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.

Angry birds, angry people?

Angry_Birds_SeasonsModeration is a fatal thing.  Nothing succeeds like excess. ~ Oscar Wilde

Moderation has never been my strong suit.  I can obsess over almost anything. When I read that Oscar Wilde, author of the quote above, died at the young age of 46,  I wondered if it might have been excesses rather than moderation that contributed to his early demise.

My latest obsession is Angry Birds.  I didn’t intend it to be an obsession.  It’s just that I had heard so many people mention playing the inane electronic game that I wondered if I were missing out on something really exciting and marvelous.  I can now say unequivocally that I wasn’t.  Will it contribute to my demise?  Not likely.  But possibly, in an indirect way.  If I sit on my duff and play too much I probably won’t clean my house or go for a walk as often as I would if I had not put those silly birds on my Nook.  As if I need more excuses for not doing those important things.

Actually, I don’t really think the lack of adequate exercise would be as much of a factor as would the stress the game creates in me.  Stress, you say.  It’s a game!  Games are fun, entertaining.  Aren’t they?

I have often wondered and worried about our children and the effect violent games might have on them.  Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook, I have heard several times that there are no studies to prove a correlation between violent television programs and/or video games, and violence in children or adults.  I’m still wondering.

I would imagine that some of you are thinking Angry Birds?  Violent?  I’ll try to explain.

In case you don’t know, the goal of this seemingly harmless game is to fire your angry bird(s) from a slingshot in an effort to detonate/explode/kill little round green pigs, or other birds who are placid and not angry, or monkeys.  Did I say KILL?  I don’t kill things.  Why am I killing birds and pigs and monkeys — even in a game?

When I started playing I thought it was fun.  As I progressed through the easier levels and started to find it difficult to “kill” all the creatures I was supposed to kill, I got very antsy and unsettled and yes, angry.  My eyebrows started to look like those on the bird in the picture above and I would find myself saying, “Damn you, monkey, I’ll get you next time around!”  My muscles tensed.

A few nights ago I made the mistake of playing a kill-the-monkeys game shortly before going to bed.  Not smart for one who suffers from insomnia once or twice a week.  I went to bed and, of course, could not sleep.  Not only could I not sleep but I kept seeing buildings and cages and critters detonating into thousands of pieces.  And the worst image of all was the evil monkey with its Groucho Marx eyebrows taunting me.  Nightmares without the sleep.  What a stupid thing to do to myself.

I’m happy to announce that I’m finished with those Angry Birds.  It’s about self-defense.  I’m afraid they will finish me.

I would be interested in your comments.  Do you play video games?  Which ones?  Have you had an experience like mine?

Lonely and blue.

I couldn’t go to sleep last night. I got out of bed at 1:00 am. I hate when that happens. Most of the time these days (nights) I fall asleep fairly promptly after reading for a while. When my ex first left I would go for days without sleeping. My doctor looked at me with his most serious face and told me, “You have to sleep.” Then he told me all that would eventually go wrong if I didn’t start sleeping. He even pointed out that I was suffering from a broken heart and that I probably needed some help with the insomnia. I guess it’s good to remember that from time to time so that I can recognize how much better I am now. I have to say, though, that I still feel as if some evil spirit has me in its grip when I can’t go to sleep. Insomnia lies in wait to ambush me and remind me that I truly am alone, and sometimes very blue about it.

I suppose the good thing about living alone is that I can get up at any hour and do whatever I feel like doing without worrying about disturbing another poor soul. I got up and googled lonely. That’s how I found this lovely blue picture. Now I don’t know what you get when you google lonely but one thing that came up high on my screen was information from the Lonely Planet travel people. I think it makes perfect sense for Lonely Planet to appear but I was a bit disconcerted surprised when it pointed me specifically to Peru. Big Brother knows I’m going to Peru. Okay, okay, I know there isn’t really anything sinister about it. It’s simply the high-tech times in which we live. I remember a time when we had some semblance of privacy. Then again, maybe not. Maybe we just thought we did. I guess it’s not a problem unless I’m doing something I don’t want anyone to know about. I don’t think I am. Really.

I got a little nostalgic when a song from my teen years popped up. I hit the YouTube arrow and listened to Paul Anka singing “Lonely Boy.” I’m just a lonely boy, lonely and blue. I’m all alone with nothing to do. I’ve got everything you can think of. But all I want is someone to love. Substitute girl for boy and this is a perfect description of me. Well maybe not. I’m a long way from being a teenager and I’m not at all sure I want someone to love. Someone to like, maybe, a buddy, a pal, a friend. Someone to hang out with and do things and go places.

It’s nine o’clock and I think I should go to bed early tonight. Catch up on lost sleep. Oh! One more thing I found as I googled last night–Did you know that if I get too lonely, I can meet a lonely inmate online, male or female? I am excited silly to know that.

Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. My mom used to say that to me.