Love can drive us all a little crazy sometimes. But if you already have an issue with your mental health, the stress of dating/relationships/break-ups can be particularly hard. Add in panic attacks or spells of depression on top of all that?? Yeah, it can be tough.
When I’m not writing books, I work as a journalist and relationship advisor for thesite.org – an advice and information website for young people.
Some of our most popular articles focus on how mental health impacts your relationships. And, what you can do to help navigate both. Today I’m sharing one that I wish Evie could’ve read –‘Is Anxiety Affecting Your Relationship?’
All Evie wants is to be normal. And now she’s almost off her meds, going to parties and making friends, she’s ready for the next step: dating. But relationships are messy. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new mates Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?
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.
We all ask ourselves that – at least once a day. THRICE a day if we were going through the hell that is puberty. Luckily for you, Usborne have made a TOTALLY SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE GIF to help you work out if you’re normal or not.
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!