the no normal

About This Blog

The No Normal: it does what it says on the tin.


The No Normal is where I blog about a ragtag and raucous range of discordant subjects, broadly-associated-with and roughly-in-the-region-of the enormous topic of mental health. What precisely this means is unclear, even to me.

There is no Normal to this blog because Normal – its maxims and mores, its expectations and tyrannies, its judgements and punishments, its reductions and its all-round watchfulness – has historically figured as the number one obstacle when it has come to my living a happy and fulfilling life.

Not that ‘happy’ and ‘fulfilling’ are concepts I set much stock by.

Here I will be looking into what it takes to live authentically, whether that means fitting in with what is generally considered Normal, ‘happy’, ‘fulfilling’, or not. Or, for that matter, whether that authenticity leads you to be ‘successful’ or not. Following many, many years cowed by the weight of my own ‘mental health issues’ (seriously, the field really needs an injection of vocabulary), I feel that I have a certain insight not only into what works and what doesn’t, but in, simply, what it is like. What it is like to live day-in and day-out with a something-something which makes that living feel impossible. With a something-something which yells and screams, wrings and wrenches; with a something-something which will do anything to keep you squarely stuck inside a space of shame. This blog will probably not be a blog of solutions, but it will be one of empathy.

I have always wished to be able to write clearly about mental health: to write, as it were, in the manner of an exposé. Now that I am finally getting down to it however I can see that this will likely remain an unfulfilled ambition. It is not the vulnerability of doing this which scares me – although that, too (it’s the specifics you see, the specifics which continue to exert a stranglehold upon complete openness with others) – it’s the fact that, when it comes to suffering, to the relentlessness of it, the ineffability of it, more often than not there are simply no words. The experience remains obscure because the experience is non-, or pre-, linguistic. It is not in the mind. It is in the body.

That is why years of talking therapy did not help.

Let’s say then that rather than looking-into, rather even than looking-at, issues in the field of mental health, I will be being-with it. I will be being-with the pain and the grief and the rage and the shame; I will be being-with the recovery, the lack of recover, the fear of no recovery. I will be being-with the suspicion that what one has is what one is; I will be being-with the understanding that the opposite is also and equally true. I am not what I do. And yet, What am I but what I do?

In other words, this blog will be a being-with days, and a being-in them. For as they say, days are what we live in.

Unavoidably, this means that this blog will also be taking in the sorts of thing I fill my days with. With my thoughts and musings; with reflections on what I have read or seen; with expositions of encounters. With what matters most to me at present, having in the last year quit my teaching job and moved from Malaysia back to the UK in order to set up in a new city: the question of change. Of change, when you are no longer young. Of the chaos which that change can be felt to be. Of the opportunity of it, the potential disaster of it, the recklessness of it. Of the justifiability of it – or not. Of the needs behind it – needs which have become so loud and pressing they can no longer be overridden. I am interested in how a person might embark upon a creative life when she has spent a quarter of a century burying that creativity. Why burying? To be Normal, of course. To be Good. To be what they wanted you to be.

That is why there is no more Normal.

Being creative and living authentic needn’t mean being anything spectacular. That is one of the most difficult lessons to learn. The No Normal is not about becoming successful. It’s about coming to terms with failure, and understanding why that failure is no failure at all. It is about ordinariness. It is about the mundane. It is about the agony of that – and the necessity of it. It is about embracing everything that is, being aware of it, and that – the awareness – being enough.

Needless to say, this blog will probably be updated at Highly Irregular intervals.