Dearest blossoming humans,
I am well aware that it is against protocol to write part one of a post and then go on to write something unrelated before writing the other half. What can I say; I’m a rebel. Ironically, this post is about the concept of normal and what it means to a chronically ill person, so if there ever were a time for me to not follow an unwritten rule, it’s now.
Yesterday afternoon I was driving from work to a doctor’s appointment. I was in an exhausted haze and in a great deal of pain, but still my mind was overthinking as the thunder grumbled in the distance and the rain flung itself against my car. As I joined my fellow drivers on the freeway, I looked about, wondering where everyone else was headed. This brought me to the thought, “What the actual fuck does it mean to be normal?”
I’ve never been what would be considered “normal,” which means I’ve heard the word a great deal in my life, especially in the way of judgment. “Why can’t you just be normal?” I’d be asked, by all sorts of people. On my worst days, I would pray before bed that I would do anything in the world if I could just wake up and be normal. I wanted to look normal, act normally, speak normally, and most importantly of all, have normal, standard health and be rid of my chronic pain and health issues.
Nowadays, each day is a battle not only with my health, but to fight against my impulse to wish myself into oblivion as I have for so long. On days where it seems I can’t even do the simplest things right, or the days every single joint and muscle in my body are inflamed, I still have that thought. However, here is my confession: I have no idea what “normal” means. So what exactly have I been wishing for?
Okay, let me rephrase that. I know what normal means, mostly, though more often than not when people are critical of my abnormalities, they’re comparing me to someone else as an example of how I should be. I wanted to know the exact, non-bias definition of the word, so I posed this question to the Google. The Google was happy to answer me, and within a click of my finger and a blink of an eye, it brought me my answer:
Normal: Adj. Conforming to a standard. Usual, typical, or expected.
Well, that definition certainly explains it well…sort of. It doesn’t help as much as I hoped. It says conforming to a standard, but whose standard? Usual and typical of what exactly? The more I dissect this, the less helpful it is. Sometimes our language can be vague and confusing, and for an overthinking human such as myself, it is incredibly aggravating. For the sake of my post, let’s just assume the standard is the standard of American society (since I live in America) and what is expected of an average 26 year old. Spoiler alert: I am not an average 26 year old.
As I grow older I begin to gain more understanding about what it truly means to be myself and live my life, illnesses, abnormalities and all. I have tried to deviate from self loathing and wishing myself away, instead moving towards acceptance. Sometimes it works. Even still, there are some days it really doesn’t work, and I am left feeling defeated for the millionth time. When you’re chronically ill, defeat is something you’re force to get used to.
There is also the issue of those outside of my brain (as in, you know, literally everyone) who take my acceptance of my abnormalities and difference as self hate, self pity or simply giving up. On the contrary, I’ve begun to learn that accepting that I will never be normal is one of the most freeing gifts I could ever possibly give myself. It is only with acceptance of what I cannot do, and what I am not, that I can discover what I am capable of. It is only after I realize that the “standard” road is not for me that I can learn to pave my own that will still lead to happiness, despite it being more difficult to walk along. Not to mention that my concept of happiness will also be different than many others. Some days, I am not even walking, but crawling down my road; yet it’s better to crawl along the right road than to be stagnant on the wrong one.
It isn’t typical to be in as much physical pain as I am every day, to need so much medical help at such a young age, or to have as much trauma, anxiety or depression as I do. But this is my life, the only one I have been given, and as I have said before and will continue to say a thousand times more, I still believe it can be beautiful and thriving; I just may not get to that point as easily or in the same way as many others. What will help me is not to force myself to be normal, but to embrace the fact that I’ll never be, and to make goodness of that instead.
For all my friends who are unwell, atypical in any and all ways, or who didn’t get a say in their unique and difficult circumstance, know that though we may have to work a thousand times harder for every single part of our lives, and even though many days we might lose our never ending battle, we can still get to where we want to go. We have to be stronger and more patient than most. We may not be normal, but we are so much more than that – we are resilient warriors of suffering, and that is never to be dismissed by ourselves or others.
Sing it out, boy, they’re gonna sell what tomorrow means.
Sing it out, girl, before they kill what tomorrow brings.
You’ve got to make a choice,
If the music drowns you out;
And raise your voice,
Every single time they try and shut your mouth.