A short one today, folks, for a little pick-me up on your booze-bluesin’, rainy Sunday:
In our society, any state other than happiness gets pathologized. You’re crying? You must be clinically depressed. You’re stressed out? Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Upset about your breakup after you were positive and said you could handle it yesterday? You’re Bipolar. And why wouldn’t we? The pharmaceutical companies make a fortune off of doing so. But… that’s a rant for another post.
Sidebar: As always, I’m generalizing something that perhaps shouldn’t be generalized (but my point is much more sensational this way). OF COURSE there are situations where these labels are suitable, medication is undoubtedly beneficial, and people experience empowerment and liberation from understanding (and treating) the imbalance in their brain chemistry. But that’s not the focus of today’s musings.
Too often, people are told they are broken and need to be fixed. We discount and blame people who are depressed, pity those struggling with anxiety, and treat those with the remaining DSM diagnoses as lepers. But guess what? We’re all effed up and no one knows what they’re doing. We’re all doing the exact same thing in life—just trying to navigate or way through the unknowns, sustain (not die), be comfortable, be loved, belong, and find some motivation to exist.
After spending the better part of a decade hearing people’s stories of vulnerability, struggle, and pain, that’s my overarching observation. Yep. Everyone is effed up, and no one knows what they’re doing.
For some, this statement might be comforting, as it reminds you to chill out on the “be perfect” pressure you’re putting on yourself. For others, it might be unnerving (I’d really like pilots and presidents to know what they’re doing…). For others still, you might say “This is a load of crap” and stop reading this post. Godspeed.
Seriously. That charismatic CEO who seems like he’s got it all figured out? He’s tortured by his own critical voice telling him to do more, and can’t figure our why he feels unfulfilled despite his 7-figure salary. That acquaintance–the one whose face has never seen a pimple–who just got engaged? She’s actually very unsure about and lonely in her relationship, but she worries she’ll be alone forever if she ends it. Those weird quirks you have? Normal. Those shameful thoughts? Normal. That asymmetrical mole? Not normal. Go see a doctor. Those painful feelings that come and go? Normal, normal, normal.
All of us (yes, all of us) are just trying to go through life the “right” way, and we don’t really know what that is. We pull ideas from societal norms, but there are no guarantees. We think the “Pleasantville” path will secure eternal happiness, but it doesn’t. We all struggle (some more often than others) with feelings of uncertainty, inadequacy, and loneliness. We all go through periods of questioning our sanity.
Thus, next time you’re feeling broken, don’t let the belief sideline you from getting what you can out of life. Attend to your sense of brokenness with mindfulness, wisdom, and compassion, but don’t fall victim to the idea that you must “fix” yourself before you are able to be find happiness. Life needs to happen for us to acquire the skills to react to it adaptively. The challenges provide an excellent medium for us to develop and hone these skills, from which we will undoubtedly draw upon in the future. So, remind yourself that abnormal is normal, there are millions (billions) out there sharing similar struggles and feelings, and this is the life of human beings capable of critical and analytical thought. Inadequate, fucked up, broken, abnormal–you are an imperfect human; that’s what makes you normal, and we’re all in this together :).