Diaper spelled backwards is REPAID. Go figure.

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So, whenever someone asks a parent about the happiest day in their life they’ll inevitably say it was the day their baby was born (actually, I think more dads say that than moms 🙄 but anyhoot…).  In fact, it’s almost sacrilege for a parent to not say that.  But since I swore to be honest with my peeps, I’m going to admit something to you:  going through 16 hours of back labor and pushing an 8 pound infant out of a hole the size of a walnut was, surprisingly, not the happiest day of my life.  Go figure.

I loved loved loved being pregnant (and no, WE were not both pregnant…I hate it when couples say that.  Unless you have a vajayjay, you are not preggie).  I couldn’t wait to start wearing maternity clothes to show the world my bump (we called it a belly back then…bump sounds so much more posh).  In fact, I started wearing them around my 3rd month and walked with my back arched at a dangerous angle, shirt tucked into my stretchy, paneled pants before having anything to show off at all.  Isn’t it funny how when we’re preggie, we can’t wait to show off our bellies…and right after the birth (and forever there after) we are constantly devising new ways to cover it up again?  🙄

My OB was ok, but didn’t have much warmth or empathy.  For example, at my first appointment he told me and Hubby that I should only gain about 25 pounds.  Okey dokey.  No problemo.  The 2nd appointment showed I had gained the 25 pounds (I was quite proud I had already reached a milestone) and I was told, quite sternly I might add, that the pounds were supposed to be gained over the entire pregnancy.  Thanks for making that clear upfront, doc…like I’m supposed to have a M.D. myself and ‘know’ what he meant.

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Did you know that those greasy danishes with the glob of fruit like goo and white icing are the most delicious things in the world when you are growing a baby?  The BEST.  And did you know the greatest side dish you can have with those is Oreos?  Nothing better.  One day, Hubby came home for lunch and found me sitting on our brown carpeted floor, wearing an XXL t-shirt with his underwear, bawling my eyes out.  I had a sleeve of cookies in front of me and was shoving them into my mouth without stopping to chew.  When he found his voice again, he asked me what the hell was wrong and I said, “I’m getting so fat.”  For some reason, I didn’t make the obvious connection.

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OMG.  I just notices that Lyle looks a LOT like my last boyfriend.

Y’all know that I’m extra emotional and sensitive anyway (thank you bipolar for that nice symptom), and being preggers amped that up a notch.  I got so impassioned over things and Court TV (best channel ever 🤨) didn’t help.  I watched the Menendez trial religiously (what else did I have to do) and swore to Hubby I was going to go to law school and be the attorney to work on their appeals.  These 2 brothers were on trial for shooting their parents to death over alleged (I sound like a lawyer already) abuse and I was sure they were completely innocent.  OK, well come to find out they weren’t…but I still think I’d make a great lawyer with my mood swings and tendency to cry.  I also think the way I personalize anything and believe everything I’m told would also work in my favor.  (I’m going to download an application today).

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I also spent my afternoons watching All My Children.  I prayed (yes prayed 😐)  that I would not go into labor during the time where Erica Kane might leave Travis for his brother Jack who she was madly in love with even though he refused to lie about their affair which caused her to lose custody of her daughter and led her into the arms of Dimitri who was also married and who eventually married Erica and became her 7th hubby and then divorced her which led her right back into the arms of Jack where she started.  I mean, c’mon…I watched this story line for 9 months and knew if I missed a climatic episode, my life would never be the same; there would be a large gaping whole that nothing would fulfill (except YouTube).  Of course I prayed for a healthy baby too and all…but this was Erica Kane!  You know, now that I think about it, am I a nicer version of Erica with just a couple less husbands?  Hmmmmm.

One evening, Hubby wanted to get a movie so I said I would go the video store.  He had his Corvette in the driveway so I told him it would just make sense that I drive it instead of my 1985 Impala (which was also in the driveway)…a car that was often mistaken for an army tank.  He reluctantly handed his keys over and when I got to the store, I forgot to set the parking brake.  I also forgot to put it in gear since I wasn’t used to driving a stick shift.  I was traipsing into the store and some guy started yelling at me.  Yes, I was getting a catcall even when preggie and it made me feel just a bit smug.  Until the yell turned into a blood curdling scream and I looked to see Hubby’s pride and joy (it obviously wasn’t me) start rolling down the slope in the parking lot.  I had my yellow, Dollar General flip-flops on (the only ‘shoes’ I could wear) and started running while holding my belly to save it…all while 8 months pregnant and as big as a house.  I was successful, never told Hubby about it even though he asked why I was so sweaty and winded from just driving to get a movie, and was never allowed to drive the damn car again (I think Hubby was either more insightful than I gave him credit for or someone in our small town snitched).  Side note:  this beeeeeuuuuutttttiiiiiful apple red Stingray is now my son’s and is housed in my garage.  However, for some reason, O does not leave his keys in a place where I can get to them easily.  Or at all.  Go figure. 🤔

From 5 months on, ma would call me everyday to see if I had packed my bag yet and was ready for the hospital.  To get her off the phone so I could see what Erica was wearing to yet another formal dinner, I lied and said yes (sorry ma, it’s the only lie I ever told you…I swear 😳).  Every night, Hubby would ask me if I had packed my bag yet and was ready for the hospital and I lied and said yes.  Actually, it just seemed like a hell of a lot of trouble to pack a bag for having a baby which is something that some women in world do in a field.  When Hubby asked to see it, I’d mumble something unintelligible and he knew better to question me since I would either start bawling or stomp off in a huff for him not believing I’d packed it…which of course, I hadn’t.

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My favorite place to eat from 6 months on was a place called “Sirloin Stockade”.  It was one of those places where they had a buffet with hot dishes on it as well as a salad bar.  It was actually my favorite place because it was the only place Hubby would take me since I was getting pretty expensive to feed.  Anyhoot, we were having a late dinner one night and we were the only ones left in the place.  The servers knew us by then and instead of them having to watch me get my big belly out of my chair so I could totter over to get yet another plateful of food, they said that since it was the night the food would be tossed away so they could start fresh the next day, I could save myself some steps (it’s good to know that I was basically eating leftovers meant for the garbage) .  Two of the busboys scooted a chair up to the buffet, helped me into it (Hubby was eating his 8oz steak and watching agog to see what was going to happen next) and let me eat directly from the buffet itself.  Good Lord in heaven, please let it be like that when I get up there.

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One night, Hubby was feeling generous and took me to a fancy Chinese restaurant.  I ordered the platter for 3 which was 3 full servings of General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour chicken, and chicken and brocolli.  The Chinese server insisted that this was a dish meant for a group and not just 1 person.  His english was broken and I just couldn’t help him understand that when you’re pregnant, you’re eating for 3.  Anyhoot, I licked the platter clean, gave a nice juicy belch which is acceptable when you’re preggie, and asked Hubby if we were getting ice cream on the way home.  I’ve never seen a look of such stupefaction on anyone’s face before.

About 4 a.m. the next day, I awoke to a puddle in the bed (note:  if you want to go into labor, eat huge amounts of fried Chinese food) and while I was trying to get dressed, Hubby was asking me where my packed bag was since this was IT.  I yelled at him that I didn’t know…my water was breaking for fuck sakes.  He yelled louder and said “KRISTI, IS IT IN THE CLOSET?” as if I was hard of hearing and English was my 2nd language.  So I screamed back and said, “B…FOR FUCK SAKES, I’M IN FUCKING LABOR.  GET ME TO THE FUCKING HOSPITAL.  NOW.”  We left…without a bag.

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Fast forward 16 hours later (yes, 16 my sweet peeps…and no, my son has yet to thank me) and I was told to start pushing my baby out.  I said, “No.”  Doc said, “Kristi, you need to start pushing,”  And very sweetly, I said “No.”  Doc said, “Kristi, if you don’t start pushing you are not going to have your baby.”  I said, “OK.”  Finally, Hubby said, “For the love of Christ, push him out, I’m tired and need sleep.”  Gee…that was great motivation.  So eventually I started pushing and an hour later out popped my O.  It was just bliss…like you see in the movies.  I was puking over the side rail at the same time I was peeing and pooping and bleeding and expelling vast quantities of juices in the bed all while O screamed like a banshee and Hubby was trotting around like he had just created the universe. 🙄 Yes, B…you did all the work.

So, having O wasn’t the happiest day in my life.  It was a painful, sweaty, painful, difficult, painful, scary, painful, horrifying day that I wanted to go through hypnosis to forget.  But, just so you don’t think I’m a cold-hearted “Mommie Dearest” mom I will say this:  everyday after that I spend with my son is the happiest day of my life.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

If you say ‘gullible’ slowly, it sounds like oranges.

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So, y’all are going to look at me differently after this post because of what I’m finally willing to share with you.  I don’t even know if my own parents realize the magnitude of the problem so I’m just going to jump right in and say it outright:  “My name is Kristi and I’m a sucker for infomercial products.”

There…I’ve said it.  After all of these years holding it in, pretending to ignore the TV when the ShamWow guy was on, and lying about what was coming to the house in boxes before amazon (actually, before the internet 🙄), I am finally free.  It feels good.

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My problem started in the 1970’s when I realized something was wrong.  I’d see an infomercial and suddenly knew, within the recesses of my brain, that I needed that product to make my life better.  I’d get excited.  Giddy.  I’d daydream about the day a Thigh-Master would arrive on my doorstop and I’d suddenly be transformed into Suzanne Sommers, even though I had short brown hair, no boobs, and a face that resembled a sausage pizza.  Didn’t matter though…I knew it would work.

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When the Mr. Microphone commercial would come on the air, I’d be hypnotized.  You could plug this mike into a radio and then broadcast your voice over the airwaves.  It had a had a black handle and big orange ball on top that you spoke into and it looked like a blast!  In the commercial, there are teenagers driving around in their car talking to people on the sidewalks, and one guy sees a pretty gal and says, “We’ll be back to pick you up later!”  How could anyone not want one of these?  (Decades later, O’s dad bought me a home karaoke machine and I used it one night to sing to him.  Hmmmm.  Come to think about it, our marriage started unraveling at the same time.  Huh.  What a coincidence).

When I got to my teens and started listening to music the ‘newest’ thing out there, ‘cassettes’, I joined the Columbia House subscription program a few times.  You’d see their ads everywhere and you could choose 11 cassettes for FREE and then another one for just a penny!  Twelve cassettes for a cent!  Seriously, what person can afford to pass this up?  The catch?  You’d get a flyer and response card every month in the mail so you could order cassettes to fulfill the obligation of the subscription (which was written in very small type).  Now, if you forgot to mail back the card by a certain date, you’d get 2 crappy tapes in the mail and be charged about $40 (This was a LOT in the 80’s…bear in mind that my first fast food job paid $2.85 an hour 😳).  And the problem was that you never wanted any more tapes since there were only 12 on the list that were any good.  So, I tried different tactics to get out of this obligation.

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At first, I tried to ignore the fliers hoping this nightmare would just go away while hiding the tapes they kept sending me  under my bed.  Eventually, I got a nasty letter saying I owed around $200 for what I’d been sent, and I had to tell ma.  I was scared I’d be locked up if this continued (I think someone like Al Capone ran this operation and getting my thumbs broken was a real fear).  Well, I’ve seen ma mad in my life, numerous times (really, too many to count) but this was a biggie.  Suffice it to say I have never, ever said the words Columbia House in her presence for the last 40 years.  (Note:  I did join again in the 90’s when they started offering CD’s and yes, it was also a nightmare).

Things really got bad when I married Hubby 2 and was home taking care of my baby.  When O was napping I’d have the TV on to hear an adult voice, and the commercials showed me what I was missing in my life trapped in a house with a colicky son.

I gained 60 pounds when I was preggie (shutty…I know I was only supposed to gain about 25 but those oreos tasted so freaking good and my baby needed them 🙄) and wanted to get back in shape.  So, I turned on my favorite channel during this time (when I wasn’t watching All My Children), QVC.  God bless QVC…I still know my membership number by heart after all these years.  Anyhoot, they had an ‘Body Slide’ which was supposed to mimic speed ice skating and get you in shape fast.  Since I’ve never been able to ice skate, have no coordination to speak of, and get motion sick moving in any way but straight ahead, I figured this would be a great idea for me.

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When I opened the box, there was a rectangular plastic mat with 2 small spongy things on each side, and a pair of see through ‘booties’.  I got the mat set up in the living room while O was in his little play pen, put on the booties, and tried to zip side to side like the guy on QVC did.  I fell.  In fact, I fell or slid off the mat the first few times I was on it.  My poor son was watching with a horrified look on his face…I think he realized this klutz was actually his mama.  After a few bruises, I sorta got the hang of it as long as I bent my legs, put my butt up in the air, held out my arms like a friggin’ tight rope walker, and used hip thrusts to gain momentum.  Hubby walked in the door when I was doing this and said:  “What the hell are you doing?  You look crazy on that thing.”  So much for him appreciating my attempt at being beautiful.  🙄

When I saw the Bedazzler, it was love at first sight.  Pure and simple.  Yes, I’m a tomboy and I always loved doing stuff with my dad and grandpa because girly things just didn’t interest me much.  BUT this?  A ‘machine’ that attached gems to anything you wanted?  My gosh, I’d look like a freaking rock star.  I ordered it and checked the mail every day, and when it finally arrived, I wanted to send out announcements like I did for O when he was born.s-l1600 (1)
Anyhoot, I lovingly took it out of the box, got my denim jacket out (very chic) and went to work. On the box, it shows a 10 year old bedazzling her heart out so I knew this was going to be easy peasy.  Out of the 100 gems that were included, I was able to successfully attach 2 in an hours time.  I was bawling and Hubby came in the kitchen to see me with tears streaming down my face, stuff dripping from my nose, a Bedazzler machine in my hand, and a jacket that had 1 red gem and 1 blue gem on it.  He picked up the machine, scooped up the scattered gems, marched out the door, and plopped it in the trash.  It was an act of mercy.

But even though my luck with these products was pretty bad, I knew the Clapper would work!  My God, even Hubby would like it because it would save on power bills.  You simply plugged the Clapper into an outlet, plugged in your lamp, and when you’d clap, the lamp would turn on…clap twice and it was suddenly off.  How could that fail?  Even hubby was slightly excited about this and we got it set up before traipsing off to a church event that night.

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When we were coming home, we could see the light in our living room going off and on like a disco.  We went in the house and our little dog Scooter (who Hubby wasn’t fond of and the feeling appeared to be mutual) was barking incessantly like he always did.  Every bark turned the damn light on, and then he’d bark some more and turn it off.  Another gadget that was eventually thrown away since the constant on and off was causing Hubby and I to both to have pretty severe headaches 🤨.

So times have changed…right?  I’m a tenured professor with 3 degrees under my belt, 30 total years of teaching experience, and the mama of a 26 year old.  I’m done with all this crap.  No more George Forman Grills that splatter grease all over my cabinets and face (so I get zits every time I cook)…no more Sham Wows that shrink a quarter of it’s size every time it’s washed until it’s basically the size of a tootsie roll…no more Slap-Chops that make me feel like I’m doing something naughty when I use it…no more Cami Secrets since full size cami’s are pretty comfy anyway…no more wanting, more than anything, to call the Psychic Friends Network for a reading about my love life (or lack thereof).  I’m done.  I’m mature, experienced, and media literate in terms of advertising.

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However, now that I think about it, the Snuggi for dogs would be really comfy on Dottie and Edward in the winter.  And the Tub Shroom would keep my hair out of the bathtub drain…that would be nice.  And maybe a set of Bare Lifts for my saggy boobs or Booty Pop undies to make my butt look better so I can get a date?  Hmmm.  And that Sonic Scrubber would probably work great on my bath tiles…would probably save me tons of cleaning time.  And wow…the bright light pillow would make my bedroom look like a fairy-land every night…might make me sleep better.  Huh.

Well, gotta go, peeps…QVC is calling my name.

Kristi xoxo

 

“…it’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward.” ~ Rocky Balboa

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Dear Breakdown,

So, this is the last time I’m ever going to talk about you because I’m sick of you still having a hold on me that way.  I need to put you away…not forget that you happened, but not have you continue to haunt me either.  K?

Anyhoot, I decided to write this now, because it was exactly 3 years ago today you started to happen.  And yes, I remember the exact date.  Luckily, it was right before a holiday that you started seeping into my life so thanks for that 🤨.

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It’s funny I used the word seep just now but that’s exactly what you did.  At first it was like a tiny trickle telling me something was very wrong…but tiny trickles don’t cause much damage, do they?  You know it’s there, but you also hope the damn thing just stops on it’s own.  If you wouldn’t have become the deluge you did, things would have been a hell of a lot better, so thanks for that too 🙄.  Gotta hand it to you…when you show yourself, you really go all out.

Look, I know a lot of things opened up that little crack that welcomed you in.  I understand that.  You were just seeing an opportunity, like breakdowns do…I mean, that’s sorta your ‘job’ if you will…and I was a great one to start working on.

I could go on and on about what led up to you, but that would literally take pages and pages and I’d prefer not to get carpal tunnel since I’m teaching online until January.  I do know it started as a teenager though.  Yes, I know that was eons ago (can we please not mention my age again…for piss sakes, we all know I’m a dinosaur 😐) but cracks were starting to appear already.

See…I knew I was different than other kids very young.  I never really fit in, and when I did, I was just being what they wanted me to be.  I think a lot of that was because I didn’t know who the fuck I was.  (Sorry ma…I’ll try to make that the only one.  But did you know that in Great Britain, that word is used as easily as we say crap?  And you know what an Anglophile I am).  As I started going through pubes, I could feel it getting worse and worse.  So much was happening in my head, and I was scared.  Very scared.  I developed an eating disorder and ma got help for me.  He turned out to be a sexually abusing asshole though, so I really wasn’t too keen on ever getting help again.  I think that’s understandable, but I know I needed it.

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Fast forward the next couple of decades, and I buried and buried what I was feeling and tried to deal with it the best I could.  Sometimes I was successful, and sometimes I failed.  At times I’d get so depressed that I couldn’t hide it, or I’d be so freaking high I’d bounce off the walls.  At least I could direct that into work and activities…I’ll tell you what, my yard is always the prettiest on the block and my son says my house is slowing shrinking because of all the paint I slap on the walls.

So, 1 had 2 divorces under my belt (😐), and was going through another one.  Yep…I loved my first 2 hubbies very much and those divorces were hellish at best.  But with R, it was really tough because we both still loved each other.  We used the same lawyer, faced the judge together, and hugged each other and cried the entire time when our divorce was being finalized.  But we were living 2 different lives and that just doesn’t make for a good marriage.

I met a guy and we started to get involved after R and I separated.  He took my breath away and he said I was his forever.  I felt the same.  But, he was mentally ill too.  He has Borderline Personality Disorder that as you know, without help, can be extremely difficult to deal with.  He also has PTSD from his 3 tours in the Middle East.  I cut him a lot of slack for this…something so many people in my life didn’t understand.

Three years ago today, I found out he was making plans to be with his ex-girlfriend who was driving to see him, and as we spent time together, he got angrier and angrier with me.  It hurt me so so much because I had been very good to him.

He’s a lot younger than me, and I was always very self-conscious about that.  So, I had a face lift that June.  Yep.  It wasn’t because he asked me too and he even tried to talk me out of it.  But I was starting to make very bad decisions and I went through with it.  I think him being with his ex later freaked me out even more since I took such an extreme step to be ‘perfect’ for him.  Yes, I know that was my issue, but it was hard to deal with.

Then my nephew died on the USS McCain.  He was born 6 months after my son, and all of the kids in our 2 families grew up together since we lived within a mile radius of one another.  My nephews and son always played ball on the same team in Little League together, went swimming at the same pool every summer, and we all were members of the same church.  L was a sweet, playful, funny kid that was very much his own person.  After my son’s dad and I divorced, I never stopped being a part of my niece and nephew’s lives.  L took a few of my classes in college, and having him there always made me smile.  In fact, his smile was truly infectious.  He came to see me right before he left for sea, and we hugged and I cried.  His brother took a pic of us and that was the pic he had on his badge that he wore everyday.  Losing him was the hardest loss I’ve ever faced.  He was still a kid, and there’s no justification for it like you often hear with older people; it wasn’t a blessing and it wasn’t God’s will.  It was stupid, horrible actions of the ones in charge.  Period.  It didn’t have to happen and that makes the pain even worse.

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A student started bothering me exactly around this time too.  I was told to befriend him outside of class because his disruptions were too much to handle in the classroom, and I did.  We talked and joked around and developed a friendship (we are the same age), but never saw each other out of school or even spoke on the phone.  All of our interaction was online.  One night, he got drunk and sent me texts telling me he wanted to rape me, kill me, and make me into a lampshade.  I obviously sought help for this at work but was told it was my fault and had a letter placed in my file.  I actually could have lost my job which would have killed me.  Being a prof means everything to me and I am so invested in my institution and my sweetie students.

So, all of this led to the dam gates opening and you rushing right in.  It seemed so fast.  It was like you wrapped your hands around my throat, stifled my ability to breathe (I’m actually having trouble right now just writing this…another reason I need to purge you) and then shoved me down a black hole I couldn’t see out of.  You know, I believe in God, in heaven, and in hell.  I know hell is the worse possible place imaginable and outside our human realm of thinking, but I had a little taste of it through you (once again, thanks asshole).

You made it so I could hardly talk…it took too much out of me and I couldn’t expend the effort.  I couldn’t go 10 minutes without crying.  I had so much trouble eating.  Sleeping.  It was like I was in a trance.  I was a zombie.  I couldn’t do anything.  I sat.  I ate.  I laid down.  Day after day.  You had gotten rid of ‘me’ and put this shell in it’s place.

So, I started seeing a counselor and my doctor who I’ve known for 20 years.  They saw me more than once a week, and I was in constant touch with both of them because they demanded I be.  As much as they helped me, I lied to them about the seriousness of some of what I was doing (I still can’t see my doc without bawling because I remember how much he did for me and how so supportive he was…he spent hours with me most weeks).  I didn’t want them to know you showed me that razor blade, and when you did,  I didn’t know what I would do with it when I took it from your hand anyway.  But then one night I pressed it against my skin and cut.  It hurt like fuck (my bad, ma) but it was something to concentrate on besides you.  The pain in my leg was much easier to deal with than you were.  My 12 scars are hard to look at but at the time, it seemed right.  That’s how much power you had over me.

I guess that wasn’t enough for you though, so you showed me that bottle of pills I had in my cabinet.  Look, you knew I didn’t want to leave my son and my ma and my family and students and the world itself, so why did you make my pain so bad that I couldn’t find any other way out?  That was when God took over.  He got me up off my bed and I threw up what you had given me.  I don’t care what unbelievers say…I know it was God, because it certainly wasn’t me.

That’s when I finally saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar.  After hearing my history, doc said I am one of the few cases that show itself before adolescence.  When I do something, I do it well…huh?  I got on meds, sought more help, and slowly climbed out of the black hole you were trying so hard to keep me in.

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And it’s over.  It’s finally over.  You’re gone.  And as much as you might hate to hear it, I won.  I fucking won.  Look, I’ve run marathons, did a triathalon, and have really pushed myself physically at times, but those were cakewalks compared to you.  Yet I beat you…I sorta feel like Rocky.

I slowly got strong again, and after a long while I started running because I could finally breathe and leave the house with getting panicky. I can’t tell you how good it felt to lace up my sneakers again.  I was so proud when I did a couple of miles; for someone who used to run 40 miles a week, that doesn’t sound like much, but for me it was huge.  I started doing yoga, and you should see my arms…they freaking rock.  I started doing my art and crafts again, read books I hadn’t been able to concentrate on for so long, reconnected with neighbors who I hadn’t see for months and months, started posting on social media again and basically just started living my life without you.

Look, I know you’re out there.  And I know you can come back at anytime.  That used to scare the shit out of me, but here’s the thing.  I’ve beaten you once, and if you ever show yourself again, I’ll kick your ass one more time.  You don’t scare me anymore and I’m not going to live in dread thinking you’ll return.  I’m too busy being happy, content, proud and healed.

You’re gone.  You lost.  You put up a hell of a fight for me, but I won.  I WON.  Me.  So there.

Kristi xoxo

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

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So, what does it mean to be happy?  Really think about it.  Everyone says that all they want from life is to be happy…but what is it?  Contentment?  Security?  Being loved?  Having a family?  Enjoying your career?  A minimization of stresses?  Is happiness the addition of good things/feelings, or a subtraction of the bad?  Is it a concept like ‘love’ that has a different meaning for everyone?

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I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately for a variety of reasons.  I used to think that my happiness stemmed around having a family.  The white picket fence, “Leave it to Beaver” type family I always wanted for myself, and I pretty much had that when O was a little guy and his dad and I were raising him for the 13 years we were together.  I can honestly say that was the ‘happiest’ time in my life since being a mama and wife meant so much to me.  It was also then that I was hired as an adjunct instructor, got a full-time position, and then was rising up the ranks to being a professor.  It was almost like the stars were aligned just right and everything that I had ever wanted came together.

Fast forward to my life now, single and living alone, and I ask myself if I’m happy like this.  I never thought I’d be because here’s a secret for you:  I was always VERY scared to be alone.  VERY.

Even when others were at home with me, but I was upstairs while they were downstairs, I’d still be scared!  Sometimes sissy would spend the night with someone and my parents would get me in bed before they went down to watch TV.  I would lay in bed shaking…literally.  My family used to laugh at how I’d sleep with all of my stuffed animals in my bed to where they surrounded me like a fence, but it was my safety net, so to speak.  If anything could scare off a monster or axe murder, it was my pink bunny with the ears pulled off.  I don’t think they know this or not, but I often snuck out of my room and would sit on the steps for a time just so I could hear them talk and the TV playing.  I felt much safer then.

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Ted Bundy…Seattle Times.

Then, it was around the time I was in the 6th grade or so that ma started working outside the home full-time (and yes, I used to roll my eyes at that expression but after raising a son, I’m here to tell you that professoring is a freaking breeze compared to the work load of mommying) and my sissy was in High School.  Ma would drop her off and I’d get myself off to school.  No biggie…right?  I had 2 blocks to walk and I was only home for a half hour or so before leaving.  But I was petrified every single morning (which is why I often called T in sick to school so her friends could come over for a skip day, courtesy of my excellent imitation of mom’s voice that the school secretary never questioned) and having T at home for that 1/2 hour before I tottered off to school made me so much more comfortable.  If anyone could stave off a Ted Bundy wannabe, it was T!

Even as an adult, I was scared.  When M (Hubby 1) and I were married, he often had to work 3rd shift and I was alone in our green trailer (if I never see a toilet the color of a rotten avocado, I’ll die content).  I’d pack up Scooter (my first ever dog), Sheldon (my parakeet) and myself and traipse over to ma’s to spend the night in my old room.  She was married to R at the time (get ready for it…the fucking bastard) but even spending the night in the same house as him was preferable to being by myself.  That, my sweet peeps, says a lot.

When O’s dad and I got married, we moved a couple of states away and sometimes he’d have to go on 2 day trips around Kansas (very exciting stuff) while I stayed at home with my baby.  I couldn’t go to moms unless I wanted to drive 14 hours, so I’d barricade me and O in my bedroom with my German Shepherd posted outside the door (God bless you, Tessie) and would count the hours until morning.  Hubby never understood why I was so freaking tired when he got home since O could sleep through the night by that time.

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The real Bloody Mary – First Queen of England

I don’t know what did it, but being alone started to change for me when I was married to Hubby 3.  He spent his summers riding with his motorcycle club (gang 😳) and I was alone for 3 day weekends all through the season, as well as during his  4-5 day trips.  I hated it at first, but then started savoring more and more of the aloneness (is that even a word?).  I liked having the time to do whatever it was I wanted to do, but yes, I was still really scared at night.  Do you remember the game “Bloody Mary”, where you look in a mirror, chant that phrase, and then you’ll actually see her ghost appear?  Because of that damn ‘game’, I couldn’t sleep in a room with a mirror for ages.  So, when Hubby was gone, I’d put a blanket over my dresser mirror that faced the bed, and hoped for the best.  Eventually, I took it down…believe it or not, that was a huge step for me!  (P.S.  She never appeared…go figure 🙄).

So here I am now…alone.  Everything I didn’t want to be but suddenly the situation I find myself in.  Surprisingly though, I don’t hate it and in fact, sometimes I really love it!  You see, I used to depend on others to make me feel secure.  Safe.  And to go even further with it validated…important…needed…and yes, happy too.  I sought these things from everyone I had been in a relationship with.  I wanted them to be the one stop shop where I could get all I needed just from them.  I wanted them to be responsible for the things that made me ‘happy’ and as you well know by now, those situations didn’t last.

You know, I used to hate it when people would say:  “You are responsible for your own happiness.”  OK…I’ll jot that down in my little book of advice.  But actually, it’s true.  I think I turned away from the gist of that phrase because I didn’t want the responsibility of my own happiness.  I didn’t want to learn to depend on me.  Feel safe with me.  Feel secure with me.  That sounded like a crap load of work, and it was so much easier to put that onus on someone else and then blame them when I wasn’t happy.  Right?  Why take on a job when you can pass it along to another?  (By the way sis, you still owe me a vacuuming from 1980 when I did it for you that one afternoon before ma got home…just sayin’).

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So, I’ve been put in a situation where I’m having to depend only on me.  If I want to feel secure, I am the one to make that happen.  If I want to feel safe, I have to understand I can take care of myself.  If I want to feel content…fulfilled…’happy’…then it’s up to me to create that environment to do so.  Period.  Me.  Just good old (cough cough) me.

And guess what?  I’m doing it!  Over these past months, I’ve learned so much about myself.  I’ve learned how much stronger I am.  How much more capable.  I’ve learned to take care of me…by myself.  I’ve come to understand I can weather storms with just me, Eddie, and Little Dot and it’s empowering every time.  I have finally come to see that depending on me is something I’ve needed for a long long time.  I’ve also learned something so so important:  that being with someone who creates unhappiness for you is so much worse than simply being alone.  I don’t NEED anyone to fulfill my needs now (although having one of those fulfilled…ahem…would be sorta nice), I’m doing just fine on my own.

So, back to my original question:  is this what happiness is…at least for me?  Yes.  I think it is.  I know when I wake up, I smile.  I know doing things around my house to make it exactly the way I want it makes me proud.  I know that watching Eddie and Dottie play out in the yard makes me laugh.  I know that watching stupid movies and eating dinner on the couch with Eddie’s head on my lap makes me feel a sense of contentment.  Maybe this wouldn’t be enough for someone else.  Maybe it’s too ‘little’…after all, I’m not traveling the world or jumping out of a plane, but it’s what I like.  And for me…that seems to be my happiness.

I still cry.  I still deal with issues relating to being bipolar.  I still get scared at times…lonely…sad.  I still miss having a partner at times.  I still want a picket fence family again.  Right now, I’m cycling through a bit of a manic stage but with some depression in the mix (it’s such a weird feeling to be on top of the world while crying at times), and the other day, I was really struggling.  I reached out to a friend and asked if they could come over for even just a few minutes to give me a hug and reassure me I was going to be OK.  They couldn’t so I weathered the storm on my own, and came out just fine.  By myself.  All by myself.  And…I was so proud.

For me, this is all happiness.  Knowing that no matter what happens to me in life, I’ll always have myself.  I’m happy with being ‘just’ me.  I’m happy with how I’m living right now and what I’m doing.  Maybe happiness is different for everyone, but sometimes I think people seek it too much in things…or in other people…or in constantly striving for that ‘something’ else that will miraculously fulfill them and make them believe they have finally reached the nirvana they sought.  I’m thinking it’s a little more than that…and a little less.  I’m thinking that it really does come from within…that it’s not money or cars or houses or others.  It’s you, and being content with who you are.  That, grasshoppers, is enough…at least for me.

Kristi xoxo

“I feel pretty… Oh, so pretty…” ~ West Side Story

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So, I know you won’t believe this when I tell you but I am absolutely speechless.  Yes, it’s one of the very few times in my life that I simply don’t know what to say and I’m trying right now to sort out my thoughts and figure this whole thing out.  (Ma and O…don’t get too excited, I’m sure my normal speaking ability will be back very soon…probably by the time you read this).

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Anyhoot, I’ve been reading articles concerning the image we have of ourselves and come to find out that because we (women mostly, but men as well) use filters so often on our selfies before posting them to social media, our brains get ‘used’ to seeing that more perfect version of ourselves and we then judge ourselves much more harshly when we see our unedited selves in the mirror.  You know, this really just makes sense though, doesn’t it?  When I see my son, I don’t necessarily see the ‘man’ in front of me…I see the boy he’s been throughout his life and his face is a composite of all of those images.  I see what I’ve been ‘used’ to seeing throughout the years.

Think about it, we take a selfie…determine that we need to fix it since it looks too real…and then post the ‘perfected’ image online.  Later, we wash up, look in the mirror, and think blech.  Then, we start to get down about ourselves since we’re so far from the perfect version everyone is clicking the like button for.  So, next time we make sure to filter just as well if not a tad bit more, because those likes just feel so damn good to us, even though it’s creating yet a more unattainable image of our own face that in reality, there’s no way we can match.  Then we want to feel better and get some validation so snap, filter, post, and get the love.  The cycle becomes a vicious one and we are now seeing tons of research showing that it’s a dangerous one as well.

Take a look-see at this (Forbes, March 23rd, 2020):

“In 2018, researchers discovered 55% of surgeons are now seen by patients looking to improve their appearance for selfies (up from 42% in 2015) and that the pervasive nature of filtered images regularly trigger body dysmorphia.”

Paul Nassif (Hollywood plastic surgeon on Botched said this:  “Public thinking has changed.  More people are embracing fillers and botox to recreate the effect of filters and other photo editing apps.  It’s becoming very normal.”

Now read that again, grasshoppers.  People are wanting plastic surgery to LOOK BETTER FOR SELFIES POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA.  Selfies!  Are you kidding me?  Social media is becoming so strong of an influence in our lives that we’ll go under the knife or needle to look good on our feed?  A FEED ON A SCREEN THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FILLED WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO LOVE YOU?  (Get ready ma…) but are you fucking kidding me?

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Little too much editing there, John

No, it’s not a joke.  First, let me admit to you that of course I’ve used filters!  When they first came out they were a God send…right?  My zits (yes, I’m 50+ years old and still have zits 🙄) and wrinkles could be hidden and I had the face I have always dreamed about.  Clear, smooth skin and looking like I had had a glamour make-over from the 90’s (but better…no big hair and denim jackets with bandanas).  I loved it!  I would feel so good about myself when others would say “Wow…looking good, Kristi!”  Until I’d take a shower, look in the mirror right after, and think ‘why in the hell can’t I look more like the pics I take?’  I’ll tell you why…because I was posting the perfect me…not the real me.  And some of them were REALLY bad perfects!  Like when the filter looked super on my face, but then every other part of me looked ‘real’ and things didn’t match up, but I liked seeing my skin flawless to the point I had no pores and was ready for a mag cover.

Filtered me and ma…REAL me and ma.

Did you know that millennials will take about 25,700 selfies in their life and that 1:5 kids want to grow up to be social media influencers (thank God they have a great career in mind as opposed to being a doctor or educator 🙄)?  And think about the selfies…what if that millennial put a dollar in the bank for every selfie?  That’s a nice little nest egg to build up.  P.S.  Did you know that in 2015, more people died taking selfies than from shark attacks?  And, since 2011, there have been 259 deaths which are now called ‘selfiecides’?  (Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care)  SELFIECIDES, grasshoppers…people putting them in positions where they are risking their life for a picture of themselves.  I can’t find the right words for this…so…(dammit, sorry ma again) what the fuck?  Are we that freaking narcissistic it’s worth our lives to get “the” shot that garners so much attention?

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From Boudoir Alaska

There’s also a new ‘disorder’, if you will, being called “Snapchat Dysmorphia” which is filtered pics causing negative effects on a person’s self-esteem and body image.  Then this can literally trigger the much more serious Body Dysmorphic Disorder…an actual mental illness that the The Mayo Clinic describes as this:  the BDD person INTENSELY focuses on how they look and their body image…checking themselves in the mirror repeatedly, constantly grooming themselves for hours everyday and then seeking reassurance, all of which is causing significant distress and an inability to function in everyday life.  The perceived flaw(s) (remember…they are perceived and not real…what they see in the mirror or in selfies isn’t the reality of the image there).  Sometimes it’s a certain body part the person intensely and obsessively focuses on, like their nose or lips, and others might have a more general issue with their body.

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Darcy Silva (90 Day Fiance) with multiple plastic surgeries

OK…let’s get this straight:  a ‘disorder’ that originates from SOCIAL MEDIA SELFIES and can literally trigger a mental illness which can lead the person to get multiple plastic surgeries, avoid crowds and gatherings because they feel so ugly, and spend so much time obsessing over their flaw that their relationships and work suffer.  This is bad, peeps.

When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s (best decade ever!), we didn’t have social media (and gasp…actually survived!).  The ads I saw might have had some ‘airbrushing’ but they weren’t photoshopped and still looked ‘normal’…some wrinkles, freckles, pores (!), etc.  But in 1990, photoshop started being used on the pics we see, and it’s become the norm in ads and pics of celebrities…some estimates say 99.9% of celebs use it for pics they release.  So…the people we look up too for body image, beauty, styles, fashion, trends, etc. aren’t who they appear to be.  But by golly, we want to look like them.

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70’s Ad…stupid but not ‘perfect’

You know, once I started reading about all of this I decided I had enough problems (😳) and was tired of looking in the mirror and saying ‘blech’.  I’ve worked so hard to get strong after my breakdown and have come a long way.  Three years ago this summer (actually beginning around this time), I was incapable of functioning, tried to end my life, and began seriously cutting.  Now I’m on a mood stabilizer, running, doing yoga (and now have ‘guns’!  Hello, tank tops!), living alone and fixing up my house all by myself (including walking around on my roof!), learning new hobbies, doing art, and really starting to see my worth and feel STRONG.  Why would I want to back-pedal and feel bad about myself again because of the expectations I have of how I should look?

So, when I had a pic of myself I wanted to post (which actually is a bit upsetting to think I feel the need for others to periodically see my face…you’ve seen it once, you don’t need to see it again to know who I am for piss sakes 😳) I decided to not use filters ever again.    No more.  I’ve posted the real me.  Yes, I have wrinkles because I’m 53.  I have sun spots because I’ve always been a tomboy and outside a lot.  I have zits and clogged pores (although the oil cleansing method is a god-send), and the list of flaws goes on (I sound like a real catch, huh?).  But here’s the thing, grasshoppers:  what I see in my pic is what I see in the mirror and it’s become much more normal for me now.  It’s me.  I feel so much better about the real me than I previously had, and putting it out there freed me from that weight of perfection.  I no longer wear make-up except for mascara (thanks for the droopy eyelids, ma) and lipstick.  Nothing on my skin…which has actually made it look better in the long run.  I used to never go out without gunk on my skin.  Now I do, all the time, and I feel like I’m just being me.

Peeps, we need to let the girls and women in our lives (and men too!) that they don’t need filters to look good.  They don’t need to erase, plump, blur, straighten, make thinner, make bigger, lighten, darken, or anything else to be beautiful.  They need to learn that being themselves is enough.  Instead of saying how gorgeous they are in their photoshopped pics, we need to tell them how great the editing is, but how they are beautiful already.

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But I know this isn’t going to help much though.  There is too much social media influence in our culture for the younger generations, and they are going through the majority of their growing up years seeing only ‘perfect’ pics (even of their parents) and building the cognitive framework in their mind that flawless is the only option.  How do we knock this down when it’s so well constructed in their minds?  Why are people spending their lives as “influencers” simply showing off their edited looks to sell a product by telling others how it will make them look beautiful too?  Is this really an admirable ‘career’?  Why are we wasting time everyday to take and then edit the perfect pic?  The one we are hoping is ‘it’ on FB or Instagram?  Couldn’t that time be better spent…like playing with our kids, reading a book, volunteering, taking a hike, etc.?

I guess I just worry for these kids and teens right now since I see so many of these concerns in my own college students.  It breaks my heart how these issues are affecting their self-esteem and body image in a way that could potentially trigger BDD or cause anxiety, social phobia, depression, etc.  Is a selfie worth this?  Is pretending?  Grasshoppers…I don’t believe it is.

Kristi xoxo

“Number 47 said to number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.” ~ Elvis Presley

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So, my sissie and I were yapping the other day and during our conversation about her new LPN position, she said her boss had told her something she’d been thinking about a lot regarding love.  Basically, it was how we are all given only 3 true-love relationship coins in our life, and because of that, they need to be used wisely and sparingly…with great care.

Wow.  My first reaction was why the hell didn’t I hear this 40 freaking years ago, and my second (which I know you are all thinking so I’ll just put it out there 🙄) was “Son of a bitch…mine are definitely spent.”  😳

Hmmmmm.  Is this true?  Do we really have a finite number of times we can experience true, fulfilling, ‘real’ love with another, or can we actually have that time and time again in our lives?  I think back to my past relationships and question how deep and meaningful that love really was, and whether or not I had experienced it with everyone I’d been with.  I adore Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love which states there are 3 aspects (sides) to love:  passion (the sexual chemistry), intimacy (the emotional connection), and commitment (the cognitive decision to stay with the person long-term, through thick and thin).  If you have all 3 of these components in your relationship, Sternberg says you are experiencing ‘consummate love’ which is what we all (well…most of us) strive for with our partners.  Just having a couple of the sides represent different types of love…for example, passion plus intimacy is a romantic love without any commitment to weather the storms that might come along.

So, have I experienced this ‘true’ love in every relationship I’ve had?  Is this idea of consummate love something like that of Maslow’s idea of self-actualization where it’s the ‘goal’ of life, but not necessarily something that everyone can achieve?  Is having ‘just’ 2 sides of the triangle mean you haven’t had ‘true’ love?  Can you feel ‘true love’ without having a solid 3?  Can you be satisfied with having less than the 3?  If you start out with just a couple of the ‘sides’, can you build the other with conscious work and determination?  What if you feel the 3 sides, but your partner doesn’t?  Does that negate the ‘true love’ in your own heart?  Hmmmmm…

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror. 🙄

OK, so let’s take a look-see at my relationships (yes, this is going to take a while since Elizabeth Taylor and I are twins… 🙄).  My first one was in high school when I didn’t know beans about what love really entailed.  I ‘loved’ my boyfriend, but didn’t have any idea how to create something meaningful outside of high school ‘love’…writing my first name with his last name in my notebook and making out with him in my basement on ma’s nubby green 70’s love seat, praying she wouldn’t traipse down the stairs with a basket of laundry to start (by the way, she did do that at a very awkward time…cough cough…and if that doesn’t kill the mood, I don’t know what does.  Thanks for that one, ma.).  Does anybody in high school really have the experience and cognitive ability to love fully?  I don’t think so.  YES…I know high school sweethearts who have married and are still together, but I have a feeling their love matured a great deal from what it was solely in high school.

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How about Hubby 1?  I was besotted with him and was definitely in love with him, but still, at 21, pretty darn immature regarding the significance of marriage.  We were WAY too young and had some really stupid beliefs like we could live on love, and not money.  Obviously, that worked out well.  With Hubby 2 though, I had all 3 sides of love.  I actually consider him my first ‘real’ marriage.  We had our son, raised him together for 13 years, built a couple of houses together, moved out of state together, and really got close to each other’s families.  It was a much more mature love in which both of us had divorced and wanted to work to make this marriage the one that lasted.  And #3?  Another true love…and one that was different than that with my son’s pa, but still all encompassing.

So, the question you are probably shouting is “Then why the hell did they fail, dumbass?”  (You don’t need to cuss at me, grasshoppers…you know ma doesn’t like that 🙄).  The answer?  Beats the fuck out of me.  More on this later.

Now, with J?  I had all 3 sides…bad.  I definitely had the passion and intimacy going into the relationship, and the commitment grew quickly for me.  In fact, my commitment was almost too much since it held on to him during situations when I should have let go (e.g. cheating).   But, to be honest, that’s what commitment is, isn’t it?  Holding on?  Getting through the bad?  Learning from it?  OK…sounds good…but does that mean abusive behavior should be ignored because of commitment?  Nope.  Of course not.  So with J?  The biggest issue I think that was inherent in our partnership was his own ‘triangle’.  I know he had intimacy with me because he shared so much of his childhood trauma and war experiences with me.  But passion?  Obviously not.  And commitment?  Uh huh.  Unfortunately, as I readily found out, a relationship is only as strong as it’s perceived by the lesser invested member.

Now, why did the ‘real’ ones fail?  Why did they end in divorces?  Why didn’t the commitment we apparently had not win out?  I think a lot of it had to do with me being bipolar.  Let me rephrase that…me being a not yet diagnosed, untreated bipolar.

When I was in manic phases, I was high with so much impulsivity, poor decision making, and feeling so freaking good, I didn’t think anything bad could ever touch me.  So why work on negative things in a relationship when I’m having just too much fun being up?  Screw that.  The result?  I did things and said things during these times that contributed greatly to the erosion of the marriages, and at those times, could not even begin to see what the consequences of that were.  Not real proud of that.  And then when I was cycling through a depression?  I didn’t have the energy, desire, or even the capability of knowing what was happening in the marriage…I was too deep down into my tunnel to see anything but that terrifying darkness those of you with depression can readily relate too.

So, what if I would have had more insight (or acceptance, since I knew something was very wrong) about being mentally ill?  What if I had been treated at that time with meds and counseling (as I am today)?  Would that have saved these marriages?  Could I ‘blame’ being bipolar for being a pretty shitty wife at times?  Is that fair?

Well yes…in a way it is.  I literally can’t help what my brain is like…how it operates differently from others.  I can’t control the cycles on my own.  I can’t prevent myself from the emotional states and related behavior of being bipolar without meds (and meds don’t prevent the states…it just works to lessen them).  Or can I?  Do I sometimes use my ‘brain’ disease as an excuse?  Or do I have more control than I might think?  And, does anyone who is mentally ill know the answers to these questions in terms of their own experiences?

What if I had gotten help when I should have growing up (wait…let me rephrase that:  what if I would have gotten the right help from a professional that wasn’t sexually abusive)?  Would I have had more insight into my behavior, emotionality, and sensitivity?  Would my spouses have (I sound like a freaking polygamist)?  Would they have understood these issues better, and worked with me to handle being bipolar in the context of our marriages?

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So, back to the 3 coins.  Let’s say this is right and we have only these 3 coins to spend on love  relationships.  We’re given these coins at the start of pubes, and are told that’s it…you can’t have more.  Would we be more careful in jumping into relationships?  More understanding of what we are truly looking for instead of just ‘trying’ things out?  Would we become more selective?  I wonder if I would have made different decisions based on this.  Even though everything was telling both of us that marriage #1 (sigh) was probably not a super idea, M and I did it anyway.  Maybe I would have saved that coin instead.  Using a coin on O’s dad was the best freaking coin I could have ever spent though.  And #3?  I think I would have spent that one too…we had 10 years that were definitely worth it and are still great friends to boot.

Now, what about J’s?  Oh wow.  This is a toughie.  I definitely spent my last coin on him, and this relationship hurt me the most emotionally than any other one ever did.  I know I was in ‘true’ love with him and thought he was my soul-mate (the only time I’ve ever said that about anyone).  So, was the coin I spent worth it?  Yep.  If not for anything else, just the fact I was in his kids’ lives for 3 years.

Well…the problem is obviously this and what I’ve been thinking about:  my 3 coins are spent.  Used up.  My piggy bank is empty.  Does this mean, if the 3 coin idea is true, that I’m out of ‘loves’?  Here’s what’s weird:  I think I kind of am.  Sometimes I think my heart has been broken and then glued together so many times that it’s just not up to the task of trying again.  And even if it is up to the task, is my head?  Will I ever invest the ‘commitment’ side into someone else again?  Trust to do that?  Or, can’t I help but invest that, no matter how bad of an investment it might be?  (Like me investing in bitcoin, lost on that one 🙄).  Maybe the banker in charge of the coins will have mercy on me…give me another one as a ‘tip’ so to speak.  Hmmmmm…if that happens, I’ll tell you one thing…it’s staying in my pocket until I’m damn sure the money is going to be well spent.

Kristi xoxo

“And it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” ~ Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) I

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So, I finished reading a book yesterday with a very disturbing theme about a father and grown daughter having a sexual relationship.  I bought the book on my Kindle after being intrigued by the subject matter, especially because I teach Psychology and Human Sexuality.  Katheryn Harrison published “The Kiss” in 1997 and after I had read the last page, I sat for a few minutes thinking about the characters and how they were portrayed.  The mother, father and daughter were not well developed and the incidents of incest were described only briefly.  I didn’t necessarily feel close to any one character, but still felt I knew them all.  It was a very different type of writing but appropriate, I feel, for the subject matter.

Anyhoot, after I had pondered it for a while, I noticed that I still had 12% unread and found an interview with the author after the last page; although I had assumed this book was a novel it was actually a memoir, with the daughters voice throughout the book being the author herself.

I was gobsmacked…and I think it was for a couple of reasons.  First, the bravery Kathryn had to write about a situation in which there was going to be a lot of judgement (particularly in 1997 when we were still hiding so much), and secondly, to put herself out there and make her secret known to other family, friends, students, and her older children.  She has never identified the dad, so outside of the close family circle he’s anonymous, and her intention was never ‘out’ him.  I also understand her ‘lesser than’ characters since the story wasn’t written for shock value or drama, but to purge a secret from her soul in the only way she had as an outlet to use, and to do it in the most honest, straightforward way she could.

After reading the authors interview about using writing to heal, I thought about this blog and my purpose behind it.  In Kathryn’s interview she says a lot of things I could relate too:

“I think human beings exist poised between two terrors:  being known, really known, for who they are, and never being known, and therefore never being loved for who they really are.”

“When I teach I tell my students there’s a paradox – an essential paradox – in writing memoir.  The process will bring them both closer to and further away from themselves, their histories.  To succeed they will have to examine material that is painful, see what they don’t want to see, especially about themselves.”

She goes on to say:

“The past is something they’ll have to admit, in the sense of both confessing and inviting in.  But they’ll be able to tolerate the discomfort of admission because writing about the past demands that they objectify it, shape and manipulate the same events or transactions that once overwhelmed them.”

Now, the other day someone messaged me and said that I was always going to be known as the bipolar (‘the bipolar’?  It sounds like I’m an alien and the only one out there 😳) and why would I want EVERYONE to know I was mentally ill anyway?

Well…the short answer is that I really don’t give a flying fuck how people see me (sorry ma, sis is the one who taught me all of these words…you need to speak with her and while I have your ear, ask her to help you with any issues you encounter with your new computer which I had to set up on that God awful day when I thought we were going to maim each other…just sayin’).

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Wanna know why?  Because I have bipolar (and an eating disorder 😐), know I’m mentally ill, and that’s finally OK with me.  Look, I hid it and hid it and hid it, until I couldn’t even see it myself for so many years.  I was ashamed to think there was something seriously wrong with me…that I wasn’t the ‘perfect’ mama, daughter, sis, professor, etc. I tried so hard to be.  Suppressing any thoughts I had that were telling me I needed serious help wasn’t easy, but was more acceptable.  I didn’t want to be ‘the bipolar’.  I wanted to be Kristi.  But I wasn’t being Kristi because I had buried myself deep down inside of my mind and then acted my way through life the best I could.  And when I simply couldn’t keep up my act, I’d blame whatever was convenient to blame.

I didn’t want people to know the real me…the really mentally ill me.  But here’s the thing:  like Kathryn said, have I ever really been loved for who I actually am?  To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer to that.  I do know so many people have stepped away from me.  I guess they liked me being on my personal stage and smiling and laughing my way through life, before I’d go home and collapse in tears.  They liked hearing about my relaxing weekend when I’d actually been cycling through a mania that I tried to hide at school, but which came out in droves on the weekend when I might stay up 16 hours straight doing whatever needed to be done, and other things that didn’t need to be done but I wanted to do anyway.  Phew.

The only relationship I’ve been in since being formally diagnosed and getting help was with J.  I don’t know if he got it though.  I think he liked the acting Kristi too.  It was almost like we reversed our dynamics in a way:  when he started being good to me (and there really was a lot of good) after our 1st year together, he’d say “This is me…the real J!”  And I had a hard time believing it because the only J I had known prior to this was the mentally ill J that hurt me.  It was the same with him though.  Once my masks fell off, I sensed that he didn’t like the authentic me.  And unlike I tried to do with him in terms of his mental illnesses, he didn’t really take my bipolar, and related effects, into consideration when we would have issues.  I think in the back of his mind, I was still the ‘perfect professor’ who was there TO help…not someone that sometimes NEEDED help.

A couple of the guys I’ve gone out with since then have used my diagnosis against me when it’s convenient.  They’d remind me that I’m mentally ill (thanks for that tidbit guys, I have a hard time remembering it myself 🙄) and that’s probably why I got angry at them.  Or sad.  Or excited.  Or whatever it was that could take the focus off of their part in the issue and put it solely on me.

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Also, like Kathryn states, it is so helpful for me to write out the things I need to say.  Whether it’s about problems I’m having with bipolar on a particular day or other issues in my life, writing helps me sort it out, it’s cathartic (by the way, I’ve finally cycled into my summer mania which isn’t off the charts because of my mood stabilizer, but I’m getting a hell of a lot of stuff done.  Need your gutters cleaned?).  Seeing what I’ve written about the psychologist that abused me has helped me put that to rest more than it’s ever been in my life.  Publishing that…getting it out there…and knowing I’m not alone because of the stories you sweet peeps have shared with me has helped tremendously.

Figuring out the relationships I’ve had, particularly J’s since that’s the one that haunts me the most, has helped me to see parts of it I haven’t recognized before.  It’s also helped me to understand his actions better and to see how I was also a part of our conflict.  I have come to understand I have to take ownership for the role I played and not just put the burden of blame solely on him.  That’s humbling.  But also right.  Without writing some of my posts and re-reading them a few times later on, I don’t know if I would have ever gotten to this point.

And Kathryn is so right when she says that by writing and publishing publicly, you aren’t just ‘confessing’ your trials and tribulations, but you are inviting others into that fold as well.  Yesterday, a student (she’s a doll) wrote me and told me how much she loved my blog and how many posts spoke to her to the point she has shared them with her mama who also benefits from them.  Yeppers…it’s hard to say some of what I say, but it’s worth it when I get a message like that.  It’s worth losing friendly colleagues, worth having people look at me differently, worth having some family step away from me at times when I need them the most (some have never mentioned my suicide attempt as if it was just another thing Kristi did for the hell of it…that, my grasshoppers, breaks my heart), worth being known as the ‘bipolar professor’ (I wonder if I could get a book out of that…hmmmm), worth having to examine myself under a microscope and look at what’s really there, instead of what I tricked myself into seeing for so many years.

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My son (almost 27, even though I’m still 40 🙄) doesn’t mention my blog much, and sometimes I’ll ask if he’s read any posts lately.  He’ll say he has but by the way he comments I know he hasn’t.  At times I think he’s ashamed of me…that he wants that perfect, step-fordy mama back where I continuously nod and say “everything’s perfect, sweetie.”  And then I feel guilty, because I think to myself that maybe I should go back to that.  To being fake and pretending my way through life.  To posting filtered pics on FB where I am in the right pose with the right background with the right smile with the right message.  But, as much as I love my son and would give my life for him in a second, I’m not going to go back to that because I simply can’t.  Once the words have been released, there’s no taking them back.  And as you know, peeps, I’ve released a heck of a lot of words.

I like that image of release though.  Like letting go of a balloon and watching it float into the sky until it simply disappears from your sight.  I can’t tell you how much better I feel by being Kristi, the gal who has bipolar.  I’m here to tell you peeps, pretending is freaking exhausting.  So now, I cry when I need to cry, I laugh too loud when I hear something funny, and if I’m having a really shitty day, I say to people:  “I’m having a really shitty day.”  I don’t use filters anymore on FB and pretend to have a picture perfect life; in fact, the last few pics I’ve posted are me after doing yard work where I’m dirty, sweaty, stinky, and have a stupid look on my face.  But, it’s me.  One take.  And I’m OK with that.

When I’m in the great craft area of heaven one day, I hope this:  that people will remember me as a good mom, good daughter, good sister, freaking amazing as hell professor (😁) who had a mental illness she made public so that others would also feel free to expose their own…get help for it…learn to manage it…and live with it in the best way they could.  And you know what?  If that’s all that’s said about me, that’s enough.  And this blog was totally worth it.

Kristi xoxo

 

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~ Nelson Mandela

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So, it took me a while to write this post because I questioned whether or not I really had a right to talk about something I’ve never experienced.  You see, I have a mental illness and it really bugs me when others talk about the mentally ill by making assumptions or buying into stereotypes when they don’t have one themselves or any experience working with someone who does.  But then I realized that all conversation about mental illness is worthwhile, as long as it opens people’s eyes and facilitates discussion pertaining to the issues we face.

In a like manner, I hope you don’t mind me talking about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.  I’m white and have never experienced prejudice or discrimination because of my skin color, but I still want to be a part of the conversation that can, at the very least, show support in some small way.

I know I have white privilege.  Why is that so hard for other whites to admit?  The word privilege means having an ‘advantage’ or ‘freedom’, something that’s easy for me to see based on my own experiences.  Look, I know when I walk into a store I’m not going to be watched.  I know when I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to be asked to step out of my car.  I know when I go into a bank for a loan, I’ll be taken seriously.  I know when I have something to say, I’ll be heard.  I know if I want to find a white Barbie (Lord knows why I’d want one) or a book with white characters for a kid’s Christmas gift, it will be easy to do.  I know if I screw something up, it won’t be blamed on my race.  And, I know that my race will never hear the words “They are all like that.”  I won’t be grouped into 1 box for ease…assuming everyone white is just like me.  In other words, I’m allowed my individuality.

Further, I know I take this for granted.  It’s all I’ve known during my life, and it’s not going to change.  Of that I can be sure.  Still, I’ve been teaching all of my professional life.  I started as a teacher’s aid when I was still in college at an inner city school in my state’s capital.  I did that for 2 years before student teaching (in another inner city school) and then having my own elementary classroom.  I moved on to teaching men and women who were on parole and who had to get a GED in order to maintain it, and then I finally started teaching college 26 years ago.  I’ve taught people from 15-70 in my classroom ever since.  And yes, I’ve had scores of black students that have taught me more than I’ve probably ever taught them.

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I’ll never forget one young, black lady who came up to me after our final exam, after I’d only been teaching college for a couple of years, who said this:  “Thank you for treating me like everyone else this semester.”  I looked at her and said:  “Ok…but why wouldn’t I?”  And she said this:  “Usually, professors have treated me 1 of 2 ways:  they either ignore me and assume I’m just here for the grant money which I’m not, since my parents are more than able to pay for school.  Or, they’ll say things like ‘you are such a good writer!’, as if it’s a miracle a black woman can actually put together a coherent sentence.”  It made me feel so bad that she is rarely treated ‘like everyone else’ and felt the need to be thankful when she was.

I had another young man whose last name is known in our community for the criminal behavior of his family.  In his first essay for me, he expressed how difficult it was for him to be in college.  It was obvious to him his profs had preconceived notions about his ability to do his work and some even asked if he was a member of ‘that’ family.  But, his family also gave him a hard time.  “So, you think you’re better than us, college boy?”  On either side of him, he was being told he should never think that college is right for him.  This was one of the first times I cried while reading an essay.  Here’s this bright young man (who really had the ability to do very well in school) who felt doomed from the start.  He didn’t think he’d ever get past the reputation of his last name, and without family support, he was lost.  I looked for him the following semester and he had withdrawn from school.  I tried to contact him a few times, but never heard back.  As far as I know, he hasn’t stepped into another classroom again.  How heartbreaking that is to me.

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I remember going to church one morning and a black man was there to worship with my all white congregation.  Everybody made such a fuss and ‘welcomed’ him profusely as a guest.  In fact, it was embarrassing how people were fawning over him, and it was obvious he was very uncomfortable.  Why can’t he just be a ‘regular’ guest in the sanctuary who isn’t being pointed out again and again?  Don’t we all worship the same God?  Doesn’t he hear us all the same?  Aren’t all of our prayers just as important to him?  Didn’t he make all of us in his image?  Churches are not our homes.  They are Christ’s homes…and because of that, anyone and everyone should be welcome.  Period.

Then there are the people around me that tell me they are color blind. Okey dokey.  Well, I’m not.  I see color.  Of course I do.  How can you not see there’s a difference between black skin and white skin?  To me, if you don’t ‘see’ the difference, you aren’t going to ‘see’ how you might be feeding into stereotypes.  How you might be prejudice or acting in a discriminatory way without consciously acknowledging it.  Blinders are not what we need.  Full vision of who each one of us are, and the struggles inherent to that, are.

In my parenting class, we talk about how black parents have an extra task that white parents don’t:  teaching their little gals and guys how to navigate the world of prejudice early on.  Let’s be honest here:  it starts very very young.  I was shocked to read about the expulsion rate of young black boys from preschool:  although they make up around 19% of students, they are 47% of total suspensions (Journal of African American Males).  And this is in PRE-school where kids are sponges…soaking up all they see and hear.  Doesn’t make for a very good beginning in academia, does it?

Then, Northwestern University found that the physiological response to racism in schools causes elevated stress in black youth with a psychological response where the student has to develop some sort of coping mechanism to deal with this.  The effect?  Concentration, motivation and learning are impaired by both unintended and overt racism.

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When Jane Elliot started doing her ‘brown eye / blue eye’ experiment in her 3rd grade classrooms, her goal was to make sure her white students (in Riceville, Iowa) understood what prejudice and discrimination felt like in order to help them understand the issues of blacks during a time where there was so much social upheaval.  She first performed the exercise in 1968 after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and placed the children in one of 2 groups based on eye color.  One day, the brown eyed group was on top and received much privilege and inclusion (she talked to her class about how brown eyes were smarter, more talented, etc.), and the next day, the blue eyed were on top (she said she had made a mistake the day before, and actually it was the blue eyes that were better).   To easily show who was in the ‘bottom’ group on either day, the kids wore collars around their necks (much like the Jews wore stars during the Nazi regime).  The results were horrific.  Kids that had normally been great friends were (within an hour or so) bullying one another, ignoring each other, and a fist fight broke out between boys who had been buddies.   If a ‘bottom’ kid complained about something, they would have their argument turned against them and their words weren’t taken seriously…you could see the anger and frustration in their faces when this happened.  The ‘down’ kids were quiet, more inside of themselves, as if they didn’t want to draw attention to their new status.  What really shocked me was when the brown eyed kids got to take off their collars the next day to give them to a blue eyed.  You would think that having experienced something bad themselves, they would want to spare someone else that pain.  But instead, they quickly GAVE that treatment away to someone else…a friend.

There was another intended consequence Ms. Elliot didn’t see coming:  on the day a child was in the ‘out’ group, their academic performance dipped considerably, and when they were on top, their work excelled.  When she talked to the children later about this, one boy said it was hard to concentrate on work when you’re being treated differently…because that’s all you think about.  Wow.

And it’s horrible when you think about how many stereotypes still exist regarding blacks, even though we have more access to information than ever before in our history.  For example – 39.8% of all actual welfare recipients are black, and 38.8% of welfare recipients are white (Department of Health and Human Services).  This refutes a lot of current thought that blacks receive significantly more welfare benefits than whites.  Another?  A study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology found that “Black students experience more suspensions, expulsions, and disciplinary actions that white students, even for exactly the same behavior.”  Finally, in a Report to the United Nations on Race Disparity in Criminal Justice in the U.S., it was reported that blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested for a crime, to be convicted, and to be given longer prison sentences.  Period.

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Then, 46 year old George Floyd was killed on May 25th.  So many people don’t realize why the store clerk called 911:  it was after Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes with.  OK.  A counterfeit $20 bill (20 bucks), and it’s not known if Floyd was aware of this or not since other business owners have said that bad $20’s were being circulated around the area.  The punishment for this is usually less than a year in prison and a $3000 fine.  In fact, a white college professor, Mark McCoy (Southern Methodist University in Dallas) was arrested for the exact same thing and spent one night in jail and received 6 months probation for his crime.  But George paid with his life.  And people still say racism doesn’t exist.

I know people are fond of saying “All Lives Matter” and that’s true…all lives do matter.  But the “Black Lives Matter” movement is so important to our society.  There has to be recognition that although all lives matter in terms of intrinsic value, not all lives are treated equally in terms of race.  And by looking at the Floyd case as one example, it’s easy to see that, in the eyes of so many, not all lives do matter.  Period.  Why is that so difficult to understand?  Why is it so threatening to others?  I write this blog to show how those of use who are mentally ill matter.  Why is it wrong for the black population to shed a spotlight on why their lives matter when they live in a country that is telling them otherwise?

Look, I know this post isn’t going to change things…I may be mentally ill, but I’m not stupid.  But I do know this:  all of us have to rally together and correct this wrong in our society.  How can it be that in 2020, we still judge people by their skin color?  What happened to perceiving and treating people as individuals?  To looking at what’s inside of them?  Why can’t we look at a person’s character…intelligence…humor…personality?  Why do people have to be grouped in the most negative way possible?  Why in the hell is it so difficult to understand that skin color is not the entirety of a person?  And most importantly, why aren’t all of us aware that “Black Lives Matter” isn’t a ‘black issue.’  Instead, it’s a people issue where all of us have to work together to ensure our children, our families, and our future generations will know from the start that everyone matters…no matter what.

Kristi xoxo

“I can tote it, I just need an egg.” ~ Angela (90 Day Fiance)

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So, it’s no secret that I’m not the greatest at relationships (shutty 🙄) and thought it might behoove me to take lessons so to speak.  The experts I’ve decided to turn too, who I know will guide me through the perils of relationship dynamics and teach me lessons I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, are known around the world.  Their platform?  A very serious and insightful show called ’90 Day Fiance’.  As I’ve been watching it these last 7 seasons (as well as all the seasons of their many spin-offs) I’ve gleaned knowledge that’s applicable to any future partnership I might have and I’m certain that the secret to relationship bliss is mine.

For example, did you know it’s not necessary to learn about a mate’s culture, even though they have a different religion, a different language (tip:  learn at least a few words in their native tongue…just so you can…you know…communicate 🙄) are half-way around the world, and live in a way you have never experienced yourself? I’m mean hells bells, that’s just tiny stuff…right?  So, when a woman who dresses like a stripper falls in love with a man who practices Islam, this will be super.  When she visits or even moves to his country (which many of them do), he’ll want and expect her to wear the hijab per Muslim tradition, but why do that?  It’s not fashionable and we definitely don’t see those on American catwalks, so obviously this doesn’t apply to these gals.  They’ll go on wearing outfits with their boobs showing, sans nipple, and wonder why their man is angry and others in his family don’t accept them.  Well…guess you can’t please everyone…huh?

And food?  Don’t try to learn about a cultures food before visiting or moving to the country your sweetie resides in.  Why would you do that?  Just traipse over there, and then when the very poor family sacrifices a goat for you (which is an extremely gracious gesture), don’t eat any.  After all, you prefer steak.  When a future ma-in-law makes you a beautiful dinner she spent hours on, be sure to make faces, spit food out in your napkin, and stage whisper to the lucky sap who’s going to marry you that you’ll puke if you actually swallow a bite.  That way, the ma gets a very good impression of you as a independent thinker with distinct tastes. 🙄

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Did you know that houses in the poorest of our world’s nations aren’t built of wood, brick and siding?  Some are little more than huts with no air-conditioning, no running water, no bathroom, no electricity.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable for the 3 days you’ll be staying there on your visit (God forbid you actually move there, it would just be ‘too much’ for you to ever get used too), even though the ‘love of your life’ has lived in these circumstances all  their lives.  And if they take you to a local hotel for some, ahem, private time?  Be sure to bitch and complain, because I’m here to tell ya, they aren’t the Hilton.  If there are lots of  bugs or animals roaming the street or stores that are carts with torn awnings, it’s always a good idea to make fun of these things or complain bitterly.  Nothing brings a couple closer together than a great deal of mocking.  (Also, did you know that countries on the equator are hot?  Apparently, not a lot of people realize this so don’t realize they might sweat a bit on their visit).

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Here’s something I truly didn’t know but is quite exciting if I ever marry a 20 year old:  even though I’m 53 (blech), I can still have a baby!  YEA! Actually, I would sorta ‘have too’ since my future hubby is expected to have an heir and is wanting his own shot at raising a brood (even though I have a kid older than him 😳).  Now, it doesn’t matter that I’ve gone through menopause (which at 53, one would assume I have) or that my eggs are as old as dirt (if I even have any of the little boogers left), I can still get an egg from someone else…preferably in my immediate family so the baby will be my blood…and then have that little nugget inserted into my nice, healthy, still like 18 pink uterus I presumably have.  Well for piss sakes…this is an epiphany for me!  Here I’ve been wanting a grandbaby, but instead I’ll just have a little cutie myself.  As Angela (who is my age and whose YOUNG hubby wants a little guy running around that’s his own) says to her daughter:  “I can tote it, I just need your egg.”  (Starts picking out names, ma!).  Nuff said on that one.

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And age doesn’t matter!  Whoo Hoo (let’s face it…a LOT of guys from my generation are pretty much set in their ways and aren’t quite as exciting as a 25 year old)!  OK…some of you may not know this, but J was significantly younger than me.  No, I’m not going to tell you by how many years, my sweet and nosy peeps.  Suffice it to say we got a lot of looks, and yes, I was often self-conscious about it!  I was the wrinkly elder with this younger guy on my arm (for balance since I’m so old I could fall and easily break a hip) and folks would stare.  Like I’ve said before, aging is a sin in our country and many of you younger people are apparently going to figure out a way to dodge it (but still be alive)…best wishes to ya.  Anyhoot, a 65 year old and a 30 year old are actually fine and dandy (no peeps, J was not that much younger 🤨).  And just because my new man will have to wash my hair for me and help me up out of a chair doesn’t mean things won’t work out in the long run.  He’ll love doing that and more when he’s 40 and I’m 75.  And families love these age differences too.  In fact, I’d love for O to marry someone older than me.  We could be besties and eventually room together in the old age home.  That way, O would only have to make one trip to see us both.

Were you also aware that lying doesn’t matter?  No wonder I’m thrice divorced, I didn’t lie enough.  Well spank me hard…I know what to do next time now, don’t I?  Seeing pics of a body builder from Great Britain who actually speaks with a Nigerian accent when you chat and doesn’t know where London is on a map does NOT mean you are getting catfished.  And if you are?  Well, they must have a good reason and actually be an ok guy to hook up with anyway.  If you’re already married and wait until you’re engaged to your new baby to tell them, whatever.  It’s just a teeny little detail you forgot to mention.  If you’re moving halfway across the world and your darling hasn’t shared with you the fact they are broke and don’t have a job…no problemo.  Just live on love.  And the best kind of lie?  If you say you’re 40 and use a filter during chats and while sending pics that make you look 20…it’s ok.  Your beloved will be so happy at your 55 year old self complete with lines, sags, spots, etc.  It’s just a cool surprise.

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Now, not every one of these relationships work out (why, I have no idea).  So, if that happens here’s a sure fire way to feel better:  get some plastic surgery like HUGE lips…butt fillers…DD boobs…liposuction.  It’s because of YOUR bod things didn’t work out, so the more fake you look, the more you’ll be loved.  Who woulda thunk that?  No wonder I’ve been divorced…I’ve still got my original breasts. 🤨   Another idea if things don’t go perfectly with this soulmate of yours?  Just get your newly rounded butt back online and try again.  It’s really as easy as that.

This next one is a shocker to me.  Truly.  SOME people are out there to take advantage of you.  To use your for a green card.  To get to America the only way possible for them.  I know…I know…that would never happen to any one of US.  That only happens to people who aren’t truly in love.  So, when your parents, friends, colleagues and neighbors pull you aside and say they think the behavior of your intended is pretty bad and they don’t seem to love you (look, they only go out by themselves to a bar a few nights a week…we all need our space 🙄) tell them they’re crazy.  In fact, the longer you’ve known this friend, the angrier you should become. People in love always know what’s best…they are always the most rational and most objective.  Look, if I want your advice that could save me from getting into a marriage that’s going to last 6 months and then bankrupt me after, I’ll ask.  Got it?

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And this brings me to the last lesson I’ve gleaned thus far, and that’s about what love really is.  True love comes from texting and face-timing with no physical interaction what so ever.  It comes from jumping into bed the minute you land in their country, and then pointing out all that’s wrong with the area while praising your own fatherland.  The love is seen in little spats that end up with a drink being thrown in a face…smashing a cake over a head…or storming out of a restaurant screaming the entire way.  And the little sweet names you have for one another (and did you know that nicknames are truly good for a relationship)?  Here are some ideas from the show:  bitch, cow, douche, jerk, asshole, idiot and f##ker (you’re welcome, ma).  Those are sure to help your love bloom even more.

So thank you, 90 Day Fiance.  I now know what I’ve been doing wrong in finding a soulmate and I’m going to remedy it now.  I’m staring my search for a 22 year old guy from a very poor country (whose language I can’t speak), who sends me pics in which he looks different in every single one in terms of his hair and eye color, body shape, & height, who wants at least a half dozen little ones running around soon, whose parents are horrified I’m of a different religion, and who I’ve caught lying (but hey, none of us are perfect).  When I find this gem, I’ll let y’all know right away.  I promise.

Kristi xoxo

“Because the Darkness Hides in the Light of the Day…” ~ ‘He’s Out There’

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To the 281 million people in America who don’t have a mental illness,

I’m writing this letter to you because there’s much that needs to be said on behalf of us who have a mental illness, and I’m taking it upon myself to do so.  I would have sent each one of these separately, but it would have taken me centuries longer than the time it’s been since Christ walked the earth, so here goes.

Did you know there are almost 48 million of us that suffer from mental illness in the United States alone?  And if you want to look globally, there’s over 450 million.  Those are huge numbers and ones I believe everyone should know.

Look, I know it’s how difficult it is to empathize with something you don’t have; there’s no way I can truly empathize with someone who suffers from heart disease since my ticker is in pretty good shape.  However, I do think it’s important for y’all to have a greater understanding of ‘us’.

See, often times mental illness is looked at as a weakness in people.  Something they should have either prevented in the first place, or pull themselves out of if they happen to ‘get it.’  It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  If you’re depressed, well for fuck sakes, count your blessings, get out there and do something, and for the love of all that is holy, don’t wallow.  That only makes things worse.

Isn’t wallow is a funny word?  It means to lie around…be immersed in something…to flounder.  And the connotation is that you can get out of a ‘wallow’ so to speak:  just get up out of that bed, jump out of the situation, and quit floundering.  Just stop it.

I think using that word is unfair though, something that’s easy to see when we switch around the context.  Have heart disease?  Quit wallowing in it and run a freaking marathon.  Have diabetes?  Quit wallowing in it and just eat a Twinkie.  Have asthma?  Just breathe harder for piss sakes.  Easy peasy.  I’ve just solved the worlds’ ills.

It’s silly to look at it that way, isn’t it?  But, as you may be saying, mental illness is ‘different.’  It’s not the same.  And you’re right…it’s not.  It’s not our heart or lungs…it’s our brain.  When you think about your brain being the thing that isn’t working right, that’s scary as hell.

Some great advice so many of us get is to ‘just take you meds!’  Okey dokey…that’s simple enough.  But let me tell you something about my meds:  one of them is a mood stabilizer which I desperately need so I can function as well as I’m capable of despite being bipolar (which is one of the more serious mental illnesses along with schizophrenia).  Guess what some of the side effects are for me?  After I take it every morning, I feel like I have the flu for a couple of hours since nausea and muscle weakness are common.  During the day, I have some dizziness so I have to be careful when I stand up and then my muscle coordination also suffers.  It can cause thoughts of self-harm and suicide, so even though I feel significantly better overall in terms of my mood, I still have thoughts of razor blades I can use and drugs to overdose on.  That’s scary as fuck, people.  My dreams are affected as well.  Last night I dreamed I was choking for what seemed like hours.  When I woke up, I was gasping for breath, sweaty to where my sheets are now in the washer, and crying because I thought I was going to die of asphyxiation.  If I’m lucky, I won’t get the actual serious side effects like a fatal rash that attacks your organs (which means I have to check my bod everyday for any red patches and if I see one, get to the ER as quickly as possible), aseptic meningitis,  and low blood cell count.  Everyday when I swallow just that one med, I’m literally taking a risk with my life.

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From ‘The Mighty’

And my other meds?  One can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart beat and tremors.  Do you know how scary it is to look at your leg and see it shake?  But, without this one I can be so depressed I literally can’t function.

So, when we are told to ‘just take our meds’, there’s a bit more to it than swallowing an aspirin…just sayin’.

I know you mean well when you say things like “I pity you” or “I’m so sorry you have this”.  Yeah…I’m sorry I have this too.  But look, we don’t want your pity or sorrow.  What we need is your support.  We need you to ask us how we feel that day.  Do we maybe need anything?  Check in on us once in a while.  And if we don’t feel good more than a couple of days in a row, it’s because for so many of us, our mental illness is chronic.  It’s going to be with us for life…and in my case, progressively gets worse which makes me cry whenever I think about it.  Did you know the life-span of people with bipolar is 9-20 years less than yours?  This is actually more than if I ‘just’ smoked heavily all my life (no ma, I’ve never smoked).  Facing the fact I may not be able to see my future grandbaby (son, ahem ahem) graduate from college or get married is a loss I can’t describe.

And please don’t stop asking about us because “I’m sick of hearing how down you are” or “We all have problems, you need to get over yourself” because it makes us feel like shit.  Do you think we like being down so much?  Being anxious so much?  Being manic so much?  Do you think we like waking up everyday and facing the fact our lives will never be as close to normal as possible?  As much as you may get tired of listening to us, we are tired of living it.  See the difference?

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Some of you are very condescending to us.  I see you look at homeless people and turn away in disgust and with a sense of superiority .  Did you know that so many of these guys and gals suffer from schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar (yipee), depression and anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders?  When you look at them with revulsion, you are making all of us feel dirty and ashamed.  And since I’m so open about being bipolar and yes, mentally ill (I’m no longer hesitant to put it out there), those of you I know do 1 of 2 things:  turn away from me because you fear me (why I don’t know…I won’t step on an ant when I run) or patronize me like I’m a basket case that needs to be treated like I’m 5 (I actually have an IQ of 128, so I’m not 5 in any way).  Either way makes me feel different from everyone else.  Walking into work and having colleagues ignore me in the hallways hurts like nothing else.  Having family members step away from me because it’s just too much is like a kick to the gut.

Being blamed…used…taken advantage of is also something we face.  When I was having a breakdown that almost ended my life, a student stalked me and then threatened to rape and kill me.  I had the messages.  The direct messages in writing.  And still I got blamed for the threats, like a woman gets blamed for a rape (naughty girl, you wore a dress).  But why not blame me?  I’m the crazy one.  I was the one who couldn’t stop crying when you questioned me…after all, I had attempted suicide just a couple of weeks prior.  And those of you who threw me under the bus for your own agenda…because you were mad at me?  I have a few scars on my leg that you are personally responsible for. 

And talk about being different.  I have no friends.  Literally.  I have my ma, my sonshine, my sissie, and my family, but I don’t have friends.  There is absolutely no one I can call and say, “Hey, wanna talk?”  Yes, I have acquaintances who will speak to me when I’m out and about, and my students are the best in the world who I love love love interacting with, but friends?  Nope.  I think I understand why.  For all of my life I was different.  Or, let’s use some other words to make it even more clear:  strange, peculiar, at odds with others.  My behavior can vary day by day…sometimes I don’t even know what I’m gonna be like when I awake.  I try to cover this up the best I can so people will want to be my friend; if you look in ALL of my Jr. High and High School yearbooks you’ll see this:  “To a crazy girl, blah blah blah”.  Being ‘out there’ was the only way I could be accepted in some circles.  But I was the one that would end up outside the radius…always on the edge.

Then, when someone new pops up in my life and I want to be their friend, I’m like a puppy.  Bouncing all over the place, giving giving giving, and basically overwhelming the poor sap to where they back away.

Relationships are the same.  Those of us who are mentally ill have such a tough time with these.  It takes a very special partner to navigate bipolar, and so far, I haven’t hit the jackpot.  I know it’s hard.  REALLY hard.  REALLY really hard.  But if you give me a chance, I’ll be the best partner you could have.  I’ll love you to death…I’ll be loyal and  caring and will work my ass off to make the relationship work.  And if it doesn’t?  Don’t take the blame yourself.  It’s all mine.  At least that’s what I’ll feel like and then I’ll punish myself for it.

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So I sit at home with my best buddies…my 4 legged sweeties who give me the comfort, companionship, and attention I so desperately need.  And guess what?  I thank God for them everyday.  When people tell me they are ‘just dogs’, I think to myself:  no…they are my lifelines.  Literally.

One more thing because I know I can ramble (I’m a professor…we yack for a living):  please don’t think you’ll never develop a mental illness and that it can’t happen to you.  You are not above it.  You are not immune to it.  A traumatic experience, the death of someone you cherished, an accident where there is head trauma, genetics that can show itself at anytime in your life, brain chemistry that goes awry for whatever reason…the list goes on.  You could someday be the one reading this letter from the “other side” and in fact, 25% of people will suffer a mental illness sometime in their life.  It may not be chronic, but it’s going to impact you more then you could ever have imagined.

But don’t worry.  I’ll be there for you.  I’ll lend you support…a listening ear…my own story to help you come to terms with your own, and I won’t throw back to you some of the negative you threw to me.  I promise you that.

Kristi xoxo