I’m Not Normal
By Lilly Larregui
Trigger warnings: panic attacks, bullying, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, severe panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder
Do you know what it’s like to live your life never feeling normal? I do. I remember when I was young, no older than 6 or 7 years, and I threw up in the middle of the street while talking to a neighbor; a relative of mine hollered, “WHY CAN’T YOU BE NORMAL LIKE OTHER KIDS?” As I sat crying, wondering what exactly I could do to fix myself (I was a sickly child, with no doctor or specialist knowing what was wrong), I began to feel less than adequate.
Because I was often absent from class, when I had to use the restroom my teacher wouldn’t allow it, publicly shaming me for missing so much school work. I didn’t have the strongest control of my bladder and would pee at my desk, getting laughed at all the while being directed to the principal’s office so that my mother could pick me up. Unfortunately, it happened more than once and kids NEVER forget.
As a pre-teen, a really bullish neighbor boy asked me if my pubic hair was red, like the hair on my head. I had no idea what pubic hair was so I shrugged it off. The boy went to school the next day and began calling me “Red Pubic Hair” – the nickname stuck, for years.
I felt sick before school, every day, not understanding that what I was feeling was anxiety. I didn’t want to go back to the place where kids thought I peed in my pants or knew intimate details of my genitals. Why me? My older sister seemed to fit in everywhere she went and my brother played sports, giving him an automatic group of friends.
My first year of college, I suffered my first full-blown panic attack. I sat in my chair, listening to the professor talk but his voice slowed down. The room became blurry and everything started spinning. All I kept thinking was that if I didn’t leave that classroom right then and there, I would die. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see clearly. I ran out of the room and didn’t return, citing some poor excuse that I had gotten deathly ill in the bathroom and was afraid I’d be sick in class. Through email, my professor bought it and wished me well, giving me the assignment I had missed at the end of the session.
After that, I started missing more and more classes. I would drive to school with my friends and talk them into skipping as well and we’d run off to the diner, coming home just in time for our parents to think we had made all our classes that day. Then something happened. My friends wanted to continue with college; I didn’t. I couldn’t. Much to the dismay of my father, who was a teacher through and through, I withdrew myself from college.
I started working in offices (insurance, real estate, legal, etc.) but couldn’t keep a steady job for longer than a year or two. I would get bored and frustrated and the panic attacks would begin. I’d call out sick any chance I had and would finally quit.
After I married my husband, my behavior worsened. Anxiety increased, depressive episodes occurred more frequently and I started to do things out of character; I spent money beyond our budget, acted irrationally toward friends and family, and wound up living in my parent’s basement with my husband after losing my last job.
On a particularly intense night, I found myself thinking about suicide. All I wanted to do was end my life. I was aware enough to tell my husband and we decided together that it was time I see a professional.
I’ve now been officially diagnosed with the following:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Severe Panic Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are days I can not leave my bed. There are days it’s physically painful to open my eyes. Despite the therapy and medication, I still struggle daily.
Does it get better? Yes, I can confidently say that it does. With the right support group, medication (if needed), and the knowledge that you’re not alone in this fight, life can be better. I am the LAST person to say my life is full of roses and unicorns, because it’s most certainly NOT.
My life is work. I don’t know how I’m going to wake up each day. Will I be okay? Will today be a day where my intrusive thoughts take over and suicidal ideation wins? I never really know. But the fact that I continue to wake up each day AT ALL means I’m fighting and winning.
I talk about my mental health issues on social media and I’ve had people message me with thank you’s. Not enough people speak about what’s going on because of the stigma attached to being depressed or anxious and THAT is the most depressing part of this whole journey. We are not alone. We never were. We may not be what society deems normal but who cares? Who wants to be normal, anyway?