I think anyone whose experienced OCD wants to throttle people who say, ‘Ooo, I’m soooo OCD’ if they like their bedroom tidy. It’s such a misunderstood condition, and, as a word, has really found it’s way into our lexicons. But we’re using the word wrong! OCD is not just being tidy and clean. The correct words for these personality quirks are… umm…well ‘tidy’ and ‘clean’. They are NOT ‘OCD’.
My MC, Evie, has contamination OCD. Yes, she washes her hands a lot… But part of my desire to write Am I Normal Yet? was to show it’s so much more than this, and to help readers understand what it’s like to live in a brain that never leaves you alone.
When you work for a
youth charity, like I do, you get used to the same phrase cropping up over and
Am I normal?
Is this normal?
Can you let me know if this is normal?
It doesn’t matter whether people are talking about
their relationship, their sex lives, their various dangly body parts, their
family situations, their reactions to taking a certain ‘extra-curricular’
drug…they all want to hear the same thing.
This is normal.
You are normal.
Normal normal normal.
In fact, lots of our most popular articles over at
the website I work for – TheSite.org – all have ‘normal’ in the title. But what
does it even mean? And why are we so concerned with being like everyone else?
In my book, Am
I Normal Yet? my protagonist Evie is struggling with the label of OCD she
was given when she was just 14 and how that impacts her opinion of herself. She
sees her mental health diagnosis as confirmation of her ‘abnormality’ and keeps
it a secret from all her new friends at college. All the wants is to just be
like everybody else, but throughout the book she learns she’s chasing a ghost.
So, what is normal?
In language terms, it means conforming to a
standard, In mathmatics, it’s being on the boring bit of a graph with everyone
else. It throws up words and phrases like, ‘average’ or ‘like everybody else’.
And though, in some contexts, the word is a very comforting thing to hear – say, like
at the doctor’s when you go there with something embarrassing – I worry we
cling to it in other parts of our lives, compare ourselves to others and make
ourselves feel generally…well…crap.
Here’s the thing – we can’t
be normal in every part of our lives. It’s impossible. All of us have unique quirks that others don’t. We’re all special-yet-totally-oddball
snowflakes, smashing into each other, muddling and guessing our way through life. Chasing normality is a bit like whack-a-mole – your individual bits
are always going to pop up no matter how much you suppress them. Why not try
embracing them? See them as positive things, rather than things to hide away?
My own abnormals
I have mildly-webbed
hands. TOTALLY GROSS – I know. (I have to
say, they’re only slightly webbed, but there is still enough of a webbage for
me to show people at dull parties to spruce things up a bit). I have a
phobia of buttons. I have low blood pressure and faint if I stand up for too
long. I hate travelling and
literally have to be drugged before I’m put on a plane. My feet turn blue when I’m
cold. I can do the most accurate impression of Ronan Keating the world has ever
known… Essentially guys, I’m a freak! A total nutter. And I could focus on my ‘abnormalities’
and wish I could be more like you…but then you’re a freak too. You really are. And I’m mighty glad for it – and hope you can be too.
“It started with a house party. This wasn’t just any house party. It was also My First Date. Like first EVER date. In my entire life. Because, finally, following all the crap that had gone down, I was ready for boys. His name was Ethan and he liked the Smashing Pumpkins (whatever that is) and he’d managed to grow real stubble already. And he liked me enough to ask me out after sociology. And he was funny. And he had really small, but cute, dark eyes, like a ferret or something. But a sexy ferret. And he played the drums and the violin. Both! Even though they’re, like, totally different instruments. And and… …and – oh, Christ – what the HELL was I going to wear?
Okay, so I was stressing. And obsessing. “Obstressing” times a million. In an utterly deplorable way. But this was a big deal to me. I was doing something NORMAL for once. And I reckoned I could just about pull it off. And I did know what I was wearing. I’d run through every possible clothing combination in existence before opting for tight jeans, black top and a red necklace, i.e. what I reckoned to be the safest date outfit ever. I was going to be normal again. But I was going to step back into it safely...”
This is just a tiny taste of Am I Normal Yet?, which is out in the UK on 1st August 2015.
Guys – I have the BEST news. My supersonic publisher Usborne have printed 100 LIMITED EDITION copies of Am I Normal Yet?. And THEY’RE THE MOST YELLOW THINGS YOUR EYEBALLS WILL EVER HAVE SEEN. There are just 100 in the entire universe. They’re so exclusive even *I’ve* only been given ONE – and it was my brain what wrote the book!
The best part? We’re going to be giving them away to YOU as part of #100DaysofNormal.
Here I am at Usborne Towers signing ALL of the limited edition copies in all their neon glory!
Each limited edition copy is numbered and signed by ME! (Obvs) I’ve even spelled my own name right in each one (which has been an issue in the past)!
Don’t they look A-MAZ-ING? You need an eye-shield to protect you from it’s neon powers.
“HOW DO I GET MY GRUBBY HANDS ON ONE?” I hear (hope) you ask. Just stay tuned to the #100DaysOfNormal hashtag for giveaways and exciting challenges.
Amy and Hannah here from Usborne – hello! We’ve hijacked Holly’s Tumblr for Day 2 of #100DaysofNormal because we want to tell you a little bit more about her amazing new novel Am I Normal Yet?, which is out on 1st August.
We asked the very lovely Holly to sum up the book for us in just 3 words:
‘NORMALITY. IS. OVERRATED‘
We completely agree! Holly’s main character, Evie, has OCD – she feels as if she is failing at being a teenager, let alone being ‘normal’.
Evie’s just come off her meds and is dipping her toe into the pool of man folk at college. But relationships can mess with anyone’s head – something Evie’s new friends Amber and Lottie know only too well (don’t we all!). The trouble is, if Evie won’t tell them her secrets, how can they stop her making a huge mistake?
OCD, feminism, bad boyfriends, and the importance of cheesy snacks – it’s all there in this wise, heartbreaking and funny novel.
And there’s more! If you didn’t already know, Am I Normal Yet? is the first in a trilogy – hooray! Yes – 3 books from Holly, so we asked her to give us a sneak peek at what to expect:
‘The trilogy centres around the friendship of three girls – Evie, Amber, and Lottie – and their grassroots feminism group. In book two, Amber spends the summer in an American summer camp to try and rebuild her estranged relationship with her mother. Expect road trips, prom kings with hidden depth, female chauvinist pigs (evil cheerleaders) and lots of tears. And, in the final book, Lottie takes on the ENTIRE PATRIARCHY in a one-girl campaign, calling out every instance of sexism she sees for an entire month. Imagine “Yes Man” for feminism, then add cheesy snacks and a totally inappropriate crush. I cannot WAIT for you to fall in love with these girls as hard as I have.’
We’re off to meet Holly now to do some top-secret #100DaysofNormal stuff. It’s VERY EXCITING but we couldn’t possibly tell you what it is until tomorrow!