I Loved ‘Normal People’, but I’m Scared to Watch the Show

Published on 9/3/2021

A friend recommended ‘Normal People’ to me in 2019, so I was a little late to the Sally Rooney appreciation club. Despite my delay, I wholeheartedly dived into my appreciation of her. I don’t know if I’ve ever connected to a novel as I did to ‘Normal People’. Reading it felt like having my own messy mind translated onto the page. It felt like a deep sigh of relief, accompanied by the stomach twisting of wondering how our stories would end. ‘Normal People’ is the closest depiction to my depression, and it felt like people might finally understand.

To say I love this book would be an understatement. I devoured this book in days, and my copy has grown dog-eared from the number of friends I’ve loaned it to, simply so they can discover the magic of this novel.

But despite my love for this book and Rooney’s work in general, I haven’t watched the new series. I’ve heard about it from friends, watched the trailer multiple times, read reviews and considered it numerous times, but never made the leap to watch it. I don’t think the show will be bad, not at all, as I’ve primarily only heard good things about it. And whilst the sound of those lustful intimate scenes is tempting, I’ve scared that the show will be too good, and that I’m not ready for that.

Loyalty to the book

I like to think of myself as a loyal person. I’m a loyal friend; I stick with people until the bitter end and provide them with unconditional support. I’m a devoted fan; if I like an author, I binge all their books, and I’ve been a Swiftie since the beginning. I am a fan of ‘Normal People’ and Sally Rooney, and that’s why watching the show feels like a potential betrayal.

I always believed that the difference between people who cheat and don’t isn’t about attraction; it’s about the opportunity. You know when you’re entering a dangerous situation, you know when someone poses a risk to your relationship. So you create distance from them, you remove yourself from this opportunity. I know it can be a lot more complicated than that, but it can be true for some moments.

So entering into the situation of watching the show feels dangerous because what if I like it more than the novel? This is a book I hold so close to my heart, and I’m scared that I’m risking that by watching the show, particularly given the attractiveness of those lead actors. Reading a book is usually better than watching the show or film, but what if this is the exception? It would feel like I betrayed the book, as ridiculous as that is.

Peace of mind

Whilst I loved reading the book, it was also a bit of an ordeal. As I said, it hit very close to home, and that was quite confronting. However, it was ultimately a cathartic experience, as the good outweighed the bad and I was just comforted to see mental illness portrayed so realistically. But it was still difficult, and it’s hard to tell whether reading or seeing is more confronting. With a novel, you have an in-depth look into their experience, usually firsthand. But with an adaptation, you have accompanying factors that can also make a difference. Even just the power of music, which can so perfectly capture an experience and provide the additional push into despair.

Watching people go through these experiences might hurt more than reading them, and I don’t know if I am strong enough for that. It feels like watching two incredible actors capture this story, and the pain of it might be too much for me, whilst the book pushed me but to a certain limit.

A little too close to home

As I’ve mentioned in a few articles recently, I’ve been experiencing my own breakup. We were together for four years, and now I’m left to work out who I am once removed from the shadow of them. Difficult doesn’t even begin to capture it. Aside from being a novel about mental illness, ‘Normal People’ is a love story and a heartbreak story. I don’t know if I’m ready to see people in love, to see what I once had and lost. I don’t know if I’m prepared to see people out of love, to see what I am living through each day. It feels like poking a scab and waiting for it to bleed. It feels a little too close to home right now and like it would infect what I would actually think of the series, and so I’m waiting.

I am waiting until I am ready to watch ‘Normal People’ in a place that I can fully appreciate it. That I can applaud Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones for their incredible performances and appreciate Sally Rooney as the one who started this all. That I can lose myself in the power of the show without losing my sanity in the process. ‘Normal People’ is high on my to-watch list, but I’m delaying it just a bit more, to make sure that I’m ready, and that’s an act of self-care.



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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