Hello Florida!

So, I’m in Florida, a little over half-way through my ‘me’cation, and have had a lot of ups and couple of downs!  I found the Clearwater Beach Library and just needed to write.  I try to journal, but I’m very undisciplined at it.  Having this blog makes me write for some reason, and I like it!

I had a bit of a panic/stress attack when I got to the hotel on Friday afternoon.  I called my son and my mom and said I wanted to come home the next day and cried to them.  But, after sleeping like a log in my hotel (more about that in a bit), I felt much better!

The hotel isn’t QUITE what I expected when I book with Expedia.  And, that is a major understatement!  I think the last update it had was 1970 or so, and the carpet, walls and bedding show it!  My pillows (they gave me 6…I guess I’m supposed to stack them) feel like someone took a pillow case, shoved a handful of toilet paper in it, and called it a day!  I killed a few bugs, and their friends have now taken up residence.  From what I understand, that’s pretty normal in Florida, but I’m not crazy about crawlies when I’m trying to sleep! :/

Yeesh!!

On Saturday, I walked the beach early in the morning, and found a sand dollar!!  I’ve never found a whole one before!  There are tons of shells, and the beach is fantastic…talcum like sand with amazing views! 

I’ve been sorting through a ton of shells trying to find a sharks tooth. 
I’m just going to buy a damn one down the street and call it a day! 🙂

I’ve watched the sunset on the beach every night I’ve been here.  It’s so beautiful and a really big thing here!  After it goes down, everyone cheers!  BUT, watching EVERY single person on the beach take pics with their partners, while I’m slogging on alone, is a little tough!  It’s very romantic.  For them! 

The food around here is great, and Pier 60 has live entertainment and tons of cool things to do.  You can walk around all day and not get tired of all that you see!

Entrance to Pier 60 Park! 

Grouper Tacos! 🙂

Yesterday, I went to the Scientology Spiritual Headquarters in Clearwater.  I tottered a few miles there over a huge bridge, and it was a bit of a trek but worth it!  I wasn’t allowed in that particular building, but ventured to the Scientology Information Center and saw a bunch of videos, displays, and reading material and had a great conversation with the Scientologist manning the front desk.  She was very sweet, but her answers seemed extremely programmed.  Also, there are a lot of Scientologists walking around and to be honest, it looks a bit creepy!  Everyone wears a white shirt, dark blue pants or skirt, and a blazer.  No one smiled or talked to me, UNLESS I did so first. 

The building is HUGE!  

I teach a lot about Scientology in my Sociology classes, and I’ve read so much about their abuses and how families are destroyed when 1 leaves and becomes an apostate.  It’s so sad that something that COULD have been really helpful to people is used so abusively against them.  Money taken, physical abuses, mental manipulations.  There are too many ex-Scientologists out there for me NOT to believe them.  I also don’t know why they call themselves a church.  In the videos, you hear the word ‘spiritual’ a lot, but never the word God.  Hmmmmm.  I was also surprised by how compelling the info center videos are and how someone could be persuaded to join!  They make it sound like ‘going clear’ will literally give you new life and remove every bad memory you’ve ever created so your brain can start fresh with only good in it.  For someone struggling, this is a powerful message!

This is the information center…I was the only one there for the hour I stayed.

I got a copy of L.Ron Hubbard’s Way to Happiness (which you can read here), where he outlined 21 precepts (rules…I had to look this up!) that we should all live by.  I pretty much agree with most of them (and in the parantheses I wonder if the Scientology org really does it):

  • Take care of yourself
  • Be temperate
  • Don’t be promiscuous 
  • Love and help children (but you separate families if one leaves…they aren’t allowed to have contact again!)
  • Honor and help your parents (see above!)
  • Set a good example (Hmmmmm…)
  • See to live with the truth (another Hmmmmm is necessary here)
  • Do not murder 
  • Don’t do anything illegal (think they have….)
  • Support a government designed and run for all the people
  • Do not harm a person of good will (but you can if you believe they are of bad will
  • Safeguard and improve your environment
  • Do not steal (but you ‘swindle’ people out of their money all of the time!!!!)
  • Be worthy of trust (Hmmm…)
  • Fulfill your obligations
  • Be industrious
  • Be competent
  • Respect the religious beliefs of others (so if someone leaves you…it’s ok??)
  • Try not to do things to others that you would not like them to do to you (so you would like to be stalked, threatened, and harassed yourself?)
  • Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you (see above!)
  • Flourish and prosper
So, the info sounds good on the surface, and makes sense.  But really, L. Ron took Freudian principles along with his weird ideas in terms of science fiction, and put them together to create this ‘religion’ he could be the king of.  L. Ron…why didn’t you use your apparent talent for writing and philosophizing for GOOD???
Today isn’t going so great.  I traipsed to the Clearwater Aquarium which is all about rescue, rehabilitation and release.  It was really cool…I saw sharks, sea turtles, otters, dolphins, sting rays etc.  But I’m having a down day…my depression is bothering me and it’s hard not to share all of this with someone.  There were so many times I wanted to turn to someone and say something about what I was seeing but I couldn’t.  Doing everyday stuff alone isn’t bad…doing fun vacation things alone can be.  
These 2 sweeties are Winter and Hope…the stars of Dolphin Tale!  I got to see them fairly close up but not like this!
So anyhoot, just wanted to write a bit and am going to get to the hotel, kill my new bugs, get ready for the beach, and enjoy the water for a couple of hours.  Just relax.  That sounds pretty good to me. 
No tan yet!  Sigh… 🙂
Kristi xoxo

Alone or Lonely?

So…I’m leaving for Florida tomorrow for my spring break.  I’ll be basking on the beaches and the ocean is my favorite place on earth!  It ‘centers’ me and I hope I’ll be able to really relax and de-stress!

But, here’s the thing.  This is my first trip ever traveling by myself, and I can’t believe how many people have told me they have never vacationed alone.  I’m feeling all sorts of things right now.  I’m excited to have this opportunity and really do love the sub-tropical climate.  I can take the heat really well and love being outside and in the sun.

I have other feelings going on too, though.  Part of me is scared to get on that plane tomorrow.  I won’t have anyone with me in case something happens with the flight…if I get turned around at O’Hare…if I get sick or sunburnt (!).  It’s just going to be me dealing with anything that might come up.  It sounds silly, but sometimes having that back-up with you helps.

I’m also feeling sad that I’m traveling alone.  I’m not doing it by choice…I’m doing it because I have too!  I don’t have a partner to vacation with anymore and I don’t want to not travel when I have the opportunity.  I’m using this trip as a type of experiment.  If I feel really comfortable and have fun with this experience, it will open me up to traveling more!  I want that!  There are so many things I want to see here in the states…and I do want to see Europe someday as well. 

I think being lonely is the last feeling I’m dealing with.  To me, alone and lonely are 2 different states of being.  I feel like being alone is a choice…a chance to be with yourself and reconnect with that person.  I did so much of that last summer.  I distanced myself from my partner (at that time) and spent a lot of time alone.  I walked, hiked, sunned, did yard work, napped, read.  All of the things you can easily put off when you are with someone.  But, the consequence of that was losing my partner.  I gave him way too much distance while I was reconnecting and he just couldn’t wait for me to get through what I needed too.

So now I feel lonely too.  I miss having him.  A partner.  Someone I can call and say “You aren’t going to believe this!”  Someone I can text and say “Get your ass over here!!  That new movie is on Netflix!!”  I drive through town and there’s very little I see that we didn’t do.  Restaurants, activities, stores.  So many memories that make me tear up.  How much I want someone to hug.  To hold hands with.  To cuddle and snuggle with.  I’m a toucher.  A feeler.  Having that void in my life is hard.

Being alone.  Experiencing loneliness.  I guess it’s all just parts of our life experience we have to deal with.  Get through.  Learn from.  Maybe even embrace.

Kristi xoxo

Discussion on Domestic Violence Victims

In one of my classes, we are currently talking about Domestic Violence and a discussion ensued yesterday regarding whether or not victims love themselves prior to getting into a relationship with the abuser.

Some of my students said you can love yourself, but still fall for the abuser because of their manipulation, idolization, and mask they wear.  Others said that only someone who didn’t love themselves would fall for that…would be vulnerable to their attention.

But, here’s the thing:  abusers are smart.  They are predators.  They know how to bait their hooks and trap their prey.  NO ONE would stay with a person who beat them on the first date!  Of course not!  All of my students say they would never ever stay with an abuser, but the truth is that many of them might do just that because what they don’t realize is how insidious the abuse is.  Abusers start out by idolizing you.  Making you feel like you’re the most special person in the world who can share anything and everything with them.  They are your soul-mate and once that’s felt, the hook has been set.  The next step is chipping away at what confidence, esteem, and love they have for themselves; slowly these things are chiseled away and the abuser is getting you to a place where you aren’t who you used to be.  They are devaluing you…making you feel less than…and eventually, your emotional/psychological boundaries have been compromised.  Also, that stuff you felt you could share with them?  That’s being used against you now.  They know your ‘weak spots’ and will use them any way they can.  Then, physical boundaries start to be tested.  A grab here.  A push there.  All the while seeing what your reaction is.

Have you ever heard the myth of a frog in boiling water?  It goes like this:  put a frog into a pot of boiling water and he’ll squeal and do anything he can to hop out.  BUT, put him in tepid water and turn the heat up very low to where the boiling is a process.  Because it’s so slow, the frog never fights it.  It’s in an environment that slowly becomes natural to them.

Now, even though I truly believe that anyone can be a victim of abuse by an abuser, I do believe that vulnerability to abusers can be attributed to different things.

  • First, I do think situations we go through can make us more needful of attention.  Partnership.  Togetherness.  It can validate someone who’s been rejected.  Abandoned.  Although we all need our own internal sense of self and self-love, external experience of this is important to us too.  
  • I also believe certain emotional traits can be seen in victims.  In this article, by Dr. Toby Goldsmith, he says that women of DV often:
    • have a poor self image
    • have low self-esteem
    • believe, unrealistically, they can change their abuser
    • feel a sense of powerlessness
    • believe that jealousy is ‘proof’ of love
  • Along with this, I believe personality traits can be tied to victimization too.  For example, people who are highly empathic have more sensitivity…they can align themselves with people more and feel with everything they have inside of them.  It’s more than just their heart that feels…it’s all of them that feels.  They are capable of giving so much in a relationship, and might believe that their care and love will ‘fix’ an abuser.  A great book to read regarding this is: The Empaths Survival Guide by Judith Orloff.
  • I’m a huge believer in the MBTI (You can take a free, online test and learn more about this assessment tool here: Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and feel there are some aspects of personality as described by the MBTI that could be correlated to DV:
    • Extroverts – extroverts often have difficulty with boundaries and let people in more easily than others.
    • Introverts – are often more isolated which is something attractive to abusers.  Also, they are more prone to depression and may also take on more blame because of ruminating over the situation and seeing blame in themselves.
    • Intuitionists – although you would think people with strong intuition would be BETTER at determining someone could be abusive, I believe (based on my own experience) that the gut feelings instead say things like this:  “But, I know there’s a good person in there!”  “I can tell they are suffering too, and I just need to figure them out.”
    • Feelers – feelers tend to make decisions based more on a personal, emotional level (thinking with their hearts more than their heads) and tend to personalize situations which can lead them to feeling guilt or culpability in abusive situations.  
  • In terms of mental disorders/illnesses, I think the following can be tied into victimization:
    • Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Dependent Personality Disorder
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression 
    • Anxiety Disorders
  • I also study a lot about attachment.  The attachment babies make to their first caregiver, usually their mothers, makes the ‘framework’ for all other future attachments.  This attachment can be secure or insecure:
    • Secure attachment makes the baby, and then later adult feel that:  
      • They’re lovable as they are
      • They are important and valued
      • They are worth protection and understanding
      • They are safe
    • Insecure attachment makes people feel that:
      • They’re not good enough to protect and keep safe
      • They have little value and are unimportant
      • They are not worth soothing and understanding
      • Because of these, insecurely attached individuals feel unsure of themselves in relationships and live with feeling that they aren’t worth their partners love and effort.  
    • Obviously, my belief is those with insecure attachments (one being the avoidant type and the other being the ambivalent type) don’t see the value, worth, and loveableness they have and will stay with an abuser out of insecurity and perhaps the feeling that they don’t deserve any better.
    • Lastly, we can’t ignore the fact that people who grow up in abusive homes have a much higher chance of becoming abusers, or victims, themselves.  In the PBS documentary No Safe Place, it’s said: “We (also) know that women who come from a family in which they witnessed their mother being battered are more susceptible to developing what is called ‘battered women’s syndrome’.  Such women may come to believe there is nothing they can do to get out of an abusive relationship.”  

So, the answer to understanding the ‘whys’ behind women and abuse are complicated, and can be a combination of everything above, or circumstances unique to the victim themselves. 

The take away is this:  abused women and men should never be judged for being, or staying, in a domestically violent relationship.  The dynamics of power, control, physical/verbal/psychological/sexual abuse, isolation, financial issues, threats, using children as tools of manipulation, ownership of weapons, lack of family/social support, etc. can all make it difficult through impossible for the victim to leave safely, even if the abuse is severe.  No one deserves to be abused.  NO one.  But every victim deserves our compassion. 

    Kristi xoxo

    Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

    One of my wonderful students from a couple of semesters ago messaged me about this condition and asked if I had ever heard of it.  I said I hadn’t and I started researching it.  I found so much interesting information!

    First, this condition, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is, according to experts, tied to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder):  about 99% of people with ADHD have it and about a third state it’s the most difficult part living with ADHD.  In a nutshell, RSD is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain brought on by the thought that the person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. 

    The specific symptoms of RSD are:

    • setting very high standards for yourself
    • STRONG emotion reactions
    • Shyness 
    • Depression
    • Fear of Failure
    • Rage towards the person/situation that was rejecting
    • Loss of self-esteem
    • Seeking approval from family/friends/partners
    • Feelings of hopelessness
    • Being very self-critical

    Now, I believe RSD can be tied to other disorders as well, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depression and bipolar) and even certain personality disorders (borderline, avoidant, and dependent). 

    For example, in terms of bipolar, look at the symptoms of adult ADHD that I see are significantly tied into RSD:  impulsiveness, restlessness, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, hot temper, and trouble coping with stress.  And now some of the symptoms of bipolar:  mood swings (duh!), impulsiveness, restlessness, poor decision making, feelings of worthlessness, indecisive, and feelings of guilt.  Look how these match in so many ways! 

    I found an article as I was digging around that actually shows RSD being related to bipolar in what looks to be a biological way (plus, this article cites another study to support this biological link as well).  The article also mentions how APPEARANCE based rejection can be related to eating disorders too, which are also being shown to have a biological basis.  SO…maybe RSD isn’t ONLY tied to ADHD, but is tied to many other disorders as well.  (I can even see it tied into children’s disorders such as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).

    Here’s why I thought this was so interesting to look at further:  I’ve ALWAYS been very sensitive to rejection!  If I thought a teacher didn’t like me; if I thought my parents or sister were mad at me; if friends made plans without me; if I was ‘criticized’ in class; etc., I would be devastated.  And I’m not using that term lightly!

    Actually, this came up at school just last week!  I’m on a special team where we evaluate one another and when I saw my scores as having ‘gaps’ in terms of my work, I IMMEDIATELY started crying!  I felt the evaluations were ‘rejecting’ or criticizing me as a professor.  My friend on the team talked to me about it, and showed me that the evaluations were meant for personal development and not necessarily valid in all areas since no one watches me in class and how I am with my students. 

    Further, my last break-up was shattering to me. I literally felt as if I were falling apart (which I actually did).   Regardless of any circumstance, I saw MYSELF as so less than, and my emotional distress was more than I could, in effect, handle at times.  I know I’ve reacted similarly in the past:  for example, I’ve talked about how I ran my car into a tree after my High School boyfriend broke up with me.  I also remember being very angry when a friend I had ‘rejected’ me a few years ago.  That anger stayed with me much longer than it ever should have. 

    Then, to top it off, you have people saying things like: “Quit being so sensitive!”  “Why do these things bother you so much?”  “There are other people out there!”   It’s so hard for people to understand this sensitivity unless they feel it themselves.  But that makes me feel even WORSE for having these strong emotions, as well as making me feel as if I’m being criticized for having them at all.  Yeesh!  It’s a huge self-defeating cycle I wish I had the power to stop.

    So, what’s the take-away for me?  That Rejection Sensitivity exists.  That it’s more than likely tied to biological factors.  That it’s tied to more disorders than ADHD.  And, that it’s something that needs to be researched further for more understanding! 

    Finally this:  it’s not my ‘fault’ or a failure on my part that I’m so very sensitive to rejection.  It might be a part of the mood disorder that already causes so much disruption in my life. 

    Hmmm…I’m going to keep my eye on this topic! 

    Kristi xoxo

     

    Too Much Pain :(

    So, I’m watching “Rocketman” this morning and I just start crying.  You have this prodigy, who’s talent is incredibly rare, but whose life was full of pain for decades.

    I hate all the pain I see in people.  And I see it everyday.

    I have students who hug on me, follow me, confide in me and I wonder where their family is.  Their friends.  How did they get to this point in their life without the comfort, love, and support they so desperately need?

    Then, I talk about horrible things in my classes:  rape, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying.  And I NEVER, EVER give any of these lectures without at least 5 students reaching out to me afterwards to tell me they’d be a victim of the topic.  EVER.

    How many students do this?

    I hear stories from students about being sexually abused by a family member when they were as young as 3.  Or raped as a high schooler, but not being able to tell anyone because they felt the shame was theirs.  Or students who grew up with violent parents, and who tried to shield their siblings from the worst of it.  Or women who left an abuser after years because they realized it was either that, or facing the possibility that their next beating could be their last.  Or guys who have told me they are gay, but had to put on this ‘tough’ persona in front of family and friends, because they knew if they didn’t, they would be bullied and ostracized by those they cared for the most.

    So many people out there are in pain.  So many have stories we can’t imagine.  And here’s the thing:  until we start really seeing people, and not shying away from actual connection; until we start asking the WHY behind behavior instead of just punishing it or judging it; until we ask people how they are and truly stop to listen;  until we look at a kid and see they need a hug instead of discipline;  until we drop our own masks and show that it’s ok to not be ok, things are never going to change.

    How is it we live in what’s supposed to be this connected world, yet people are more lonely and disconnected than ever?  How can we let so many people suffer in silence?  And why can’t we say the simple words of  “I care?”

    Maybe this needs to be reversed.

    Kristi xoxo

    When to Tell?

    So, I have a bit of a ‘date’ today.  I’ve been chatting with this guy I met online and we’re meeting for a snack and drink at a downtown eatery this afternoon.  I’m not sure what I feel about it…this dating thing is still so new to me!

    After my 3 divorces (!), I subsequently married each man I saw afterwards.  There was really no ‘dating’ around!  And, my life was different then.  Or at least it felt different.  I hadn’t been diagnosed bipolar yet, and was still very much pretending in my day to day life.  Obviously, the bipolar affected my relationships, but I think it was because I didn’t have that ‘label’ yet, I still had more confidence in what I brought to table with these men than I do now.  Hmmmm…I wonder if others feel like this?  Once that label is stuck on, all of a sudden you see yourself differently?  As a bit more less than?

    I need to be better at doing this.  I’m adding this to my ‘goals’ of the year.

    Anyhoo, after hubby 3 (Ron) and I divorced, I was involved with a man for 3 years.  VERY bad at the start with a lot of abusive behaviors, cheating and abandonment happening; better the 2nd year but still with issues; and much better the 3rd year.  Better enough I thought we were in a place that was strong enough, and moving ahead well enough, I could take some time for myself to get me back to where I needed me to be.  This didn’t set well with him though, and last Oct., I walked in on him (naked!) with another woman in what was supposed to be ‘our’ apartment, just like my house was ‘our’ house as well.  (I also think there was someone else there, but I guess that’s not the point.  THEY didn’t come out of his bedroom screaming at me to leave!  All while using the furniture I provided for US!  DRAMA!!!!).

    We haven’t ‘talked’ since then…he refused (es) to speak to me on the phone and blocked me from everything except e-mail.  So, when I needed to communicate with him regarding my things and all, it was only through this means.  (Why is it that the person who has cheated, is the one who acts like the victim?  Am I the ‘bad’ guy?  For walking in?  For not realizing what he was feeling?  For not doing enough?  As an empath whose feelings run VERY deep, which is common in bipolar, I blame myself for most things anyway).

    Not long ago, he e-mailed that he had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  I had always known there was something wrong.  We knew he had PTSD from his 3 deployments in the Middle East (and this is why I forgave him so much and took him back so many times…he was traumatized from his time in the Army.  I understood this).  During that first year, I thought he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but the BPD really does make more sense in terms of his patterns in relationships (not just ours).  He wanted me to know this to explain himself in terms of how he acted and what he did in our relationship.  And I did appreciate this.  It gives me much more understanding of everything that happened.  (And yes, I still have feelings for him.  Feelings run deep in me.  He’s the one who lost feelings for me.)

    ANYHOO…here’s the thing:  I saw us as BOTH “damaged”.  BOTH mentally ill.  I didn’t have to pretend in front of him.  He understood, or I thought he understood, my illness as well as I tried to understand his.  It was kind of like we were ‘matched’ in terms of these ‘bad’ disorders.

    I did date a lawyer for a month or so around Christmas, and at first it was going really well.  I thought this might be something lasting.  Then, we had our first argument and he was just mean!  Not mentally ill.  Just mean!!

    So now I’m meeting this guy today.  And here’s what I struggle with and really think about:  what man would want to take on this woman with bipolar?  AND, when do you tell them you have this?  Obviously, not on a first date!  I’m not that open!!  BUT, not after a dozen either.  And, since I am really open about it…on Facebook, here, Tedx Talk, etc., someone could dig a bit on me and find out for themselves.  Then what?  Hmmmm…

    That’s a fine line when you think about it.  You want to be candid in sharing who you are, but you also want them to get to know you as a person, before the issue of a mental illness is brought forth.

    Why is it that if I had diabetes, this wouldn’t be an issue at all?  But with mental health, it’s like a shame you have to hide until the time is ‘just right’!  Like you have to figure out when to drop this ‘bombshell!’  Because that’s what it is:  a bombshell that could break anything you might have built to that point.

    When this DOESN’T happen, that’s when we’ll know the stigma against mental health has been shattered.

    I’m not ashamed to have this illness.  It’s just what I have.  But I guess I am ashamed of how others see it.  Crazy.  Unstable.  Nuts.  Bipolar has a bad rap.  And I understand why.  It’s a toughie.  One that is going to cause issues at times, but that doesn’t mean it has to define the relationship as a whole.

    I’m going to tread lightly with this.  If I like this guy (and I don’t know…I’m really not that excited for this.  I’m more dreading it than anything but like my son says, if you don’t want to be alone forever, you have to get out there) I guess I’ll just have to use my own judgement on when to tell him.

    And maybe, I need to think about how I see myself.  I use the word damaged.  But is that fair to me? Does that mean I see others with mental illness as being damaged?  (Actually, I don’t.  Just me!) It’s true that my brain is actually “damaged” in that it doesn’t work like other brains.  Hello?  Mental illness!  But am I less than because of that?  I FEEL like that.  But is it actually TRUE?  I don’t know.

    Kristi xoxo

    Can we start the conversation?

    Ever notice how anxious some people get when the subject of mental illness comes up?  It’s funny to me how people throw around words and say things like “She’s so anorexic…eat something girl!”  Or, “God, how bi-polar!”  Or even, “Yea…people who have that are crazy!”  THEN, you tell them you have a mental illness.  And all of a sudden, things change!  “Oh…I didn’t mean YOU!  I meant…you know…other people who are ‘really’ sick!”



    Hmmmmmm…

    So I have bi-polar.  Not self-diagnosed; really diagnosed…neurologist, psychiatrist, etc.!  And I say that because it’s almost fashionable to have this now!  Someone feels good one day, and not so good the next, and suddenly BAM!  They think they are bi-polar.  Nope.  You’re just experiencing the highs and lows of life.  And that’s good!  You don’t want this brain disease which is what it really is.  MRI’s show differences between bipolar and normal brains, and take a look at this: 

    A new study shows that the blood of bipolar patients is toxic to brain cells and may affect the connectivity ability of neurons. … Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe and complex mental illness with a strong genetic component that affects 2% of the world population.”  



    Even when I was a little girl, I felt different.  Like there was a flaw people could readily see in me, even as young as kindergarten.  I didn’t really understand how to interact with my peers like I saw others do, and there was something inside of me I couldn’t explain but could feel.  Other kids could brush things off but I was always so emotional.  

    In the 3rd grade, I completed a story called “All About Me.”  There are a couple of tells I wrote, that in retrospect showed whispers of a mental illness.  One was the question:  What do you wonder?  While other kids wrote “Why the sky is blue” or “Why giraffes have spots”, I wrote: “I wonder why I’m alive.”  Another question asked what confused me, and I wrote “When 2 or 3 people are talking at once.”  There was just too much going on in my head for any voices to be heard.

    High school was tough for me. There were so many things that would go through my mind, that at times I thought I was going crazy.  Like a blender full of fruit and ice, on full blast, but without a lid.  I was just all over the place.  To feel like I had some control over my life, I started dieting, and developed anorexia nervosa within months.  When my boyfriend broke up with me my junior year, I crashed my car into a tree because the emotions were too overwhelming for me to process.   


    Decades later, after my 3rd divorce (!), a few things happened.  I still loved my ex-husband and missed him terribly.  My mentor and friend from the community college where I teach passed, and I got involved in an abusive relationship.  At the same time, my nephew was killed on the USS McCain, a man started harassing,  threatening, and stalking me for which I was being blamed, and I had surgery for precancerous cells.  This was too much for me and I broke down.  

    Before this, I never really ‘believed’ in nervous breakdowns.  Now I do.  I started cutting myself pretty badly.  I stopped eating.  Stopped showering.  Attempted suicide. Finally after working with doctors and counselors, I was  diagnosed with bi-polar and the “me” inside myself began to make sense.  The emotions, the roller coasters, the busy head, the bad decisions, the impulsivity, the confusion, the hyperactive behavior, the obsessive/compulsive behavior, the out of control spending, everything.  

    Being diagnosed was such a freaking relief!  I knew I had something, and even though I am a Professor that teaches Psychology, I COULD NOT admit that something as serious as bi-polar was in me.  I didn’t want it.  I tried to fight against it all my life, and because of that, I lost husbands, friends, and even family members at times.  How could anyone understand me, if I couldn’t understand myself?  

    So, am I all better now?  Ha!  Nope.  Not at all.  I’m in the process of changing meds and will be seeing a psychiatrist in a couple of weeks.  My meds aren’t as effective, but mood stabilizers have caused me suicidal ideation in the past.  We’re not sure what to try.  Some meds that are out there now have such terrible side effects.  It’s almost a process of weighing which is worse??  The depression or losing muscle coordination?  The mania, or having the compulsion to cut myself?  I know side effects are so different in people, but psychotropic meds truly are scary.  Hello!  They are working in your brain!

    I see a counselor every week, and she asked me yesterday how I’ve been able to function all these years like I do.  I’ve been teaching for 25 years, and raised my son.  And here was my answer to her: “I’ve had too!”  I didn’t have a choice!  I was the one that usually was a main support in my marriages, and there was never a question of me having to work.  And, I’m single now, and my future is dependent on only me.  My retirement that I have to keep working towards for a few more years.  

    But here’s the thing:  people don’t see the struggle on the inside, when you are presenting what you need to do on the outside.  Simple as that.  There are days I force myself out of bed to face the day.  I collapse when I get home from school because I’m exhausted and I need to take my meds.  When I wake up from that nap, I usually feel terrible.  And it takes me a long while to get myself up again for the evening.



    Working out helps with some of this…but can also feed (no pun intended!) into my eating disorder.  

    SO…I created this space for all of us. And any of us.  We can talk about mental illness here with no judgement.  No stigma.  We can be ourselves.  We can take off any masks we wear and be genuine.  I’ll always listen.  And I thank you for doing the same with me!  🙂




    Kristi xoxo