And does it really matter?
I love watching travel and wildlife programmes. I find them quite peaceful and easy to watch, especially before going to sleep. The cinematography is stunning.
They inspire me to want to see these places and things for myself. I am thinking about things I would like to be doing or things I wish I could do. I always think ‘if I was normal I could be doing that’ .
What is this ‘normal’? I spend most of my time writing about how disabled people should not be seen any differently to able-bodied people, about accessibility, about attitudes, and yet, in my private thoughts, I am basically defining myself as not ‘normal’.
I am going to attempt to explore why I do this.
When I had the first symptoms of MS my normality began to be something I didn’t recognise. Suddenly I couldn’t do all my ‘normal’ things. Just getting out of bed in the morning became strange.
Normal life was disrupted. Everything changed. Nothing was ever the same again. And so it has continued.
My ‘normal’ is wheelchair life. I have written about this before, so I won’t go into it again. What I want to do is examine why I think that what I am now is not normal.
This is really a terrible opinion of myself, and goes against the grain in every sense. I would never dream of defining someone else like that. I don’t think about with regard to others.
‘Normal’ defies definition – each person has their own normality. It’s the very misunderstanding of that which causes so much hate and prejudice in this world. We mutter and gossip about the lady in the house down the road because she dresses weirdly and has 20 cats. We look at people and define them as ‘different’ because they don’t fit our ‘normal’
Everyone’s normality is different. It belongs to them. It is their own. And we do not have the right to judge people in those terms. In fact, my personal belief is that we don’t have the right to judge people at all, but that’s because I’m a live and let live kind of person (if someone is inflicting harm because to them that is normal behaviour then that is a different story).
So why, in my private thoughts do I think of myself as not normal? I think the answer lies in my own mental processes. I know that there is no coming to terms with a big life-changing event, whatever that may be, but you can learn acceptance.
After 15 years I really thought I had achieved acceptance of my condition and what is in effect a new way of life. But am I kidding myself? To think that I might be living a lie, and that somewhere deep down I may not be being true to myself is horrifying.
Sometimes I have found myself saying out loud ‘oh I used to do that when I was alive’ ……. what the hell is all that about. I believe that I have mentally drawn a line between before and after. Between life and……….what. Not a ‘normal’ life clearly.
Given that these thoughts come to me totally unbidden, almost automatically with no warning, I’m not really sure how to tackle this weirdness. The mental process by which I have drawn this line must be so deep it’s impossible for me to control.
Does it really matter?
As I’ve pondered this question in my mind, over time, my thoughts are that perhaps, for me, no, it doesn’t matter very much. I cannot believe that I am the only disabled person, particularly when, like me, they have an unimagined new ‘normality’ after an active life.
People who develop chronic illness and those who have had accidents, whatever, must contemplate their life limitations deep down. How do other disabled people feel about themselves in their private thoughts?
Up to now these have been my private thoughts, but I decided to write about them because I wanted to see how it would feel to let them out. Now that I have, I can see that, for me, it actually doesn’t really matter. I refuse to be haunted or daunted by thoughts that have the ability to impact my mental health
If I don’t dwell on it they are fleeting regrets, if I think about it too long, which sometimes happens it’s just a sadness. Everybody, disabled or not, have thoughts that cause them fleeting regret or sadness, that is perfectly normal.
The trick is, when my thoughts go down the path of ‘I will never get to do that now’, is to let it pass by without lingering. It’s when you linger on those thoughts that they can lodge in your mind and cause real anxiety and distress. That’s something I, for one, am anxious to avoid.