Saturday, March 06, 2010

Am I Normal?

Paperdoll commented that ?she (?he-- do paperdolls have gender?) likes posts about "normal."

The quick answer is: No, you're not normal! Normal people don't call themselves "paper doll." Normal people also don't write blogs called "Shrink Rap" or post photos of their feet all over the internet.

I'm a psychiatrist and people ask me all the time "Is that normal?" or worse, "Am I normal?"
And we start with a semantic disconnect here: I equate "Normal" with "Booooring!" and would gladly wear a pin that says "Why Be Normal?" Like Why? What is normal? Why would anyone aspired to that. Normal is an IQ of 100, corn flakes for break fast and tuna fish for lunch (ok, I like tuna)..normal entails conforming to some exact mediocre standard. Why would you want to be Normal. Please don't call me normal (I think I don't have too worry too much here).

To my patients, however, "Am I normal?" doesn't mean Am I normal, it means "Please tell me I'm not crazy." You're not crazy. Okay, Paperdoll, I don't know you, and I don't know what crazy means to you, but there's probably a good shot you're not crazy. And I am definitely not crazy. Oh, yeah, I'm a psychiatrist and I'm not supposed to use the word crazy. Okay, you're normal.

So sometimes I'm told that I'm too normal to be a psychiatrist. Oh, all the Shrink Rappers---believe it or not--- kind of "look" normal....except for ClinkShrink who has started acting like Spiderman while she repels off steep cliffs. Apparently-- or so I'm told-- psychiatrists don't look normal.

Where am I going with this? And why? Is this kind of bloggy discourse normal?


Battle Weary said...

Normal is a setting on the washing machine!

moviedoc said...

Normal probably = boring + plain. I'm not normal. Don't want to be normal. And I'm only crazy part of the time. I'd be worried about a psychiatrist who thought she was normal.

Do we want to say normal = healthy, ie not sick?

What % of the US population has NO malady whatsoever at a given point in time? No aches, pains, bruises, scratches, scars (Do they count?), blemishes, dysfunction, dyspepsia, itches, worries, or fungus?

Anonymous said...

What you do off cliffs is spelled rappel.

The Alienist said...

I usually take a different tack on the problem of "normal." "Normal" does not mean "average." Average would indeed be boring. Instead, I take "normal" to mean, "am I like other people?" This can easily lead to a conversation about which group the person is comparing themselves to.

For example, if a patient asked me if cutting herself was normal, I would probably respond that it is not normal for most of the population, but it is common in some with particular illnesses.

Also, for what it's worth, I think normal people can be very fun and quite interesting. It's very normal to be a little weird.

Lockup Doc said...

After working as a psychiatrist with all walks of life for enough years, I have even less idea what "normal" means now than I did in the beginning. And that's what I tell patients when they ask me about whether they're normal(although I often reassure them that they're not "crazy"--the definition of this word is debatable, too). Funny thing is, I don't even care what "normal" means any more. Does that sound normal?

Anonymous said...

Normal in this context means:
"Is my mental state consistent with the mainstream, or am I mentally unstable and thus unable to assimilate with mainstream society?"

There is no point in dancing around the subject. The fact of the matter is that some people have unbalanced mental states and thus do not fit in with mainstream society. When I am depressed, get off my shift and cry in my car on the way home, when I find it impossible to do anything, that's not normal, and I am not normal.

When I stay up all night and feel powerful and euphoric and hyper and don't want to stop working and the world starts to look like art, and I feel so alive like flying, in tune to everything, I would say that probably isn't normal either and if I told people how I felt they would tell me I was crazy. So I don't tell them and I try to hide it.

No point in pretending like "we are all just lovely shades of uniqueness, LOL!" because the fact is that normal people don't fall into depression hell for weeks and think of killing themselves, and I"m also pretty sure most normal people don't look like they are on drugs when they don't sleep, so I really see no point in saying this is normal.

I'm not trying to say "OH WOE IS ME" but I really don't like the lawyerly discussion of the word "normal". Let's call a spade a spade, the moods that have controlled my life are not normal and set me apart from normal people.

itsjustme said...

You have a great sense of humor, Dinah! I was wondering if your patients see that side of you. I'm asking because my shrink has the best poker face ever! I find this to be a little frustrating. I've made some funny comments (They weren't inappropriate.)and there's no response whatsoever except for one time she did stifle a laugh, so I know she does have a sense of humor. I just don't understand why she doesn't show any personality.

Dinah said...

Thank you, itsjustme. I will tell my teenagers that you said I have the "great"!!! sense of humor.

Most of my patients at least kind of get my sense of humor (I tell them it's not a good sign if they're laughing at my jokes).

Roy said...

probably the blank slate thing.

itsjustme said...

Roy, you're absolutely right about the blank slate thing. I get it and I'm fine with it to a point. I don't want to know about her personal life but it would help me to open up if I saw some personality. She asked me once if I sensor myself when I speaking to her and I absolutely do. She's very formal so I speak to her as I would a business associate and I feel that some topics that I need to discuss wouldn't be "proper". Whereas, if we had a different rapport, I probably would feel more comfortable opening up. Don't get me wrong, she's been great. She's helped me a lot. I just wish she's laugh at my stupid jokes!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's your delivery. LOL.

itsjustme said...

Could be. I'll work on it! :-)

moviedoc said...

Watched Mask again last night. At the end you see a sign in Rocky's bedroom: "Why be normal?"

Another film that informs about the irrelevance of normal: Transamerica

Katie said...

For the first time in a while, you hit it right one. your patients are not asking if they are normal, they are looking for reassurance that they are not crazy.

thanks for the reminder that "normal" does not necessarily equal "not crazy" or even (relatively) "mentally healthy."

Sarebear said...

I'm worried that my new psychiatrist is a bit TOOOOO wacky, and I haven't even met her yet (two days and counting) although from what I saw and heard of her in the three hours it took me to fill out the new patient info packet (the most thorough ever and nothing wacky in it), and I'd already written out my psych meds history so the 3 hours doesn't even include THAT, anyway, I'm worried she's not normal ENOUGH, lol. Not that I'd want the bland boring you describe, but I think I'd prefer the really nice lady that I got on the phone one time in a fairly recent post I made describing my search for a new psychiatrist, where she was not taking new patients but heard my discouragement and encouraged me to keep going. She was the nicest most helpful turn-down I'd ever gotten, lol.

I'd go on a waiting list for her, that's for sure. She actually, in the couple of minutes I talked to her, seemed to remind me of you, Dinah, not that I've ever talked to YOU, but . . . just seemed to remind me of how you want to help your patients, you you want to work with them and stuff. At least, how you've described. At least, as much of a sense of a person as you get in 3-4 minutes, which isn't alot. But there was something about her that reminded me of you, and maybe it was her kindness, in part, I don't know.

Anyway, that got off-track, lol.

The type of practice my new shrink is at, if I don't get scared off, well, let's say the other shrink there has some stuff listed under him that I'm not comfortable with.

Although the practice's philosophy would lead me to believe that they wouldn't force anyone down any path they aren't comfortable with . . . . let's say the practice is rather, um, New Agey . . . um, yeah.

Then again last time it took me 6 months to find one, this time, less than a week. Then again, the fact that the practice has a different, er, feel . . . may be why they are taking new patients, whereas so many others are not. Lol. So we'll see . . . .

Two days. And my first time with a woman shrink, sort of. Had one as a sub for the first while he was suspended for a couple months, saw her only once or twice tho. Did NOT like her much. This one seems alot friendlier, from what I saw and heard of her in the three hours I was there. Also being of such a different racial makeup than mine may help (since I have issues, having been beaten by woman when I was younger).

Still wish my new shrink was more "normal" tho, but then again her being so different might be good, I dunno. Eeeeee.

Paperdoll said...

My comments were just late night ramblings of a tired, studied out brain. I am sitting my Path boards shortly and the concept of "what's normal" is a big thing in my genre. It's just that what is normal changes with each classification system and that's tissue on a glass slide! Imagine if it could talk and move around like a real patient (then the difficulty with classification will really be on). Normal, average, mean, mode, median for numerical data seem OK to me (raised cholesterol, reduced renal function, thin melanoma) but not for human behaviour. Behaviour is not static either, that kind of throws a classification system too.

I never did once meet "Mr Average" the guy they told us about in medical school, he weighs 70kg!

Paperdoll is tongue in cheek. It's my take on Sarebear's "Pluto: size doesn't matter" I may look insignificant and that I might blow away, but there is sterner stuff in there. It's just an internet name.

I shall take "there's probably a good shot you're not crazy" as a vote of confidence, but I don't specifically seek it. Just throwing some comments out there, on a topic, that I am currently immersed in.

Great site.

PS: Mrs. Average probably doesn't run a psychiatry blog either. They never mentioned this in any detail but I'm, guessing, it's someone a standard deviation or two further along the bell curve.

S said...

Funny, it appears my current shrink and i have got our roles reversed. He's concerned about what he sees as my excessive level of anxiety, which for me is normal. Not ideal, certainly, and not average if for instance viewed in the context of some population, rather than the context of my own life. But for me, actually being able to feel the anxiety to its full extent (and simultaneously get on with my life) is an improvement over where i've been. Maybe sometime in the future i'll hit another plateau and want to reduce the anxiety. For now it's like, What's the big deal?

(By the way, that's not why i'm seeing a shrink; i was being medicated for depression, and i moved and found the current doctor. The anxiety is obviously related to the other issues but is not a major concern for me.)

To me, the more relevant question is, How well am i coping?

Alienist, i had to smile at your comment. When i was eighteen i'd cut myself in response to just about anything; it wasn't a particularly good coping method, but any one-self injurious act wouldn't have been cause for too much concern at that time. Whereas, if i did it now, it would be a regression, that is, super not normal.

Anonymous said...

i have a psych diagnosis, take meds, sometimes end up in hospital but, i return phone calls, visit people when they are sick, remember birthdays and honestly, that is a lot more than i can say for some normal people i know. so i like to think that i am the normal one and other people have a problem.