability to drive or to understand or to work the way you used to are lost, I have to say that there is no return to normal. Not just because you can’t reverse time, but because there is no returning; or there is no need to return. We need to realize that. We need to understand that we don’t need to try and obtain “normal”, because we are normal. All of us, every single one; me, you and all the people out there. Things may change, but that’s life. We are all part of life.
My life, as hard as it may have been, has gotten me here. No loss or gain of “normal”, just life."
Congrats on the presentation---that, my friend, takes some guts! I wrote a blog about the differences between physical illness and mental and the stigma connected to it. Love your end quote.