Being the "Normal One" part 1

Writing is something that has been very therapeutic to me for

a long time. From the time I was young there where many times when I would use journaling to validate my feelings because they didn't make sense to anyone around me.

I have always felt different than those closest to me in terms of my emotions, meaning I tend to feel a little bit deeper than those around me and certain things effect me more than they would somebody else, and for a long time I thought that that meant there was something wrong with me, I thought it was something I needed to fix because thats what I was told. I was told not to get so emotionally attached to things, or not to get so excited or that I needed to learn how to "get over" things that upset me, and while in some situations that is true, I was also aware that "this is just who I am" and I didn't really know how to fix that, I tried but it didn't work. Because it wasn't supposed too.

While I do think part of this is just my personality, I do think growing up with a brother with special needs has influenced this part of me too. When I started seeing my therapist two years ago I learned two major things about this aspect of my personality. One is this part of my personality has a lot to do with my anxiety. My part of anxiety is a form of emotional hypersensitivity, which means if I'm in an emotionally charged situation I tend to absorb the way everyone around me is feeling, and that can sometimes be too much. This also means that certain things like the news, or war movies can give me anxiety if I sit and watch them for too long. When these things effect me I have to step away from them if possible and really work through whatever it is that I'm feeling, it is not just something that goes away if I leave the situation or change the channel.

The second thing I learned that I think is helpful for anyone is your feelings are yours and you have a right to them. My therapist always encourages me to sit with my feelings and just let them be for a few minutes, because you have right to feel the way you're feeling no matter how other people think you should feel.

She also introduced me to this book called "The Normal One" it is written by psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, Ph.D. who grew up with a brother with special needs. Throughout the book she goes through how having a sibling with special needs psychologically effects you and she also interviews many different people who are considered the "normal" child in their family. I will be referencing her book a lot throughout my posts.

While all these situations are different from my own it definitely validated a lot of my feelings. She talks a lot about how the "normal" sibling suffers from something she calls Caliban Syndrome. The four symptoms are:

Premature maturity

Survivor guilt

Compulsion to achieve

and fear of contagion.

These have all played a role in my life, some more than others and that's what I'm going to be writing about in my next few posts.

She touches on this in her book, but personally I don't think normal is the right word to describe the abled sibling, because I don't believe there is a "normal." Every single person alive has their own little quirks and thoughts and feelings, and while they may be different from your own there is probably a reason they do the things they do and feel the way they feel. I don't believe Brett is any less normal than anyone else,

and if there is a normal I am very far from it!

#TheNormalOne #specialneedssibling