“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” – Alfred Adler
I dislike using the word normal in reference to mental health. There is no true normal. Everyone has their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. I prefer to use the word “average”. I have average days. I feel like I fit in, like I’m not struggling against myself and my brain and I actually get along. I’m not antsy, irritable, or depressed. I sort of miss the energy of hypomania, but average is nice. Sometimes I get a few of these days strung together, maybe even a couple of weeks. It happens between hypomanic events and depression. It’s still not normal.
On my average days I can enjoy life. I can be happy; my moods are stable and not as magnified. I still have breakthrough moments of sadness and anxiety, but I recover quickly. It’s still not normal, though; there are drawbacks. I still feel like I’m waiting for things to go bad, for the other shoe to drop. I feel better, but I’m still nervous about trusting my own judgment, that there is still something lurking inside that will turn a seemingly simple decision into something horrendous. Overall, I feel good, but never entirely carefree.
Since these average experiences occur between hypomania and depression I’m somewhat leery of what’s going to happen next. This is the main reason I do not refer to my periods of feeling average as normal. I know at some point the average feeling will end and something will eventually replace it . I don’t know if it’s going to be depression or hypomania. If it’s hypomania, how far up will my mood go? It can range from being slightly euphoric and energetic to completely out of control. If I move into depression, how low will I drop? Will I become suicidal again? Will this be the depression I don’t survive? This is my worst fear, that I’m one mood swing from taking my own life. The statistics make it a coin flip that I’ll attempt it.
There is a positive side to this, especially these days. I’ve been in treatment for eight months, the longest I’ve ever lasted before going off my meds and I feel better more often and for longer periods. Although the fear of relapse occasionally rattles around in my brain, I don’t sit around and ruminate or try to hide from it. Being afraid of the depression and anxiety cause me to be more depressed and anxious. I now have reason, however, to not see this as a stressor or trigger.
My most recent hypomanic episode passed without any major incidents. I felt a bit more energetic and occasionally irritable, but nothing unmanageable. The medication and therapy are working, so although I’m concerned about the next mood swing, I’m not trying to hide from it or lock myself away in fear. I haven’t had an episode of depression since early this year, so I remain positive. It’s possible that I may be in a sort of remission and the average days will continue.
That’s about the best I can hope for and as close to “normal” as I can get for now.