In my recent to-be-read pile, two books jumped out at me. One called ‘Normal People‘ by Sally Rooney. The other was ‘Very Nearly Normal‘ by Hannah Sunderland.

As I noticed them, I began to ruminate over the word ‘normal.’

Normal, defined as “conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected.”

It is a word that the majority of us aspire to be; to fit in with whichever peer group we wish to be a part of, and accepted. However, for many, it is not a word that they feel applies to them, or which they can relate. 

As a consequence of living with a neurological disorder from a very young age, with strange and unusual symptoms, normal is not something I ever felt I am or a word that resonated with me.

In truth, ‘normal; isn’t a word that I have ever resonated with, particularly after the commencement of the symptoms that would go onto have a significant impact on my life. But even before then, I often felt that I didn’t quite fit in, or that I wasn’t normal. I never seemed to like the same things other kids my age were into and always seemed to be much more introverted than others my age.

“In truth, ‘normal; isn’t a word that I have ever resonated with, particularly after the commencement of the symptoms that would go onto have a significant impact on my life.” Click To Tweet

Perhaps, it was just part of ordinary childhood; I don’t know. But what I do know that these feelings never went away, and becoming a constant theme in my life.

Beginning To Live A Not So Very Normal Life

Even what I thought was normal, such as the trembling and general feeling of weakness in the legs. Having experienced such sensations from such a young age, I naively assumed that everyone lived with such sensations.

But when diagnosed with a chronic illness, it is much akin to finding oneself landed on an alien planet. A strange, new world that we are unable to escape from, unable to return to the normality we knew.  And as we are unable to leave, we begin to build a home and a life on this alien planet. Slowly it becomes our new normal, and a home that no longer feels alien.

“When diagnosed with a chronic illness, it is much akin to finding oneself landed on an alien planet. A strange, new world that we are unable to escape from, unable to return to the normality we knew.”   Click To Tweet

Quote from essay

And when living with a chronic illness, the unusual and disabling symptoms that we experience slowly becomes the norm and part of our daily lives. Life with chronic illness becomes the new normal.  Often, it becomes such a part of every day that we can no longer remember life before illness suddenly entered our lives.  Nor can we remember what it was not to endure such unyielding and debilitating symptoms.  

“When living with a chronic illness, the unusual and disabling symptoms that we experience slowly becomes the norm and part of our daily lives. Slowly becoming the new normal.” Click To Tweet

“It becomes such a part of every day that we can no longer remember life before illness suddenly entered our lives.  Nor can we remember what it was not to endure such unyielding and debilitating symptoms.” Click To Tweet

Always Foreseeing The Unnormality Of This Chronic Life

I have always foreseen, and currently envisioning the un-normality of a life living with a chronic illness. It is evident by observing everybody else around me, living life without the difficulties I continually face.  Their existence not blighted by cruel, relentless, and debilitating symptoms, unlike that of mine.  

girl crying while touching glass window
Staring out the window and watching people busily walking and carrying out errands often makes me wonder how they can do so, without feeling the ill effects that I do such as pain, dizziness, or fatigue? For me, it seems so abnormal but in fact the norm for so many.

Watching people, taking long walks, I wonder how they can do so without being met by excruciating sharp pain radiating down their spine and legs. Or being out in vast, open spaces without the feeling of intense dizziness suddenly overwhelming them.  Or being out alone without the worry of legs suddenly giving out from under you, leaving them in a heap on the fall, unable to get up, and left humiliated by a body that is failing them.

“Watching people, taking long walks, I wonder how they can do so without being met by excruciating sharp pain radiating down their spine and legs. Or being out without the feeling of intense dizziness suddenly overwhelming them.” Click To Tweet

I find myself plagued by such thoughts as I am unable to remember I time when I didn’t experience such symptoms.  These symptoms have become such a part of my everyday life, that it has become my personal normal. Now, if such symptoms suddenly disappeared, it would feel abnormal.  

Living with a chronic illness, our normal is strange and unnatural to everybody else. And the normal for everyone else, for us, becomes odd and peculiar. On those rare good days, with no or very few symptoms, they can feel strange and bizarre, almost like trying on a wrong size pair of shoes.

“Living with a chronic illness, our normal is strange and unnatural to everybody else. And the normal for everyone else, for us, becomes odd and peculiar.” Click To Tweet

An Upbringing of Symptoms and Unusuality

Do you remember the days of childhood? Those blissful happy, carefree days where it felt that you had no worries, or obstacles blocking your way forward.  When experiencing strange and debilitating symptoms from a young age, they had a part in our upbringing alongside our parents and other close family members. 

The promise of care-free childhood usually promises a time free of limitations, a time of freedom, and fitting-in. But when living with symptoms, even when you are unaware of its origins, you become only too aware of the limitations of your body. And the fragility of life.  The promises of childhood snatched away, becoming no stranger to what makes you different.  

It often feels that the symptoms I experience as a result of FND was much a part of my upbringing as anything else. Perhaps the problems I experience with my legs was a big reason for my love of reading as I was not able to enjoy more physically challenging hobbies.

No longer do you fit-in, fixated on the parts of the body that is different from the person standing next to you.  Or all too conscious of what is happening inside of you, that which only you can apperceive.  Once you felt normal, but no longer is it the truth.  

“No longer do you fit-in, fixated on the parts of the body that is different. Or all too conscious of what is happening inside of you, that which only you can apperceive.  Once you felt normal, but no longer is it the truth.” Click To Tweet

Illness now claimed you as its reluctant victim, and as such, so too has weirdness; of not being normal.

Panicking Over Every New Twinge; Every Strange New Sensation

I cannot remember the time when every new twinge or unfamiliar sensation did invoke a fresh wave of panic. In my ‘normal’ days, the days before this illness became such a permanent and constant presence in my life, it was easy to brush off a twinge, or unfamiliar sensation as something benign and not a cause for concern.

Now, when met with such circumstances, more often than not, it is welcomed by panic and overwhelming anxiety.  A worry begins that this new twinge or sensation is a sign of another new symptom to add to the already long list. Or a signal from our fragile and broken body that something else is wrong, a new diagnosis for the medical profession to ascertain.  

“A worry begins that this new twinge or sensation is a sign of another new symptom to add to the already long list. Or a signal from our fragile and broken body that something else is wrong.” Click To Tweet

It consistently evokes the question of whether such misgivings are a warning of an imminent flare.  Or worse, the start of a deterioration in our conditions.

Accessing? When Amid Chronic Illness The World Can Become Inaccessible

In the land of normality, the world truly is your oyster. It is fully accessible, and the only decision is how to utilise such freedom.

When becoming chronically ill, and limited by the effects of severe and debilitating symptoms, doors begin to slam in your face. The world is slowly becoming inaccessible, and smaller in its choices available to you.

black and white photo of woman staring out of a window
When living with chronic illness and disability, the effects of such can often make the world feel inaccessible to you; your world and life becoming smaller.

The fear of triggering crippling pain makes it impossible to turn the lock and leave the comfort of home. Instead, resigning ourselves to another day of isolation, with no company but that of chronic pain.  And the company of several other loathsome symptoms.

“The fear of triggering crippling pain makes it impossible to turn the lock and leave the comfort of home. Instead, resigning ourselves to another day of isolation, with no company but that of chronic pain.” Click To Tweet

The internal battle between you and the door offering freedom can become a daily routine. A face-off with a door may seem ridiculous but when you’ve tumbled down a flight of stairs too many times to count, or not knowing when your legs are next going to give way, or experience dizziness so intense that the world feels unsafe, leaving the house can be terrifying.

“A face-off with a door may seem ridiculous but when you’ve tumbled down a flight of stairs too many times to count, or not knowing when your legs are next going to give way, leaving the house can be terrifying.” Click To Tweet

Public transport becoming inaccessible also, due to the unavailability of seats. Because of severe weakness and disabling pain, standing for an unknown period of time becomes untenable, and as such insurmountable.

Every day you are confronted with places or situations that are inaccessible to you due to the confines of illness and disability. No longer does it feel that you fit into the world around you.

“Every day you are confronted with places or situations that are inaccessible to you due to the confines of illness and disability. No longer does it feel that you fit into the world around you.” Click To Tweet

A person with a chronic illness or disability becoming a square peg trying to fit themselves inside a round hole.

Soothing Myself By Changing The Self-Talk

In a normal, ordinary world, I feel anything but, however. I feel different, peculiar, not normal. My ears are often ringing with the sounds of the names directed at me, freak, for example.

The neurological disorder and the symptoms that invariably accompany it sets me apart from everyone else. It’s a truth I have to accept; a part of my life that continually makes me feel different, and abnormal from others.

“FND and the symptoms that invariably accompany it sets me apart from everyone else. It’s a truth I have to accept; a part of my life that continually makes me feel different, and abnormal from others.” Click To Tweet

But in an attempt to soothe myself from its effects, I often ask myself the question “What is normal?”

Because the truth is normal does not exist; it is subjective. For one person, something may be entirely normal but not so for a different individual.

What is normal is also contingent upon a diverse range of factors such as location or time. What is normal in one part of the world, for example, would be considered strange or abnormal in another. And something deemed to be normal in the Middle Ages, would not be so in today’s modern society.

So no my life consisting of pain, and numerous symptoms due to a neurological disorder may not be normal to others, but it is my normal. And maybe that’s OK because your normal may just sound just as strange to me.

“So no my life consisting of pain, and numerous symptoms due to a neurological disorder may not be normal to others, but it is my normal. And maybe that’s OK because your normal may just sound just as strange to me.” Click To Tweet

The above post is part of the May Link-Up Party with A Chronic Voice. The aim of it is for bloggers and writers to share their stories and experiences of living with chronic illness through given prompts.

May Link-Up Party with A Chronic Voice





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