Monday, January 15, 2007

What is normal?

This started as a comment on one of my friend's posts, but soon grew wings and took off into its own post! In summary, I have a dear friend who has been pretty open about her struggles with depression. She recently posted some information about a mental disorder ending it stating how she wants to be "normal."

And about this definition of normalcy, here is some more information from the NIMH website -

"Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year."

So, yes, normal is a relative term. Mental disorders may be classified as abnormal emotions, thoughts, and behavior, but they are not rare or even uncommon. While we've come a long way from the way mental disorders used to be perceived, there is still something shameful about being disagnosed with one, despite the fact that most of them are as biological as diabetes or heart disease. No one wants to be "abnormal," "unstable," or "crazy." Because this social stigma exists, people don't talk about taking anti-depressives or mood-stabilizers like they may talk about taking insulin or cholestoral medicine. You probably each know a few people a few people who are currently living with a mental disorder and taking medication or going to therapy. You probably know even more people who are taking medication, but not talking about it. And that's ok. Everyone is entitled to their privacy, and no one deserves to be labeled by a disorder or disability. A person with cerbral palsy has a harder time hiding their disability than a person with depression.

However, this silence only supports the stigma. Dear friend, thank you for not being silent. I'm sure there is someone reading your blog, suffering silently, who read that and thought, "I'm not alone. I know how you feel, I want to be normal too." There is nothing normal feeling whatsoever when living with a mental disorder, and writing this probably doesn't make you feel much more normal. You may think abnormal thoughts, feel abnormal emotions, and act out abnormal actions, but you, yourself, are still completely normal.

While in a given year, the majority of the population does not suffer from a mental disorder, its likely that the majority is affected by one. The prevalence of mental illnesses among friends and family members makes them a very normal experience, indeed. I can think of at least three friends and family members currently under medication, and even more previously medicated, and even hospitalized from a mental disorder. Mental disorders are as much a part of the common human experience as physical illnesses, death, and births.

On another note, when the heck did Fountains of Wayne and the Smashing Pumpkins start getting played on VH1 Classic? I feel old. Now they're playing the Beach Boys. I don't know whether to feel better or worse!


Cara said...

haha, i liked the ending note. thank you, kelly. i love you. i want to hear all about your phone interview over dinner this weekend.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

fantastic post, kelly!

you're a good friend (and so right! i have to tell myself this all the time. i have no problem knowing that i may have to take the shots for my MS every day for the rest of my life, but the mere thought that i may be on antidepressants for a few years scares me to death... i keep worrying i'll get "addicted" to them or something... then my parents remind me that my depression is just as real, and just as biological as my MS... and the medication for it and reality of it are just as real and necessary)

thanks :)

RC said...

way to transition from depression and normalacy to VH1 classics.

This is a great post.