I’ve managed to survive it all though, even if I do have my quirks and idiosyncrasies. I’ve been known to count the socks in the draw occasionally to make sure the washing machine hasn’t eaten them all, and checked the front door 4 or 5 times to make sure it’s locked before I go out. I have shades of OCD in my habits, but nothing that I can’t keep a lid on. Anxiety can be a problem, but then, when you live in a body that has no pituitary and produces no cortisol – the stress hormone – anxiety will be a part of the condition rather than the end result.
I have a reasonably normal life, despite my family history. I hold no grudge towards a familial genetic predisposition towards madness. My endocrine illness, however, is entirely left field and no other known living or dead relative can lay claim to a brain tumour or a subsequently rare medical condition. I should feel rather special, but I’d rather have more eccentricities than you can poke a stick at than a brain tumour any day.
I consider myself lucky enough to have lived my life with these people though. It has allowed me to see that there are no guarantees in life in how you are going to turn out, and has exacerbated just how ridiculous the myth of normalcy really is.
I had an interesting childhood, that’s for sure. Nothing too crazy, but just enough left wing to make me realise that I was always going to be different. My father never stood still. He was constantly on the go, and had many conversations about many different things. He was hard to keep up with. He was constantly talking and shifting from foot to foot ceaselessly. He never concentrated on anything that didn’t interest him for long though. He excelled at sports, good times, drinking, and impatience. He has never grown out of it, and never grown up. Today he would be diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder. He also had a couple of older relatives that he’s picked up a few tips from.
My brother was a different beast. He played on his own, he talked to himself. He was so smart he could remember entire pages of documents on recall. He had a few friends but remained happy with his own company, becoming increasingly paranoid over the years. Sometimes he would be outrageously manic and in your face, other times he would be fully immersed in a deep depression. You never knew where you stood. My brother was diagnosed a manic-depressive. He leads a reasonably normal life and holds down a job. As long as nobody bothers him, he is fine.
My grandmother, who came to live with us when I was 6 years old, was a strange mixture of daftness and clarity when the mood suited her. She liked to have a punt on the horses, and could pick a winner at a hundred paces, but she would store the milk in the cupboards and the sugar in the fridge. She washed the floor with green cordial sugar concentrate one day because she thought it was disinfectant. There was no clue in her feet sticking to the floor at all. It took us a week to get the ants out of the place.
My mother was reasonably normal, but I’m pretty sure that she has had little joy over the years and carries the scars of a painful childhood inside. I have never seen my mother cry, but I have seen her take great pleasure in outwitting my father in their later years, who is no match for her quick intellect.
My son, bless his loving nature and good heart, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was distressing at first, but not surprising. We have gotten through it and now he manages his illness successfully. More successfully perhaps than any of his predecessors have handled their mental maladies. Throughout it all he has retained the family dry wit and buys himself T-shirts that proclaim to the world that ‘his voices have better ideas than he does.’
Me? Well I manage to find solace in the fact that there is more suffering and mental anguish in the world than I have been privy to in my lifetime. I am luckier than some, not so lucky as others. I may not see the bright side of every situation, but I’m not meant to. I can look at the world without expecting or wanting sameness and saneness. I see the irony, the bizarre and the quirkiness that I have become used to, and I’m more comfortable with that.
There is no truth in the normalcy of life or living the societal dream, because a dream is based on what is normal for one life at a time and how it is experienced.