My client’s are so insightful! They ask the most fabulous questions. One recent question was, “Is anybody normal?” I can see why she’d ask that question. We live in a society where it seems like everyone is on an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. Lots of people report having dysfunctional families. Substance abuse abounds. Relationships can be rocky. Counseling can seem like a fact of life.
Add to that the stressful demands of a modern lifestyle: lack of sleep; competitive workplaces; school stress; lack of community; no face time with friends because we’re glued to the television, video games, or our phones; no social support; no family support; no contact with nature; a sedentary lifestyle; chemical laden foods and bath and body products; and electromagnetic stress. No wonder it can seem like everybody is dealing with something. We are!
That’s not all! The ability to scan, probe, test for, and classify diseases makes it easy to give someone a diagnosis. Diagnoses are necessary in order to receive any sort of medical care that insurance will pay for as they only pay for services that are “medically necessary.” (Un)fortunately the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has almost three hundred different conditions to choose from, so I am sure there is a name for what ails you. Simple sadness can become major depression. Shyness can become social phobia. Ack! In that world, crazy is the new normal!
So that we can take a look at how true this is, let’s back up for a minute and get a definition of what’s “sick.” The DSM-5 defines mental disorders as “serious deviations from expected cognitive, social, and emotional development.” Honestly, what I typically see is not that. They are normal responses to stressful or abnormal events. Requiring that someone have a diagnosis to get help can be really harmful as we tend to live up to our labels.
The other thing is, what’s wrong with feeling sad when something sad has happened? It’s normal! That’s what humans do! If you feel like you have to hide it or take a pill to be presentable to other people, that’s not healthy. That’s not affirming.
If you’re wondering if you are normal, my suggestion is to switch your point of view from a disease model to a wellness model. In the disease model, if you have X number of symptoms that fits a observed syndrome, you have some sort of diagnosis. Health is the absence of symptoms. Illness is the presence of disease.
In the wellness model, your symptoms are the tip of the iceberg. What lies underneath the surface creates what is above the surface. This includes your lifestyle, culture, psychological factors and spirituality. Symptoms are a natural byproduct of everything underneath the surface. You don’t get rid of them by medicating them or labeling them. You strengthen the body to heal itself by making healthy changes to your lifestyle that fit within your cultural and spiritual belief system. You strengthen the mind by resolving the problems of childhood, substance abuse, and whatever other contributing factors there are. These aren’t things that you cope with or hide. They can all be positively transformed.
So the answer to the question, “Is anybody normal?” is definitely yes! Everything you do is a function of your level of wellness, resources, your past learning and conditioning, culture, desires, and lifestyle. Your environment also acts on you. The further out of balance all of this is, the less effective, happy, and symptom-free you will be, but those symptoms exist to let you know you’re out of balance. That’s normal! It’s how human beings are designed. Symptoms are a warning light.
So, if you are in pain and want to be out of pain, that’s normal.
If you are hurt and you cry, scream, or respond in some way, that’s normal.
If you are sad and become withdrawn, that’s normal too.
If you are under stress and experience anxiety, also normal.
Being eccentric, from a different culture, really smart, a slow processor, psychic, gay, or shy is all within the range of normal. A little variety never hurt anybody. It adds color to life.
On the other hand, if you are in a place where your symptoms hurt and you want to change, that’s also completely normal. It doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you someone who is self-aware and wants more for themselves and perhaps the other people in their lives. Self-improvement is not pathological. It’s healthy. Trust me when I tell you, crazy is not the new normal. We’re all much healthier than allopathic medicine likes to portray us.