When I was about twelve, I remember having a conversation with one of my best friends about how I felt like there was something wrong with me because when I went to bed at night I had trouble falling asleep and there were hundreds of millions of thousands of thoughts running through my head (*actual count was not verified).
She assured me that I was normal. Everyone experienced this. Bless her.
Time moved on and I kept experiencing normal, and normal kept eating away at me because other people around me were now saying they had racing thoughts and couldn’t sleep and this was a real problem. I just kind of sucked it up and kept moving on. After all, nobody wants to be labelled as “the crazy one” do they?
There’s a sub plot to this story, you’ll be relieved to know.
Imagine little Andy… actually, look at the old photo. That’s me. Pretty cute huh. Little Andy Pandy was also rambunctious. He was really energetic and playful, paticularly around other people. He thrived on the energy of others and it seemed like, sometimes, it took everyone’s effort to pull little Andy into line, to make him just sit down and shut up for five minutes.
They tried making bets with him on how long he could keep quiet for. They offered him money to shut up. Common phrases from the era include popular delights such “you’re not made of glass, sit down so we can all see the screen” and “mum, can you take Andrew away please, he’s showing off again.”
By the time we’re meeting twelve-year-old Andy, a lot of events and messages had flown his way and, happy soul that he was, he had become school captain for his primary school (go me!) I had sufficiently reined in my behaviour to maintain good friendships and grow my academic brain.
There’s a fair bit of abridged storytelling going on here for the sake of this particular post, but rest assured there are plenty of other stories to share.
Now, back to the main program…
Young Andy was a giggler. He and his best friend from across the road used to get up to lots of kooky hijinks, mainly at her place because, well… Andy’s mum didn’t really like all of that giggling. Playing quietly was the appropriate way.
Fuck that, thought five year old Andy and friend (*not their actual words) as they headed mostly over to his friend’s place – the shop across the road – where they’d let their imaginations run wild, giggle, scream and generally have a good time.
High school presented plenty of opportunities to prove to himself that he wasn’t good enough, and so over time Andrew withdrew into himself and became the almost-invisible, studious, get-along-with-everyone guy we all came to know and mostly love.
He did quite well at school. Not the best, but not the worst. There was a triggering event that led to him striving (not even) for mediocrity, but that’s another show.
He learned not to giggle. He learned that he needed to be a responsible adult. When he became an uncle, he L O V E D spending time with the kids because little Andy came out to play. Suddenly it was acceptable to play duck, duck, goose again, or enter imaginary worlds full of of zombies. The kids grew up, so Andrew returned to being an adult as they took on their adult lives, too.
As I take control back of my own story I can see that monkey mind I described at the beginning never really left me. I just found ways to keep it at bay so I could focus on the things that really mattered, until I recently entered therapy. I mean, it’s meant to “make us better” isn’t it?
Last week, when I wrote my piece for RUOK Day (thanks for the love – yes, I’m OK) it was a massive risk for me.
I had always been told that if you overshare or do something out of the ordinary, you’ll be a laughing stock and nobody will like you. So in effect, I was joining hands with little Andy in a bit of a “fuck you” moment and decided to do it anyway. It wasn’t enough that put it onto my blog, no no no! I had to share it across all of my social media accounts, like I was coming out all over again (this time with added internet!)
As I hit “post” I thought, “oh well, that’s that. Whatever.”
What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of genuine love that came back in return. Nor did I expect for some of the most honest conversations of my life to open up with someone very important to me. Laughing stock. Nope. Unmasked “superhero”? Yep!
Notice I’ve put superhero between inverted commas. Spoiler alert: I’m not actually a superhero. Being my authentic self, unmasked, shouldn’t be seen as an act of bravery. It should be normal. We all have things that bug us and our own ways of processing the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt as comfortable as I do now to be themselves? I’m not saying I’m out there living with my heart on my sleeve, but that would be OK too if that was my choice. All I’m saying is we need to be able to speak our truth, and for it not to feel like it’s going to land us in jail without passing go.
The other thing that happened was my creativity has kind of gone into overdrive since. I’ve started developing new characters (crazy, right?) and have really started honouring those quick paced thoughts that actually serve me. I just need to know how to work with them rather than try to throw them a treat and hope they’ll go away for a while.
So here I am. Me and my monkey mind, just bopping through life, wondering how everyone else is going. I’m back, bitches! It’s nice to see you 😊
Oh yeah, that friend who told me I was normal? She reached out to me too, after a really long stretch of us being busied by life. I should have listened to her back then, but none of us really had the tools to understand what my behaviours represented. Am I neuro diverse? Don’t know. Does it or should it matter? To me, not really. Whatever my brain does, it’s not silly, it’s me-normal, and I’m really happy being me.