What is Normal?

Normality. During recovery, that was something I longed for. I’d grown up happy and healthy, and to me, these struggles I was facing aged 14 day after day didn’t seem ‘normal’ to me. I looked at my friends who enjoyed food and enjoyed life and wished I could do that too.

At the time, I was in the grips of an Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa. This Eating Disorder made every minute of every day of my life such a battle during recovery. Every time I looked in the mirror, I battled the thoughts of ‘I need to lose weight’. Every time I sat down for a meal/snack, I battled the thoughts of ‘I shouldn’t be eating this’. Every time I was alone in my room, I battled the thoughts of ‘I need to burn off as many calories as possible right now’.

But it wasn’t just about food and weight. Yes, having an ED brings those struggles, but life in general was a struggle too. I felt sad, anxious, self-conscious, hopeless. Each day, I was fighting to get through life – not living it like a ‘normal’ person.

I was 14 at the time and life was hard. When I was growing up, I honestly didn’t expect to have to go through something like this as a young teenager. But I did.

Looking back, life consisted of things that not every teenage girl experiences. Twice weekly weigh-ins, weekly bloods, meal plans, supervised meal times, supervised activity, home tuition, hospital appointments. Recovery took over my life – at a stage, I didn’t really have much of a life outside my ED recovery. And while that wasn’t pleasant at the time, now, I’m so grateful for that part of my life – not the part where my ED crept in, but the part where I pushed the ED away. You see, had I kept living the way I was before recovery and my ED hadn’t been fought against, I honestly don’t know what life would look like today – but I don’t think it would have been good at all.

As I mentioned earlier, during recovery I looked at my friends and I wished I could live like them. Going out for ice-cream spontaneously, sharing a packet of sweets without counting how many they’d eaten, being happy. I saw that as ‘normal’ and I wanted to be that sort of ‘normal’.

The thing is though, ‘normal’ is a word that is pretty hard to describe. The definition of ‘normal’ is ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected’. However, everyone’s ‘normal’ life is different. I assume my day to day life is quite different to my next door neighbour’s life, my friends’ lives, and all the people’s lives who live across the globe. We all have different meanings and understandings of ‘normal’.

When in recovery, when I had a moment of ‘I just want to be normal!’, I sometimes tried to ask myself – but what is normal? And now looking back, I’ve realised something – in every person’s day to day life, their ‘normal’ will change.

When I was born in 1998, my normal life was very different to what it was in 2011 (the year before I developed my ED). Then in 2012 (when I was diagnosed), my ‘normal’ changed again – and now in 2018, it’s changed yet again. And I honestly don’t know the amount of times ‘normal’ for me has changed since 1998 to 2018.

What I’m getting at here, is that, ‘normal’ is a very variable word. But what I learnt during recovery is that everyone is different. Everyone is unique, individual and themselves. When I longed to have a life that I thought would be an easier one to live, at the time that seemed like a nicer option, but I wouldn’t then have experienced the things I have experienced; and that means I wouldn’t be who I am today. Recovering from Anorexia Nervosa was so tough, but has given me opportunities and new passions and has made me who I am today. My ‘normal’ today is different to what it was pre-ED – not necessarily ‘better’ or ‘worse’…different. I was 13 then, I’m 20 now. Life has changed, time has moved on – but I am in a very content place to be in control of my ED instead of it controlling me and dictating how I should live my life.

I very much believe that everything happens for a reason and everyone’s life has a purpose and plan. This is something I once found a struggle to accept, and while that belief doesn’t take away the difficulties that people experience, I firmly stand by it because everything we experience makes us into the people we are.

So, while ‘normality’ is something we may sometimes wish for – remember that ‘normal’ is a very changeable word. And if you think sometime ‘I wish I were living their life’ – stop and think…no. Firstly, you generally don’t know every little detail about another person’s life; and secondly, if you were living their life, who would be living yours? You are your own self and your ‘normal’ is so unique and individual to you!

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