The Dee Diaries #6

‘BEING NORMAL’

I submerged myself long enough for my chest to tighten and my heartbeat to quicken. It resounded off the porcelain sides and into my ears, throat and wrists. When I rose back out of the water, I opened my eyes to Dee sat cross legged on the toilet seat. I stared at her but had nothing to say. Maybe it was because, all of a sudden, she looked happy. Gone were the supermarket tears and shaky hands. She was wearing a broad smile and glistening eyes. 

‘How about you let me take care of you tonight.’ Dee said. ‘To make up for the fact we only have sweets in the cupboard and nothing else.’ 

I smiled, she was right. There was only so long we were going to survive on strawberry laces and Oreo biscuits. She took my smile as consent and hopped nimbly from the toilet seat. She emptied the toothbrush pot and washed it out with cold water. 

‘Close your eyes and tip your head back.’ Dee instructed.

– from Dee, a novel in progress

Driving home on a Wednesday afternoon, listening to BBC Radio 4 (because I’m old before my time) and on came a podcast called ‘All in the Mind’. From what I could gather, the podcast talks all things mental. The episode in question ranged from interviewing a mother and daughter to discussing a study which suggested giving blood for altruistic reasons helped you feel less pain when the needle went in. I was interested in the interview.

The mother was a psychiatrist and the interviewer was interested in how she coped with the breakdown of her own daughter. Did being a specialist of the mind help at all?

The daughter experienced depression and anxiety in a similar situation to me: she was at university away from home and one night was so afraid she called her mother. I did too and will thank the stars for as long as I live that my mother put down the phone and drove 2 hours late at night to be beside me. The mother on the radio had the same reaction: her daughter came home and instead of being the psychiatrist, she was Mum. She nurtured her – she let her sleep, have the pets on the bed and simply slow down.

Again, I did the same. I moved back home and completed my degree travelling six hours a day via train but found it far easier than being away from home. Mum was Mum. She nurtured me – I slept, I cried, I panicked and I watched QVC every night until I fell asleep. I slowed down.

But, this episode of All in the Mind did more than validate my own experience with depression. It did more than remind me I wasn’t alone. It reminded me I’m still not alone as I try to be normal – to find a normal severed from the low points I’ve fell into.

When asked ‘How long did it take you to recover?’, the daughter on the radio, like the young woman in the car, admitted that she never truly will. Her experience is a part of her now – sometimes she thinks about it, even talks about it, she never denies it happened – and that’s okay. Healing is not linear. Healing is not a permanent state of being. We must feel sadness to appreciate joy. We must feel grief to appreciate all we had. Love cannot thrive without pain.

And so, since then I’ve thought about the phrase ‘being normal’ differently. Normal is what you define it to be. Normal now for me is knowing my limits, knowing how quickly I can trick myself into sadness, knowing what I must fight and what I must relinquish. Normal is slowing down sometimes.

Too often we separate mental and physical health when we shouldn’t. A broken leg may heal in months but the bone is now weaker than it was before. The healing process is longer than the number we assign to it. And it should be okay for us to take years to ‘recover’, to find our normal rather than return to what we once believed was normal.

Being normal is what you make it.

11 thoughts on “The Dee Diaries #6

  1. TheFeatheredSleep says:

    This was incredibly brave to write. I love Radio Four too.
    You succeeded. Whether you did it your way or the ‘normal’ way that doesn’t even really exist anymore, the point is, you achieved what you set out to achieve for your own good.
    Few people do that. Only 39 percent of people in the US get a 4 year degree (the same as the UK 3 year) whilst the UK has a slightly higher graduation rate, I would put that down to less tolerance for failing in the UK with less opportunities for do-overs meaning people know they can’t fail. But of course that has a negative effect on the psyche of the UK University goer too. Horses for courses maybe. But either way you succeeded. And even if you hadn’t I would say you had for other reasons like self-insight and recognizing what you needed.
    University was the hardest time (the first time around) I had as a younger person and I absolutely struggled. Whatever way we make it through, we’ve made it.
    I loved this. More reasons to admire the heck out of YOU

    Liked by 1 person

  2. blindzanygirl says:

    This got my attention because of the word “normal.” We can have something happen in our life that means we will never be normal again in the sense that we knew before. It takes a while to realise that we are still normal, for US. Great post here. Thankyou.

    Liked by 1 person

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