timid of the normal world
The past seven & a half years have been a very interesting journey through which I’ve experienced intensely low periods of depression & powerfully elevated periods of hypomania. The concept of euthymia is as new to me as the term itself: euthymia refers to a normal, non-depressed, reasonably positive, relatively stable mood. It is a mood that is within the normal range of emotions, rather than experiencing deep lows or intense highs that can be disabling.
When I begin transitioning into a euthymic state, I experience the world so differently than life during my episodes. Acclimating to foreign perceptions & reintegrating into society can be extremely difficult & uncomfortable. The following tale describes some feelings experienced during the transition.
my first venture onto the shore of healthy minds
Washed upon the shore for the first time in my life, I survey my surroundings, perplexed by the quiet peace filling the air. Because I’ve spent so long in survival mode, I truly don’t know what to do with myself now that I’ve found shore. I never imagined what dry ground might look like, & now that I’m here I have no idea how to conduct myself or what to search for. I must adapt to an entirely new way of living.
But I can’t stand. I am too weak from my time at sea to support my body on these two sticks we call legs. My sea legs cause me to stumble the first few times I attempt walking, but soon I adjust to the motion. After great effort, I finally rise to my feet. It feels so strangely different from flailing in the water, kicking my legs & waving my arms in a desperate attempt to stay afloat enough to breathe.
For so long I struggled to stay afloat in the thrashing waves at sea, its walls constantly attempting to destroy me, crashing around & into me ruthlessly, its sound of terror the only noise I could ever hear. But here, the sound of the wind brushing past me & the distant crashing of the waves is soothing. Here, people aren’t struggling simply to survive. Here people throw beach balls around casually, laughter occasionally erupting from the group. The sound catches me off-guard; it’s unfamiliar & makes me feel uncomfortable at first. What is this sound & why are they making it? How can I make it too? It seems so pleasant. Though unfamiliar with such practices, it seems appealing, so I attempt to stand, hoping to join in their merriment.
Sand, something I’ve never seen nor experienced before, burns my tender feet, their grainy ridges feeling like spikes against my soft skin. I step back into the soft, wet sand & heave a sigh of relief. This is comfortable, familiar, acceptable, doable. But walking on that hot sand seems insurmountable, a pain not worth the effort. I’ve lived without laughter & community all this time; why must I approach it now?
So I sit on the shore alone. I gather seaweed & make necklaces & a small fort with a nearby log. I find a stick & trace things in the sand. I enjoy my time alone, relieved from the battles of the sea, finally able to obtain some sense of peace.
Over time, however, I continue observing the beach go-ers. Their time appears so blissful & filled with great things, such as smiles & hugs—things I’ve never experienced. What have I been missing out on all this time? I once again address the hot sand, so threatening & unappealing. Cringing, I set foot on it. I quickly take more steps. It doesn’t become less uncomfortable but I brave it nonetheless. My wobbly legs slowly take me towards the alluring sound, my toes curling as I walk, so unfamiliar with the texture & temperature of this new concept of hot sand.
Once I reach the people, I introduce myself in hopes of joining in their jolly fun. But they cringe as soon as I tell them I’m from the sea. Their faces suddenly alter into something less welcoming—less friendly & accepting. They think I smell badly & interact oddly, so they leave my presence & continue their fun elsewhere.
I quickly walk away, back to the comfort of my wet sand. Am I really that different just because I didn’t discover the shore when they did? Or did they never leave the shore? Have they been here this whole time while I was attempting to survive a devastating storm? Has this beautiful beach been their reality all along while mine has been dark & destructive since the second I entered the real world?
Something in me begins to hate them. I loathe their normalcy, their utter bliss, their charming smiles & laughter as if there wasn’t a care in the world. I envy their realities. How do I relate to their sunshiney days when I have seen so few? How do I set aside the memories that never leave my thoughts to be a better listener & someone that doesn’t immediately pass judgment? How do I pretend that their problems are relevant when mine seem ten times taller? How can I hide the dark portions of myself that have repeatedly been rejected by others? How can I join in their laughter when the tears within my heart never leave? How do I explain where I’ve been & how I got here without overwhelming them with my story of the storm & all the horrors I’ve seen at sea?
Too overwhelmed by unanswered questions, I remain alone in my fort on the shore with no residual desire to venture onto the beach.