“I just want to be normal!”
If only I had a dollar for every time I have said this, or any of its many variations, because I would be Rich, Rich, Rich – yes, Rich with a capital R!
My diaries are filled with this statement, along with “Why can’t I just be normal?” “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” “If only I was normal!”
Guess what? For what I had experienced in life, I was normal. I was, and am, just like everyone else who has experienced some form of major trauma as a child. The hell I have experienced while healing is the same hell others experience while they heal. Yet, all the while, I just wanted to be normal.
What is ‘normal’ anyway?
For me, it was ‘normal’ for my father to have sex with me. It’s just what he did. It was ‘normal’ to never know from one minute to the next if there was a belting waiting for me when the next minute arrived. It was ‘normal’ to not know from moment to moment if I was ‘loved’ or hated by my father. It was ‘normal’ to show the world I was ‘normal’ according to society’s stereotypical standards, while at the same time asking myself why I couldn’t be ‘normal’.
The first time I remember verbalising that I was not normal was when I was 12. My brother and I had been fighting, as we always did if ever we were in each other’s company for more than 30 seconds. We were home alone and during the fight my brother had grabbed a large kitchen knife and started chasing me with it. Eventually he caught me and knocked me to the ground. As he held the knife to my throat I practically begged him to kill me. I told him that he should do it because the world would be a better place without me because I wasn’t normal and should be in the ‘looney bin’ anyway.
He didn’t kill me. In fact, telling him this had the opposite effect, and he helped me up off the ground and said, “No it wouldn’t Sis.”
My brother was 10 at the time.
It wasn’t until I started to understand what I experienced emotionally and psychologically was normal for people who live through child sexual abuse that I started to recognise how I continued verbally abusing myself. I had fully taken on the role of abuser through my inner voice, telling myself I was useless, stupid, abnormal, crazy. I came to believe, absolutely, that I was insane.
My only ‘insanity’ was the inability to process my trauma in a way that would release it, rather than relive it.
The process is long, slow, and unbelievably painful. It cannot be expressed in words. It is a very lonely road, because although you may be lucky enough to have a ‘support system’ unless those around you have experienced exactly what you have experienced, there is no way they can comprehend what you are going through. Every moment of healing feels like you have to fight your way, kicking and screaming, to find even enough air to breathe, let alone find the strength to function in any ‘normal’ capacity.
For a while I didn’t want to be normal. I craved complete loss of function. I thought it an exceptionally cruel twist of fate that, although there were days when all I could manage was to pull the covers up and a pillow over my head, I was still able to hold down a job, be a mother, be a partner, and work on my healing all at the same time. I envied people who could just withdraw from life completely.
In hindsight, I am glad I was able to keep going, even if it was in a reduced capacity. I did withdraw from the world, but not completely. I did want to die so very badly – but I didn’t.
So, am I ‘normal’? According to some, I am not. According to others, I am. According to myself? I don’t always conform to society’s norms, but I am not a complete deviate either – I am me – and for ‘me’ I am normal.