People say there is no such thing as “normal,” that it’s a social construction, but let me firmly disagree. There are people who walk around with brains that function in a “normal capacity.” These people might use “crazy” as an adjective: to describe a hectic day. They might say someone is acting “crazy” who writes a frustrated Facebook rant, or they use “crazy” to describe a thrilling event. For those who don’t know, let me help you understand.
When I was a teen, my sister called me a name, or was telling me I was doing something I wasn’t doing, or some similar sibling annoyance. I don’t remember what the trigger was, and the trigger doesn’t matter because the trigger isn’t the problem when my reactions turn from normal annoyance to “crazy” mania. I started screaming at her, my blood pulsing behind my ears. My arms rushed with adrenaline and a hulk-like power filled my body. How dare my sister talk to me that way?! I saw myself pick up a large rotating fan and throw it like a twig at my sister. I felt drunk, numb to the emotions that other people feel: guilt, remorse, worry. In a moment like that, I AM an explosion.
When people say: “You have a choice about how you react in any circumstance,” I generally agree with that. Until I am at that point, until I do something that my “normal” self would never do. Most of the time, however, I just see the terrible things my mind wants me to do, and I turn away, shaking and frightened of myself. I get a sitter for my kids and run, run, run, until the energy is drained and I’m too tired to be crazy.
Of course, immediately following a rage episode, fueled by an overwhelming agitation called “mania,” I hit rock bottom. That’s where I am now, so let me tell you a little bit about what an actual “crazy” thought looks like: “If you died today, your children would have a better life. They are innocent and your swings will ruin them, your family, everything. It would be better if you weren’t alive.”
And here’s the thing: I know that’s not a normal thought, but it feels right. Deep down, normal me fights back and says, “That’s not true. You mess up, but your children need you, they thrive when you’re at your best, and there is no one better at that point.” Crazy me says, “You’re getting worse. You’ll never be better. Maybe you should run away now, let the normal people raise your children, so they have a chance.” I know what normal is because months or weeks in between crazy, I feel wonderfully, blissfully normal. And it’s the most beautiful feeling ever.
If you’ve never had the thought that your death would be the best thing to happen to those you love, then you might be normal. If you’ve never had to pull over the car and put your head between your legs while your vision focuses and the air returns to your lungs, while the fear that’s sitting on your heart, crushing it like an anchor, is slowly lifted, you might be normal.
If you read this and think: this woman needs help and probably a strong dose of bi-polar medication of some sort, you might be normal. But I am not. And you are right. I do need that, and I will finally admit it. Don’t worry about me. Normal me has decided to take action, and get all the help she can. But let’s be clear here: my sickness is right here with me, just as real as cancer, pneumonia, diabetes…and it’s too much for me to handle on my own. I can’t keep fighting the thoughts, both the hulk-fueled rage episodes, the energy-crazed god-complex, the obsessive cleaning episodes, and the spiral of self-loathing. My day is not “crazy” because it’s off the hook; it’s crazy because I am not normal, though I very much long to be. I can’t just “change my point of view,” “buck up,” and “stop sulking.” But I can do something, and I will. There is help for me, as there is hope and help for others diagnosed with mental illness.
Thank you for trying to understand what normal is with me. “Normal” is a thing; it’s just not a thing I always know. If you do, treasure it.