In Defence Of Normal

When does acceptance become a bad idea?

Steve QJ
4 min readJun 30, 2022


Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

I wasn’t really listening to Cecilia’s interview until she mentioned the giant spider.

It has yellow skin, a large, leathery body, and black legs. When it moves, its joints make a creaking noise that sounds like children laughing.

Cecilia understands that the spider, one of her most frequent hallucinations, isn’t real. She understands that it’s a symptom of her schizophrenia.

But even though she understands this intellectually, it feels real enough that she can’t be sure. Which is why her response to a question about whether she’s hallucinating during the interview is so fascinating:

…I don’t answer that question. I’ve sort of made it a rule with myself not to talk about whether or not I’m hallucinating at that moment. Because then, the first response is,

“Oh, where is the hallucination?”

And then a common reaction is that everyone in the room looks in that direction. I don’t know why, they’re not gonna see anything, but that’s just the reaction. And that’s very dangerous. Because then you have real life interacting with your hallucination.

And that could really hurt the psyche.

I thought about Cecelia a few weeks ago as I watched Freddie deBoer’s scathing response to this New York Times piece about psychotic disorders.

For those who don’t know, deBoer is a writer and author with bipolar disorder. He struggled with his condition for over fifteen years, until, in the spring of 2017, he stopped taking his medication, and a few months later, during a psychotic episode, falsely accused a fellow writer of rape and sexual harassment.

DeBoer’s decision to come off his meds cost him his reputation, caused untold misery to innocent people, and very nearly ended his career. So it’s not surprising that he’s not too enthusiastic about an article entitled, “Doctors Gave Her Antipsychotics. She Decided to Live With Her Voices.”

As the title suggests, Caroline Mazel-Carlton still lives with the voices in her head. They’ve been with her since she was prescribed antipsychotics in middle school.



Steve QJ

Race. Politics. Culture. Sometimes other things. Almost always polite. Find more at