Am I normal? Most of the time I hope not. I’m no stranger to being the outsider; the weird one, throughout my young life I was always the exception to the rule. Even on simple things: I had two star signs, I went through school a year younger than my classmates, and that’s not to mention my desperate, attention-seeking ego joined with a fairly quick wit. I stood out like a hitchhiker’s thumb.
Now, as an adult, I am still the weird one. It’s interesting though, I wonder how much is boredom and a natural tendency to explore alternatives and how much is self-fulfilling prophesy. Am I just playing ‘outsider’ the role now?
We all want to be different sometimes, but that can be scary and lonely so at other times we want just want to fit in.
I have had emotional problems as long as I can remember – inexplicable mood fluctuations, troughs of depression that seem to come from nowhere, nevertheless they are happy to grab anything available to bolster themselves. Like anyone in a tragedy, when something goes wrong I look around for the nearest vaguely plausible cause to blame, be it friends, job, love-life or wondering whether anything I do will ever make the blindest bit of difference to anything.
The upside of this is that out of the blue, or based on something tiny or tenuous, I could suddenly be over the moon happy. I kid myself that it balances out.
Apart from writing as cheap therapy and drunkenly boring my poor friends, I have never really talked to anyone about this. Traditionally men aren’t very good at asking for help, I’m told.
My pride prevents me from seeking aid from anyone about feeling so emotionally stretched because I figure that there are plenty of others who could better use their time.
I’m just not someone who goes to doctors. Here’s an example, I put off registering at the regular doctors for years until I got an infection which needed looking at. Every time they took my blood pressure it was worryingly high. After a handful of tries one doctor suggested it might be my nerves making the reading abnormally high, so I should take his letter to the hospital and get an ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) device fitted to take a steady reading throughout the day. I haven’t been back since. That was two years ago.
I don’t think I’m the only man who hates going to the doctors. And I don’t think I’m the only person scared to ask an expert about their mental health.
It reminds me of quantum mechanics; until I speak to a psychiatrist I am sane. Until I go to the doctor I am well. The professionals would just give me long words to cling onto, a title to bear.
Cyclothymia (the mild form of bipolar disorder made sexy by Stephen Fry) is the diagnosis I have my bets on but until I go and get ‘tested’ I’m Shrödinger’s cat; neither mentally ill nor sound.
Maybe I keep it this way because potential is more exciting than experience. Learning is more exciting than knowledge. In the last couple of years I have gone from thinking I’m pretty darned smart to a couple of steps from the bottom of the brain pile. I have to say it feels better down here. More weight on you perhaps but, ironically, less pressure.
I try not to base my happiness on external factors, but I also think it’s as naïve to say that happiness can only come from within. That’s a great start but a little assistance from outside can’t do any harm.
I’m actually pretty happy right now, I have some beautiful people in my life and am in the envious position of being able to write absolutely anything so I am almost constantly inspired. It’s funny, after all I’ve said, once I start to confront my mental health, all of a sudden I’m a model recruit under my drill sergeant’s eye.
Surely I’m not the only person who asks for help then says they’re fine.
So this is for all those people not sure, the people who think they’re losing their minds until they start to think about what they have to do if they are, the people who will spend their lives papering over the cracks. You might be surprised how many there are out there. Your mental health is not a tick-box questionnaire. How boring would that be?
On that note I return to the exam question they teach you in school; am I normal? The funny thing is I probably am.