You say "schizophrenia", and people think of someone in food-stained clothes, running around wielding an axe, muttering to themselves. Say "depression", and they think of someone flung in bed with the curtains drawn, sobbing about everything.
You tell them you're a writer, let them experience your dry wit, show them photos of your dogs, talk about 80s rock music, and they think you're "normal."
You tell them you're trying to get a business off the ground, and there's "nothing wrong with you."
You're normal. There's nothing wrong with you.
Because you don't tell them how loud it gets when no one's talking, and there's no background noise.
Because you don't tell them how the familiar shapes of the streets you walk everyday can sometimes morph into a place you've never been before, and you're trapped there, on your own, with no idea how to get home.
Because you don't tell them that you were 29 before you used a debit card to pay for something the first time, because, in all the years before, you'd been too afraid that it wouldn't work, that everyone would be pointing at you, staring, laughing. That the voices that hate you would start shouting. That the supermarket would become a firepit, and you'd be trapped there, burning. You don't tell them that, still, you only really understand "money" when it's physically in your hand. You only really feel like you've paid for something when you've handed over the cash. Online shopping is okay – and Amazon is easier than the sheer panic when you can't find the book you want anywhere, even after you've been in every bookshop, every charity shop, when you've combed the shelves of the library – but there's still that anxiety, that sense that you're going to be "found out", arrested for stealing something. You don't really understand the process, but nothing bad's happened so far, and everyone else seems okay with it, so you go along with it – being "normal", doing things that "everyone else" does, even if they seem strange or frightening, is important.
You don't talk about how it feels when someone criticises you. You don't explain that the problem isn't the criticism, it isn't getting in trouble – it's the fact that it's not just that person who's angry with you, who thinks you've screwed up. It's everyone – all the voices in your head that you can't just walk away from, that won't let you "have a better day tomorrow."
You don't talk about all the times you don't want there to be a tomorrow. You don't mention all the times you've tried to keep tomorrow from happening.
You can't tell them about any of that, so you tell them about the business you're trying to start – not mentioning that you're trying to start it with no money, because you don't understand people well enough to work out how to ask for help, because you've spent so much time being so afraid of people that you don't have enough "social capital" – enough friends, basically – to make crowdfunding work. You tell them about your dogs – not mentioning the times when you nearly have a panic attack stepping outside with them, because the world doesn't make sense right then, and there are people, and it's all too noisy. You tell them about your writing – and just don't mention the stories the people in your head tell you, the worlds they build, and force you to inhabit.
There's so much that's happened to you, that will keep happening, that you don't talk about, just so you can be "normal."
You never realise that it's not "normal" to only admit to half your life.