In Pursuit of a Normal Life

“I know this sounds strange, but all I want is a normal life.” That bumper-sticker sentiment captures the yearning of many patients. It sounds straightforward. It’s not. What is “normal”? What is it about a normal life that patients want?

Trying to wrap my mind around what “normal” means gives me a headache. Just for starters, to “be normal” (i.e., common, typical, expected) refers to something different than to “feel normal.” In addition, what’s normal for you is different than for me. Even for you, your “normal” today is different than it was years ago.

Here’s one way to think about what it means for life to feel normal: things feel normal when your expectations, for the most part, match what’s actually happening in your life, and when your routines help you through. In contrast, if you experience a distressing change in your reality (such as losing a limb or losing your life partner) a sense of surreality may cushion the blow as you begin to process what happened. That’s good…unless the feeling persists long-term. Why? Because people need normalcy to engage effectively in life as it is.

In the pursuit of Healthy Survivorship, an understanding of what it means to you to have a sense of normal helps, as does knowing how to achieve a sense of normal after traumatic change. In future posts, I’ll address steps Healthy Survivors take to help life feel normal again.   

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