The Temptation to be ‘Normal’ when Things are Going Well

A couple of weeks ago I was doing really well. I’d settled into a great routine in my new home including walking the dogs daily, which seemed to be doing me the world of good. Then I had a really busy week which threw my routines out. At first, I seemed to be coping so well without them that I slipped in to believing that with just a little extra attention to rest, I could be ‘normal’.

I had some training for some remote work that could take the stress away from me trying to support myself with my business. It’s something I can easily do from home in my own time, so it’s absolutely ideal and I saw it as a way to free myself up to enjoy my mission without the pressure of having to make it cover all the bills. But first I needed to get through 2 short days of training (9.30am – 2pm). I was able to get lifts to the venue and there were only 12 of us so it wasn’t too noisy or overwhelming, so all good. But then I had to fit the minimum possible of my business work into my day too. I’d also not quite managed to get all the vegetable seedlings that I’d brought, planted and I felt a pressure to get them in before they died. I paced well, having lots of rests and doing things in small chunks, but I completely overestimated the total amount I could do in a day.  The two days after the training I kept my business work to a minimum and had lots of extra rests, but I was still getting the veg plot set up. It seemed to be working though, I seemed to be keeping just on top of my energy management.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came from a desire for normalcy. I was still in a handover period with my friends who own the cottage I’ll be looking after for the next few months while they’re traveling. It was Friday night and they were going to the local bar, a perfectly normal thing to do on a Friday night. Although I knew I couldn’t keep up with them, I couldn’t resist the temptation to go for just one. If they hadn’t been going, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to add something like that to a busy week, but I’d been coping, I’d been getting by, my life had felt pretty normal! I went, I had one drink and I enjoyed a peaceful and quiet walk back with the dogs.

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a bus! Yup I crashed! Really not surprising, but so disappointing after having experienced that enticing sense of normalcy. To be honest, along with the usual low mood that accompanies a crash came a fresh wave of grief for the fact that actually I’m still not really well. My high functioning well-being is dependent on a strict routine of healthy living practices and careful pacing. I haven’t reached a stage of being relatively normal and just needing a little extra rest. I’m an expert at outsmarting this illness, at having a great life despite it, but the illness is still there and if I take my eye off the ball it lets me know!

The Temptation to be Normal when Things are Going WellI’ve acknowledged and accepted that grief, offering myself compassion to allow it to flow and I’ve moved swiftly back to that place of acceptance for what my life is. I went into recuperation mode on Saturday and after 3 days of doing very little, apart from making myself as comfortable as possible while I wait for the worst to pass, I started coming out of my crash (fortunately my friend was able to walk the dogs while I rested).

This temptation to be normal, and to believe you don’t have to be so careful, can be a very regular visitor when you’re doing well. Mostly I recognise it and manage not to give in to it. This time I didn’t, but at least I now have fresh evidence for how much my routines support me and I’m freshly motivated to get back to my highly structured life. OK, so it’s not a normal life, but I know how to make it a life that I love!

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5 thoughts on “The Temptation to be ‘Normal’ when Things are Going Well”

  1. I’m very sorry you felt so bad Julie, but you really are a marvel. You knew exactly what to do to make the dip much shorter and you have your evidence for next time not to overdo things. Hopefully your dip has passed and you are back in the saddle with all the things you know work for you and help you lead the most normal life. What is normal anyway? xx

  2. Oh, Julie, I soooo understand this! I was also reminded this week how far I am from normal – not but voluntarily doing too much but just an avalanche of unexpected stresses, pressures, and crises that left me completely wiped out.

    That desire to just be normal is so strong! I see that it’s even harder for my 24-year old son, who has never (not since age 10) had a chance to be normal. I also learned long ago (as he had only recently) that I can’t tolerate even one drink 🙁 Funny that I am reading this today because I was just thinking last night how nice it would be to be able to have one drink. I have no desire to ever get drunk again like in my wild college days, but I would love to be able to have a glass of wine with dinner or sit at a bar and have a beer with my husband.

    I can so relate – very well-written. Hoping you rest and recover quickly. This life of caution can be difficult to stick with at times, but it does work.

    Thinking of you –

    Sue

    Living with ME/CFS

    • Thank you Sue, It’s so nice to connect with people who experience similar things and understand! Sorry to hear that you had to deal with an avalanche of the unexpected! It’s even harder sometimes, when we didn’t actually get to choose what knocked us back. I so feel for your oldest too, to not be able to experience what people of his age are experiencing.

      I have a love/ hate relationship with my routines and self-care, but I try to focus on the love part as much as I can, they do help me have as much of a life as I can have!

  3. I had a relatively good year and then every thing crashed, I was so upset. I wanted my normal back! I. know now that my new normal is now my normal. Thanks for all the positive ways to find comfort.

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