A Treatise On The Word “Normal”

In the past two weeks I’ve seen six different images with some variation of “What’s Normal?” “Just a setting on a dryer.” and “There is no normal.” I get the intent behind the images but I wonder how many people really think about them. I do- because I can’t stop fucking thinking ever- and I have a significant problem with that particular statement and those like it.

The key to wellness for many people is hope. A big part of what I do is try to instill realistic hope in people that have been slogging through years of mental illness and the sewage it creates. Hope comes in many forms. The primary goal is to help a person realize they can change their life for the better or their loved one can recover if they actually work at it.

I realize what many folks reading this are probably thinking- “it’s just a stupid phrase”. Correct. But, let’s take into account the way a Bipolar or Depressive mind works. The illness can latch onto one minor point and explode it into a shitstorm of epic proportions. I can easily see an unwell mind latching onto that statement and concluding there is no point in trying because this is their normal. That’s not the kind of thing you want an unwell person to be thinking about while they are trying to stay afloat in depression.

To me, the statements could be interpreted by an unwell mind to mean there’s nothing to look forward to. This is their normal. This is their lot in life. This is ALL they have to look forward to. And frankly, that kind of thing would have had me slitting my wrists a few years ago if I had thought for a moment the rest of my life would have to be like the past was.

But that’s not the way it works for many people nor is it representative of “normal”.

So many people beat the drum about being just like everyone else but that just sets unrealistic expectations. We, the mentally ill, are not like everyone else no matter how much we want to be. We have to do things differently to maintain a sense of stability and sanity in our lives. Hoping, wishing, and praying for things to be different is a waste of time, energy, and oxygen. The sooner anyone can come to terms with their differences the faster they can start working to find something that actually works for them.

I don’t enjoy analyzing my thoughts constantly. I’m fucking tired of taking psych meds like I know many of you are. But my brain is an abnormal pile of shit and will run screaming back into insanity if I let it have even an inch.

People are different and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re less deserving of kindness or respect. You don’t necessarily have to be public about it; and I don’t recommend you do unless you’re stable enough to lock horns with people that challenge you about it. The most important thing is to find stability and peace of mind. Attempting to engage with the ignorant is a pretty efficient way to find your rage. Privately, you can work to find the right solutions with people you trust.

So the question then becomes- what is normal?

In my eyes, normal has to encompass people from about every race, religion, creed, and walk of life. Thus, I think the best way to think of “normal” is to go back to Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a pretty simple, clear definition of what is commonly believed to be necessary for human existence and growth.

Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Problems with the mind become mental illness when they interfere with the basic needs of human existence. Therefore, it only makes sense to point back to the same for defining “normal”. Normal is simply the ability to conduct one’s life in a gainful fashion. We can all strive to reach for that sense of normalcy without jeopardizing individuality and a sense of self.

Normal is more than a setting on a washing machine. Normal is being able to live your life and pursue your goals without your own brain and scars fucking you over in the process. It’s something to fight and strive for through doctors, medication, and therapy; whatever gets the job done for YOU.

That’s just how I see it anyway.

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3 Responses to A Treatise On The Word “Normal”

  1. Siberia says:

    Awesome! Thanks for writing such a wonderful piece of human truth.
    Regards from Spain!

  2. Emily says:

    I also hate that cutesy meme because it just seems so ungrateful and also rather oblivious. Plenty of people are relatively normal–and if you don’t face any particular challenging health/life/personal issues, then you’d better thank your lucky stars rather than trying to make your life seem more unusual for ego’s sake. Don’t minimize someone else’s struggles by basically saying “There’s no such thing as normal,” which is hipster code for “Oh, I know just how you feel.” No you effing don’t. You never will, snowflake. Saying that something doesn’t exist is just another way to refuse dealing with it and your own attendant prejudices.

    Rant over.

    • Dennis says:

      I used to think pretty much this identical way until I read a comedy article (of all things), where the author was bemoaning the fact that some people take offense to perceived sympathy. We see it as being talked down to or being pitied when that isn’t what a lot of us want. When I relate the bullshit I’ve been through in my life or relate exactly how I’m doing when someone asks; it’s just fact for me.

      And then would come the “I’m sorry” and the borderline rage. But for many of those folks it’s not about pity. It’s about feeling sympathy towards your challenges but having no idea of what to say to it. And really, what can you say to a person who has just recounted their molestation or suicide attempts? “Oh that sucks” sort of doesn’t cover it.

      So yeah, his article cast a new light on it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were a lot of people I tore into who were generally good/nice people and probably weren’t being condescending dicks. They were just trying to identify and be supportive.

      Just some food for thought.

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