‘I’m Not Well and That’s OK’
I think it’s safe to say that anyone with a mental health problem has said, “I just want to be normal.” I know I have.
I’ve sat back in the depths of depression and watched people rush around making cups of tea, preparing meals, getting showered and ready for work and reeling off the list of things they should have done yesterday. Although it is evident they have busy and stressful lives, there is always a part of me slightly jealous of their ability to cope and push through it all. I always wonder how they can complete even the smallest of tasks that my body has seemingly forgotten to do.
What Is Normal?
Everyone in this world is unique and different, so how can we benchmark ourselves against each other? We look different, wear different things, think differently, feel differently, enjoy different things… the list goes on and on. Not even identical twins have the exact same mental and physical capabilities!
I believe there are two perspectives on the issue of normalizing mental health. Bipolar, along with mental illnesses in general, can make us feel different. We all report feeling alone, insecure and out of reach. It is therefore natural for us to group everyone around us as a whole and label them ‘normal’ and us ‘different.’ In fact, these feelings make up symptoms of our illness.
At the same time, there is an ongoing shift in society’s attitudes to understand and accept mental illness. The aim is to ‘normalize’ mental health issues and open up discussion about a historically taboo subject.
In order to ‘normalize’ mental health, society needs to work together to remove the ‘them’ and ‘us’ labelling and break down any divides based on our perceptions of what is ‘normal.’
We need to challenge our own ideals. ‘Normal’ is not all about doing a nine-to-five job, supporting children and paying a mortgage with a forever-growing savings fund. ‘Normal’ could be travelling the world or volunteering for disaster charities. ‘Normal’ doesn’t mean wearing current fashion trends; it could be about wearing clothes associated with the opposite sex or wearing bold makeup because you like the colouring.
‘Normal’ reflects what our personal values and beliefs are and how we choose to express ourselves. Your normal is not mine, but who are we to judge? Breaking down the barriers of what ‘normality’ is would positively affect those struggling with mental ill health who feel different. It would help to prevent guilt and isolation from comparing themselves to everyone around, seemingly able to cope with life. Society needs to encourage this thought:
“I don’t feel stereotypically ‘normal,’ but I’m not well and that’s OK.”