My new normal
I’ve pinched this title from a magazine article I was reading this morning as it so resonated with me. The article was about a lady who had suffered a brain haemorrhage and had been in a coma. Albeit slowly, her physical recovery improved but as the month’s passed she struggled with how different she had become. How going to bed one day as ‘the old her’ and waking up as somebody very different left her feeling exhausted, miserable, angry and very sorry for herself.
I get this completely. I haven’t suffered a brain injury or been in a coma but I do know what it’s like to suffer with mental illness and emerge from it as a different person. And learning to accept that I am not, and will probably never be, the same person I was before, has all been part of the healing process for me.
The 3 ‘A’s
So what tools have I used to help me with this healing process, and in dealing with life’s challenges as they rear up to meet me? Well, I use my go-to three A’s.
This too shall pass
I have learnt to treat physical and mental illness in exactly the same way (as they should be treated – without stigma). I have an undiagnosed bladder condition and on the outside when I have a flare up, there’s nothing to see, I look normal. On the inside I’m in incredible discomfort and it takes a physical and mental toll on my mind and body. It’s easy to spiral into the ‘why me’s’ but just like with my mental health, I have learnt to ride the wave. It’s not ideal, it’s not what I want for myself, but it’s my ‘new normal’.
I now accept that this will pass, nothing is permanent, but in fact ever-changing. I am Aware of the feelings it creates, I pay Attention to them and I try to be really gentle with myself at this time (Acceptance). I rest, drink loads of water, practice the ways of being that I know will minimise the discomfort and I understand that as long as there is no diagnosis for me, this is my normal – not anyone else’s (they are all dealing with their own ‘normals’) – but mine, mine to be aware of, mine to accept and mine to live with. Rising up against it and trying to fight it with frustration and anger is just wasted energy that I could channel elsewhere.
And, exactly the same goes for my mental health. It would be very easy when difficult feelings close in to get angry with my brain for feeling this way but I know my triggers now, I feel the feelings coming on, I am aware and head off what I can from the moment I feel them arising. And the rest, well, I know I can deal with them if I accept and ride the wave, knowing this too shall pass. In the meantime, I am gentle with myself, I journal, I meditate, I walk, I rest, I gently exercise and it makes the waves so much easier to ride.
What mindfulness has taught me
Above all, I accept the ‘new me’, the ‘new normal’. There are things I’d rather not have to deal with and still do, but they have shaped me. Mindfulness has taught me to lead a much more present, richer life. I appreciate the everyday. I have calming techniques to rise to challenges I never thought possible, I have met some wonderfully authentic, beautiful people on my journey and I know myself so much better now. My ‘new normal’ is a wiser, more open version of my ‘old normal’. Open to new experiences, new ways of being and living a deeply connected life rather than skimming the surface as I was before.
What’s normal anyway?
Life is rich in experiences, good and bad, but the difficult experiences can help shape our relationships with ourselves for the better if we allow love and kindness in. And if we are prepared to do the work of discovery we can find the path to our new normal, to healing and to wellness. After all, what’s normal anyway?
My new normal, In the Moment magazine, Issue 32, Dec 2019