The Five Faces of "Normal"

Patient Expert

On Jan 6, I will be giving a webinar, “The Five Faces of Normal,” hosted by the International Bipolar Foundation.

“Normal” is a major theme to my new book, NOT JUST UP AND DOWN: UNDERSTANDING MOOD IN BIPOLAR DISORDER. According to the blurb for the webinar:

"Normal" is the most overlooked manifestation of bipolar disorder … It’s not enough to assume that once people get their bipolar under control they can simply navigate their way back to normal. Especially if no one has any concept what normal is supposed to look like.

Here are what my five faces look like:

Those lucid intervals between mood episodes.

In this context, "normal" refers to a symptom-free state, or a relative lack of symptoms. Not too "up," not too "down." Goldilocks. Just right.

But what if we don't necessarily want to be normal?

Exuberant behavior that might otherwise be considered hypomanic.

Too often, our doctors and the people around us confuse hypomania with exuberance. For instance, dancing on tables may be perfectly normal for one person (exuberance) and completely out of character for another (hypomania).

Thinking deep behavior, which may look like depression.

Those with depressive temperaments tend to be both deep-thinkers and hard-headed realists, which can be extremely beneficial personality traits. Yes, being upbeat is a lot more fun, but mild depression is home for a good many people and needs to be honored.

Not necessarily a safe harbor.

Residual symptoms can wreak havoc in our lives, even when we are technically in remission. Also, if fear and anger govern our lives, even “normal” is going to be frightening.

Hardly an ideal.

“Normal” is a mean, a statistical average. History is not written by the chronically normal. Too often, our clinicians and the people around us want us to conform to their own restricted versions of “normal.” But if we are naturally exuberant people or deep thinkers or both, our normal is going to look a lot different than theirs.

Wrapping it up …

Lot’s of stuff to think about.

To purchase the ebook version of NOT JUST UP AND DOWN, click here.

For the paperback version, click here.