Are you different? Is that normal?

Navigating life with schizoaffective disorder has left me with more questions than answers. I’ve had this mental illness most of my life and still don’t have it figured out. I have a hard time – more than what I let people see.

When you have a mental illness it’s easy to feel different, maybe even like an outcast, but how different am I truly from the average person?

I tell my story through art and writing, and I’ve always got this sense that people don’t understand or they understand all too well…like there’s not much in between. 

My emotions are very intense. Are yours? Are my feelings really any different than anyone else’s?

Of course, I feel like people treat me differently, especially if they know my diagnosis, but are there times when I want to be treated differently? My employer often makes accommodations for me, but I’d like to think they would do that for anyone who needed it. I work for a mental health organization and my boss and coworkers are very understanding. I feel like it would be difficult for me to work outside of the mental health field.

My mental illness is mentioned in my artist statement. It not only affects the subject of my paintings but also the way I make my paintings. I always hope people will find my story interesting, but as an artist, I really don’t know if it has affected whether or not people accept my work. 

On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a lot of stigma, from strangers and even my family. Why are people so judgemental? I want to prove the stigma wrong, and despite everything I do and have accomplished, some people won’t even give me a chance. It’s best to stay away. 

So maybe feeling different has had both positive and negative experiences for me.

Do you feel like you’re different? Do you want to be different? How does it affect you? I’m sure different people deal with all kinds of stereotypes. I know I’m not alone in this but it still hurts nonetheless. Most of us have probably felt judged, left out, or like the black sheep at some point in our lives.

Do you have the confidence to be different and thrive? Do you believe in your abilities? 

Do you need to be different to be successful? Does it pay to be different but not too different?

Are you unapologetically you? How do you stay true to yourself in a world full of judgment? 

How do I teach my daughter to do the same?


I would love to hear your stories, whether you have a diagnosis or label or not. How do you feel different and how does it affect your life?


  1. John Morales says

    “Are you unapologetically you? How do you stay true to yourself in a world full of judgment?”
    A problematic attitude; whatever you do is being true to yourself.
    Nobody can be other than what they are. This is a tautology.


  2. dangerousbeans says

    Normal is a statistical illusion. If you measure everyone in enough detail you’ll find that none of them really fit the normal you end up with. So i don’t worry about it

    But yeah, as an autistic person i definitely experience emotions differently to others. I’ve learnt not to worry about it because i can’t blend in, that’s a good way to get burnout, so it’s not worth worrying about people’s bullshit.

  3. brightmoon says

    I realized I liked certain music that my 7th grade classmates didn’t . By 8th grade I stopped hiding the fact that I bought those records . It was tedious waiting until none of your classmates were in the store. It used to make me late for class. That’s when I discovered that I preferred doing what I liked as opposed to what my friends parents, neighbors and acquaintances liked . It’s been a life long journey as I was actively (read that as abusively) discouraged from having personal opinions as a child . I didn’t even choose my favorite color as my mother vetoed my initial choice

  4. SailorStar says

    I also think that “normal” is statistical and also dependent on micro-culture and larger-culture. What’s perfectly accepted in a micro-culture might not be accepted in the larger-culture group…or vice versa. For a trivial, innocuous example: some people might take their shoes off when entering a home, and other people won’t. Someone raised in a home where people take off their shoes and who doesn’t comply is seen as odd…but if that person were to go to another location that has a culture of not removing shoes, they’re seen as normal.

    I also think some cultures place more emphasis on fitting into the local culture, putting pressure on those who don’t fit in to comply. For another trivial example, “We always eat dinner at 6 pm on the dot because EVERYONE always eats dinner at 6 pm” vs “We eat dinner when the majority of the people in the house are hungry, so if you’re hungry, speak up”.

    Some of the stress you’re feeling may just be part of where you are–small towns tending to be more conformist than larger ones, midwest being more conformist than other areas. Or, you might be at the skinny end of the bell curve of “normal”. I think this would be an excellent thing to bring up in therapy, to explore with your therapist who knows you well and knows the local culture well. They can tell you if you’re just feeling awkward but otherwise are blending in fine. Everyone feels like that sometimes–as the Bruce Springsteen song goes, “Check my look in the mirror…wanna change my clothes, my hair, my FACE!”

    I am glad you’re in a job that accepts you for who you are, and have a husband and daughter who accept you. As for your daughter, you might want to keep her off social media, where people make money getting others to buy products to make them fit some influencer’s idea of “normal” and there seems to be so much bullying. Mr. Rogers was so ahead of his time when he assured his audience that he liked them just the way they were.

  5. Oggie: Mathom says

    Do you feel like you’re different? Do you want to be different? How does it affect you?

    I have always felt different, for as long as I can remember. And the first time, in elementary school, that I got with a group of kids, in cub scouts, where I felt like I belonged, really bad things happened. I never wanted to be different. After my scouting experience, I wanted to be different.

    Do you have the confidence to be different and thrive? Do you believe in your abilities?

    Once I got to college, and after I joined the NPS, I thrived. I was very different from fellow students and fellow workers, but being a Park Ranger allowed me to be different and thrive. It took me a long time to believe in my abilities. Once I did, my job got much easier.

    Are you unapologetically you? How do you stay true to yourself in a world full of judgment?

    I am unapologetically me, but I also keep part of me hidden very deep behind a wall. My shrink says that it seems to work and, if it ever stops working, we’ll figure something else out. I learned what judgement really is when, in response to a thread about rape, I told about the rapes when I was a scout. And, because of my vehement and emotional defense of rape survivors, I became a poster-boy for anti-Freethought Blogs group of people. So my way of dealing with judgement is to not allow it to happen. And it took years after I remembered what happened before I successfully sought professional help.

    How do I teach my daughter to do the same?

    I hope you never have to teach her the lessons I learned — shut up, watch the world happen around you, shut up, don’t be seen, shut up, etc.

    The weird thing is, it worked for me. Except for one five-or-so year period, I faked normality, I deflected possible criticism by using self-deprecating humour, I learned to watch for the warning signs and retreat, and I, thanks to my wife and children (and now grandchildren), I learned to love without conditions.

    I don’t know if this helps but if I knew the magic words for those, like me (and my son and both granddaughters), on the spectrum, I would shout them from the rooftops. Instead, I ramble angst to strangers I respect.

    • John Morales says

      I do remember the years-long campaign of shitposting and hateposting about and to you, Oggie, particularly by the pit of slime. I imagine it was not restricted to the spaces we share.
      But you are still here, and the pit is gone. Kudos.
      (Living a good life is the best revenge, some say)

  6. StevoR says

    Yes, I’m different and, yes, that’s normal. (Non-neurotypical & non-heteronormative here.)
    The big question is really what is “normal” and why and why and how much does or should it matter?.
    To riff off George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ all people are different – some are just more different than others
    Be yourself, be the bets person you can be rather than trying tobe someone you ain’t is kinda a cliche – but also I think generally true as long as it doesn’t involve needlessly hurting or jeopardising others i.e. if your true self -is a serial killer!
    #1. John Morales here beat me to it with one of my absolute fave clips there which agree applies.
    Oh & @5. Oggie: Mathom : Respect and sympathies from me and yes, I remember that too. You deserve far better.

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