Accepting MY Normal

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

One of the worst things about depression is the feeling that you’re not normal.

You can’t do as much as everyone else, and you don’t understand why.  You get tired.  You can’t focus.  You’re easily overwhelmed.  You beat yourself up for being so lazy and immature.

You want, more than anything, to be like everyone else.

I’ve experienced normal.  I know what it’s like to work when the sun is up and sleep when everyone else sleeps.  I’ve made it to dinner without needing a nap.  I’ve lived normal, and it is wonderful.  Few things in life have left me quite as euphoric as normal.

And then the weariness begins to seep back in.

I find myself needing a nap and losing two to three hours in an afternoon.  I lie awake at two in the morning, unable to stop my brain from whirring.  I make lists and then remake them in an attempt to make up for the things I just couldn’t get done.  I lose myself for hours in mindless distractions and the very idea of completing even the most simple tasks becomes both a crushing weight and muddling fog.

No, I plead with the darkness.  No.  I’m fixed now.  No.

I have been clinging to normal for the last weeks, quietly, so as not to draw attention to my defect.  I don’t know how to describe this internal fight to hold on to normal, except to say that is a delicate balancing act between refusing to acknowledge the monster that’s trying to break in and firing whatever tiny weapons you have at your disposal.  Sleep when you’re tired to avoid fatigue.  Lower your expectations.  Drink more water today.

Half of you is holding on while the other half is trying not to get swallowed up, and you’re cheeks are sore from the forced smile that says I. am. normal.

I’ve already changed medications.  Twice.  I have been depressed, not depressed, and depressed again.  If I am already broken again, then it is laziness and personality flaws and not chemical imbalances.  It is my fault, then, and not something to be accepted and dealt with.

I cannot be depressed again.

*ping*

You either snap or let go.

I let go.

Clean slate.  Restart.  Reboot.

  1. Follow up appointment with the doctor to discuss timing of doses, because I take two pills a day instead of one in order to save $100 a month.  I resolve to set the alarm on my phone every. single. day. to ensure I’m taking my medication at the right time.
  2. Stop eating whatever, whenever.  Pretty good is not good enough.  Six balanced meals a day, just like I did for 12 weeks.  Set another alarm on my phone to ensure I’m having that mid-morning snack I’ve been skipping.
  3. Move my ass.  Alternate between morning cardio and morning strength training, even if I only have time for push ups, sits ups and other freebie calisthenics in my living room.
  4. Step away from the computer.  After an hour of writing, find something else to do for a few minutes.  Walk around the block, make the bed, meditate or call my husband to say hello.  Anything that unplugs the brain from the matrix.

A few days pass without a nap, and the darkness slinks back into the closet.

This is not normal.

I know that. I know that there are people, lots of people, who don’t need to do a perfect dance with medication, food, exercise and rest.  They don’t have to think about how they’re treating their bodies or their minds, and both just do what they are supposed to do.  I am in awe of these people and their low maintenance bodies and I will probably always be jealous of the freedom they have, much like my envy of people who can smoke when they drink without becoming slaves to an addiction.

But I have to accept that I can’t function that way.

My body and brain are not, for whatever reason, that kind of normal.  This is my normal. And every time I try to pretend that isn’t the case, I will slip down the rabbit hole.

This is what my depression looks like.  It is real and constant and bigger than a pill.  But it is, thank God, manageable – as long as I can accept it.  You can’t manage what you’re trying to ignore.

This is my normal.

This is my acceptance.

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  1. muskrat says:

    This regiment sounds like a pain in the ass, but a necessary one. Glad you have the discipline to set it up and stick with it, cause imagine what it’ll be like when you’re traveling the world in a year or so!

  2. Poppy says:

    Sounds great to me! But then I have a history of depression. :)

  3. Wow! Thank you for being so raw and so honest! I can relate to you on so many levels! I struggle with panic and anxiety and am in a constant battle to prevent myself from becoming a total shut-in! I to envy people who can just get up and go! I was that person and one day, like the flip of a switch it changed! Keep fighting because you are so worth it an know there are so many people out there that share your normal!xx

  4. Adrienne says:

    Stupid hole. I hate my hole. Except that I also kind of love it. Mostly, though, I hate it.

    I hear you; it frustrates me, too, the constant and essential maintenance of ME that is required to stay functional.

  5. Finn says:

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling. I do get this. It really sucks and I think what makes it so hard to accept is that it is in your head, not something you can show to the world like blood sugar numbers or surgery scars or rashes. It’s a chronic illness, but it hides inside.

    And then there is that voice inside you, the one who wants you to be perfect and that voice cannot accept that this is something you do not have control over. Of course that voice is part of the illness so it’s an endless cycle.

  6. Nancy says:

    I’m proud of you. Now do it.

  7. Hockeymandad says:

    I know your struggle. I know it well, all too well. Your strength and courage and willingness to force yourself through the nagging darkness and stay on schedule is so impressive. The pull is so strong and being able to fight it off is so hard to do. You are blessed with strength Britt, never forget that.

  8. Issa says:

    I find myself clinging to the summer. Not that I haven’t had bouts of darkness this summer, but they are shorter, easier to push through.

    I’m already dreading winter. Who dreads winter three months ahead of time? Oh me and my depression. That is my normal. I haven’t yet found a way to keep it gone forever, just for a time.

    hugs Britt. Know you aren’t alone in this.

  9. Alexandra says:

    I’m struggling right now. Thank God I came across this tweet to come over.

    Fall is always hard for me: summer is over, and my birthday comes in the fall, and winter is around the corner, and I’m older, and the kids are growing up, and …

    I just can’t even talk about it.

    So very difficult right now..

    Thanks for blogging so honestly.

  10. Jina says:

    probably, not a good post to actually do this. But it cracks me up- I just got blacklisted from my University IT services for attempting to come to your blog. Apparently the blog had ‘sex’ in it too much..LOL..
    And on a serious note, you are one of the bravest persons I have ever known. To write with such conviction, and with openness–only a brave person can do. And thats not many others ‘normal’. But I guess being brave is ‘normal’ for you. Hugs!!

  11. Natalie says:

    I also battle with depression and just started my antidepresssants again. Trying to find the right one and dosage for me. I relate to this on so many levels…our normal is different.

  12. Chibi Jeebs says:

    “If I am already broken again, then it is laziness and personality flaws and not chemical imbalances. It is my fault, then, and not something to be accepted and dealt with.”

    Right in the gut. It hurts because it hits too close to home. I hear you. I love you. I know you can do this.

    xoxo

  13. Micki says:

    You could very easily be describing my life… you just seem to have a better grip on yours.

    I hate this fight with this inner demon that rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times. Some days I have the strength to squash it back in the closet… but most days I don’t.

    Thank you for sharing this. It may not make you feel any better, but it does help me to know that I am not the only one struggling with this.

  14. This sounds so very like my normal. You describe it beautifully. The maintenance is such a delicate, pain in the ass balance and yet the alternative is unlivable.

    Love to you.

  15. Neil says:

    I think many of us struggle to fit into this normal feeling, and the hardest part is knowing what’s normal, and what it means to you

  16. Nanna says:

    I’m really impressed with you self-knowledge in knowing what factors help. That’s very cool, little one. After years of livin with depression, after years of working with people with depression, still, like you, I hear myself stigmatize myself about it.

    What you write here mekes a difference, baby.

  17. Dory says:

    You’re not alone.

    You’re not the only one who sets iphone alarms to take meds and EAT. God, how stupid I feel when I have to be reminded to eat. But I do.

    It is what it is.

    We aren’t lazy or stupid or incompetent or weak. We are not our brain chemical imbalance.

    Take care of yourself… hugs to you!

  18. Robin says:

    Reading about your struggles with depression is so helpful for me. I’ve struggled with depression since I was 20, and after the third major bout, decided I shouldn’t try to come off the meds again. Ever. And that makes me feel incredibly not normal. I’m so impressed that you’ve figured out a system, complicated and demanding though it may be, for pushing back against it. I know I need to do the same for myself: devise a plan and stick to it. Because it’s all too easy to nap my way through life, if I allow it.

  19. Jenn says:

    I wish that I didn’t know what this feels like, but I do.

    Let’s punch Depression in the throat.

  20. racheal says:

    You have grown so much and I am so proud. You should be too.

    hugs.

  21. ThePeachy1 says:

    17 months ago my “normal” skreetched” to a halt. Not that it was ever really normal anyway. but it was indeed functional. Now my new normal. Well it involves a ton of people on the internet letting me know everyday that they are dealing with crap and finding ways to laugh and smile about it too.

  22. I really feel this way a lot – unless I’m regularly moving my ass. Then I’m fine. I HAVE to keep moving, for me. If you just move here, we could kick each other’s asses get it done. That’s my solution, k?
    Seriously, I hope you pull off this powerful and difficult regime – I know how hard it is to force yourself to do these things. Oh how I know.

  23. lisagolden says:

    This looks like progress to me. I lurk (sorry), but from the posts I’ve read, this seems like a good way to work through it until it’s gone this time. I know it’s up and down. I’m right there with you.

  24. avitable says:

    Your newfound ability to handle things that crippled you before is admirable and inspiring.

  25. Joy says:

    This gives me hope… Thanks for sharing so honestly.

  26. Bonda84 says:

    Ignorance is not always bliss, I am glad that you realize this. And we all have our own definition of normal, our own normals and that’s ok.

    “It is normal to give away a little of one’s life in order not to lose it all.”
    ~Albert Camus

  27. Jennifer A says:

    totally and absoutely get where your coming from. I was officially diagnosed with bipolar depression in July. I prefered not knowing what was wrong with me. I take two meds, neither works great. People don’t get that I have to do things to cope and get throught the day. Their brains work like they are supposed to.

  28. martini mama says:

    I love this post, because you described what I have been trying to describe to my husband for years. That is how I feel. I am on a pill 2 times a day, it helps…but I still do not feel “normal”

  29. Jenn says:

    Thank you for being so open & raw! I admire & adore you so much! You’re not alone. I love the strength & courage you have, my friend. You CAN do this. xoxo

  30. Kellee says:

    I think that is the only thing that will ever make any of us normal. Accepting ourselves and how we work. We all work differently. There really is no normal. Good for you for figuring out what works for you.

  31. Sunny says:

    You rock! You can definitely do this.

  32. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this. I needed it. I need it. I can vaguely remember normal. I cannot, however remember how to get it back. It’s proving to be a major problem for me right now. And the doctor can’t see me again until November, for testing. Apparently, as long as I’m not hurting myself or others it’s okay to wait months to feel like a person. It’s okay to struggle through routine tasks. Sure.

  33. Faiqa says:

    This was a beautiful post. And your normal and your journey to accept it is part of what makes you so beautiful to me.

  34. Tina says:

    You sound like a tough cookie…and very dedicated to doing everything you can to manage this.
    Hope the sun is shining bright for you today….
    Best,
    Tina

  35. Lisa says:

    I dread the winter as well. Winter is really the only time the darkness comes to visit me, but winter is sooooo long here.

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling. I think the fact that you’ve figured out what you need to do to maintain is great, and part of why I love you. No matter what you’re dealing with, you take the bull by the horns and figure out how to make him behave. xoxo

  36. Aunt Becky says:

    I understand and I’m sorry.

  37. [...] I’m really not trying to lecture, I’ve just realized that I have to find ways of being able to do some type of exercise even if I’m broke, late, or at [...]

  38. I remember being diagnosed with insulin-resistance and crying, sobbing, because I would have to give up my beloved sugar. For me, sugar was life. It wasn’t a normal day unless I devoured a Pepsi, a chocolate bar, and whatever else sweet I could get my hands on. That first year was torture, giving up those sweet things, giving up the white bread, saying good-bye to French fries.

    Now, granted, insulin-resistance and depression are two different things, but they are still conditions that have to be treated. Constantly. And after that adjustment, figuring out “my” normal, it normal for me. It’s second-nature. It’s how I live my life.

    You’ll get there, I have no doubt about that. And don’t hate that depression darkness crouching in closet. Let it know that you know it’s there. Tell it you’re going to live together for a very long time, but that you’re in charge. Because you are. I tell my pancreas every day that it’s my bitch and not the other way around.

    Much love, hon.

  39. cat says:

    Based on how many of us feel like this, I’d even say THIS IS normal! Or at least the most common experience.

    But I know what you mean. Oh yeah.

  40. awareness and acceptance mean you can ninja kick depression in the balls and not let it overtake you. because you? you will not be kept down.

    and i do so love that about you.

    red dragon the ninja here at your service if you need me for anything.

  41. angi says:

    I love your writing. I love each and every word, each and every time. This one hits home…and seemingly with a lot of us. Which is refreshing if you think about it, because really? What is normal then…if we all have our things that when we don’t do them, we find ourselves slipping into our own rabbit hole…normal seems to be doing what we can to stay on top.
    Stay strong.

  42. Darling Britt, I think you overestimate normal. I think the people who don’t eat right, who don’t sleep well, and who don’t run their medicinal lives with a clock might be suffering more than they know. After all, when feeling sorta crappy is normal to them, how would they ever guess that cutting out sugar or getting another hour of sleep or exercising regularly might make them feel better? Sometimes, the advantage of being sick is the knowledge that you MUST not slide on your routine. Because you know what it’s like to feel truly great. I firmly believe most people feel truly mediocre and don’t know it.

    (I know the darkness. I hope you find yourself paroled for good behavior soon. I’ll be thinking about you.)

  43. Heather says:

    but learning your normal is making SO MUCH PROGRESS. big hugs to you, britt.

  44. Lauren says:

    My normal sounds a lot like your normal. I don’t like it, I want somebody elses, where can I go to return this one?

  45. Marinka says:

    I understand. And your post is so important. Thank you.

  46. I COMPLETELY understand!! I am on two pills a day too…and still. not. normal. *hugs*

  47. Rachael says:

    I feel like recognizing it is such a huge step. I know that I will never be off meds. I am lucky that my hole is a little further away, not so easy to slip down, and maybe not as deep. but it’s there. Accepting it is the first step to conquering it. I know you can.

  48. Thank you.

    I have been struggling with wither or not I should take the leap and go on a low dose of anti anxiety and depression meds. Going to therapy feels like one thing, an ok thing. Going on medication makes me feel like I’m unfixable.

    You just reminded me that this is simply my normal.

    And if it makes me happier, and life easier, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  49. Tonz says:

    I also have to say, thank you!

    I can’t tell you how that made me feel. Thank you for making it okay to have depression.

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