“I don’t even know what a normal life would look like,” I sighed, disheartened at the fact that my lack of normal was largely due to my apparent need for drama.
I’m bipolar. For close to twelve years, I cycled between deep depressions and wildly irritable, energetic, too-much-in-too-small-a-space hypomanias. It happened every three months like clockwork. And before that, I’d spent the better portion of my teenage years slipping ever downward into an eating disordered abyss.
So it really isn’t my fault that I can’t imagine “normal.” I haven’t had a long enough period of stability to even think about it.
Until now. I’m rounding the bend on half of a year. A whole six months without totally losing my shit, without my sanity being painfully ripped from my mind and tossed aside like garbage. I haven’t had to pick up the shattered pieces of my mindset and use energy pulled out of nowhere to put them all together again. I haven’t had to do any of that. In six months.
I have the time to figure it out now, this “normal” thing, and I think I’m going to try. I felt stupid about it at first, thinking it was dumb to be confused about something so obvious, but apparently, it’s a good question. And even if it isn’t, my standards are different than other people’s. I have a different set of circumstances. And I respect myself enough to cut myself some slack.
Right. Onto defining normal.
I think what it really comes down to is “who am I when I’m not struggling” and “how is my life when I’m not struggling.” Who am I when I’m not in a mood episode, when I’m not fighting with myself over my weight, when I’m relatively stable, when I’m not actively in a crisis.
Part of me has been afraid to ask such a question because I’m afraid of the answer. What if I’m no one without my diagnoses? What if my life is pointless without my struggles?
There’s no doubt that lots of ME is inextricably linked to my bipolar disorder (or my ADHD, my anxiety, and I guess even my eating disorder). Things that make up my personality are also markers for my mental health issues. Particularly my intensity and my reactivity. While they’re both telltale signs of being a raging bipolar, they’re also two of my favorite qualities. The same can go for my passion, my one-track-mind, my motivation to create. I see the world differently because mental illness requires it, and I’m driven beyond belief to fervently capture that difference in an imaginative and exciting way, and not stop until I’m finished. I’m so often wildly energetic, unable to sit still or stay in one place. My ADHD is probably to thank, but isn’t that also just part of who I am?
I think for “normal” to happen, I’d need to set aside the drama that accompanies mental illness. After all, I have been known to sabotage my sanity when things are going too smoothly. I don’t blame myself –I blame my brain for having fucked with me for so long that I’m scared of the quiet hidden in the moments of calm. But normal requires slowing down. It requires letting go of the need to be busy every waking moment of the day to keep from becoming too reflective. It’s not like I’m in a period where I’m constantly working. But I still create lists of things to complete each day with way more tasks than need to be done. I will myself to concentrate on something, anything, because I worry where one stray thought might lead me. If I wanna move forward, I can’t be afraid to be alone with my thoughts.
To keep things short, normal probably means less negativity and less anxiety about my future. Not living in constant fear of another mood episode while still being realistic about the possibility and trying to prevent one. Doing the right things for myself while not focusing solely on symptom relief.
No obsessive thoughts, less stress. Calm, content happiness. Excitement (in a comfortable, contained way).
Knowledge. Self-awareness. Knowing my purpose, my reason, my why, my truth. Working to be the best version of me. Thinking about the big picture. Being more productive in a variety of ways. Accomplishing what I set my mind to. Actually looking forward to the future. Enjoying each moment as it comes. Being sure of who I am and how I want to be. Being sure of my values.
Being the ME I want to be: bright, bubbly, outgoing, energetic, friendly, kind, optimistic, loving, hard-working, full of life, a social butterfly, accountable, trustworthy, helpful, inspiring. With that, being seen as I want to be seen. I want to be known for those good qualities I value (while also not letting it bother me when every single person doesn’t get to know me; not everyone will know me personally, not everyone will know my story, and that’s okay because not everyone has to). I also want to be seen and understood as the whole, multifaceted, and at times contradictory person that I am. Because I accept that I am and always will be more reactive, more intense, and yes, more dramatic. I want to see and understand myself as the whole, multifaceted, contradictory way that I just am.
I think listing shit like that will help me to envision normal because it shows what I think I’d be like and what my life would be like if I continue in this period of relative peace.
Like…I was recently inspired to picture the kind of future I want to have. What will I be like? What will my circumstances be? When I really stop and think about things like that, I do picture myself happy and successful and fulfilled and proud of my accomplishments (deep down I know I’m smart and capable, so I can manage that!). I picture myself doing okay with the resources I have. I picture myself surrounded by the same love I’m lucky to have now, as well as new love. Basically, I picture a normal life. And I think all of what I described above relates to that.
So I guess I already have an idea of what normal is, and I guess it’s time to just…manifest that shit.