When you google depression or anxiety, the word “normal” comes up a good bit. Inability to lead a “normal” life. Loss of interest in “normal” activities.
I was stuck with depression and anxiety for many years without making much progress despite seeing a therapist and taking medications. In hindsight, I now understand that the word “normal” had a whole lot to do with why I was stuck for so long.
You see, my mental health team and I were all working toward the wrong “normal” as the goal. The goal was to get me to enjoy “normal” activities, as in the same types of things most other people enjoy.
I felt like a misfit in most group settings. I wasn’t interested in talking about the same kinds of things as most “normal” people.
I couldn’t keep up with the jokes and the party banter.
Even though I had a great job with great pay in the field I was educated in, the prospect of getting up out of bed every morning to go to said job or another one like it for the next fifty years or so made me wish for a UFO to appear out of nowhere and whisk me away to outer space.
But hey, this was normal life and I needed to figure out a way to enjoy it.
And yet, it didn’t matter how much we analyzed my childhood traumas. It didn’t matter how many times we adjusted my medications.
It didn’t matter that the meds took away the anxiety that everyone thought was the only thing blocking me.
I still wasn’t interested in “normal” activities. I still felt like a majority of my daily life consisted of forcing myself to do stuff I didn’t particularly want to do. And after that went on long enough, I didn’t particularly want to be alive at all anymore.
Until eventually during a particularly rocky patch I had a revelation.
The big breakthrough that finally skyrocketed my mental health recovery was this:
The goal of my mental health journey should not be a “normal” life. The goal of my mental health journey should be my wellness and happiness.
And my wellness and happiness doesn’t have to look normal. At all.
Because some of us just weren’t born to do “normal”.
I was chasing after a “normal” defined by other people. I was a highly sensitive introvert trying to copy the “normal” of the less sensitive extrovert majority. And that “normal” had nothing to do with my happiness.
What I needed to do was create my own “normal”.
My depression lifted almost overnight and I learned how to manage my anxiety without medications when I finally realized that I didn’t have to pass the “normal” test in order to qualify as a human being living on this earth.
That I didn’t have to participate in X number of “normal” activities per week in order to “qualify” as mentally healthy. That I didn’t have to go to parties or get excited about the Super Bowl.
That I could stop trying to be “normal”.
That I could stop trying to fit in.
That I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
That I could stop pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
That I could stop asking my highly sensitive body to tolerate as much as a “normal” person’s body.
That I could spend more time resting in solitude than most “normal” people.
That I didn’t have to like the “normal” things.
That I didn’t have to enjoy a “normal” life.
That I didn’t have to find happiness in the same places, the same ways, as most “normal” people.
That my mental health journey was all about me.
That it was all about what makes ME happy.
That it was all about what makes ME feel well.
That it was all about what I need in order to want to be alive.
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(Pssst, I like to share my personal experience overcoming depression with the hope that some of my discoveries might resonate with others. Making lifestyle changes has greatly contributed to my own well-being, and as a life coach, I help people make impactful changes in their own lives. But I’m not a mental health professional and I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Depression has many potential causes, and if you have questions about the appropriate intervention for you, please consult a qualified professional.)