A Different Kind of Normal

baby mabel

Look at that little smunchy faced baby. It would only take her three short years from this photo to shout “I don’t love you mommy! I don’t love you and I want you to move out so Daddy will stop loving you too!”

She’s thorough, at least.

I probably don’t need to explain that today was an all-around difficult day. From the time my daughter opened her eyes it has been relentless and exhausting physically and mentally. I am sick and she is a threenager. My other daughter is ateething toddler.

Oh, and I am crazy. Let’s not forget that.

There are several struggles that mentally ill parents face that our healthier counterparts do not, but I think my least favorite of all is the ever present question of “Is this normal?”

“Is what I’m feeling in this situation normal? Is this the healthy emotional response to what is happening? Would a mentally well person consider today to be incredibly stressful and awful or is this a side effect of my illness? Is this the first day I’ve felt this rotten? Am I having a bad week because it’s a bad week or because my meds need to be adjusted? Is all of this normal? Is any of it?”

It occurs to me, though, tucked away safely in my bedroom while my husband tends to dinner and our still very high needs children in the kitchen downstairs, that maybe those are the wrong questions. (Well, mostly wrong. If you’re diagnosed with a mental illness and on medication and you find yourself consistently having a hard time you should probably check in with yourself about whether it’s just a rough month or if you should talk to someone about med adjustment.)

Maybe what I need to focus my energy on, instead of that lengthy list of shaming questions, is accepting the fact that my normal and someone else’s normal are never going to be the same. Instead of trying to match the standards set by a society either living in wellness or pretending to, I should work within my family to find a rhythm to best handle our really bad days.

Instead of striving for normal, I should be reaching for my best. “Am I doing the best I can in this situation given all of the circumstances and the tools at my disposal? What can I do better next time?”

As for today? Yeah, I think I was a little off. And like any other parent there were a dozen things throughout the day I could have handled better. But with an hour of distance between me and the worst of it, I’d say it was all pretty average child-tries-to-kill-parent stuff. I’d like to say ‘tomorrow is another day’ but, frankly, right about now that kind of sounds like a threat.

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