Personal Growth
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Personal Growth

What Does It Mean to Be Normal?

“Normal” is a myth

“I just wish I was normal.”

The topic that week was about self-stigma and how often we blame ourselves for our disorders. The deeper I get into my mental health journey, the more I realize that the worst stigma we encounter is the one we put on ourselves.

No one can make you feel shame that you don’t feel.

It’s almost like we somehow believe that we chose this for ourselves. That somehow, I chose to have bipolar disorder, the same way that someone else in my group is choosing depression or anxiety.

As though we prefer to wallow in despair and pain, rather than feel better and participate in life in a healthy way.

The reality is that mental illness is not a choice and we have to stop treating it as such. It is an illness, the same way that cancer is an illness and diabetes and fibromyalgia are illnesses. Unseen and yet so very, very real.

Faking it is the real normal.

The idea of “normal” is probably one of the most toxic stigmas out there. When we stop and consider the real numbers, we know that “normal” doesn’t exist.

Very few people go through their lives with perfect health. In reality, at some point in our lives, we all deal with a something, whether it’s a mental illness or a serious health issue.

Don’t believe me? Here are some stats that I pulled from NAMI (nami.org):

  • In a given year, 1 in 5 American adults experiences a mental illness
  • Nearly one in 25 live with a serious mental illness
  • 18% of American adults live with anxiety disorders
  • 1% live with schizophrenia
  • 2.6% live with bipolar disorder.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.

How many people do you see every day? How many people at your children’s school? At the grocery store? Driving on the road? We come across people living with significant disorders on a consistent and regular basis, and yet — somehow — we still look at mental illness as some weird offshoot.

How does this happen? I believe it’s because we all learn a societal veneer that prevents us from being honest about what is happening in our lives and how we are truly feeling.

We know that Facebook and Instagram are not positive for our mental health because we only see someone else’s highlight reels and not the truth of their situation.

No one can make you feel shame that you don’t feel.

When we (inevitably) compare our reality to their highlight reels, we only see how our life doesn’t match. We see how we don’t measure up to them. We see all the little ways that our life fails. That we fail.

If we are honest with ourselves, we feel like a loser.

No one likes a loser.

So, we filter what we put on social media. People living with depression or other mental illnesses are amazing at hiding the reality of their illnesses, and we filter what we tell those who love us. “How are you?” “I’m fine,” we respond, even when we aren’t.

We are such masters at faking it that we forget others do the same.

Faking it is the real normal.

So the next time you ask someone how they are doing, stop and look at them. Really see them. Look them in the eye and ask them again, “No, I meant ‘how are you?’” I bet you’ll be surprised by the response.

In taking the time to really check in with each other, we not only redefine normal, but we also break down relational barriers that prevent people from getting healthier. We break down the stigma that surrounds us. We break through isolation to create a real community. We build each other up.

“I just wish I was normal.” You are, dear; you really are.

Hi there! I’m Teresa Colón, and I live with bipolar disorder. I write out of my experiencers with the disorder and what I’ve learned as I’ve walked my road to mental health. I’m also the author behind Seeing Ourselves Through God’s Eyes, a Christian mental health devotional.

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Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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Teresa Colón

Teresa Colón

Mom & knitter. Passionate about mental health & helping people feel better. The names are changed; the stories are real. Learn more at woundedbirdsministry.com.

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