Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Is Normal, Anyway?

I think I have a mouse. I haven't seen one, but tonight I have heard two short squeaks that make me think there is one somewhere in my closet. I was immediately filled with dread, feeling like I just can't handle this. Because at my last apartment, I caught over 40 mice in less than two years. It was horrendous. And this weekend, when I pulled a wooden spoon out of my drawer and found two tiny bugs on my hand, I tried really hard not to freak out. Because at my last apartment, I had a horrible roach infestation for the last two months I lived there (yes, my last apartment building was not a happy place by the time I left). When I see signs of some pest in my living space, I start to panic, because I've seen what happens when they take over. What I try to remember is that it's probably normal to have a few pests now and then. 40 mice? Not normal. 1 or 2 a year, especially when it's cold? Probably normal, though not fun. A few bugs now and then? Normal. I mean, we always had ants in the summer growing up, and I never freaked out like I did with the roaches. In the southern states, it's weird if you DON'T have a bug guy to treat you for various pests.

It's so hard to keep an objective view of what normal is when you're in the midst of something. I remember clearly that I didn't think anything of the roaches at first, just figuring it was summer and it was typical to have some bugs. But then I realized they were roaches, and that there were a ton of them, and all of a sudden it felt so overwhelming. It crept up on me. I can't even remember which mouse it was when I went from "this is annoying" to "this is ridiculous" to "this is NOT right." You get in survival mode, and when you're focusing on surviving, it can be really hard to gauge where you are. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I was relieved to have someone tell me that it was NOT normal to feel as awful as I did for so long. I sort of knew that, but I had felt that way for so long and just kept pushing through that I really wasn't sure sometimes. I should have known something was up a lot sooner, when my grades started to suffer. For me, it was not normal to have learning be so difficult. It was like a flip switched, and all of a sudden I felt stupid in school. I would stare at a computer screen for hours, having no idea what to write for papers.

I think this is one of the reasons it's so important to have close friends. We all need to have people who know us intimately, people who can tell us when they start to see us veering off the path. I think having accountability like this can help ward off certain problems with habitual sins before we get far down that path. For example, if you are the sort to drink alcohol rarely or only moderately, if your friends see you start to drink frequently and heavily they can say something. It could be so easy to justify it to yourself. After all, don't we see on TV and in the movies that college and even high school students do it all the time? Don't we sometimes see grown adults being functional alcoholics presented as somewhat normal? We need people in our real life to give us perspective, to be honest with us. It's not easy. If you don't have a relationship built on trust and mutual friendship, it can be really easy to feel judged and get defensive. If you're hearing this kind of truth from someone you don't know well, it can be easy to say "What do they know, anyway?" and ignore the truth in what they spoke.

I have a friend who lives across the country, and we contact each other about once a week for some accountability stuff. We have a few specific things, but it's nice just to know I can be honest about everything. She's a safe space for me. And when I've been doing things that I'm not comfortable sharing with her, that's a really good barometer of whether or not I should be doing them. Because if I know she won't be happy to hear it, I know I shouldn't be doing it. We've talked about all sorts of things, and it goes both ways. We've also struggled with some of the same things, which helps with the whole not feeling judged thing.

It's a new year. I'm not big on making New Year's Resolutions, but I do like to look back and reflect a bit on the previous year. 2012 was filled with apartment/pest drama, but otherwise it really was a pretty good year. I've made some wonderful friends in that time, I've done a lot of things that I loved. I got to see some amazing shows, I read a lot of books, and I laughed a lot. I'm really happy to realize that my normal has shifted to a place that is mostly contentment and thankfulness. I'm so thankful for my job, my church, my friends, my family. I'm thankful that depression isn't my daily normal, even though I struggle with it sometimes. I'm thankful for fresh starts and forgiveness. I'm thankful that normal can change for the better, that there is always a bend in the road. Who knows what exciting things lie beyond?