The trouble with normal

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I cant hide it, I just have a problem with the whole idea of normal and it seems to me that there just seems to be so little acceptance in the majority of things out there that cause us some discomfort or are a little off kilter.   I can be guilty of it myself and its subtle thing, at times I can have my ideas of how things should be, the way in which people should react and deep hopes often for more compassion and empathy than seems to be the norm, but that’s just me and its the way I have been since I was young.

I recently met up with an old school friend who like me crashed and burned with alcohol.  We didn’t have heaps to do with each other at school but I like her and was not aware of the abuse and suffering she underwent being only one gay oriented person within an all girl’s school, as well as gifted and intelligent to boot.  Maybe these were the very things that marked her out as “different”,  I don’t know.  Of all of my friends from that period of my life who have come back into my life over the past few years on returning to my home town, I most enjoyed the time meeting up with my friend and we were able to have a depth of connection that I just don’t find possible with some of the others of that year.

It was great to have realised, too that even all that long time ago someone saw the struggle I was having, that my alcohol abuse was out of control and yet not to be judged for that, but rather, deeply understood.  What has brought this to mind is that I have just been reading a blog with concerned someone with Asperger’s being judged as disabled, a label with which the writer was justifiably upset.  I could relate to a lot of the things she shared about the way she processes experiences, not all, but quite a lot and in fact I didn’t really see anything at all that “abnormal” about it.

I have a sister who is really struggling at the moment.  She has been given a label by her sons.  That label is “bi-polar”.  I have a problem with this kind of labelling.  I really truly do.  For so often its a way of escaping a deeper understanding of what the person is dealing with.  The map is definitely not the territory.  I was blessed enough this week to have been given a beautiful little book on grief by a friend in my Al Anon group called Good Grief.  In it the author who comes from both a spiritual and a medical background lays out simply and beautifully some of the core facts surrounding the grief process.  Grief is a result of loss, it is a natural reaction to the taking away, turning upside down or ripping apart of a certain order of being in our life, of places, people and things which were very dear to us.   In my experience it has a profound impact upon the entirety of our being, mind, body, heart and soul.  Its not something that can be intellectualised about although coming to terms with the impact of the loss will take us along certain pathways of philosophising or reaching for truisms in order to try to make sense of the loss.  But the impact of the loss will bring about profound changes with which we will struggle and it will also, in many cases lead us to physical symptoms and even diseases all of which are manifestations of grief, often not recognised as such, especially in the absence of deeper emotional insight.

It may seem a strange thing to say but we need permission to grieve.  There is much damage done to us when those around us will not allow us to recognise and express the full extent of our grief.  This has been my experience.  In the low nurturance family grief will not be allowed or there may be certain beliefs around what is wrong and right to express.  In my sister’s case much of her so called bi-polar behaviour surrounded not only grief from things taken but an even deeper grief denied over years.  Of being but down by her husband and having sons who learned to do the same,  of being hurt by nuns who were supposed to be nurturing her profound musical talent and so contributing to her loss of her love for piano, of being the lost child in the family in the third position where her energies were put from a young age into the service of others desires and needs.   Of being the caring “good” girl who gave so much and when she got burned out from exhaustion due to a lack of self care then fell down in a huge heap only to be abandoned by the person who was supposed to love her.

I visited my sister on Sunday in the hospital.  Her face was sallow and sad all the life and vitality sucked dry.  We sat for a while and as usual, I cried, I can’t help it when I am around her the tears just come down in a flood.  We then went and did a jigsaw puzzle.  I asked her about the new drug she is on.  Then when it was time to go I looked back to see her standing behind the glass waving me goodbye and my heart tore apart.

Last night I rang my nephew to try and make some kind of impact on him, to find some care for my sister where she does not need to be medicated but can be nurtured, cared for, healed.  He was matter of a fact and on his way home from business.  I felt sick after the call, even though he agreed with me on some points, the feeling was absent.  I felt scalded after I got off the phone.

As a recovering addict for years I beat myself up for my so called dysfunction, but what I now know it was a way of surviving in a so called “normal” situations which was emotionally barren.  The addiction was a way of wrapping some kind of protection around me.   When talking to my old school friend last week, she told me she would have died without the medication of alcohol.  When I heard of the extent of abuse she had suffered from her mother and school buddies I could only agree.  When there is no where to go suicide may seem the only option, but then there is also recovery which is finding a place with others who have undergone similar experiences and feel themselves to be outsiders, just not normal.

So I guess its not difficult to understand that I have a problem with “normal”, I’d rather not partake and am slowly learning to judge myself less for not being able to live up to something that in the end would have only killed me.

2 thoughts on “The trouble with normal

  1. I so do agree with your idea/opinion that we had to use alcohol as a way to wrap around me as protection. I suffered many abuses in life and raised by a narcississtic mother. I am happy to be in recovery now, but it is extremely hard to find a good program or counselor. I know i need to help myself, but i do need help.

    1. Hi Melanie. I understand your struggle as I’ve struggled, too to get the right help. Counsellors and therapists have not always worked well for me. Trusted friends who are able to show empathy have given me more help. When we have a narcissistic parent we don’t get to be understood and empathised with and the hurt and confusion of that can cause some complex buried or repressed emotions. Coming to know ourselves, accept ourselves and live as we need for us, rather than up to ideals imposed on us that may or may not suit us is so important. When we aren’t living in alignment with our inner self and values we are more likely to reach for addictions. I don’t have any answers but I do know self compassion and self acceptance have been so important to my recovery journey.

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