Luck is this Lady Today.

So, writing about my bipolar journey and life isn’t always the most cheerful experience.  Those of us with mental illness know that there are some pretty tough times we have to work ourselves out from.  But, I am so freaking blessed in my life and never want to lose sight of that.  Ever.

Take my ma.  Please.  (Just joking, ma…I won’t let you go.).  I call my mom my ‘bra’ because she’s been so supportive of me all of my life.  I remember lying (gasp) as a little girl (BTW, when I type ‘girl’ you need to say it like Linda Belcher does:  ‘giorl’) that I was sick just to stay home with her during the day…and this was from someone who loved school so much.  In high school, I had a party at our house in which I was told I could invite a few friends.  So, I did.  And those few friends invited a few friends, etc.  The party of 10 grew to be a party of about 40 (some of you reading this were there!) and even though I swore with the best (ahem) intentions, alcohol miraculously appeared.  It was a GREAT time though!  I got to kiss my long desired dreamboat (who smelled of whiskey and polo…a combination that still gets me a bit hot) while others were doing Mexican hat dances on the carpet, with tortilla chips under their feet.  When mom and her husband came home, they didn’t yell like I thought they would.  My step-sister and I had cleaned the best we could in our inebriated states, and since I was still ‘tipsy’, I think mom figured she could yell at me some other time.  I would have been furious at my kid doing this, but mom was pretty cool about it.  She put me through hell the next day though by vacuuming, emptying ice trays, and anything else she could think of that was noisy as hell to further compound my hangover headache, but besides that, nothing else was said.  Except…that I could never…EVER…EVER…have a party again.  Go figure.

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Isn’t Ma beautiful???

I’ll never forget when mom took me to lunch one day after Hubby 2, our son, and I moved back to IL from Kansas where we had lived for 3 years.  I remember the weather, the restaurant, the booth, and the food on the table when she said this:  “I found a lump.”  I don’t think words can adequately describe my feelings at that moment.  Mom fought like a warrior over the next year though and survived a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat this metastasized cancer, and has now been cancer free for a little over 20 years.  She’s a fighter like no other I’ve seen.

When I had a breakdown a couple of years ago, my mama saved my life.  Literally.  She and my doctor were my salvation and she had to work with me everyday to make sure I was just eating and showering.  I was at her house all of the time either crying, staring off in space, or just being close to her so I couldn’t cut myself anymore.  She doesn’t take enough credit for what she did for me.  She should though.  I wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t been for her.

And my sister?  When I was a tot, I could hardly speak to where anyone was able to understand me.  The roof of my mouth is incredibly high and when I talk, I can’t use my tongue against it to help form words.  So, T was my translator.  She’s OLDER than me (see that, T??  You’re OLDER!) and was truly my voice.  In every single pic of us at little kids, she is standing with her arm around me, and when we were in grade school and both of us were getting bullied, she protected me.

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Me and my sis…2 peas in a pod!

On snow days, we’d tie our beanbag chairs together in the downstairs, and pretend we were stranded at sea and couldn’t move off of them!  We’d take bike rides to Grandpa and Grandmas, and as we got older, we’d boogie off to the drug store to buy make up and try it out on one another.  I was the sickly, puny one as a kid and then with having anorexia and bipolar, I know T has often been second to the attention I took…and still take.  She’s the smartest, most kind-hearted person I know.  Really.

And my son?  Well…what do you say about perfection?  OK.  I know he’s not perfect (sorry, porkchop), but he’s damn close.  He was the funniest, sweetest, most adorable kid ever and grew up to be such a good, kind, talented man.  O has aphantasia which is the inability to see pictures in your brain…you actually don’t have a ‘minds eye.’  We didn’t understand this had a name until a few years ago, but as early as Jr. High, when his geometry teacher told the kids to picture a cube and then to rotate it in their minds,   O couldn’t do it.  He simply couldn’t see it.  He would always tell me he didn’t really dream and when he did, it was like fleeting images of black and white.  His dad and I had no idea that such a condition existed, but now I can see how he’s had this all his life.

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My amazing son…introducing me to IKEA in Dallas a couple of years ago!

O always wanted cameras.  When he was 4, we started going to pools every summer afternoon, and he would ask for underwater cameras and took amazing pics even at his age.  As he got older, I’d get him more and more disposable cameras before buying him the real thing.  Now, he’s a professional wedding photographer who has already received national attention.  I understand how for him, photographs ARE his memory, and his passion is to create those precious memories for others as well.  Have I mentioned how amazing he is?

Another blessing in my life are my students!  I taught elementary school for a couple of years before getting my M.S. and I loved my 5th and 6th graders so much!  When I started teaching college at the ripe old age of 28, I feared I’d miss that close connection.  How wrong I was!  I absolutely, unequivocably LOVE my students!  Each and every one of them.  They have given me so much more than I think I’ve given them, and when I’m at the store, and I hear someone shout “Ms. P!” or “Professor K!” my heart soars!

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I can’t share a pic of any of my students, but you can see the joy in my face when I’m with them!

So many of them are on my Facebook and to see how they have succeeded in their careers, started beautiful families, and become incredible people is more joyful than I can express.  I may forget names after having so many thousand students over these last 24 years, but I remember every single face…and I’m touched that they remember me as well!

There are so many other blessings I could talk about:  all of my other family (yes, Edward and Dottie, this includes you), my colleagues, my home, my neighbors, my health, my finances, and the list could go on and on and on.

And who do I have to thank for all of this?  Well, the big guy himself.  God.  Yep, I’m a believer.  Have been for as long as I can remember.  I could go into a big testimony of how God came into my heart, but I’m not going too.  As much as I think it’s wonderful to share your faith, which I do with people who want to share with me, I also think it’s kind of personal to talk about since words actually minimize that experience.  I talk to God a lot, and I also pray.  And yes, those are 2 different things to me.  He’s very good at listening to me chit-chat, and I know he hears my prayers since they’ve been so generously answered.  I haven’t deserved the blessings that I’ve received, but like any father, God gives me exactly what he knows I need.  ‘Nuff said.

You know it’s so easy to lose sight of the positives in your life when you deal with the negative ramifications of mental illness day to day, and I think it’s important to always keep those in mind.  I don’t ever want to forget what’s wonderful in my life and get mired only in the lousy.  That wouldn’t be fair:  it would be ignoring all of the people and things in my life that are so incredible.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

‘Cause He’s my Best Friend.

So, I was totally in love with Bill Bixby when I was a little girl.  Every time I saw him on TV, particularly in the “Incredible Hulk,” I would envision our wedding and him giving me a smooch at the alter.  Sigh.  🙂  For those of us of a certain age (cough cough), we might remember the show he was in called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”  Aside from the acting, the theme song was the best part of it!

“People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the end.
People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
He’s a one boy cuddly toy, my, my down, my pride and joy…” ~ Harry Nilsson

Well, I actually have an Eddie in my own house, who just happens to be my best friend.  I didn’t meet this friend at school or while out and about, but instead, I rescued him 3 years ago this month!  And I’m so glad I did!

My little Dottie, a 14 year old toy poodle, is also a best friend of mine.  Dottie and I have been through so much together…2 divorces, death, a breakdown, etc. and she has been with me longer than any other dog I’ve had.  Now, this is where I say how loving and sweet she is.  Right?  Well…hmmmm.

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My all time favorite picture of Dottie…it captures her personality so well!

Those of us who love Dot, we know her to be a feisty, slightly aloof, fickle, little shit who is mostly out for #1.  BUT, her personality is HUGE and I’ve never had a dog as complicated and uniquely ‘her’ as she is.  It’s like she’s saying to the world, “Here I am!  I’m adorable…accept me for who I am or back off!”  I absolutely love her!  She actually reminds me of me (in terms of attitude), more than I’d like to admit!  Her face melts my heart every single time I look at her, and the thought of losing her makes me choke up so much.  Hers my baby.

But now Edward, he’s completely a different type.  Poor Eddie’s litter was dumped along a highway when he was just a few weeks old (why in fucks sake don’t people get their dogs neutered and spayed??) and the pups were taken to a shelter in a nearby city.  I was on the list for adoption since I had been wanting another dog, and was called in.  I was told by the rescue that the vet who gave the pups their first shots was convinced they were ‘chiweenies.’  Chihuahua and Daschaund mixes that would grow up to be about 10-12 pounds or so.  This was perfect!  Little Dot is 10 pounds and I wanted them to be about the same size.  So, I trotted up to the rescue, and Ed was the only pup left.  It was pathetic, he was just sitting there, all by himself.  After holding him, I decided to adopt, and instead of taking a lot of time with me, the rescue worker had me sign the papers, took my money, and scooted me out the door in minutes flat.  Hmmm.

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I took Edward to school after getting him since my students wanted to meet him so bad!

We went to a petshop next, and I picked out he cutest little things for him.  Little tees, a little collar, a little leash…I think you get my drift.  Next stop was Arby’s where I got my usual roast beef sandwich, and I gave Eddie a couple nibbles since I didn’t know when the last time he ate was.  He gobbled them up, and then went for my sandwich, of which he ate half.  Then, halfway home, he needed to poop, and to be honest, it was quite impressive.  At least half of his body weight.

Anyhoot, got him home, introduced him to Dot (who made it perfectly clear to him who was boss…after all, she is my boss too) and got down to getting to know him.  He slept in his little crate (see the theme?) until one morning I went to let him out, and he was hunched over.  Hmmm.  The crate was, after all, for the SMALL dog I got.  So, I trotted off to the store, and bought a medium crate.  I was sure there would be a lot of wasted space, but what can you do?  They don’t come in half sizes.  (Not to self:  idea for Shark Tank?).  A couple of weeks later, I staggered in after he started to whimper, and again, he was hunched over.  What the fuck?  Long story short, my Edward is a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Coon Hound mix and weighs a whopping 30 pounds.  Yep.  Chiweenie my ass.  Obviously, the rescue wasn’t REALLY sure of the mix.  In fact, in hindsight after being hurried along before I could have 2nd thoughts, and not getting ANY follow-up calls as I was told I would receive, I realized I had most likely been the victim of the old Bait and Switch.

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My ‘little’ Chiweenie.  Right.

And thank God I had.  Edward is not the brightest dog out there (which is really tough since Dottie is smart as a fox!) but he is the most loving, affectionate, needy, sensitive dog I’ve ever had.  I got Edward a few months before what was to be my breakdown and I think that was for a reason.  Eddie is so much like me.  He’s a hugger…a cuddler…a sweet old soul who just wants to give and give and give.  He wants to always be by my side…in my lap (did I mention he’s 30 pounds??) leaning against me…putting his cheek against mine.  And when I cry?  He’s right there to put his head on my shoulder and hug me.  Edward asks for nothing from me.  Except love.  And guess what?  I have plenty to give him.

Now, everyone know Dottie is the dog I’ll always remember as being the one who really got under my skin (in a good way!) more than any other dog, but she’s not affectionate.  She’ll cuddle.  But just for a minute.  She’ll allow you to pet her.  But just for a minute.  She’ll let you rub her little ears. But lets all say it:  just for a minute.

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Me and my Dot last summer!

And when she’s done, she’ll either walk away in a diva like fashion, or give a little snarl.  In fact, Dottie has been kicked out of 3 grooming parlors.  Yep.  Three.  And the woman who has groomed Dottie now for most of her life is tipped by me VERY well for what she has to go through.  AND, I told her I would give her half my salary before I’d let her retire.  If she ever did, poor little Dot would probably never get groomed again.

Eddie is the opposite.  He’s the first dog that gives as much…or actually more…than he receives.  Do ya’ll know that the Greeks talked about different categories of love?  (Actually, I think there’s a commercial right now that uses that info.).  Anyhoot, Eddie is the epitome of agape love.  Selfless, unconditional, and given with no agenda.  No idea of what might be given in return.  Just given for the sake of giving.  With Edward, I can vent, cry, hug, and cuddle, knowing he’s there for me and will do all he can to make things better.  And he does.  He truly does.

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I can’t nap without him right beside me on my pillow.  And I love it.

I think what it boils down to is this:  Ed is the first ‘man’ in my life that has the capacity to give as much as I do.  That’s as needy for affection as I am.  That wants to fix and help as much as I desire too.  Where others see a gangly, dumb(ish), annoying dog, I see my best friend.  The one I’ve been waiting for all of my life.

Kristi xoxo

I Never Promised you a Rose Garden.

So, I actually wrote another post for today, and was getting ready to edit it, when something inside of me needed to write this.  Having this blog has given me an outlet for so much of what I feel.  It really helps me to get my thoughts, feelings, struggles, ideas written down and out of my head.  And to have you, my sweet grasshoppers, read it, is just icing on the cake.  (Hmmm…cake.  Maybe I should send my son to Kroger to get one…).

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Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

I started seeing a guy not long ago.  I’ve known him for over 20 years, and he’s one of those friends that you can go a while without seeing, but then when you do, it’s like no time has passed.   It’s just always comfortable.  We were on the same dating site (something I will never ever do again) and so I saw that he was wanting a relationship.  He asked me to dinner a while back, and I cancelled on him.  I didn’t know if I was ready to go out with anyone, and I didn’t want to send the wrong message.

Not long ago though I saw him, and after a friendly hug, I decided to ask him out.  He’s a really kind man and I was compelled to see where this could go.  I’m a very very firm believer that the best relationships begin as friendships.  You won’t always have the passion and you won’t always feel a lot of love for the person during difficult times.  But, if a friendship is the foundation of the relationship, you have a strong base to keep you together.

So, we went out a couple of times.  I loved it.  I felt so comfortable and we talked about everything out there; and because I’d known him for so long, we shared so much about our lives and ourselves right off the bat.  We cuddled, held hands, smooched but that’s all.  I wanted to take it slow.

After those first 2 dates, I didn’t hear from him much and finally I asked him if everything was OK.  He told me he had never wanted a romantic relationship in the first place (ummm…you were on a dating site…see the irony?), and said he had told me that during our first date together.  I don’t remember him doing that.  I was too busy admiring the flowers he got me and the dinner he had prepared.  Hmmm.

I started crying after receiving that text.  To be brutally honest with you, I thought he had really wanted to go out with ME.  That he was the one that was really excited about it.  That he saw me as a catch.  In fact, my little brain thought he had had a crush on me for a while.  Obviously, I was deluded!  (Not the first time that’s happened…’nuff said.).

I called my mama and she was really taken aback by my reaction.  She said: “You weren’t in love with him.  Why are you taking this so hard?”  I think I have an answer to that:  because it’s another rejection.  Another person saying, “You aren’t good enough.”  Another man turning down all I have to offer.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Maybe that’s the problem though.  All I offer.  Because I offer a hell of a lot.  Not only because I’m such a feeler and giver (on our first date, I made a bracelet for his daughter and baby quilt for his new granddaughter), but because I can’t hide who I am.  I can be a bit mouthy, a bit excitable, a bit…well, too ‘much’.  But how can I not be who I am?  It’s like when I was a kid and a teacher or my parents would tell me to calm down.  I couldn’t!  Literally couldn’t!  Just like now, it was simply a part of who I am (bipolar) and there’s no switch to turn it off.  I wish with all my might there was.

bipolar roller coaster

Now, I have a confession to make.  It’s a toughie, but I need to say it.  I asked my ex, J, if he would like to try our relationship again, with counseling to help us deal with our issues and understand how to manage each others mental illnesses.  Listen to what I’m saying grasshoppers…I asked HIM to try again.  I’m gonna say it again: I asked HIM…the guy who cheated on me (with someone that works at my vets…guess I’m gonna get a new one now since I’m sure everyone knows the drama).  And his answer?  To me asking HIM…giving him a chance…telling him we can get help?  It was no.  In fact, it took him a while to say that…I guess it’s quite the ordeal to tell me that I’m not wanted.

Another confession.  I’ve never broken up with a guy before (including my hubbies).  They have always dumped me.  Rejected me.  Damn.

Look, I know I’m different.  I’ve known that since I was a very little girl.  I know my mental illness was showing itself in childhood…we have proof of my depression and mania.  Actually, now that I think about it, this guy didn’t lie to me about not wanting a romantic relationship until after I encouraged him to read this blog.  After 20 years of friendship, I thought it would be OK.  Hmmm.

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This is what I wrote in the 3rd grade.  I was already questioning why I was alive and how there was too much going on in my head to hear more than one thing at a time.  

I know I’m not a bad person.  At least I don’t think so.  I think I have a lot of really positive qualities.  I’m smart.  I’m extremely loving.  I’m loyal as hell.  I’m forgiving.  I can make a mean ass pot of chicken and noodles, and my bathroom is always clean.

For fucks sake (I had to get that word in for ma and sis), I know this rejection shouldn’t hurt so much.  Shouldn’t make me question myself so much.  Shouldn’t make me cry and wonder if I’ll ever find a partner again.  I know I’m OK alone.  But I don’t want to just be OK.  I want someone to love me back.  I need that connection.  That partnership.  That feeling of belongingness that is inherent to us all.  And I’m not gonna lie:  celibacy sucks.

So listen up, God.  I’m 53 years old (I know you know that but I just wanted to emphasize it) and I am ready for my forever.  If you want to send them along, I’ll toddle over and meet them halfway.  I promise.

Kristi xoxo

 

The Tragedy of it All.

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Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

So, I’ve written a lot since I’ve started this blog, and it means so much to me.  When I began this, I told myself these posts were my chance to say some of what I need to say, some of what people need to hear, and sometimes, a little bit of both.  But this is the first post I’ve written while tears are streaming down my face.

I’ve talked about my ex-partner in posts before, and I think it’s because the wounds from the relationship are still fresh, and because I thought he was my forever (actually, I thought all of them were until him, but c’est la vie).  I also write about him because he’s mentally ill like me.  He’s been diagnosed with PTSD from his 3 tours overseas in the Army, and also with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I believe is caused by a genetic component (I believe his mom also has this disorder), and also because of the abuse he endured as a child: serious physical and psychological abuse with periods of forced isolation where he literally couldn’t move from his bed for weeks at a time.  I was attracted to him before I knew all of this, and after he told me his story, it made me love him even more; I felt so much empathy and compassion for this man who had been through so much.  

For the last couple of days, he’s been messaging me.  The messages are horrifying.  Ever since his unfaithfulness last October, he’s been on a downward trajectory.  He’s completely isolated himself from everyone, including his 2 kids, and has told his family members that he hates them and won’t have anything more to do with them ever.  I know some of this behavior is the BPD.  But I also know he’s taking all of the pain of his childhood and tours, and turning it outward as anger against the only targets he has.  The problem is that many of his targets don’t deserve to be his scapegoat, most especially his children.

When I first met them (one was in Kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade), I fell in love with them immediately and completely.  I love kids and these 2 are so smart, sweet, affectionate, and funny.  To be honest, I didn’t know I could love other kids as much as I do them, with the same unconditional love I feel for my own son, and my nieces and nephews.  The feelings blew me away.  Once, my sister said this: “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than both.”  She’s right.

These kids have been through a lot in their lives.  Not having their dad around because of his tours, moving around the country multiple times, and then experiencing a contentious divorce took their toll.  The little guy is extremely sensitive and like me is a huge feeler who is at a loss as how to deal with the emotions of what he’s been through, so he internalizes them.  He doesn’t eat well.  He doesn’t have friends. And he lives in his own world, not wanting others to intrude.  I’m lucky he let me in.   The little miss is also a sensitive child, but as opposed to internalizing, she externalizes her feelings.  She’s a clinger, and just wants to feel love from anybody and everybody.  In that regard, she’s like me.

When J told me he completely cut off everyone in this life (I think I’m the only one he can talk, or in this case text, to), I assumed he didn’t mean these sweeties.  You see, during our 3 years together, J learned so much more about being a parent than he previously knew.  He built a strong relationship with them, and we did so many fun things together as a family:  museums, zoos, hikes, eating out, birthday parties, swimming, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. and I could see the connection to their dad get stronger and stronger.  He also worked hard to provide a home for them.  He got a really nice apartment in a family oriented neighborhood, and the kids were thrilled at having this with their dad.  J and I had fun buying bunk beds, comforters, toys, books…anything that would create a positive environment for them.  He took them to the private school he got them into every morning, picked them up afterwards, started little miss in Taekwondo, made nice dinners for them, bought them birds so they could have pets, and hugged and cuddled them to their hearts desire.

Then, this BPD took over.  Actually, it had taken over before, something that I experienced first hand.  I was on the receiving end of rages, weeks of silence, damaging words and actions, but to be honest, I knew when it was the illness that was in charge, and not ‘him’.  People questioned me again and again why I kept loving this man…why I forgave him over and over.  The answer is simple:  because I’m mentally ill too.  When I’m in a depression or a period of mania, I’m not in control either.  I do things, say things, act out on things that I never would do when I’m in a more self-restrained time.  Sometimes…well maybe always…it takes someone mentally ill to truly understand another’s struggle.  Once I had a student say to me, “I like talking to you, Professor K.  When I tell you I’m depressed, I know you get it.”  And yes, I do.

But this time for J it’s different.  The BDP is in total control.  100%.  And it’s going to stay that way for however long he lives because he’s doing nothing to try to fight it at all.  He’s wallowing in it. Yes, I said wallow.  He’s feeding that monster we’ve talked about an awful lot of food.  He’s given up.  He’s become trapped in this disorder without grabbing onto the rope that’s there, and pulling himself up as much as he can.  He’s pulled up before…he just won’t even try to do it again.  He said he likes the wallowing.  The hating.  The anger.  The isolation.

And I think he’s a fucking liar.  He experienced so much as a kid that like his little guy, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings.  So, by killing his soul, I guess he’s killing those emotions too.

But the real tragedy?  These sweeties.  After having a dad for these past few years, how can they ever understand why he’s no longer in their lives?  Why ‘his’ home is no longer theirs?  How can they take another loss?  Another upheaval?  Another piece of their hearts destroyed?  He’s doing to them what was done to him (to a degree).  Isolating them.  Rejecting them.  Maybe he thinks that will heal him.  It won’t.  All it will do is continue this generational cycle of abuse that’s been in his family for decades, and then cause these 2 innocent angels to grow up with what J is battling himself.  He had been reversing this trend for years so well…the kids were flourishing and J seemed happy and content.  It’s like he got the diagnosis of BPD and decided to live down to that as much as he can.  It’s the excuse I guess he was finally looking for to hate.  He’s making this diagnosis a label to be absorbed, as opposed to a diagnosis to aid in understanding. Dammit, J, you fought fucking Akeida for 3 years in desert conditions on the front lines, how can you not fight against this too?  Your kids lives are worth the battles this is going to give you;  you are worth the battle.  I know J is still in there.  I’ve seen him.  I’ve loved him.  He’s a smart, funny, passionate guy that he’s allowed this beast to consume.

Mental illness is a bitch to live with.  Y’all know that.  But I also understand first hand, that it’s a bitch to deal with in others too.  I’ve put my mom, son, and sis through so much.  I know I have.  If I could take back what I’ve said and done, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  It’s agonizing to know how they have been victims of my bipolar.  I can’t think about it without feeling so fucking guilty and ashamed, and I know words can’t take away the pain I’ve caused them.

When I attempted suicide a couple of years ago, I laid on my bed, ready to go to sleep forever.  And then God spoke to me.  Yes, he spoke to me.  He showed me my son.  My mom.  My sister.  My family.  My students.  He showed me the pain they would experience.  How horrible it would be for my mom to bury her daughter.  For my son to bury his mom.  And that’s what turned me around.  This fucking bastard of a mental illness is not going to be who I am.  I’m going to always fight and fight and fight to stay me as much as I possibly can.  I’m gonna win some battles.  I’m gonna lose some battles.  But I tell you what, every one of those is worth the bloodshed.

Kristi xoxo

 

Let ’em Say It.

So, my sister and I were yacking yesterday (have you noticed that I’m usually talking with someone?) and we started discussing words that people are very apprehensive to say.  Let’s take a look-see:

  • suicide
  • domestic violence
  • cutting
  • depression
  • abuse
  • rape
  • molestation

And the list could go on.

The reason we got on this subject was that we were talking about the Netflix series “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”  This little 8 year old boy was brutally murdered by his mother and her boyfriend and suffered horrific abuse all of his life.  The most heart-breaking thing about this poor child was how social services and law enforcement let him down time after time after time, allowing this abuse to continue.  Once, a social worker actually told little Gabriel to quit lying about being hurt by his mom.  Wow.

As my sis (T) and I were talking about this, I told her how incredibly hard this documentary is to watch and how, at that point, I hadn’t finished the last couple of episodes.  So we had this conversation:

“Are you going to finish watching it?”
“Yes, T. But it’s hard to get through…it’s upsetting me so much.”
“Well guess what? What he went through is harder than what you’re watching.”
“I know. You’re right.”
“Kristi, how are we going to stop things like this from happening if we can’t face it or talk about it?”

And she is absolutely right (she loves hearing that from me).  There are so many issues we need to acknowledge, learn to talk about, learn to ask about, but for some reason we turn away from them.  Maybe hoping they’ll go away?

In my classes, I talk about a LOT of ‘icky’ stuff;  after all, I teach Psych and Socio so it’s part of the job.  We talk about everything I listed above, and I know how uncomfortable that makes some of my students.  Many of them have never heard the words being used so freely.  And to be honest with you, some of them are still new to me.

Those of y’all that know me have already heard my mom’s story.  She married her 2nd husband (the fucking asshole…sorry, that’s what I say EVERY TIME I think of him.) when I was in high school and they were married for 28 years.  During those 28 years, he beat her, strangled her, slammed her head against the ceramic tile in the bathtub more times than she can count, and mentally tortured her until she turned to alcohol to dull some of the pain.  It took so much to do so that she developed cirrhosis of the liver and has esophageal varices.  She finally came to me at 5:00 a.m. on Aug. 13th, 2011 (yep, I remember it to the minute) and said this:  “You said you would help me and I can’t take it anymore.  He’s going to kill me if I stay.”  Hubby 3 and I called the police, got a restraining order, got his stuff out, installed an alarm system, etc.  You know, T and I spent 28 years trying our best to help her, but like many of you know, until the person is ready, all you can do is be there the best you can.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

To this day, there are still people in our family that won’t use the words domestic violence in regards to what mom went through.  They won’t say that R beat the shit out of her, once to the point where she was throwing up blood in the ER with her back looking like someone water colored it purple (I will never forget that sight as long as I live).   They don’t want to admit that mom had black eyes more times they can remember (but chose to ignore), because talking about DV just isn’t OK.  In fact, some of them are actually friends with this monster on social media (Yes, he is a monster.  His 3rd wife died of a stroke she suffered after R threw her against a wall).  Well…I guess ignoring it makes it go away right?  (By the way, mom has been sober now for over a decade…T and I are so proud of her!).

NO!  Things like abuse, rape, suicide, and molestation thrive in secrecy.  And for years, my sis and I kept the ‘secret’ too.  We didn’t want to face what R was doing to mom and mom wouldn’t admit to anything;  but we knew we finally had too.  We HAD too.  We had to let the secret out so mom would know we were there for her, that we knew what was happening.  Mom talks about it now and is open with her experiences.  It’s no longer just ‘something in C’s marriage’, or ‘R is just crazy’, etc.; it was ABUSE.  Serious abuse that could have killed her, but by the grace of God, didn’t.

Mom’s guilty of sugar-coating things too though.  After my formal diagnosis of bipolar, she would tell her friends about “Kristi’s problem” , “Kristi’s condition.”  Finally, I said this to her (and I wish you could hear my screechy voice to get the full effect), “MA. I have bipolar.  I’m fucking mentally ill.  Get it?” She laughed…and yes, she got it.

Take suicide.  Sometimes people will ask me, “What was it like when you tried to hurt yourself?”  And I say, “You mean when I attempted suicide?”  Say what it is, man!  It’s OK to use the word.  I didn’t try to hurt myself.  I tried to KILL myself.  There’s a difference, isn’t there?

Yep.  I’ve also cut.  A lot.  In fact, if I EVER get a new partner (that’s a slim chance, peeps), I’m going to be most worried about him seeing the scars.  Anyhoot, I’m not going to lie about the scars people see.  “Oh my God…were you in an accident?”  “No.  I cut myself.  I’m bipolar, I was going through a terrible breakdown, and I used a razor blade and cut myself numerous times.  Luckily, I’m doing better now…thanks for asking.”  People look gobsmacked when I say that, but hey, it’s the truth.

How is it a little boy can be fatally abused while scores of people obviously turned their heads?  How can molestation go on for years in a household when there are obvious signs to what’s happening?  Why is it we say “How ya doing?” as we walk by someone who is looking down, instead of saying “Hey, you look really depressed.  Is something going on with you?  Would you like to talk?”

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

One of my students came to me a few months ago, and I knew she was trying to tell me something, but just couldn’t get it out.  Knowing she’d been depressed, I said this:  “Are you thinking about suicide?”  She literally gasped and started crying.  She said: “You said it.  You said suicide.  You SEE me.”  And yes, I did.

I know these words…these issues…these horrible problems are hard to discuss.  Uncomfortable to talk about.  Not ‘polite’ conversation.  And here’s what I say about that (in me and my sister’s words):  “Who fucking cares?!”

If we don’t ask a friend about her bruise, how will she know we are there to help and support her (or him) if it is abuse?  If we don’t look in the eyes of a child who is exhibiting signs of sexual abuse and ask them if anyone is touching them inappropriately, how will they find the strength to share their ‘secret?’  If we don’t use the words rape when a drunk girl is assaulted at a party while passed out, how can we ever punish the offenders and make sure they can’t hurt another girl again for a long time?  If we see a teen (or an old lady of 53) with multiple bandaids in odd areas and never ask if they are cutting themselves, how will they know others are suffering that same compulsion too?

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Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

My God…think about this.  We can’t use these uncomfortable words, so the consequence is to keep our heads buried while people continue to be hurt?  Really?  I’m sure when mom hears the words Domestic Violence, it isn’t as bad as when R had her on the floor with his hands around her neck, squeezing until she couldn’t breathe.  Right?

For fucks sake (I only use that word to make ma cringe and my sis laugh every time they read my blog), we have to address these issues head on.  Not use the vocabulary that tiptoes around the problem, but words that lay it out there bare.  Naked.  For all of us to see.  Because until we do that, grasshoppers, little sweet Gabriel isn’t going to be the only victim to be let down by us all.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

Shame on you.

So, I was surfing around on my iPad last night, and came across a couple of blurbs about celebrities who have been age shamed lately.  Eva Mendes posted a pic and someone said she was getting older (OK…how should she stop time?), and another was of Gwen Stefani who wore a leotard, hoodie and boots with sequins while giving a concert.  People said she should ‘act her age’ and ‘quit performing since she’s so old’ (she’s 50!).  Lara Spencer on Good Morning America was age-shamed because she posed in a dress with ‘old looking knees’, and Madonna was shamed regarding her old looking hands, and actually had multiple, invasive, painful treatments on them to make them look younger.  And we all know about fat shaming:  take a look at the tabloids this summer and we’ll see pics of celebrities who have the “Worst Beach Bodies” because of weight.

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Shame.  That’s an interesting word; one we need to understand since it’s being done so much to others on social media.  Do you know what it means?  To shame someone is to try to make them feel they are disgraceful or should be humiliated by what they ‘are’.  It means you should feel bad for whatever someone deems to be an issue.  Look at those words:  disgraceful, humiliated, guilty.  Damn.

Of course we should feel shame when we do something wrong.  Self-shame in that regard is healthy since it makes us realize how wrong we were and then hopefully makes sure we don’t do whatever it was again.  I once read a parenting book that said “You should never allow your child to feel shame.”  What the fuck??  Of course I wanted O to feel shame when he did something wrong.  How else could he learn to internalize his own consequences for behavior?  And I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of things in my life I am ashamed of, and rightfully so.

However, we aren’t looking at personal, internal shame.  We’re looking at what’s put upon us by others who want us to feel shame simply for ‘being.’  Age shaming?  OK…guess you’re not going to get older (let me know how that goes).  Fat shaming?  All righty…stop eating those desserts before you gain a few.

Hmmmmm.

But, what really hits home for me is mental illness shaming.  And yep, it happens.  The mentally ill are shamed for having a disorder or condition.  Period.  We are supposed to feel humiliated, disgraced, less than.  Our illnesses are shameful while other medical conditions such as arthritis, COPD, asthma, etc. are accepted as a struggle the person has to bear.  “Of course, take the medications that help treat the symptoms.”  “Of course you can’t join us for dinner since you aren’t feeling well.”  “Of course, take your time…I know you are struggling today.”

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Gemma Correll

What?  Of course physical medical conditions should be treated with such care and support!  But, shouldn’t that hold true for MENTAL ILLNESSES we well?  Sadly, those of us who live with mental illness hear things like this instead:

  • “Do you really need all of those meds?  Don’t they just screw up your brain even more?  I wouldn’t take something that messes with MY brain!”
  • “C’mon.  You’ve been depressed long enough.  Get out there and so something!”
  • “You can’t make it?  Why are waiting until now to tell me?  What the hell?”
  • “Therapy?  How does talking to someone help?  No one’s probing my mind.”  (Thank fuck for that.)

And of course, the list goes on.

Why is it that so many people look at mental illness as something WE are at fault for?  That we must have ASKED for?  That we should be able to control on our own?  Maybe they think we are ‘sick in the head’ because we’re being punished for something.  Why can’t people understand that our illness are often biological too?

In a study done by Ole A. Andreassen at the University of Oslo, people with bipolar have thinning gray matter, particularly in the parts of the brain that control inhibition and motivation (the frontal and temporal lobes).  Psycheducation.org states that “Evidence is growing quite strong that a region of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex is underactive in people with bipolar disorder even when they are having no symptoms at all.”

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health-innovations.org

 

The Stanford University School of Medicine has determined that scrambled connections between the part of the brain that processes fear and emotion and other brain regions could be the biological reason for types of anxiety disorders and even depression.

MRI’s show structural abnormalities in the brains of those with major depressive disorder or social anxiety disorder according to a study by Youjin Zhao from Sichuan University in China.

In terms of eating disorders, findings are showing that the hypothalamus may not be functioning correctly in triggering the response of being full in the person.  Further, researchers are also determining that certain neurotransmitters in the brain are tied to eating disorders as well.

So…we are finding more and more biological causes of mental illnesses.  Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and even some personality disorders.  Borderline, for example, is now considered an inheritable brain disease with specific brain abnormalities.  Wow.

SSSSSOOOOO, here’s my question.  Why in the HELL are we shamed for having a biological brain disorder???  Answer that for me, peeps.  Mental illnesses are not made up for attention or an excuse or crutch people use when they can’t cope.  They are BRAIN disorders.  Period.  And we should feel guilty for having one (or in my case, 2)?  We should feel disgraced that our brains differ from others?  We should be humiliated to carry a diagnosis showing that we have brain abnormality?

Wall-of-Shame

NO, grasshoppers, we shouldn’t.  Why in the fuck should I apologize or feel shameful for having bipolar?  Why should I have to worry about ‘coming out’ and disclosing this to everyone?  (Kristi…are you sure you should talk about all of this?  What about your job?)  First, it’s a fucking career I went to school for 8+ years to get (so let’s get that straight right now!).  Second, why should I HAVE to worry about having an illness?  A disorder?  OH YEAH.  Because it’s in my brain.  Even though I earned a freaking M.S. in 18 months, while taking care of a toddler, and teaching to pay for it, people should still worry that I just might screw things up at school.  Well, I haven’t yet for 23 years…so…

Here it is:  I’m so tired of people shaming other people for things that they can’t help or control.  I’m going to get old (OK, I’m already there).  I’m going to gain weight as I age (less estrogen, less metabolism, more tummy).  And I’m going to have this bastardly bipolar until the day I die.  Except now there are studies showing how dementia is more likely to happen among us who have bipolar, so that’s something else to look forward too as well.  Goody.

We who have mental illnesses shouldn’t HAVE to be afraid to talk about it…ask for support…get compassion.  I understand when my neighbor with arthritis can’t carry in her own groceries, so I do it for her.  Why can’t others understand that when I’m depressed, I simply can’t answer my phone at times?  Can’t go out to the mall?  Can’t make plans for the week?  When are us ‘crazy, psychotic sickos’ going to get the same treatment as those with physical disorders?

I don’t have the answer for that, grasshoppers.  But you know, I’m just hopin’ and prayin’ it happens soon.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

My Lesson in Schizophrenia.

So, Hubby 3 has a nephew named Jack (I changed his name for privacy!) and he is a paranoid schizophrenic.  A few years ago, when Hubby and I were married, his sister came to town from Florida (where she lives) with Jack (25 at the time) to visit her and hubbies mom who was suffering with lung and breast cancer.  Right before she left, she came to us and said this:  “I’m not taking Jack with me.  I rented an apartment, and it has a 6 month lease.  I can’t handle him anymore.  He’s yours now.”  And there we were with the responsibility of Jack for 2 years.

The first thing we learned was that Jack had no medication for his schizophrenia.  We got him set up with a behavioral health facility here in town, and he was quickly put on  anti-psychotic medication.  This really helped, and for a while, we thought he could maintain his apartment, with us checking on him daily.  We had no idea how serious his schizophrenia was at that point.

A couple of weeks after getting him settled and hooked up with services, we bought him a bus pass and a cell phone.  We wanted him to be able to get to us and around town easily as well as call us anytime.  But, instead of him calling us one day, it was his landlord.  He said the apartment Jack was living in was a “shithole” (his words) and he was kicking Jack out.  We went to talk to Jack, and found what the landlord said was literally true.  Within a week of us not seeing the apartment (he had been visiting us), we were shocked by what we saw.  There was poop smeared on the walls because he had run out of toilet paper, rotten food on the counters with maggots beginning to develop, and garbage strewn all over the place.  We also saw Jack wasn’t taking his meds, and was clearly not able to live on his own at all.  After talking with his caseworker, we got him into a great group home where he would be supervised, given his meds, and taught the general  life skills he needed.

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Photo by Malcolm Garret on Pexels.com

By the way, Jack didn’t want to live with us.  He wanted more freedom than we would have allowed him and since both of us worked full-time, he wouldn’t have gotten the supervision needed.  Jack lasted about 3 weeks in the group home, and then got kicked out for not following the rules.  So, with more calls to his caseworker and other agencies, we got him into a subsidized apartment with  home visits scheduled as well as us checking on him everyday.  He had also been taking his meds at the group home and he swore to us he would continue (of course, we knew that wouldn’t happen…Jack didn’t like them).  He got kicked out there within a month, and one day, we went to check on him and he wasn’t there.

All of this time, he’d come to visit us.  I’d always have a supply of t-shirts, underwear, jeans, socks, etc. since he seemed to lose his own or get them so dirty or torn they were unsalvageable.  I also made him take a shower when he got here ,while I washed his laundry.  The first time he showered, he was out within a minute and I shouted to him if he had used soap.  He told me I hadn’t told him too, so I explained in detail what to do and he learned to shower “Aunt Kristi’s way”!  I’d also make him his favorite meal:  grilled cheese with soup or chili.  According to Jack, I made a mean cheese toastie!  Sometimes, he’d start pounding on it with his fists “to kill the bugs on it” or study the chili to look for any evidence of tampering.  Once he looked and then I assured him everything was OK, he’d eat.  I’d usually have a new phone for him too; he went through them at about one a week, so I bought a few burner phones with minutes on them from Dollar General.

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Photo by Arian Malek Khosravi on Pexels.com

During this time, he moved around from friend to friend, and finally, he ended up homeless.  We hated this and begged him to go back to the behavioral health facility and get back on meds, which might have allowed him to go back to the group home.  He wouldn’t.  He liked being homeless.  He said he liked the people he had found and being on his own, living on his wits.  We usually knew where he was during the day (our local homeless day center) and then had ideas of where he was living on the streets.  We’d drive around until we found him, would offer him food or anything else he might need,  and then he would say he needed to get back to business.  This consisted of him making ‘traps’ (they were harmless stacks of boxes, etc.) to catch the spies who were out to get him.  Once we took him to the psychiatric floor at our local hospital, but he was discharged in days with meds that he pitched after we left him.

One day, I got to the day center to say ‘howdy’ and he wasn’t there.  I talked to some of his friends, and finally one said this:  “Some people said they took him to the woods and killed him.”  Now, this was coming from another guy with schizophrenia, so we didn’t know how seriously to take this info.  We called the police and they said they would investigate but in the meantime, to see if we could find him because he was most likely alive.  Hubby walked parks for hours and hours each night while I drove all over town.  As the days wore on, the police took the info more seriously and interviewed a couple of people who said where his body could be found.  Along with the police, we looked and looked, but nothing.

The news station ran a story on Jack and there was also an article in our local paper;  we wanted to know if anyone had seen him.  Here’s what happened:  social media blew up with the most horrible comments I’ve ever read…in fact, I have tears in my eyes just remembering.  People said things like this:  “Why waste resources on this sack of shit?”
“Homeless people get what they deserve.”  “I hope he’s dead so he quits draining our system.”  “They’re all fucking drug addicts.”  “Fuck him…I ain’t wasting my time looking for this asshole.”

When I started reading these, I was gobsmacked.  Truly.  These were people I knew!  See, Jack’s last name is different than Hubbies, and people didn’t know he was my nephew.  So, I wrote a post myself talking about how Jack was my family, that I loved him, how he was mentally ill, and that he needed help.  All of a sudden, the tide changed.  “OH…I didn’t know he was YOUR nephew.”  “I’m sorry!  I wouldn’t have said those things if I had known that.” and blah blah blah.

Really?  What the fuck?  It’s OK to wish someone dead if you DON’T’ know them?  It’s fine to say a mentally ill young man is a ‘sack of shit’ unless he’s Prof K’s nephew?  What the hell is wrong with this?

Finally, police in Iowa found Jack…he had literally joined the circus!  We had had one in town and he went with them to ‘help with the animals’ when it moved on.  We were so relieved, and I don’t think he could understand why we hugged him so much when he was brought to us.  Long story short (finally), he’s back with him mom in Florida, and still doing about the same.  I miss him.  I really do.

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Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

As an educator all of my life, I try to see the lessons in experiences, and as much as I tried to teach Jack things, he actually taught me so much more.  Jack brought out a compassion in me I had never felt before, and he could break my heart with just a look.  He taught me that happiness can be anything…just enjoying a whopper on the curb of a street is reason to smile.  Jack taught me how to see the world through completely different eyes…a different reality.  It was his reality, but I needed to understand we all have our own reality, and no one’s is more or less than anyone elses.

But most of all, Jack taught me how cruel, insensitive, degrading, and ignorant so many people are when it comes to mental illness; and, how superficial they can be when expected to say the ‘right things.’  When we’d be out together, people would look at Jack like he was disgusting.  They’d sniff the air because he often smelled.  They’d look away as if by ignoring him, he’d simply not exist in the world they wanted to keep ‘crazy’ free.  I’d listen to radio shows and read articles in the paper about the city needed to ‘get rid of the homeless’ downtown because they made people uncomfortable.  REALLY?  Sleeping on the fucking streets?  Bathing in a fucking sink?  Shitting behind a building because that’s all there is?  That’s what’s uncomfortable, assholes.

Did you know there are 10,363 homeless shelters in the U.S., and 13,500 dog/cat shelters and sanctuaries?  As much as I love love love dogs, this is wrong.  ‘Nuff said on that.  We need more resources for the homeless.  More acknowledgment of how much help is needed for those who are seriously mentally ill.  Better education amongst the masses so that maybe, instead of ignoring the problem, we could instead start to solve it.

Love ya forever, Jack, and I’m sure I’ll see you again when you pass through sometime.

Kristi xoxo