This I Believe

Michelle - Brockton, Massachusetts
Entered on April 3, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in normalcy. When I was a child, I heard over and over that there was no such thing as “normal”. After being in recovery for many years from bipolar disorder, a major psychiatric diagnosis, which in my case was severe, I have come to conclusions about what being normal means. It’s not about how much money someone has, or their popularity, job, or where they live. It’s not about race, ethnicity or religion. It’s not about their past or dreams for the future. It’s about the moment to moment present and what someone is able to do with it.

Normal means first and foremost being able to trust your senses and your sense of self. For those of us who have not been able to separate what was coming from outside our minds and what was going on in our minds on a minute by minute basis, normalcy becomes pretty clear. Normal means waking up in the morning and knowing that others share what I see. Normal means closing my eyes at night and hearing silence. Normal means realistically knowing that what is going on in my head is inspired by what is actually happening. Normal is what I want and what I want to stay.

Normal is also a transient condition. I believe that many people pass in and out of it with few repercussions. A person who has a severe fever and is not lucid is not normal. Odd behavior of that type is quickly identified as not being normal and steps are taken to help the person recover. Sometimes when behavior falls out of the realm of normalcy, it is rightly punished. A person who strikes out in a blinding rage is not behaving normally. It’s not the rage that is abnormal, but the loss of self in the rage that has the horrible consequences. Intoxication can lead to behavior that is not normal. An intoxicated person often loses her sense of self, or begins to hear and see things that no one else does. Intoxication becomes a problem should the desire to lose a sense of self overcome the need to understand what is real.

I believe that the norms of society do not necessarily dictate what is normal. Many people with idiosyncrasies, eccentricities and other odd behavior are quite normal. They can define themselves, have no internal sensory confusion, and quite often enjoy their behavior. They have found their way in the world in a particularly free spirited fashion.

Normalcy is groundedness. It is grounded in knowing where you leave off and the world begins. It is in knowing in the moment who you are. It is the ability to control not what you feel but what you do. Normalcy is something I relish and hope to never lose again.