Pretending to be normal.

201200003769_003The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. ~ Alfred Adler

Definition of normal:  not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; free from mental disorder — Merriam-Webster

I stashed this picture and the beginnings of a post in my files a long time ago, knowing that one day I wanted to write about it, but having no idea what I wanted to say.  It seemed important to me at the time.  Also, I love the cheerful, happy women in Suzy Toronto’s work.

At the time, I think I was exhausted by trying to be normal.  At the same time I wondered, “Why would I want to be normal?  I want to be more than normal.  I want to sparkle. I want to shine.  I want to leave my mark!”  The sad truth is I couldn’t get to normal, so how was I ever going to sparkle, let alone shine?  What on earth was wrong with me?

I have mentioned before that my family is rife with alcoholics/drug addicts.  I don’t remember having talked about the other family scourge–depression and/or anxiety.  I think that if I made a list of relatives who suffer from depression, it would be longer than the list of those who do not.  Most of my life I would have put my name on the those-who-do-not list.  Even after having taken an anti-depressant (SSRI) to help me through my divorce, I still would have considered myself a non-depressed person.  I have, in the past two or three years, admitted that I sometimes have bouts of depression.  But did I consider myself a depressed person?  Never!

This last bout of functioning-well-below-normal depression has changed my mind.  “And why is that?” you might ask.  I’m still trying to figure out the answer.  This time it went on and on for a very long time–close to a year, I think.  I was anxious.  I was worried.  I was tired.  I was so very, very sad.  I was short-tempered, impatient, critical.  The biggest clue of all was, I think, that I started to have numerous physical symptoms.  Test after medical test turned up nothing.  I started to realize that the chest pain I went to the emergency room for was probably an anxiety or panic attack.  The digestive symptoms I was having may have been due to what was eating me rather than what I was or was not eating.

I have spent a lifetime resisting the depressed label.  There are a couple of reasons for my attitude toward this particular illness: 1) I don’t like to admit to being less than healthy (as in it seems like a weakness to me), and 2) there is too much stigma still attached to any type of mental illness.  Number two is changing slowly but there’s much educating to be done before it becomes just another illness.

I believe that my reasons for thinking the way I did probably come from my attitudes toward my parents as I reached adulthood.  I saw my mother as weak because she played the poor-pitiful-me role her entire life.  I needed her to pull herself up and take control of the family.  I realize now that she couldn’t.  I saw my father as the drunk who didn’t provide well for his family.  I know now that he suffered from depression, too, and was likely drinking because of the anxiety and depression.  His drinking then exacerbated the problem.  I now believe that both parents did the best they could under very trying circumstances.

I’m happy to report that I no longer have to pretend to be normal.  I feel normal.  I’m not sure I’m shining just yet, but I’m beginning to notice a few sparks on a fairly regular basis.  I’m planning to sparkle soon.  About two months ago, after taking a long, but gentle look, at myself, and recognizing that I have spent most of my adult life depressed and anxious, I decided to be kind to me and I put myself back on antidepressant medication.  One month ago I told my doctor what I had done.  She asked many, many questions about how I had been and how I was on medication.  She agreed with me.  I did the right thing.

photo(9)Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that anyone reading this post should do what I did.  If you think you are depressed, please see an appropriate professional.

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31 thoughts on “Pretending to be normal.

  1. You write so beautifully and if anyone can relate to what you’ve written it’s me. Alcohol, depression…denial…acceptance. It’s like an emotional obstacle course. Normal is so subjective. We all wanted to be the Cleavers yet mark my word, Ward drank and June cried. I’m convinced. My sadness comes and goes like weather…I do suffer from melancholy and have my whole life. I’m not ashamed anymore only because it’s a part of who I am…it’s why I ache for other people…why my heart so easily opens…same as yours. You are such a special woman with gracious gifts….I think that every time I read something of yours or when you pen something to me. This was brave and bold, and terribly important for many of us to read. Honestly in one grants permission for all.

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    • Hi Susannah. I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to respond. As I mentioned to someone a while ago, I’ve been in a good place, have been busy “doing” and not writing.

      “My sadness comes and goes like the weather…” What a great analogy. It certainly applies to my moods as well. I read somewhere that Linda Rondstadt suffers from bouts of melancholy. I think she said she tells herself, “This too shall pass.” And that she always knows she will come through and feel better. I guess it’s just what life is all about. Ups. Downs.

      I’m always happy to hear what you have to say. You’re thoughtful and you express yourself very well indeed.

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  2. This was a terrific posting. You have struck a chord with many people. I appreciate your honesty and candor. And I’m so glad you are feeling better and being kind to yourself. 🙂 I look forward to coming back here to read more. 🙂

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    • Hi Betsyanne. I’ve taken forever to respond to your comment. I apologize. I truly appreciate your visit to my blog and that you took the time to comment. Thanks for your kind words. Are you a blogger? If so, how do I find you?

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  3. I meant to say that I hope you’ll soon do some more blogging and suddenly the reply went off.
    I like to read you blogs, Pat. Even if there is some sadness in it, I think this is all part of life and what we are. You express yourself so very well that even if you have some sad things to talk about, it always makes for a good, thought provoking read. So just continue blogging and try not to worry to write about your feelings. We like to know how you feel. My prayers are with you that you may always find something to enjoy life no matter what. There’s sunshine after rain, right?

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    • Hi Uta. I’m trying to have a “computer” day. Trying to catch up. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to respond to this very thoughtful comment. You’re a very astute and thorough “listener” to what I have to say.

      I agree that being older has helped me to be more accepting of myself and all my flaws. I think, too, that teaching teenagers for years helped in that regard. Those two sentences seem a bit incongruent even to me. Let me try to explain. High school students are quick to expose the foibles of classmates AND teachers. A successful teacher learns to roll with the punches. With a smile! And mean it! I’m fortunate to have a number of teenage granddaughters now. Never a wrinkle goes unnoticed. 🙂

      I am actually in a very good place emotionally and spiritually now. I’ve learned not to question these good days, but to relax and enjoy them. Thank you, dear Uta, for your support and your encouragement as I journey onward.

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  4. Pat, I think we all crave to be able to talk to someone who understands what we are trying to say. With a person who understands what sort of feelings you have, you don’t have to pretend. Our feelings can’t always be the same, day in, day out. To expect this wouldn’t be normal. I mean isn’t it normal to feel happy about some things, sad about other things, grateful for some things, confused about some things, content about other things, discontent and even angry sometimes. I think as we get older we can get rid of a lot of our anxieties by just accepting ourselves the way we are and appreciating that there are people who love us and care for us. I can understand that living all on your own you would get off and on feelings of loneliness. Finding some person you can truly communicate with is important in such situations. Even if you live with someone close to you there are times when the need to talk to a third person comes up.
    As far as I know you have children and grandchildren who love you very much. Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day. So have a super Mother’s Day, Pat. Take whatever happiness comes your way and enjoy it!
    I hope you’ll soon h

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  5. Pat, This is a very honest and touching post. Being truthful to yourself about difficult things (such as mental illness) is so very hard! Be kind to yourself, and shine on, my friend! 🙂

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this post. The decision to be kind to oneself in such a way that you talk about here takes a certain kind of bravery. Too many people cheat themselves out of sparkling.

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    • Ahhh, C. You insist upon seeing my sparkle even when I cannot; especially when I cannot. I’m forever in your debt. Should we tell the other readers that we’ve been friends for 60 years now? I’m rather proud of that.

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      • Yes, me too! I’ve always had to see your sparkle over those years because you sometimes didn’t see just how special you were. Church soloist? Sparkle! Junior Prom Marshall? Sparkle! Leads in school plays? Sparkle! Voted ‘most popular’ by Senior Class? Sparkle! Success in college? Sparkle! Fantastic Mom? Sparkle! Dedicated and much loved teacher? Sparkle! Talented fabric artist? Sparkle! Super Grammy? Sparkle! I’ll stop but I could go on. Oh, one more. Five-star friend? Sparkle! Girl, you positively shine.

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  7. I do not say this lightly when I say you are one of the most special people I have found on the Blogosphere. I do not know whether you are normal, subnormal, abnormal or supernormal and I don’t care. I don’t know if I am either, but I ceased to worry about it. What I can say without a doubt is that you a sensitive, intelligent and a gusty person who always writes from the heart and talks a quality of sense which enriches the lives of those luck enough to read it. As always this post was written with a humility which makes me realise you don’t realise how special you are

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  8. I too am one that has always considered myself a non-depressed person. Yet the periods of ‘being down’ since my husband’s abandonment of me have been long and dark. Since I resist the diagnosis of depression, I consider myself still in the grieving process. I suppose I define grieving as having a reason for being down; whereas I define ‘depression’ as when you feel down for no reason. It is a very fine line. It gets complicated when the reason for feeling down goes on and on. I have still resisted medical intervention. However, I am now seeking regular counselling to help me through all this.
    This has been a very enlightening post and quite a brave one to write about. I am glad for you that you have found an acceptance on this issue, have sought medical help, and you have found a solution that works for you.

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    • Oh, Elizabeth, I understand so perfectly how you feel. You ARE still in the grieving process. And if you’re like me, the grieving increases the stress and anxiety. I’m glad you’re seeing a counselor. It helps to talk it through with an unbiased third party. Family and friends can only listen just so much before they start suggesting you move on, but you aren’t finished talking yet. You still need a sounding board. Good for you for taking that step.

      Time eventually heals. You will feel better. I’m pulling for you.

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  9. You are very generous to share this insight with us, and thank you for doing so. It would be easier for us to “admit” to the illness if it had a different name. Most people think of depression as “sadness,” but that is only part of the problem. The other symptoms, some of which you mentioned above, are the ones that become overwhelming. And some people (especially men) have depression but never feel sad – they just feel angry. So let’s hope the medical profession will get the message and change the name of it. I am really glad that you are starting to feel better and not resisting the medication that can make a world of difference in your life. There is no weakness in medicating an illness. A chemical imbalance is nothing to sneeze at. Stay well and keep on writing. I look forward to it.

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  10. Really appreciate this post…and your candor. Depression, etc. really can do a number on lots of us. I was so down after some crashing accidents that I became addicted to Valium plus muscle relaxers…bad combo! Thirteen years later my wonderful husband and four adult sons conducted an intervention ~ I was on the verge of leaving this life but with their help plus God I’m now? Normal…ta-dah. My own personal normal and I’ve been on anti-depressants now; my life is soooo normal…I’m happy, healthy and full of ‘being normal’. Thanks for your most appreciated post. Love it…

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    • Vasca, thank you for sharing your demons. I’m grateful that your family realized that intervention was a possible solution. And I’m so glad it worked. “Normal” feels really good, doesn’t it?

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  11. What the heck is normal anyway? I’m just glad you are back to posting and writing. Your lack of posts in recent months was beginning to concern me. Glad you’re back. Write out those feelings again and know we are always here to help if we can.

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