This is a common theme I hear echoed from a lot of people I meet.
“Am I normal?”
“I can’t wait to feel more normal again.”
“Must be nice being so normal …”
The problem is, I don’t know what normal is.
I suppose for some of the people, they mean “without the symptoms of my disorder.” That makes sense, especially as some symptoms of some disorders can be pretty severe and debilitating toward living their everyday life.
But then I realize that even people without a diagnosed condition still don’t often feel “normal.” We live our lives, we have our stresses, we hate our bosses or the 9-to-5 routine, we get into arguments with our significant others. Is this “normal?”
Some days you don’t know why you wake up. Some days you don’t know why you go into work. Some days you don’t know what the ultimate point of your life is going to be. Is this “normal?”
Every other waking moment, you’re thinking of food or eating. Every hour you think of sex. Every day you imagine what “normal” must feel like. Is this “normal?”
You sing along with the radio. You talk on your cell phone while driving (even knowing that you shouldn’t). You hate your parents. You can’t wait to visit them during the next holiday, though, because you haven’t seen them for awhile. And then you feel guilty for thinking, “I hate my parents.” Is this “normal?”
The point is simple — there is no “normal.” There is a homeostasis we try and maintain in our constantly-changing environment. None of us live a “normal” life because there’s no such thing. The grass may be greener in your neighbor’s yard, but that may be because their pumping their kid’s college funds into yard maintenance and fertilizer. You never know other people’s lives — you only know what they choose to show you.
That couple you met at the dinner party the other night were so nice to each other because they get along well and genuinely like each other. But does that mean they never fight? Of course not. And does that mean the couple that tosses light-hearted barbs at one another at the same party has a worse, more unhealthy relationship? No, just a different kind of one. And yes, they argue in private too (all couples do at some point — it’s actually a sign of a healthy relationship).
Maybe it’s best to think of “normal” as a range of life experiences where we can live the life we want, without significant health or mental health impediments. It still has its ups and downs, it still has moments where we question our own sanity, but it’s relatively predictable with routines that feel familiar but not necessarily suffocating.
Or maybe I still have no idea what normal is … So please drop me a note when you find it. I’ll be waiting here next to my neighbor’s extraordinarily green lawn.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Apr 2010
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2010). Am I Normal?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/29/am-i-normal/