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Probably the closest thing I’ll ever come to being “normal” is when I drove through a town by the same name in Illinois.

While all of us believe we understand “normal”, my first real contemplation of the term came in my college freshman psychology class. There I learned that there are two “normals.” The first is what’s normal for the individual, i.e., regular behavior. The second is a judgement of what society considers as normal. For example, even in times of swine flu epidemics, most people don’t wash their hands 20 times a day; it’s not consider normal. However, for some individuals, it’s a completely normal part of their daily ritual.

My second in-depth exposure to the term came several years ago when I had sought some outside help dealing with some personal issues. I was told by my therapist that I normalized things. That is, I accepted others’ bad/abusive behavior toward me as a normal part of my life. In many ways it’s like a toothbrush. You use it day after day, then one day you look down and realize how worn down the bristles are. You became aware of the normal, but increasing, wear and tear on your toothbrush so that you didn’t notice it. In my case, one particular relationship became gradually more and more destructive, but since it was a gradual evolution, it became a normal part of my life and it took a final moment of clarity for me to realize how truly bad the relationship had become.

Reading several RA-related blogs, it appears that people’s experiences with RA are somewhat similar. Some people have an “event” where a joint swells up or some other sudden onset occurs. However, many others notice a sore joint here, some swelling there, another joint pain somewhere else, and they tend to normalize these as getting older or as a result of too much house/yard work or sports. Then one day they wake up and decide that this just isn’t right and start seeking an answer.

The thing about having RA is that “normal” isn’t quite “normal” any more. It’s sort of like that picture of your [mother-in-law or fill in the blank] that hangs in the hallway that you hate, but you see every morning anyway. You accept it, learn to deal with it as best you can, and go on with the rest of your life.

Fortunately, not everyone accepts RA as normal. I was reading an article that referred to treatment options and outcomes as recently as 1984. They weren’t pretty, but fortunately we have some really smart people working on some terrific drugs and related therapies that help stave off the disease.  Treatment is started earlier with greater success.

And even though there’s not [yet] a cure, thanks to these great researchers, normal doesn’t have to be quite so abnormal anymore.

I hope you have a great [normal] 2010. Thanks for checking in.