It alludes me.
And not just because I can only drink chocolate milk from a glass as opposed to plastic, or because I can’t stand the song Patio Lanterns, or because I grew up thinking musical pork chops was a real game.
And now you’re dying to hear about that last one, aren’t you?
But because when you learn to live with a mood disorder that wants to turn what’s considered normal upside down, or erase how you’ve always defined normal all together, you figure out pretty quickly how to shed all expectation and get down to the business of recognizing what your normal might have to look like from here on out.
In fact, can we decide right now that normal is overrated? Or that it doesn’t even really exist?
Normal is so 1980’s, am I right?
What is your normal for now? I ask because everyone’s is different. And I wish someone had told my younger dysthymic self this ages before my diagnosis when I assumed everyone else had a normal to be envious of. Funny how your own diagnosis can emphasize just how different someone’s normal might be and you wouldn’t know to look at them.
I can tell you that my chronic depression, this disorder, has made it abundantly clear to me each day not to judge someone else’s ‘normal’ until you hear them pour out their personal story.Don't assume you know someone else's normal until you hear them pour out their story... Click To Tweet
One friend’s normal means pursuing life with two artificial limbs. When she tells me about the things she faces regularly I’m in awe.
Another acquaintance lives with the daily knowledge that she may never see her overseas family in this lifetime.
That neighbour with the awesome looking life might be fighting cancer for the fourth time.
That guy in the business suit in the grocery store line buying salad might be going home to another day fighting against his addiction to gambling.
People overcoming, and living with, and navigating messy hard things. That’s the normal I’m seeing more and more.
The other day, a reader asked me to elaborate on what I meant by “my” normal and what it looks like right now within my dysthymia. And I thought this would be a good place to do that… what IS my normal for now?
- My normal requires rest. I have learned very quickly that I must allow for pockets of time where I can decompress on every level, on a constant basis. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. It requires me to pay attention to how much I allow into my day, and if a certain day looks like it might fill up (and my version of fill up and yours are very different I can assure you), I handle all the stresses that all that activity might produce with the understanding that I flank a heavy day with a day of complete rest. Which leads quickly to the second item of what my normal is.
- My normal is filled with healthy no’s. My dysthymia and anxiety disorder sets in the minute I think I can do all the things. Much more so than for someone who is mentally healthy. Someone else might plow through, take on extra things because why not, it’s nice to be reliable. Drink a Red Bull and keep moving. But I have come to understand that too many things to juggle means my brain will eventually find a way to shut down and refuse to deal. And then the depressive spiral and anxiety starts. And then I’m in bed for a week in the dark wondering if I’ll ever make it out. So I am deliberate about pacing my activities and responsibilities and saying no on a regular basis. And this brings us to the next item….
- My normal has no room for shame. People love to hint that they’re the hardest workers ever, no one can out-work them. Know anyone like that? Bragging about how tired they are, it’s easy to feel shame over the fact that your own normal isn’t that keyed up as well. But shame can trigger depressive episodes so fast, so I work hard to eliminate shame and kick it to the curb. There’s no place for shame here. I have to listen to God’s voice that I’m cherished just the way I am, and if I have to go through life careful and deliberate with the things I have to say no to so that I stay mentally healthy for myself, my family, and the things I do say yes to, then so be it.
- My normal leaves room for forgiveness. I might say yes to something on a good day or start a new routine, and then when a dysthymic day hits, routines and good intentions are out the window. I have learned to forgive myself when something might be a day late, can’t respond to a missive right away, or have to figure out an easier way. My brain suddenly is overwhelmed by the slightest thing, anxiety suddenly blossoms over something trivial, and I used to beat myself up about it so bad, friends. These days, it’s all grace. I have to allow for grace, humour, and forgive myself when I think I’m failing. And allowing for those things may sound normal for the mentally healthy but if I don’t find room for them with the Holy Spirit’s help (because let’s face it, the depression makes it hard to feel those things), the other option is it all becoming one giant depressive trigger that will disable me on every level in a bad way.
- My normal is found in His Presence. God IS my rock and firm foundation on which I can reliably build my life on, chronic D or no. And I don’t live in fear because He has proven He is with me. This is non-negotiable. His presence supplies my normal. His strength for when I can’t continue. His peace when anxiety threatens everything. His grace when I’m in desperate need. His Spirit when it feels like I need room to breathe. My Life Preserver when the ocean of despair and disability threatens to consume and drown. My norm is holding onto Him for life.
The roller coaster of a mood disorder is hard to live with. But I would rather live with it, than suffer with it, and I know that sounds like semantics but I’m being truthful. Living with it requires me to get to know the ins and outs of the roller coaster and adjust accordingly. Suffering through it is more like not taking any action and never finding ways to adjust.
I would rather live than suffer, wouldn’t you?
These are just some of the ways I understand my life with a disorder like chronic D. At some point there will be medicinal help, or therapy. I have this huge community of faith writers who love to come alongside and be whatever support is needed. If you need a community of support, there are no end of really great tribes of people online looking for others just like them.
But whatever we do, let’s not get stuck wishing we had someone else’s normal, okay? He’s busy weaving and orchestrating something powerful into your journey and you just need to allow Him to preserve your life, as the Psalmist David once said.
As long as our normals include the Life Preserver, things really will be okay.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Have you ever struggled with wishing things felt more “normal”? What has God revealed to you about His plans for you?
Today is a linkup day! Will you join me over at Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory Linkup for all the goodness?! Just click on the hashtag, we’d love to have you!