Ask anyone with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and any other type of mental illness this: “If you could choose a normal life, would you?” Their responses might surprise you – I surprised myself too.
My instant gut reaction was “Yes! Of course!” as I read the subject heading of an email a good friend of mine forwarded to me.
However, as I read on, I had second thoughts… maybe I do not want to be normal…
I met Dr Karl Jacobs a few years ago during one of my recovery spurts. In fact, I started this blog the week I was under his care. Since then, we have kept in touch and he sends me inspirational material every now and then via email. He sent me the below email which I felt compelled to share verbatim. He received the email from an unknown source and we couldn’t trace the author of this to ask for his permission and to give due credit. I hope one day I find him or her though, so I can extend my thanks personally.
If I could choose a normal life, would I?
People often ask me, if I could choose a normal life, would I? When I think about that, I have to honestly answer that I wouldn’t.
Yes, sure, I would love to be able to cope better with life every day, to be able to face the dark and light; but I cannot. I was diagnosed with severe bipolar 1, with constant mixed state, at age 16, and mild Asperger’s at age 30. To most, this would be a death sentence. Constant medication, utter depression, mania, so intense that one does the stupidest things.
Yes, I would like to choose to be able to study, and become the doctor I always wanted to be; yes, I would love to go out in the sun, and not be annoyed by loud noises; yes, I would choose to not disappoint people; yes, I would choose not to be embarrassed; yes, I would love to look “normal”!
But I am not; and no, I would not choose to be different. Why?
Vincent van Gogh cut of his ear, and had to burn his paintings to stay warm today they are sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Virginia Woolf was utterly depressed, and eventually she filled her pocket with stones and drowned herself. Today she is noted as one of the greatest novelists of all time.
Albert Einstein was seen as a mad scientist, his theories made people angry. Today he is seen as probably the brightest man that ever lived.
Winston Churchill was so depressed that he called it the “black dog”. Today he is an almost mythical person, wrapped in legend.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was seen as a silly man, and irritated most people. He died alone, and was buried in a mass grave. Today his music is seen as some of the greatest ever composed.
Ludwig von Beethoven became deaf early in his life. This was a terrible blow for him. He composed complete symphonies whilst being deaf. Today, almost everyone recognizes a Beethoven tune.
Jacqueline Du Prez was seen as a mad woman. She would leave her cello in the snow when she was angry. She died of multiple sclerosis. Today she is regarded as the greatest cellist that ever lived.
Florence Nightingale was diagnosed as Bipolar. Today she is remembered as one of the great nurses of all time.
Edgar Alan Poe was a sufferer of Bipolar. Today he is recognized as one of the great authors.
Even sufferers of the more serious mental disorder like schizophrenia became world famous, people like:
John Nash – Mathematician
Antoine Artaud – Playwright
Peter Green – guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Vaclav Nijinsky – one of the greatest ballet dancers
The list goes on……
So then am I saying that I am destined for greatness? No, that is not what I am saying.
What I am saying is that I am in the company of great people. And for that I am thankful.
I have chatted to people that write the most incredible poetry and paint the most beautiful paintings, and the next day you hear they committed suicide. I have met people that have so much compassion for other people because they truly understand the meaning of misery.
But then to return to the question. Would I choose to be normal?
I would not choose to be a 16 year old kid that severed arteries and have to stay in hospital for 3 months (yes that was me), but I would choose a life where I understand passion, where I feel with all my heart and soul.
I would not choose to lose interest in everything, even those you love; but I would choose to fully grasp pain and suffering.
I would not choose to spend my life alone, but I would choose to love utterly, when I do.
So, to conclude: I am sorry for all the things that I did wrong when I was not well, but I am NOT sorry for being me.
We live in misery, we live with stigma and pain. We are ridiculed. We are aughed at. We are the mentally ill.
I am, and I am proud to say that the people that I know that are like me are the best and most wonderful people I met.
So then, I would not choose to be well; I would just choose to be well enough.
In the same way, I am thankful for depression, for it helped me rediscover my creativityonce again, andmy writing. I am thankful for depression for it gave mea husband. I am thankful for depression for it opened my eyes to a new world of compassion and empathy. I am thankful for depression because it made me realize I was different, and that I had a lot more to offer than I thought possible.
Reading one of Chris Guillebeau’s older posts, I also understand why I have been so frustrated all along with things around me – exactly because I was not normal and have not been for a long time, just that I have not yet been labelled till now. Nevertheless, I’ve made the decision that I will be remarkable exactly because I’m not normal!
Many remarkable people deal with depression and anxiety all the time because they see the world differently than average people do. Their own failures and perceived failures are magnified. When others say, “Don’t worry about it,” they can’t understand why someone would think something like that. For this reason, a lot of geniuses throughout history have been chronically depressed.
So if I could be normal, I would not! Because I can be remarkable and special!
We all have a specialty in our own way. The world is big enough for all of us special people to co-exist and learn from each other – andin the words of Chris Guillebeau, we should all make the decision to be remarkable!
So, why do you want to be normal?
These are just my thoughts and I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Also, if you liked this blurb please share with your friends and help my blog grow. Thanks!