What is Normal?

Hi, Neil here again. If you haven’t heard, I’m a schizophrenic. Don’t worry, I usually don’t whisper it so it’s ok if you don’t either.

I am a person. A person who happens to have a mental illness. Just those words “mental illness” seem to imply that somehow I’m not exactly “normal.” It’s a heck of a word isn’t it? “Normal” I mean. Seems to imply that that there are a group of people who are “normal” (and of course the speaker of that word usually includes themselves in that definition) and then there’s some other people who simply aren’t.

Mental illness is rarely portrayed in a positive fashion in television and movies. Positive role models are greatly lacking, but another more subtle form that may be just as poisonous is the portrayal of it as abnormal, often the province of the homeless or criminals or that aunt of one of the main characters to add some needed dramatic tension. One in five Canadians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetimes. That’s just people who will experience it. Mental illness, though it can be a private torment, often affects families, friends and others.

Kinda seems “normal” that mental illness is in our lives, doesn’t it?

I have to admit that I don’t really like the word. There’s plenty of things not “normal” about me that has absolutely nothing to with the fact that I happen to have a mental illness. I mean, I love doing math. And by math, I don’t mean adding fractions. I mean that in the sense of proving that the space of infinite sequences with finite non-zero entries isn’t a Banach space.

I am aware of that not being something most people do on a Saturday night. If it makes me “abnormal,” well I won’t lose any sleep over it and neither should you unless you need to prove that the aforementioned normed space isn’t complete.

Life is too short. Believe me, I lost too many years spent on a couch, so I have less patience with such matters. Mental illness is “normal” or it would be if we just talked more about it.

This is why we are having this conversation though.

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About Neil

I happen to have paranoid schizophrenia. But that is only a small part of who I am. I define me, not my illness. I always try and choose hope and choose to be a better person, though like all people, I have more than a few failures. Some have been rather spectacular.
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