It’s a normal to feel a little weird, I’ve been told. Many of us are forever searching for ‘normality’, for a place in the world where we can truly fit in. More than anything, human beings love to have a place to fit in.
Even anarchists and rebels need allies. They need people to support them, to stand with them, to join them in their action. It so often takes only one person to put a toe out of line, and many will happily follow in their footsteps.
This quirk of human psychology has been responsible for some of humanity’s proudest and darkest moments both, for we are drawn to people that we can fit in with, who will also make us feel safe.
A part of growing up, of maturing, of learning how to live is in learning where we fit in. We all search for our niche in the world, for a space to call our own. I’m no different. I’ve worked a few different jobs. I’ve now settled on the environment.
A few years ago I would have found this difficult to conceive of. I’d had idle thoughts about what it might be like to work in natural areas, to be able to have a tangible role in the fight to save Australia’s ecological diversity. I could not have imagined that it would have become my ‘new normal’.
There’s a story I’m sure you’re all familiar with, involving a frog and a pot of boiling water. When you throw a frog into a boiling pot, it jumps out. When you put the frog in room temperature water and slowly warm it up, the frog will die, not realising the danger it’s in until it’s too late.
So, I’ve found, is also the case with mental health. I’ve battled all my life against my own mind, and I’m proud to say that I’ve won some fairly profound victories against the shadows in the back of my head.
What startles me is just how quickly depression can be conceived of as a new normal. It’s hard for me to pinpoint where one depressive episode ends and another starts most of the time, but I can say with some confidence that it has been worse recently.
It could be a seasonal thing. I may just be getting some ‘winter blues’. I don’t like what I feel, though, and the way it affects my thoughts, my emotions, and my general energy levels. I want a new normal.
It’s always terrifying to think that something could push you out of your comfort zone, and it’s difficult for others to understand how even a state of depression can become comfortable in its familiarity. I’ve felt this way before. I know on an intellectual level that this will pass, that this will not last forever, and that my emotions do not determine my future.
That being said, I cannot change how I feel with a simple thought. I’ve long learnt that positivity is a choice, but I’ve come to understand that it’s not as simple as ‘willing’ myself happy. There are many, many smaller sub-steps to that process.
To find this new normal, I have to be willing to leave my old comforts behind. It’s scary. I’ve never spoken much to a professional before. With that comes the admission that I’m unwell, that I’m sick.
It’s something that I’ve often thought of as an admission of weakness, that I cannot deal with the ups and downs of life. That’s an old relic of the depressed normal talking. Once again, I find myself wanting the new normal.
Because in spite of all the familiar sensations of my current reality, I’ve come to know that I want more than this. I don’t want to be tired all the time, to be constantly feeling drained of all enthusiasm, to be struggling to get through the day, let alone the week. I’ve been doing this by myself for a long time, but I’ve come to understand there is no shame in getting professional help.
I’ve learned a lot about depression, stress and anxiety already. I feel like I can deal with things most of the time and yet… there are times when I feel myself slipping, like I’m walking on thin ice, and one false move could see me fall through. I know I’m strong because I’ve come this far. I just need to be willing to shift my normal.
After all, my normal may be comforting in its familiarity, but a new normal must be better than this. It’s this very change I think I’ve been afraid of. For so long I’ve been afraid that seeking help might not work and yet… what if it does?