What is normal?
I’ve grown up feeling as if I wasn’t the same as everyone else, therefore I wasn’t normal. For as long as I can remember I have felt lost, as if I don’t fit in anywhere, with anyone. I’ve spent most of my life looking for ways to become like everyone around me, to fit in. When in actual fact, I’ve learnt that I don’t want to fit in. You can’t categorize the human mind as normal.
So, what is normal?
Growing up in my generation, mental illness was a taboo subject. It wasn’t right to discuss how you were truly feeling, how your mind was telling you anything other than what society had taught you was “normal.” I remember being told to “stop being silly” numerous times when explaining how I was feeling. You were made to feel scared, that having a mental illness was an imperfection, that you were a failure. It all made me feel so alone and worthless growing up because I couldn’t talk about it. I was always too ashamed to admit the things I was thinking as everyones opinion of me were a lot more important than my own. I focused more on what others thought of me than my looking after myself.
I’ve spent a lot of my life telling myself that I couldn’t change because it was just who I was, it was my genetic makeup. Only in the past year or so have I truly begun to understand what it is exactly that I have been dealing with all my life and that in actual fact I can change and improve my mind. Memories from when I was a child have surfaced that I didn’t even know I remembered and since learning a lot more about mental illness I have learnt how to understand what those memories mean to me and how they have created fears and anxiety I struggle with today.
To tell you the truth I haven’t really ever known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. I’m not a career minded person, so jobs have always been something I have struggled with. I’ve floated through life with the mindset that I’ll figure it out one day. But instead of taking steps to help myself figure it out, I would dwell on what was going on in my head and listen to that evil voice that told me I wasn’t good enough for anything. “You’re not smart enough to do that,” “you’re not brave enough for that,” “you’ll never be successful,” “no one is proud of you.” These are only a few examples of what I’d tell myself on a daily basis. Instead of focusing on improving my mindset and counting my blessings, I would focus purely on what I was missing from my life; getting myself down that I didn’t have the things I wanted, but getting angry because I also didn’t have the want or motivation to go out and get it. It became a vicious cycle of up and down moments, the down moments always over ruling. My confidence was close to non existent. Which again, was something that I just thought would never change. I knew something needed to change as time is limited.
A few years back I managed to admit I may have a mental illness. I booked myself a doctors appointment and headed over there to talk to a GP about how I was feeling, only to leave feeling ten times worse and even more confused. I didn’t feel heard or understood. I felt disappointed they didn’t help me more than they did. I was asked to do an online test, which I could have done myself at home, and for it to basically tell me what I had already worked out. Instead of receiving the help and support you would expect, I was moved along to join the anti-depressant pill taking group with no other consideration. This was something that really upset me. I wasn’t ready to admit I had an illness and being prescribed medication with no real thought or understanding made me put the idea of having the illness to the back of mind to try and forget about it. Taking medication was not the way I wanted to move forward with my situation. I didn’t take the pills. I did what I had learnt to do which was to brush my thoughts and feelings under the carpet in hope that they would go away in their own. Of course this wasn’t the case.
My anxiety can be triggered from pretty much anything, big or small. People have asked me what exactly causes it and I don’t know how to answer, because I would suffer over every day things that a lot of people wouldn’t even think about. Things like getting the bus home from college, it’s a normal every day task that nearly every teenager goes through. But for me it was a battle every day. It was a nightmare that I wished to avoid at all costs. I’d go to extreme lengths to make sure I didn’t have to catch the bus alone, waiting hours for classmates to finish so I could make my way home with them. While on the bus I would be fine until a couple of stops before the one I would be getting off at. My heart would begin to race and I would begin to shake. It took so much for me to get off the bus. Looking back I think how daft I was, how I was worried about something so small. But at the time it was a huge deal to me, that I suffered with alone, in silence.
Trying to explain things I go through to people is an extremely frustrating task. A lot of people don’t really get it. It makes you realise how each individual can see the world in a totally different perspective to the other. How we process information from the world in our own unique way. I’ve been studying a course on mental health recently and its allowed me to look at it all in another light. Instead of thinking I am just a freak, I’m miserable and hard to deal with, I have started to understand that what I go through is nothing to be ashamed of. But something that I’ve accepted makes me who I am and the smallest achievements that most people wont notice are huge achievements for me, and to be honest it keeps motivating me to become a better person.
Happiness is a state of mind, it’s a journey, and even though if you struggle with anxiety, you still deserve to be happy. Everyone does. I will not let anxiety define me and I will certainly not let it stop me from achieving what I want out of the one life I am given. And neither should you. Normal isn't perfect. Humans can't really be perfect, we all have flaws and unusual habits that others find weird. So forget trying to join a stereotype of normal, because it doesn't exist.
Embrace who you are and live you life to the fullest.
The main thing to remember is whether you suffer with a mental illness or not; it’s okay not to be okay.