What Is Normal Anyway?


This week has been great. I got to talk to Mendy Brockman on the phone for a good while, and then I also met an online paraplegic friend and his sweet family at Cracker Barrel. One of the things that Mendy talked to me about, and one of the things that Michael and I were talking about at lunch is this word “normal”. Michael and I are only about 5 months apart in our injury’s and Mendy is brand new. Normal definitely has a new definition now.

So, what is normal? When do you feel normal again? When can life get back to normal? Is normal ever possible? Will others ever see me as normal? How come normal is so important to me? I hope to tackle these questions from my perspective and help you see into our minds and why these questions mean so much to us.

When I first became paralyzed, everything changed!! I have already talked about much of that, but what I wanted more than anything was just to feel normal again! The person that I was am is still the same! My opinions, my thoughts, my pride, my habits, my mannerisms….they were all the same. I just had one problem…this new body just continually got in my way! If I have opinions about what I want to do, well…there are a lot of other opinions of “can I or should I?” Those conversations never happened before! If I like my privacy and modesty…well, you can forget about that! You have no pride or decency by the time you get through the hospital and therapy. My habits were put to a stop….or at least they had to be done a whole new way! My daily routines were just shot. Foreign terms like bladder care, bowel program, shower chair, and spasms now became my new routines. I had this inside person that I was, but the mirror of my new daily life ruined that image. Can I just feel and be normal again? That is a very real question!

Here is what I have concluded:

  •  Normal changes regularly for everyone.

My normal of Monday is not the same normal as Monday. My normal of rainy days are not the same as sunny days. My normal of vacation is different from normal of the school year. If that is the case, then I have to come to peace with the fact that the normal of able-bodied people is different from the normal of paralyzed people. Normal is foreign terms that are now very familiar. Normal is receiving other people’s opinions who love me and care for my safety (receiving – not necessarily obeying). Normal has changed for me and I must learn to accept that.

  • Normal is what you make it.

I will never be the “normal” I was before I became paralyzed. My life will never be the way it was. My marriage will never be what it was. My motherhood will never be what it was. My housekeeping skills will never be what they were. My health will never be what it was. My way of doing the simple things of life will never be like it was. So, what do you do about that? Cry? Scream? Pout? Get in bed and never leave it? No, I don’t think so. You make a new normal. It takes awhile, but before you know it, those things that are hard and frustrating become your new routine. Life becomes very daily and with that comes that feeling of normal. This does not make me abnormal. It makes me very normal. I am just a normal paraplegic. That is one of the most encouraging things about meeting other paralyzed people. We are all living this new normal…and it is very, very normal for us.

  • You help me feel normal.

When I am around people who hug on me and cry and feel so pitiful for my situation, it does not make me feel normal! It makes me feel different and weird. It makes me feel like I am making you sad, and that is not what I do to people! When I am around people who constantly talk about my wheelchair (unless you are also paralyzed) and seem a little stalkish about my disability, then I do not feel normal. I feel like you need my drama more than I do. When I am around people who stare at me as I roll through a store, or transfer in and out of my chair, or look me over as I wheel past them, then I feel like I am a freak of nature or something. Let me say right here that I do not mind children doing this as they are naturally curious and so open-hearted. But adults…..they should know better. I don’t feel normal when everyone insists that I can or shouldn’t do things. I said earlier that I need to be open to receive these comments, but I have not lost my mind or common sense. I will make the final decision for me because I am a grown up. I will talk about this later in another post, but I know better than anyone else what I can or cannot do. When you caudle or baby me then it does not make me feel normal! It makes me feel like a little dependent child who is surrounded by parents.

How can you help us feel normal? Treat me like you did before we became paralyzed. Let me be me. Don’t mother us, baby us, dramatize over us or pity us. Tease me, laugh with me, invite me over to your house….even if you have steps. We will figure it out together and in the process, lots of giggles and memories will be made. Just ask my closest friends. 🙂

Normal will come. Normal is here. It is not what it used to be, and it always is raw. I still have a very hard time looking at old pictures where I am walking. It is just too….overwhelming. But, we have taken many new pictures and I am very comfortable in my new body.

I am…and always will be…normal. My kind of “take it one day at a time and it becomes a new normal”. Which leads to the title. What is normal anyway? The answer is…me!

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