To me, as a life-long mental health therapist, this is the voice of someone without self-love, self-compassion.. Someone floundering in an ocean of misjudged experiences from within and false advertising from the outside world.
Normal is a wide and forgiving range. There are a few non-negotiables, but allowances are generously made for creative expression and that good ol’ learning curve.
In a nutshell, this is what normal is, and if you can do some of these things on most days with purpose and intent, you are normal. Sigmund Freud defined mental health as the ability to work and to love, and that generally sums up normal. To work means to use your own skills and effort in some way to provide sustenance for yourself and your loved ones. Work that is meaningful and fulfilling. This can be volunteer work, or hobbies or talent development. To love means to have a safe, secure growing relationship in which you both give and receive to those ends.
Learning, and the desire or interest in learning is normal. Curiosity and risk-taking is normal. Flubbing up is normal. Beating yourself up for it over and over again is not normal. Having problems is normal. Resisting progress on those problems is not normal.
Questioning old paradigms is normal. Questioning the source of your information and beliefs is normal. Changing is normal, staying stuck is not normal. Choosing your identity and defining your own Self is normal. But, perhaps uncommon.
Being able to tolerate strong emotions is normal, seeking out and creating chaos and crisis is not normal. Accepting things as they are without judgement is normal, although this is a difficult thing for anyone to do and takes regular determination. Determination is normal. Resilience is normal.
Creativity is normal. Sometimes, quitting is normal. Staying stuck in the same language, ways of doing things, expectations of others when hey are clearly not working is not normal.
Having high expectations of others is normal. To be utterly rigid in those expectations is not normal. To want to be heard and included is normal. To rest and take a time – out is normal. To need and ask for help is normal.
To expect others to know what normal is normal. Everyone has a responsibility to educate themselves on mental health basics.
Setting limits and boundaries and expectations is normal. To say “no” is normal. TO be scared at times is normal. To be sad, at times, is normal. Being different than the group is normal. Ostracizing someone because they are different is not normal.
To feel remorse, repulsion, disgust and guilt when we have done wrong is normal. To feel the pain we cause others and be sorry for it — not ourselves — is normal. To want to make amends is normal. Empathy is normal. Wanting to do good is normal, and sometimes, putting the good for others above the good for yourself is normal.
To feel sorry for yourself when you cause others pain is not normal. To want the attention for yourself after you have victimized another person is not normal. To never forgive yourself or others is not normal. To let yourself or another person to go on and on feeling pain without helping to stop that pain is not normal.
Many people who suffer from mental illness have a false idea that it is when they are “cured” or “fixed” they can have a normal life. As you can see here, there are many strands of normal a mentally ill person can have in abundance, when you can identify those particulars.
Many person with mental illness believe it is only when they are “cured” or “fixed” that they can have a good quality of life. But no, you can have a good quality of life in the process of being cured, and understand that sometimes there is no real “cure” or “fix” and it is behooven upon us to build a quality of life while we still deal with symptoms and have “scrub” or “dud” days.
The key is to get real specific about your “normal” and your quality of life. And, guess what the bonus prize is? Here’s the mighty take-away: If you can do that, you can do what many, many people who do not suffer mental illness really cannot do. Or, it takes them a lifetime to try and figure it out.
So, raise up your chins with pride and hope, because you are the hope. You are the pride. Identify your “normal” and claim your quality of life.
———————–Heidi D. Hansen, M.A. is a mental health advocate, consultant and artist-writer in Vancouver, WA. Purchase her services, books and art that you find on this blog, or provide a donation to keep this sliding-fee/low-income service up and running by using the Paypal button below. Contact Heidi by calling (360) 892-5218, or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!