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It’s Ok If You Can’t Do What Normal People Can

stairsIn the last nine years since I was diagnosed I’ve worked hard to appear as normal as possible and to not let my schizophrenia define who I am and what I can do.

Still though, there are some things that remain outside of my capabilities as a disabled person.

Here’s how it goes, I get an idea of what I want to happen and then I work feverishly on that idea until it either comes to fruition or I run myself so hard that I inevitably hit a wall. The wall is essentially the limit of stress I can endure before I start to feel myself slip backwards either by becoming depressed or more paranoid. Sometimes I don’t realize that I’ve hit the wall until it’s too late and I’m entrenched in thoughts of suicide or terrified by delusions. Finally, I’ll realize that I just don’t have it in me to accomplish what I want to accomplish and I’m forced to take a few days to a week to recover and get stable again.

I can only imagine that that’s true for a lot of people in my situation.

The leader of my old schizophrenics anonymous group kept reiterating to me that you can’t hold yourself to the same standards that normal people do, and while that seems a bit defeatist, it’s taken me nine years to realize that that is true for a lot of the things in my life.

It’s been a long course of testing my abilities and realizing where my limits lie. Realizing where your limits are though is something everyone has to come to terms with, schizophrenic or not, it’s just that sometimes living with a mental illness makes your limits a little lower than normal people’s.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to achieve amazing things because you definitely should. I’m just saying that when you have a mental illness you need to be realistic about how much you can do without making yourself sick again.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t set extremely high standards for myself and I’m much harder on myself than I need to be and those two things have allowed me to do incredible things but the fact remains that I continue to hit the wall when I push myself too hard.

The fact of the matter is that it’s ok if you can’t do what normal people can do. It’s ok if you can’t achieve the same things that a person without mental illness can. To hold yourself to that same standard is unfair to you because you have an illness and a disability that puts limits on you whereas normal people don’t.

At the same time, you shouldn’t be too easy on yourself either and you shouldn’t be lazy using your illness as an excuse.

If you can’t conceivably do something without making yourself sick though it’s probably a good idea to lower your expectations a little bit. It doesn’t mean you can’t achieve incredible things though, you just have to learn to take it slow and steady and slowly chip away at something and if you keep working at it you can do whatever you put your mind to.

Don’t work yourself into the ground though if it’s going to exacerbate your symptoms.

Success can wait however long it needs to in order for you to do the work you need to do at the pace you’re comfortable with.

It’s Ok If You Can’t Do What Normal People Can

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). It’s Ok If You Can’t Do What Normal People Can. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Mar 2015
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