“And the beat goes on…” ~ Sonny & Cher

So, I went to a specialist a couple of weeks ago in another city and feel so good about what my future bipolar treatment plan looks like! Yea!

First, this guy has both an M.D., and is a psychiatrist, plus a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. In other words, we’re on the same intellectual level (🙄). Anyhoot, he did the most thorough evaluation I’ve ever had and really dug around in my brain…Lord knows what he could have found.

According to Doc, I have been on the WRONG bipolar regiment for quite a while now and he was gobsmacked by what I was being treated with…particularly since the treatment was OK’d by another psychiatrist in the town I live in. However, that doc only met with me for minutes…he didn’t take the time to really find out all about my symptoms, and I’m a bit pissed by him just throwing some meds at me.

Basically, I am on 3 different anti-depressants which actually are working AGAINST each other in my brain. The 3rd is pretty much a mild one and is OK right now, but there are a few problems with the 2 main ones: just taking them together, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, actually counteract one another and are NOT indicated for bipolar. In fact, Doc said that both together are actually causing a ‘conflict’ in my brain chemistry and are most likely worsening my bipolar symptoms. He said that not only has it been like I’ve been on nothing for the my mental illness, but I’ve actually had a drug combo that was triggering more symptoms. What??? It’s making my bipolar worse? Yep…it sure is.

This was a major kick in the ass for me. For these past couple years I have been struggling more and I truly blamed myself. I kept thinking: “Hey…you are on these meds so anything you aren’t ‘controlling’ is your fault.” But actually, that’s not true. Doc put it this way (I think he dumbed it down a tad for me…thank God 😳): “These 2 meds are fighting one another…one is pulling stuff out and the other is pushing it back down. This fight is stressing out your brain chemistry even more.” NOTE: I’m assuming he means neurotransmitters but I can understand him using the word ‘stuff’ because when I asked what country he was from…he has an adorbs accent…he said to try to guess. I said “Turkey?” and he said “YES!! How did you know that??” And I honestly replied “I watch 90 Day Fiance.” He gave me a look for a long minute or two, scratched something else down on his pad, and continued our talk. 😳

Now, he also informed me that these 2 meds can also cause sweatiness, nausea, tremors, incoordination, etc. and I actually do have some tremors…they mostly occur in the evenings but were scary when they first started. I’ve also been tripping since I was a tot so I’m assuming my body was preparing itself for this drug cocktail ever since. Just sayin’.

Anyhoot, Doc is weaning me off of one of the meds right now and I’m almost completely done with it. I already feel better and he said I would because I’d be stopping that conflict in my brain! I feel MUCH less rattled and MUCH less manic…it feels goooooood! After I’m off of this one completely (Thursday) I see him a week later and then I’ll wean off the 2nd med. Once these are out of my bod, I’ll get prescribed Lamotrigine again which he feels is the best mood stabilizer for bipolar.

However, I’ve been on it before and although it seemed to help me, I was pretty zombie-ish. Doc said that was partially caused by these other meds and the fact it couldn’t work on my fucked up (he didn’t use that particular word but it’s the closest one I can think of…sorry, ma 🤨) chemistry. He said that really, all I need is a mood stabilizer and mild anti-depressant. With these 2 working together the way they should, I will be more stable than I’ve ever been before.

You know, it’s scary to sometimes think of how different my brain chemistry is and how much I need meds to stabilize it. During my evaluation, doc had me pick a past manic and past depressive episode and tell him all about it…he guided the questions. It was like he was dissecting my brain to really understand what happens when I experience these. Then he had me talk about my most recent ones and he did the same. After doing this, I realized that the episodes really have changed over the last couple of years.

When we were looking at these, I started bawling (go figure 😐) and he asked me why; after all, I wasn’t talking about anything disastrous that should be upsetting me. I said this: “I’ve been feeling like I’m on my own with this (bipolar) and to know I just wasn’t getting the right help I needed makes me sad. I would love to turn back these couple of years and live them differently.” He said he understood but that time can’t be changed…we just have to go forward and live from this moment on.

That’s sometimes easier said than done though…isn’t it? I actually wish I would have gotten help a LONG time ago instead of thinking: “I’m a psychology professor…I know what I’m doing.” I hate that I hid from this diagnosis for so much of my life and that it’s finally at the age of ‘cough-cough’ 54 that I’m seeing long-term hope. I hate that people have been affected by something I’m trying my very best to deal with. I hate I need meds and help and that this is one thing I can’t do on my own. I hate that at times I feel sorry for myself when I should always be grateful for who I am and all I have.

Anyhoot, I’m just so relieved that not only am I on a much better plan for bipolar, but I have some understanding of why things have been so tough for me. I love that I’m already feeling less conflicted and more ‘even’ and can’t wait to continue on this path.

Like any physical condition, mental illness is something that needs treatment…help. It’s not something we can talk ourselves out of or wish away. Like a broken leg, it needs a cast to straighten it out. In my case, both of my legs were casted and I couldn’t move/improve easily…I was battling myself. I’m not shamed by having to see a psychiatrist…by having to be on meds…by having this fucking (you call it this too, ma 🤨) illness. I’m just grateful there are people out there that can give me the tools to control it the best it can be controlled so I can live my life in the way I want…not in the way the illness wants.

Kristi xoxo

I love this art by Ellen Forney who has drawn her life with bipolar.
She is the author of 2 amazing books and you can learn all about her here!!!

“How he longs to be Beneath his dreaming tree…” ~ Dave Matthews

So, I love to re-read favorite books and I just finished one that’s 3rd on my list of all time favorites: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. For some reason, I highlighted the crap out of it this time and it really made me think of some things in my own life.

Anyhoot, the story is about a girl named Francie who grows up very poor in Brooklyn but has aspirations of education and being on stage. There are a lot of roadblocks in this pursuit but she perseveres. While she’s growing up, we’re treated to her thoughts which are so often profound and to be honest with you, humbling as well. Let’s take a look-see:

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”

Isn’t that an absolutely wonderful view? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes think we frantically busy ourselves in ‘pursuing’ this thing called happiness because we believe it will miraculously make things perfect when it’s finally achieved. The problem though, is that we don’t recognize the actual happiness we take for granted in our everyday life. Maybe like Francie says, it’s not necessarily a state, but moments that simply swirl around us. It’s like the dust mites in the air (at least my air…2 shedding dogs and an aversion to dusting 🙄); unless you’re looking through a window, you’ll miss that they’re even there. I was thinking about this last night while I laid in bed. I was looking around at my cozy room and how I’ve been looking out the same window while falling asleep for 15 years now. It’s so comforting to me and just laying in bed and taking it in makes me content…settled…secure…and yes, happy.

I was also looking at the pictures on my dresser mirror of all the people who love me. Oliver, ma, pop, step-ma, Terri and her hubby, my nieces and nephews, and my pets. How lucky I am to have these people in my life, yet I often take them for granted! Going out to breakfast with pop and step-ma…shopping with ma…going down a water slide with my sissy while my niece and nephew laugh…those are moments of happiness to be treasured. You know, it’s easy to forget how many people are searching for someone to give them unconditional acceptance and love…to experience the feeling of having a place in the hearts of others.

Then I think about my students. Just today, I laughed with my classes and felt such a sense of being where I belong…smack dab in the front of my classroom. Doing what I love. Doing what I believe I was born for. Doing what makes me realize so many times of happiness with so many amazing people.

Here’s another quote I love:

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”

You know, sometimes I think I just sail through my days and not truly recognize the actual living I do minute by minute. It’s like 1 day bleeds into another and weeks go by without really being able to say what they were all about.

Finally ready to start painting!

A couple of days ago, I was pulling out ceiling tiles in my basement…the last big project to complete my house renovation. It was a fucking (sorry, ma 😬 but you were there and saw it for yourself) nightmare and I was beside myself. It’s a drop ceiling and the tiles were 20+ years old and getting stained and crumbly, etc. So, I started ‘removing’ (tearing out is a better word since there was only 1″ clearance between the tile frame and the rafters 😡…a big fucking thank you to whoever put them up in the first place) the 2’x4′ tiles and they were breaking apart and falling on me and were heavy and dirty and dusty and smelly and I was covered in sweat and grime and filth. Charmed, I’m sure. My basement looked like it had been hit with a white, powdery sand-storm and I was bawling. I knew I was way over my head when I started it, but it was just too devastating to admit I was failing at the last task I had for my house after having accomplished so much.

Bill came over near the tail-end when my emotions were at their peak, and I bawled and snapped at him, and he left. For good. I don’t blame him. My bipolar can amplify my emotions 100 fold and it was bad. I’m just so glad ma came over and comforted me and helped as I got it all cleaned up. I don’t know what I’d do without her and I have forbidden her to ever die. Period. (By the way…I’m going to paint the ceiling rafters for an industrial type vibe…very cool and, as God is my witness, NO ceiling tiles ever ever again!).

What I hope my ceiling looks like when it’s done. 🙄

But here’s the thing…even with something like this, at least I’m living. Feeling. Breathing. Accomplishing. Trying. Working. I’m living a moment that I need to appreciate. You know, I think we all try way too hard to sail through the bad, and only really allow ourselves to live the good. But, according to Francie, we need to live it all. I learned a lot about myself that night. I learned my limitations. My tenaciousness. My staunch refusal to ask for help when I need it the most (and the foolishness of that). I learned that a ceiling is only a fucking ceiling…and believe me, mine ain’t no Sistine Chapel. Hard lessons? Yep…you betcha. But living those moments created lessons I’ll learn from and grow from and hopefully be better for in the long run. And that, my sweet peeps, is enough.

I love how Francie explains this concept of living even more…

“Sometimes I think it’s better to suffer bitter unhappiness and to fight and to scream out, and even to suffer that terrible pain, than to just be… safe. At least she knows she’s living.”

Wow. Just wow. You know, there have been thousands of time I’ve cursed this fucking bipolar. Not just for what it does to me, but how it affects others as well. Still, it’s ‘only’ what I have…not the whole of who I am, and I tend to forget that. Others suffer with so much worse and having that mini-bawling breakdown cleansed me and let me get emotions out I had tucked away for a while. And I’ve felt better ever since.

Do I want a life that’s more relaxed? More casual? More laid back? More easier (I don’t think this is grammatically correct…but you get my point 🙄) than life is with bipolar? Of course I do…duh. But, on the other hand, not really. Yes, I feel too much. I emote too much. I react too much. But I’m alive…living my life the way it’s been made.

And finally,

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong.”

Having bipolar is a struggle…an every hour, everyday, every week, every month, every year struggle (like all mental illnesses are 😥) and I’ll be damned that I’m going to sugar-coat it and say it’s not. It’s a terrible mental illness that I didn’t ask for…want…deserve. But it’s made me strong in so many ways. It’s made me help others. Made me more compassionate. Made me able to laugh loud and cry hard. It’s made me…me. Me who is struggling to grow. Struggling to learn. Struggling to always try. Struggling…I guess…to live.

Kristi xoxo

“I want you to show me the way…” ~ Peter Frampton

So, I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a guy I dated for a while around a year ago. We didn’t end on great terms which bothered me a lot because we started out as really good friends. Anyhoo, what he wrote made me cry but in a good way.

In his message, he said he had gone back and watched the TedX talk I did about being bipolar and also thought about things I told him about this mental illness. And this is some of what he said:

“The combination of your past experiences, coupled with the struggles you deal with every minute of your life, made our entire interaction both too impulsive and too similar, from your perspective, to past abusive experiences. 

I know you have times where you say things differently than you would at other times. Another part of your struggle. I see many of the things you said to me as heavily influenced by those times and your illness. My hurt and pain over some of those things was real. But, when I take all things into consideration, I realize that you ARE the sweet girl I remember from school. You suffer from bipolar disorder that causes things to be said and done in a way that the sweet girl wouldn’t ordinarily say or do them. It can’t be helped. And it’s not intentional.”

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that this man diligently worked to understand what being bipolar is like and how it affects my interactions with others. I also think it’s insightful of him to see how my past experiences have shaped me as well. BUT, I know that being bipolar doesn’t justify what I said or did. Justifying means proving yourself right…and I was NOT right in so many things we struggled with. However, understanding bipolar sheds light on my behavior but doesn’t absolve me to not take responsibility.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Being in a manic phase does make you feel ‘high’ so to speak, but can also make you irritable and touchy (😳). Couple that with racing thoughts, impulsive behaviors, and incessant talking, you can see it’s a recipe for disaster in any relationship (BTW: did you know that 90% of marriages with a partner having bipolar end in divorce? Hmmm… 🤔). Another issue with mania is delusional thinking; for example, feeling extra important and talented (my Oscar speech is ready to go…all I need is to get a ticket to Hollywood, find an agent, learn to act, get an audition, make the film, and then walk up on the stage. Very do-able…right?? 🙄) . What this can do is make us feel better than others, and as we all know, this is the foundation of passing judgement on others. It makes me sick…literally (I hate this word…except it actually fits right now)… to know I’ve been that way. I am the FIRST to say: “Hey! Don’t judge me! It’s not my fault I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar!” Yet, that same bipolar has caused me to judge others at times…something I would never do out of that manic state. I feel horrible for that and have tears in my eyes as I’m reflecting on this.

On the other hand, being depressed makes you feel hopeless and worthless. You don’t feel like having sex, going out, or doing anything fun; plus, you see the world as being one big disappointing poop-fest (which right now, it kind of is…🤨) and feel pessimistic about everything. Charmed, I’m sure.

But I’m not always manic or depressed and I’m just ‘me’. Kristi. My brain is calmed and I can be much more in control of who I am, what I say, and what I do. These breaks of euthymia can last from days to months. So, in a nutshell, the people around me have no idea ‘who’ is going to show up on any particular day and how long that Kristi will last. Will it be manic Kristi…Oscar winner extraordinaire? Depressed Kristi who wants to hide in a cave and never come out? Or just Kristi? Average, mousy, plain old Kristi? It’s a crap shoot and I know how confusing that can be! It confuses me as well!

Me and Pop when I thought I was great at photo editing!

My dad, step-ma and I were having breakfast the other day and talking about mental illness since it’s such a cheerful subject to peruse over omelets and pancakes at Perkins. Pop is mentally ill himself and also has bipolar. I knew he did because I can see what I go through in him, but this was the first time he said it to me directly. When I look back at my life with pop growing up, I was always wary of which pop I’d be getting on any given day. Sometimes pop was the funniest, most energetic parent ever and other times, sissy and I would walk on eggshells not knowing what was going on. I know he understands how bipolar has affected his relationship with his daughters and I also relate since it’s certainly affected my parenting as well. Pop is a great parent…actually a very kind, helpful, generous man in general. But he’s mentally ill…and it’s going to affect his life and relationships regardless. (I love you, pop! 🥰).

Now, I also have anorexia which isn’t too surprising since there’s a pattern of comorbidity (I just love using words that make me sound smart 🙄) between eating disorders and bipolar. This makes sense since both have genetic components and we can see similar symptoms between them like compulsiveness (over-exercising for me), loss of appetite when manic, feeling worthless when depressed which causes me to be very hard on myself in terms of how I see me, and then being more touchy overall. One comment that I’ve put on a few pounds will reverberate through my brain again and again until I take action. I also think it’s a control/dysregulation issue as well: emotional dysregulation with bipolar and eating dysregulation in anorexia both involve the pre-frontal cortex as well as the neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine. In many ways, these 2 illnesses go hand in hand.

So, what effect does anorexia have on my relationships with others? Well, among other things I can be judgmental of the weight of others. It truly doesn’t come from disdain but from envy. I would absolutely love to eat something…anything…without thinking about how many calories are going into my body and how that will affect my weight. When I see bigger people, I am wishing I could eat more freely and with more enjoyment, and not beat myself up if I choose to have a dessert. This jealousy has caused me to say some pretty bitchy things; however, using that judgment against others might once again be understandable but it’s definitely NOT justifiable. At all.

You know, having this fucking bastard (ma…you know if I say it once, I’ll say it again…🙄) of a mental illness, times 2, makes life hard for me, but I also realize life is so much more difficult for others. Believe me, I know how blessed I really am! But honestly, bipolar sucks balls and sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I wonder why in the name of all that is holy, I have to have it. Why I have to go through so many ups and downs and problems and breakdowns and horrible thoughts of suicidal ideation and times of self-mutilation, etc. Why I have to be at the mercy of a brain that seems to not know what the hell it wants. But I think I’m finally beginning to understand the purpose of it. At first, I thought it was ‘simply’ to do what I could to help break the stigma of having it. But now, after reading the e-mail I got, I realize this: it’s more important to promote an understanding of the disorder. Breaking the stigma means getting rid of the ‘shame’ associated with bipolar (and all mental illnesses!) and that’s such an important thing to do! But understanding means to be empathic, considerate, and forgiving of the people and associated behaviors of those who have a mental illness because you’ve learned what these illnesses entail. And peeps, that’s what I need to promote. See the difference?

Yes, I have mental illness and it affects all of my interactions the vast majority of the time. And to have someone understand that, and then apologize for not recognizing that earlier, humbles me. But it’s really not their apology to make. No matter what is going on in my brain and how bipolar (and anorexia) affect me, I still am responsible for me. For what I say. For what I do. And to anyone and everyone that has been affected by that, I’m truly sorry.

Kristi xoxo

“You’re not actually going IN to an asteroid field?” ~ Princess Leia

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve really missed it! But, I had a pretty tough spring and not having a self-imposed obligation to blog has taken some of the stress off even though I still wanted to be with my peeps. 😍

Let’s just go through 2021 together and take a look-see at my life.

January: Another semester of teaching during the pandemic and not being able to see my students in-person. Continuing the mask-wearing and fear of COVIDing and store closings and restaurant closings and the list goes on. Y’all know what I mean…you were in it too.

February: Tested positive for the Vid (apparently, that’s the ‘cool’ way to say it…and Lord knows how ‘cool’ I am 🙄) and was sick for about 2 weeks. I was lucky enough not to have the cough and breathing issues but was treated to feeling like the day after having the flu where walking to the bathroom seems to be a humungous chore. Then, my little Dottie had to be put down and I still cry over her every single day. There is such a hole in my heart and just writing these words brings tears to my eyes.

March: Went in for a simple D & C to take care of some fibroids but found out they were too advanced so a full hysterectomy was scheduled for April (during which time I am still teaching 8 classes online).

A Foley is a catheter!

April: Felt like crap on April 8th and got to where I was doubled over and feeling like I was going to pee myself every 10 seconds. Went to the ER and found out I needed emergency kidney stone surgery (the only upside to this was that the doc was hot. The only downside was that he was looking at my kidneys 😳). Recuperated for a couple of days and then went ahead with a full hysterectomy on the 11th. So…5 total hours of surgery in 3 days. I got to wear a lovely catheter bag and feel a tube up my twat while watching reddish pee continuously drip. Charmed, I’m sure. Then, 2 days later, the preforementioned bag clogged (only I can clog a freaking bag 😐 ) and my sissy had to rush me to my doc 30 miles away. She was a STAR and if it would have taken her 2 minutes more, my bladder would have burst and I would have died (no…I’m not being dramatic…the doc said this afterwards and it scared the shit out of me!) A huge plus for sissy is she got to see every. single. thing. that’s covered by my underwear. She starts therapy soon. Plus, I didn’t miss a day of teaching.

Mally and Edward!

May: Healing. Healing. Healing. AND, big news: I adopted a 3-4 year old Corgi dog named Mally (for the low low price of $2000)! She was a breeder at a puppy mill who had to be spayed after a C-Section, and since she was no longer ‘of use’ to the owner, she was put up for adoption. I was told she had been socialized, was well trained, had all of her vaccinations, blah blah blah. Well…come to find out, that was all a lie. Instead, she was treated like a thing, lived in a barn all of her life, had never been around people except for when she was having yet another litter of pups, needed vaccinations out the wahoo, and had absolutely no clue what toys, treats, and love were.

It’s been hard with Mally and I almost gave up. But I’ve started working with a couple of dog behaviorists and they are helping me so much. It’s like Mally has Reactive Attachment Disorder…as if she had spent her entire childhood, adolescence, and 20’s in a closet. So when we got her home, she cowered and submissive pottied, refused a collar or leash, and spent every minute when she was inside crouching between the 1 foot space between my bed and wall. However, she now walks on a leash, cuddles me on the couch, and is showing interest in toys/treats while responding to some simple commands and the consistent schedule she’s on. I love her and want so much to give her a good life! Plus, Edward is smitten! They chew and clean each other’s ears (🤢) and play and play and play! Since Mally was really only around other dogs, she is much more comfy with Edward than people…so he’s been a great thing for her! She has a LONG way to go, but I think she’ll continue to improve and I hope she’s happy with me. Since she’s a girl, she probably is. (As we know, men usually aren’t 🙄).

June: Spent the majority of time working with Mally, teaching summer scrool, and getting classes ready for the fall of which I have 3 on-campus! YEA! BUT, there’s more…

Bill moved to his house down the street and it’s adorbs. But we’re trying to figure out our relationship right now. The honeymoon type ‘glow’ has worn off and we’re seeing the ‘raw’ Bill and Kristi. I’m gonna be honest with you, there’s been some arguments and difficulties. Right now, we’re focusing on being friends while trying to figure out our true feelings and if we want to pursue working on a romantic relationship. We’re taking it one day at a time.

You know, we went from talking online, to living together while he looked for a house, to moving him down the street. We’ve never had a ‘normal’ type of courtship (like ma and pa Ingalls did…that word just seems so ‘old’ to me). Look, I want to date! Be wined and dined! Be treated like a little Princess! (Yes, you may roll your eyes at that last one…🙄). However, it’s hard for him to do this because in my cargo shorts, black t-shirts and grass stained sneakers, I look absolutely nothing like a princess. I look more like a princesses’ gardener. [SIDE NOTE: Kate and Wills, if you ever need another gardener, give me a shout. I think I would be able to work you in.] 😳

Couldn’t resist this!

Because I had been alone for a while and have always worked hard in my life, I think it’s difficult for Bill to imagine me wanting to be treated like a queen. (I graduated from princess to queen in 2 sentences…good work, heh?? 👸). Yes, I can mow and paint and wire things and build things but still want to be spoiled at times. And yes, I can make this difficult for a man when I do everything myself because I feel guilty asking for help. It’s kinda…or actually is…a no-win at times.

[By the way: I have worked so so so hard in my basement this summer! I’ve built countertops and created an indoor plant center/nursery and am now painting and pulling up carpet in my basement to create a cool rec room! I’ll post pics soon!]

Finally, I’m not doing well mentally. I’m usually manic in the summer and yes, I am this summer as well. When you paint for 12 hours straight and then mow and then run, I’d say mania has set in. But, I’m also depressed (refer to my spring stuff and the fact I have fucking bipolar…sorry, ma 😐). It’s a horrible feeling. In bipolar speak, this is called a mixed episode and I’ve never had one as severe as this one. In fact, I’m calling the doc today to get in for a med check and a possible new med that is showing a lot of promise among bipolar patients.

I’m also feeling really anxious (very common with bipolar anyway…just greatly exacerbated right now). For me, the full pandemic is still going on. Most people have gotten back to work and a routine and being around people again and having a reason to get up and out. Not me. For us profs, we are still working from home. The only time I go out is to go to Wal-Mart (for the love of all that is holy, when you go to Wal-Mart and are wearing a t-shirt for a dress, please wear underwear…) ma’s or sissy’s. And for an extravert, this is nothing. I need school so badly…to be around my students! On the other hand, I’m nervous too. After the debacle with a student threatening me a couple of years ago (and being blamed for it), I am still not treated well among a lot of my colleagues.

And for the icing on the cake, I’m working on 2 info repositories, one for staff and one for students, of mental health/illness resources and info for my college (per IL law). So…I’m the one posting the info to make sure the mentally ill and those suffering mental health issues/crisis are understood and helped…all while being ostracized for having bipolar. Hmmmm.

SO…it’s been a trying spring and summer and I’ve been close to a breakdown a couple of times. That scares the bejesus out of me. Look, I don’t have time for a breakdown. I am never not working (teaching or getting classes ready to teach…I have 9 in the fall) and can’t not be on my game. I can’t put my ma through another breakdown. I don’t know if I could get through another one myself. I’m working so fucking hard to keep it together and ma and sis have helped tremendously. I owe them both a lot.

Anyhoot, it’s really nice to be blogging again (and I know this cheerful post had to have been the highlight of your day) and just writing this was therapeutic.

Thanks for always being there for me peeps…y’all are so special to me. Truly. 😍

Kristi xoxo

“But you are not alone…I am here with you…” ~ Michael Jackson

So, the beginning of this post is going to show you my ‘Professor K’ side and I hope you’ll bear with me…and maybe learn a new bit of info to boot. In the United States we have awareness months and here is a SHORT list of issues that I feel are particularly important…let’s take a look-see:

  • January:
  • February:
    • American Heart Month – leading cause of death in the U.S. and a person dies of this every 36 seconds.
    • March:
      • Colon Cancer – it’s estimated that around 150,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year and is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
    • April:
      • Autism – 1:54 kids diagnosed each year with boys representing the majority of cases.
      • Child Abuse Prevention – there are 3.6 million referrals to agencies every year which represent 6.6 million kids. Between 4-7 kids die each day due to abuse/neglect.
      • Sexual Assault – 1:6 women and 1:33 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
    • May:
      • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) – 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. 80% die within 2-5 years of their diagnosis.
      • Brain Tumor – 24,530 new cases are diagnosed each year.
      • Mental Heath Awareness – 1:5 adults (with 45% seeking treatment) have a mental illness and 1:20 have a serious mental illness (schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar) with 65.5% getting treatment. 16.5% of youth have a mental illness with 50% receiving help. And, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-34: 46% have a diagnosed mental health condition and 90% have symptoms of one.
    • June:
      • Alzheimer’s – 1:3 seniors die of this each year and 6 million are living with it currently.
    • September:
      • Childhood Cancer – 16,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and it’s the #1 cause of death by disease in children.
    • October:
      • Breast Cancer – 13% of women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over their lifetime as are 2620 men (who are most likely to die from the disease).
      • Domestic Violence – 1:4 women and 1:9 men experience SEVERE physical violence which figures to 20 victims per minute.
      • Bullying – 20% of student are bullied at school and 31% of people have experienced it as an adult. Bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide ideation/completion.
    • November:
      • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – 16 million adults and 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Whew. Now remember, this isn’t all of the awareness months we have…just a sampling of the major physical and mental diseases that are experienced by so many people.

What’s my point? Well…this: around 9% of people have had COVID with 1:6 experiencing severe symptoms; approximately 2% will die from the infection and as of today, there have been 561,052 deaths in the U.S. Yes, COVID is serious and we need to tackle it. (By the way…did you know that during the same time period, 24,000 – 62,000 Americans died from the flu and pneumonia and is the 9th leading cause of deaths yearly? I didn’t. 😳) But, 48,500 people (kids – elderly) die of suicide each year and we take 1 month to highlight it. There’s no vaccine…no daily advice…and very few PSA’s, etc.

Sssssooooo…why do we only take a month to tackle the huge issues we have consistently in the U.S.? One month to focus on mental health when 20% of us have a mental health issue or illness? And, thanks to COVID, this number is increasing. The loneliness and depression people have felt during the pandemic…the stress and anxiety of losing jobs…it’s worsening and I think this trend will continue.

Let me tell you what it’s like to have a severe mental illness, which for me is bipolar: it’s hell. Truly…it’s that simple of a description. Hell. Every single day I’m on this earth I struggle with what’s happening in my mind. I can’t remember ever not having this…it’s been with me for the vast majority of my life. Like I’ve shared before, it was evident something was wrong with me as early as 3rd grade and by the time I was 13, my grandma talked to my mom about her worries regarding my mental health. I attempted suicide in high school and was either so depressed I could barely slog through my days, or I was so manic I could hardly sit still in class and did some really stupid things after school that I’m not real proud of. It was hard for others to handle this, so I really had only 1 close friend, but she was amazing; I know it was sometimes hard on her to be there for me like she was (thank you, M…I love you🥰) .

My brain has a little demon bastard in it. This guy (I picture him as a guy…go figure 🙄) dictates when I’m up and when I’m down. When I can function around other people and when I can’t. When I can go out without either crying or having anxiety or when I have to stay home and try to deal with the panic/mania my brain is producing. It tells me to spend $1000’s of dollars at a time and when I get depressed, it shames me for that money spent so I eat noodles and salad every night to save a few bucks (and remember, my anorexia feeds off of these small menus). It dictates how much love I can give at any one time or compels me to push people away. In other words, this mother fucker (sorry, ma…but you feel the same way about him 😐) has control over me.

Think about that. Control. Other words for control are: Power. Command. Dominance. Pretty strong stuff. ‘Kristi’ is rarely in control…and even when I think I am, it’s only because this guy has loosened his hold for a while and is allowing me that privilege. Look, try to understand it this way: when ma had breast cancer (over 20 years ago and has been fine every since 🙏), she had good days and shitty days. But regardless of how she felt on any given day, she always had the cancer. It was there with her for a year.

In the same way, no matter how those of us with mental illnesses feel…we still have the mental illness. This is why you simply can’t tell someone suffering from depression to ‘cheer up!’ Or someone suffering from anxiety to ‘calm down!’ Or someone suffering from a personality disorder to ‘get right!’. It’s akin to telling someone suffering from ALS to just ‘get up and walk’. See my point?

To be honest, I never knew the strength of my demon-guy until I had a mental breakdown 3 years ago and I realized that he is one strong son-of-a- bitch. He took me from being a fairly confident, secure woman to someone who was absolutely nothing. Everything that had been good in my mind was tossed away and only a shell remained. He filled this shell with suicidal ideation until I attempted again. He told me to cut myself all over my body…and I did. He poured words into my head like ‘worthless’, ‘ugly’, ‘you deserve to die’, and I believed them. In other words? He tried to kill me, and he almost succeeded.

Long after COVID is under control with yearly vaccinations, etc. we will still have people suffering from everything I talked about above. There’s no vaccine for cancer…for sexual assault…for human trafficking…for domestic violence…for child abuse. None. And there never will be.

That’s why it’s so important that we don’t have special ‘months’ where these issues are highlighted; instead, they need to be talked about all year around and publicized continuously. If we can all come together as a society and fight COVID…why can’t we do that with mental illness? Come together and learn how to recognize it in ourselves and others…how to seek treatment…how to help a friend or family member…how to direct people to the resources they need…how to listen…how to help…just how to talk about it.

Yes, I know suicide and mental illness and domestic violence and rape and child abuse and all of these other things are ‘icky’ to talk about. Just like the ASPCA commercials that show abused and dying pets. It kills me to see those and I used to look away. I don’t anymore. I watch them when they come on. Why? Because animals are being abused and killed daily and the only way to stop these commercials is to stop this treatment. I donate to local pet shelters…I rescue dogs…I always tell new puppy owners to spay or neuter their pets…I try my best to do what I can.

From Beacon Health Options

We can’t turn away and say: “I don’t want to see a PSA commercial about suicide while I’m trying to watch Wheel of Fortune.” You know what I don’t want? Someone committing suicide while I’m watching Wheel of Fortune. Why can’t we have these months where we strongly highlight various illnesses/diseases, but still talk about them and learn about them always? Domestic violence awareness shouldn’t end on October 31st. Sexual assault awareness should continue past April. And mental health awareness shouldn’t only be in May. We can’t let these arbitrary ‘months’ and the media dictate what we pay attention too. People are dying every single day due to mental illness. We need more than a month.

The ‘theme’ of this month highlighting mental health is “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” But you know what? When those of us who suffer from mental illness only hear and feel this support for 31 days out of the year, it pretty much feels like we are.

Kristi xoxo

“It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so right.” ~ Stephen King

So, I don’t know about you but February is a notoriously sucky month for me. Holidays are over…snow is coming down…there’s mud and slush everywhere…and you can go days to weeks without seeing the sun. Charmed, I’m sure. However, THIS February sucked balls even more…let me explain.

To start with, I had COVID during the first 2 weeks and was stuck at home in quarantine for 14 days feeling like Typhoid Mary. Bill and I did get along (he had it too and I don’t want to point the finger of blame at anyone for getting it but Bill gave it to me…probably… 😳) only because he has my basement fixed up like a little apartment and we didn’t have to really see each other unless we wanted too. After a few days, we didn’t want too. I know all of you women are nodding your heads right now…and believe you me, I got on my knees and thanked the good Lord above that I was insightful enough to buy a house with a finished freaking basement 15 years ago. Just sayin’.

We were lucky with our symptoms though: fatigue, loss of taste and smell, headaches, some congestion…and that was about it. As I’ve said before, I missed not having the senses but Bill, for some unknown reason, wasn’t as upset. When I asked him why he mumbled a couple of words that sounded like ‘kitchen’, ‘cooking’, and ‘God send.’ I’m really not sure what he meant.

Then, I had to put my sweet Little Dottie down. I’ve had to do this once before and I prepared myself since she was getting so old and I could see my baby failing. But when you actually do it, no amount of preparation can lessen the heartache and pain you feel. Not a minute goes by that I don’t think of my sweetie and I still look for her all of the time. Every night, for 15 years, she slept on my bed and I’m still putting her blankie out every night…I’m not ready to stop that yet.

Y’all might not agree with this but I once read that you might have a lot of dogs over the years, but 1 will always stand out as being ‘that dog’. The one that was just a bit more special to you. The one you connected with a bit more. For me, it was Little Dot. She was with me from the day I moved into my house with O and we were never apart. Her personality was something else: diva + sweetheart + ornery + sassy + adorable. It was quite a combination. I will miss her until the day I die and when I see her, I know she’ll bark her fool head off.

Then, I went in for a ‘procedure’ on Friday and to make a very long story short (but less dramatic 🙄), I need to have a full hysterectomy. Well, fuck me (sorry, ma 😬 ). This is major surgery and I’m scared! My awesome gyno is going to do it laparoscopically (it took me 4 tries to spell that correctly 😐) so the downtime won’t be too bad…just a couple of weeks. I’m going to schedule it, hopefully, on the first day of Spring Break so I can recover a few days before I go back to teaching.

The really fun part is going to be juggling 7 regular classes, a late-start class, healing, mourning, and taking care of my house. But as Hubby 3 used to say (shutty the mouthies 😳), I’m a ‘scrappy thing’ and I’m sure I’ll be OK. (Note to Bill, Ma, Pop, T, and O: I’ll still need a LOT of spoiling… 🤨).

So, ma went with me for my “procedure” (that sounds like such a weird word…old ladies say it with ‘quotation fingers’ because they don’t want to say the real reason because it’s usually gross, like hemmorroids or something; mine wasn’t that ‘gross’ but it’s still not table talk) and I got us lost. NOW HOLD ON A SEC…WE NEED TO WAIT UNTIL MA PICKS HER CHIN UP OFF THE FLOOR SINCE I DIDN’T BLAME HER LIKE I WANTED TOO.

Anyhoot, we had to go to Springfield to get ‘er done and I drove there so ma could drive back when I was groggy and possibly vomiting. Here’s how the conversation went and as you read it, be sure to make your voice very shrill (on ma’s parts), very sweet and patient (on my parts), with the volume increasing with every sentence:

Ma: “Kristi, do you know where we are going?”
Me: “Yes, ma…duh. In fact, you made us leave so early we’ll have plenty of time to kill. I know Springfield like the back of my hand.”

45 minutes later:

Me: “Ma, since we’re 40 minutes early, let’s pop into the General ($ General) and I’ll get a magazine to read.” We browsed for 20 minutes before I said, OK…let’s go!

I drove around various roads and kept taking wrong turns (there are too many one way streets there) and even though I had no idea where in hell I was, I DID not want to let ma know that. However, I finally found the building after driving by it countless times, and once I got going the correct way on the one way street, got the car parked, trotted into the building and…wait for it…didn’t see the surgery center listed by the elevators. I go up to a nice young gal and ask her where it is. She said: “It’s downtown…about 6 miles from here.”

Ma was still behind me…I rushed ahead ‘just in case’ something went awry, and when the gal asked me if I needed the address, I said “No! I know where it is!” before ma could hear this exchange. I didn’t know where it was.

When ma asked what was going on I actually said this (don’t judge…you don’t know ma when she’s pissed…right T?): “They moved the surgery center and now it’s downtown.” Ma: “Do you have the address?” Me: “Duh. Of course.” I didn’t.

So, off we go again with 5 minutes left to get back to the car and find this place that magically ‘moved’ overnight. I started down the street I thought was right and was fumbling with my google maps that was screwed up because it was trying to connect to ma’s fucking blue-tooth in her car. As I kept making more wrong turns, she kept getting more pissed off. I said a little prayer, found the place completely by accident, and didn’t have to read the magazine I had bought at the General.

BUT, here’s what’s weird: I had COVID, lost my baby girl, and have to have major surgery all within the span of a month, yet I’m in a manic phase. Bi-polar doesn’t give a hoot about what’s going on in your life. It’s going to do what it wants to do…period. How can you explain that you’re grieving or scared or achy or sad when you just can’t stop moving, doing, etc.? People with bipolar process emotions differently than others. I’m not saying I feel MORE than others, but I am saying what I feel is on a different ‘spectrum’ than others. It’s very very hard for me to process all of this: I’m ‘up’, yet I’m so so sad. I’m ‘up’, yet I’m so so scared. I’m ‘up’, yet I am worrying about how I’m going to do all I need to do while recovering. What a weird thing: it’s like my brain is experiencing this bit of mania (it’s not too bad, but Bill can’t believe all I do in a day) but my heart is experiencing so much else. And, since these 2 things aren’t matching, I feel confused. Kind of lost…even kind of guilty.

Anyways, I hope your February was better than mine and I already know March is going to suck balls. But, by April I’ll be ‘as good as new’ and hopefully have a great summer.

Take care of yourselves, peeps…stay healthy and safe. K?

Kristi xoxo

“Just stop! Cause I really love you.” ~ Captain and Tennille

So, when are words not enough, and why am I thinking about this now? Well, the sweetie students in my Marriage and Family classes (shutty the mouthies 🙄) had to write their own original definitions of family and marriage, and what I got was great: some students insisted that blood defined a family while others agreed it was love/support/understanding that made a person family to you. In terms of defining marriage, I got a lot of people talking about commitment, loyalty, etc. and the word ‘unconditionally’ was used a lot. Then, one of my sweetie students wrote this: “What couples have is indescribable to me…it’s so much.”

As always, I was gobsmacked by this insight and she is absolutely right. How do you find words that encompass all that a couple has? How could words ever truly be enough? Our textbook (and I also saw this on spruce.com) states that: “…marriage is a formal union and social and legal contract between 2 individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally.” Is this really ‘all’ that marriage is? A contract that unites people on these 3 levels? I don’t know about y’all, but there were times in my marriages (😳) where there was a lot ‘more’ to that definition.

I remember when O’s dad and I were married and how we faced a lot in our first few years together: O having severe asthma that led to hospitalizations, living away from all of our family at all and knowing just a handful of people in a strange state, ma being diagnosed with breast cancer, me going to graduate school, B working overtime so we could save up a nest egg since we were living paycheck to paycheck, and the list goes on. And this is nothing different…and much much less than other couples face…in that we ALL have sicknesses, financial issues, family trauma (and drama too), etc. that we have to deal with. It’s true that B and I were legally a couple, economically tied to one another, and had an emotional connection, but there was just ‘more’ to this time in our lives than what was seen on the surface.

We went deeper than just ’emotions’ and acted as anchors for one another…support. We sacrificed for each other and made decisions that put both of our interests out there. We worried and cried over O more times than I can count and held hands or hugged while we did…we knew we couldn’t live without him. We went ‘deeper’ than just the mental state we call ’emotion’. But what other word is there?

Then, I think about my sonshine. There is no way I could ever completely express the love I have for him…as John Candy says about his wife in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (my ALL time favorite film EVER 😎), “Words just aren’t big enough for what I feel” and he was referring to his wife. Hmmm…think about that: words aren’t big enough. You know, I wasn’t a mama yet when I first watched this movie in 1987 (I was 5 at the time 🙄) and when John said this, I teared up. But when I watched it again after O was born, I got it. I truly got it. There’s not words that encompass all I feel for my boy. And there never will be.

I also think about my ma. The other day I told her that I forbade (my favorite word to use with her…she hates it 😐) her to ever die. Period. Yes, she’s 75 but she’s going to live to be 150…I won’t have it any other way. Anyhoot, how do I put into words what she means to me? What she’s done for me? How she supports me every single day of my life?

Being mentally ill is a challenge for me, but it’s just as big of a challenge for the people around me. Ma has been there through my ups and downs, and I wouldn’t be here today if she hadn’t nurtured me through the breakdown I had. I don’t say that lightly either. I don’t throw around the words: “Oh…you saved my life!” when someone brings me a sandwich. No. I mean…she SAVED my life. Literally. So how do I put all of that in a word? How do I define that dynamic? That support? That love? That commitment? Well…I can’t.

Today Bill and I are both getting COVID tests…he was exposed at work and we both have some symptoms, so he was home for the day. We were fixing lunch (I found out he finished off our chocolate chip cookies…I had words for that…🤨) and I asked him if he loved me. He stopped what he was doing and looked at me and said: “Why are you asking me that? You don’t know?” Well, yes…I guess I ‘know’ he loves me, but I need to ‘know more’ that he loves me. Does that make sense?

One bad thing about having bipolar is that my brain is never fucking (sorry, ma 🙄) off. It’s always on. And I don’t mean just ‘on’…it’s always on at full-blast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s constantly imagining, ruminating, wondering, fretting, deciding, etc. and so I told him this: “Yes, I know you love me…but what does that really mean to you?” Isn’t that a tough one to answer?

I don’t know if I can answer that myself. I know what love isn’t…it’s not manipulation, retaliation, distrust, disloyalty, etc. but what IS it? I guess that’s what I was after. You know, after you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you question so much in other ones. J said he loved me all of the time…everyday (except for the days he was cheating on me and sometimes, even then) so was what we had love? I look back and know I loved him, but have also accepted that he couldn’t have loved me. You don’t purposefully hurt those you love. You just don’t do it. I can’t imagine laying a hand on my son or dog…I can’t imagine ever saying something cruel to ma…I can’t imagine ever PURPOSEFULLY hurting anyone I love. So…maybe that’s why we say actions are louder than words…they simply ‘show more’.

When you think about it, words are finite…they have some definitions to them and then the entry in the dictionary ends. Maybe what’s important is to figure out what words mean to you, and then try to express that in any way you can…sort of like the Love Languages. What says love to me might be different than what says it to you.

Sometimes I think we get too caught up in words. We give words way too much weight. We give them way too much power. After contemplating all of this, I realized that words are something that we need to sometimes throw away. If Bill got mad at me today and said something hurtful, I’d still know he loves me. He’s human…he’s going to say unloving things just like I will. Maybe instead of getting bitter about this and racking up all of his ‘mistakes’, I could instead look at his actions all of the other time…his behavior…his loyalty…his support. Maybe we all need to work on ‘showing’ than on ‘saying’. Words can hurt and sting and destroy…no argument there. But actions and future behavior can heal that…if we let it.

Kristi xoxo

“I try to hold on, but it’s slipping, slipping away.” ~ RED

So, holy crap! I have been hard at work getting my classes ready and starting school and I haven’t had time to post. I miss it when I can’t blawg because I miss talking to my sweetie peeps!!

Anyhoot, I had a completely different post I was going to write today but after a conversation with my sister this week, I decided to write about it instead. Here’s the scoop: sis texted me and said that she had gotten a new phone for her birthday and her hubby was helping her set it up. During the process, she got very frustrated and yelled and felt very out of control. She told me how bad she felt about her blow-up and how she hates that this happens at times.

My first thought was: ‘Girl, I totally understand’. And my second thought was: ‘Girl, it’s not your fault’ (love you Susan, 😍) .

Let’s take these one at a time, shall we? Like me, T has mental health issues and has suffered from depression, anxiety, and OCD for as long as we both can remember. According to the National Institutes of Health, ‘Many psychiatric disorders tend to run in families, suggesting potential genetic roots. Such disorders include autism, ADHD, bipolar, major depression, and schizophrenia.’

And then there’s this: According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illnesses are most likely caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors including inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth, and impaired neural networks in the brain.

Lovely, isn’t it? You know, the fact that we don’t know ‘exactly’ what causes mental illness but that it’s a combination of nature and nurture. It’s like so many of us with depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. are ‘programmed’ into our illness and we are driven by it. Right?

I know how my sis feels. Sometimes I’ll say things…do things…think things…that are completely inappropriate or hurtful. No matter how much I try to NOT do these, it doesn’t matter. My brain is directing the show and bipolar is the star. It’s so hard to describe how I can ‘literally’ (I hate the overuse of that word…so what am I doing? Using the damn thing. 🙄) be telling myself NO NO NO: Don’t buy that! Don’t say that! Don’t work on the house for 12 hours straight and then think of something else to do! Don’t burst out crying in this situation! Don’t make a jackass of yourself! But, I still do. My brain is a powerful organ (shutty the mouthies 😐) and bipolar is a force to be reckoned with. Often times my “Don’ts” become “Do’s” no matter how much I try to hold them back.

So does that mean that me, and others with mental illnesses who might act out, are off the hook for our behavior? Hmmmm. In a way YES, but in more of a way NO. Don’t you love it when I’m so clear in my stances? Perhaps I should be a politician. 🙄

Yes, we aren’t necessarily ‘responsible’ for all that our mental illnesses do in our lives because of the actual inherited traits and brain issues. It’s akin to a child stealing when they’re little, even though they have been taught not to: they simply don’t have the moral development or firm control over their impulses, and this makes it VERY difficult for them NOT to steal .

BUT we are responsible for giving sincere apologies, making amends when possible, and then working on ways we can recognize when things are getting bad and try to vent or express in other ways. My sister said how it’s not just the 1 issue that makes her blow-up…instead, it’s the culmination of many things (just like everyone experiences) and the blow-up might happen for so many reasons beyond what is seen. Sis had a stressful holiday season, has a physically and mentally demanding job, and does a lot for her kids and grandkids (lucky 😐). She didn’t lose control because of a phone. Sis lost control because she can only take so much. Others might be able to handle this stuff better. However, those of us with mental illness handle things differently. We ruminate. We second guess ourselves. We are constantly trying to appear ‘normal’ to others no matter how we might feel (those fucking masks we have to wear. Sorry, ma 🙄). We feel depressed. We feel anxious. We are trying so hard not to give in to what our brains are telling us. Pushing all of this down as best we can…hour after hour…day after day is exhausting. Trust me on this.

Scenic Railway – Luna Park (Melbourne)

My family knows I’m bipolar and they know I have low low downs and high high ups. They know these mood fluctuations are ‘normal’ for me but I try to hide them anyway. I don’t see my son as much as I’d like so when I do, you can bet I’m putting on a happy face (I am happy to see him…but my bipolar may be really pulling me down right then) to make the visit ‘nice.’ I know my ma has a lot of stress in her life and I try my very best not to put any more on her. I know my sister suffers from mental illness and as much as I’d like to call and vent to her, it might be too much for her to handle right then.

Look my sweetie peeps…mental illness is going to affect every aspect of your life whether you want it to or not. It’s going to ‘make’ you say and do things you’ll be shameful of when the crisis is over. These fucking (sorry, ma 🙄) illnesses take over so much of ‘who’ we are and as such, we are often at their mercy. And I don’t know about you and your own struggles, but my bipolar isn’t very merciful. All I know is that I have to cut myself some slack, take things day by day, and then make up for what I have done. It’s just the way life works when you have a mental illness.

Kristi xoxo

“Easy come…easy go.”

Happy New Year, my sweetie peeps!! I hope you had a great holiday season and wish you ALL the very happiest of 2021! ❤❤❤

So, I was reading yet another ‘inspirational saying’ on Pinterest the other day and it said this: “If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. If it’s worth it, it’s not going to be easy 🙄.” Yes, I know this sounds like a great philosophical musing but I have to disagree with it because I’ve had a lot of things come easy in my life that have been very much worth it.

My sonshine is one of them. I didn’t get preggers with Hubby #1 but immediately hit the jackpot with Hubby #2. Before this, people would tell me horror stories about their pregnancies: barfing every other minute…not being able to get out of bed…getting varicose veins that rival any climbing rope you’ve seen…getting stretch marks that look like a topographical map, etc. And for the women out there who experienced a difficult pregnancy, you truly have my sympathy. But for me, it was a breeze. I never got sick…ate to my heart’s content…reveled in seeing my belly grow…and don’t have a stretch mark in sight (you can hate me now…I’ll wait. HOWEVER, I rubbed baby oil lotion all over my belly from day 1…ma said no matter what I did I would get them, but even after gaining 65 pounds, I didn’t! This, you sweetie peeps, is my claim to fame 😳🙄).

Anyhoot, the delivery wasn’t a picnic but I was blessed with a perfect little baby boy who had, and still has, the best personality of anyone I know. Truly. It was easy being his mommy and I love being his ma now.

School is another thing that’s really easy for me. When I read a book or look at notes, etc. and then try to recall the info, I can see the pages in my mind with the words on them. I don’t know if I actually have a photographic memory (for fuck sakes, I have too many labels as is…and sorry, ma) but I can learn and remember things with very little effort. In my graduate classes, other students would say: “I pulled a few all-nighters and worked for hours and hours on this assignment.” I would nod and say that I did too. However, I was lying. Goodness…I had a 1 year old! I couldn’t work for hours on a paper! So, I’d write a draft during O’s nap, proof it after he was asleep for the night, and then get it turned in. Easy peasy.

NO…I’m not bragging (well….maybe just a tad… 😳). I can’t really do anything else wonderful besides poop out a great kid and read a book in my head…however, we all have to celebrate our victories when we can. Riiigggghhhhttt? 😁

And on the flip side of that quote, I’ve done things that have been really really hard and still didn’t achieve the goal I set or what I thought I earned! For example, after I started running marathons, I really really really wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon and to do so, you have to run a previous marathon under a certain time limit. I was never even close. I worked and worked and worked…and ‘failed’ if you will. I loved running my marathons anyway, but what I worked ssssooooo HARD for didn’t happen so what the hell? Hmmmm.

But, there’s always a kernel of truth in some sayings and I think what has been the hardest thing in my life has been worth it. Being open about having bipolar has been a toughie. It drastically changed my life for the better in that my family understands me better…I understand me better…and I’m getting the treatment I need to stay on track as best I can.

On the other hand (which doesn’t have a diamond on it…yet…cough cough…I’m talking to you, Bill 😊), it was hard to ‘come out’ and some of it wasn’t worth it at all. It changed a lot of my relationships and opened me up to criticism, ‘talk’ (i.e. gossip), people avoiding me, etc. Bipolar is considered the 2nd most serious mental illness (of course) around after schizophrenia and people think we’re cray-cray…always unstable…unable to have any semblance of a ‘normal’ life. For those untreated, yes…these things might be true; but the vast majority of us aren’t dangerous, criminal, out of control, or psychotic and are living our lives fully. 😎

You know, I loved Carrie Fisher so much (yes, we can call it a girl crush and not be lying 😳) and she once said this about having bipolar herself: “In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.” I adore this! I love knowing that no matter what happens in my life, I’m already very ‘ballsy’ and can handle about anything else that comes along. 😐

So, here’s my point: It’s OK if things come easy to you…if you didn’t have to work hard to get them. And it’s also OK if you worked your ass off and didn’t get the reward you were looking for…not everything can be achieved by everyone. So here’s what I’m doing as I begin this new year: thanking God for the blessings he gives me so easily…leaning on him when the struggle gets real…and then giving myself a break when I fall short despite my work. I’m not going to feel guilty for the easy pleasures…and I’m not going to beat myself up for not meeting a goal. I’m going to be thankful everyday I have and know that whatever does happen, happens for a reason.

Love you peeps. Happy New Year.

Kristi xoxo

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ~ Stephen King

So, a friend was talking to me about one of their family members who has been formally diagnosed with bipolar but refuses to get help with it even though they are having trouble functioning in their day-to-day life. When I asked my friend: “What all is family doing for him?” their response was this: “Most of them are fed up…they are stepping away since he won’t get help and it’s so much to handle.”

Clear as mud to me.

Hmmmmm. Now first of all, I know how difficult it is to deal with someone who has a mental illness. I’m not the only one in my family with a mental health issue and there is also a lot of alcoholism as well, so I know it’s tough to be there for the mentally ill day after day. Then, when you add your own mental health struggles into the equation (I actually got through College algebra and trig with A’s. How in the name of all that’s holy I did it, I’ll never know. 🙄) it can be exhausting.

I think one reason for this is the idea that ‘if they would only get help, they would be OK’. Hmmm. Not true. ‘Getting help’ doesn’t mean your struggles are over. It means you are taking the steps to get as much help as you can in ‘handling’ your struggles. For example, heart disease is the #1 chronic physical condition in the U.S. (The CDC) and although there are ways to slow it’s progression, there is no way to cure it. So yes, meds, exercise, and a healthier diet can all benefit the person, but they are still going to have heart disease with consequences despite the intervention/help they are getting.

By the same token, we don’t expect someone with diabetes to suddenly take a couple shots of insulin and be ‘cured’ to where they need no further treatment; and when you say it like this, you can hear how ridiculous that even sounds. And, if that is the case, why do we think getting on a med or 2 and talking to a counselor a couple times a month is going to make everything better? Hmmm.

Think about this: heart disease and diabetes greatly affect a person’s life, but don’t all mental illnesses do the same? Don’t all of them affect brain function and as a result, lives? One day my sis and I were yacking and we were talking about how hard it is to live with our respective mental illnesses and we both said this: “I wonder what it would feel like to be ‘normal’ for a day or two?’ It was hard for either one of us to imagine since we’ve both been experiencing our issues for decades.

I’m still dealing with my freaking kidney stones (I go to a specialist on Monday who is going to stick a catheter up my urethra to see ‘what’s going on down there’…charmed, I’m sure… 😐) and as a result have some pain periodically through the day, can’t pee without it being bloody (there is no way on God’s green earth I could be a nurse or doc…), can’t eat without feeling like I’m going to throw up for a couple hours after, am tired all of the time, and am so bloaty (ugh…🙄) that I look 5 months pregnant (no, ma…put the phone down…I’ve been through menopause). I was telling Bill this week that I just wanted to feel ‘good’ for a day or 2 since I’ve had this since September. In fact, I kinda forgot what it’s like to pee yellow. 😳

If my ‘stones’ are as cute as this one, I’m going to make a necklace.

But, no one is ‘fed up’ that I have this (well…almost no one…) and they know it’s not my fault (I’m thinking of you saying this right now, Susan 😘). I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing (drinking lots of water, resting when I get tired, etc.) but of course that’s not going to miraculously cure me, is it? It’s obvious something needs to be done and more time has to pass. And, I also know that talking about kidney stones and pee is easier than talking about bipolar, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. I wonder why that is? Urine is better to talk about than bipolar? “Hi boss…I can’t be there today…I have a kidney infection and stones and am having a really tough time with it.” OR…”Hi boss…I can’t be there today…I have bipolar and am currently cycling through a depression that people are pissed about because they say I should be happy because I’m in love and it’s the holidays without understanding that moods and emotions are 2 different things so I’m being blamed for something I have very very little control over because my brain is fucked up and theirs might be too but if they are experiencing issues it’s different.” Now, which one do you think would be ‘best’ to say? Riiiiigggggghhhhhtttttt. The kidney one.

Look, I know how frustrating it is to see people not get help, or not get better even with help, or being a different person based on the day, or blowing up at you because of their own anxieties, or not being able to function day to day because of their depression, etc. I get it. I get how hard it is to be around those of us who are unpredictable. Who can’t always explain ‘where it hurts.’ Who you can’t really understand. I can’t tell you how many times I heard this in my life: “I just don’t understand you.” Well get in line, baby…because I don’t understand me either.

I know what I have and I know what it makes my brain look like and do, but I still don’t ‘understand’ it. I still don’t get why it’s in my head and how it controls my moods and how it makes me feel, etc. It was like doing my trig theorems…I got ‘how’ to do the steps, I just didn’t understand what the hell it was all for.

Getting help for mental illness isn’t as easy as people think. It took me decades to get the real help I needed and I still struggle everyday. It’s better, but I still have a disease. Sometimes just battling our minds day after day saps our energy to the point we have nothing else to use outside of ourselves. Seeking help is scary: Where do I go that takes my insurance? Where do I find a counselor that specializes in bipolar or eating disorders or depression (just like we often need a specialist for physical issues, we also need the same for mental ones. Counselors are not ‘one size fits all’). What will meds to do me? What if I’m misdiagnosed and any meds prescribed hurt me more than help me? What if the doc feels I’m so depressed I need shock therapy? What if my meds cause side effects that stymie ‘me’ and who I really am? What will my colleagues say if I talk about it? How will my friends handle it? My family?

In some families, friendships, work relationships, people pull away from you when you need them the most…when you admit to what you are fighting. So ‘getting help’ may not be the cure all for relationships that have been affected by a mental illness. In fact, it just might make some people walk away from you: “Glad you finally got help but you should have done it a lot sooner before so many things happened and I gave up on you.” Hmmm: “Glad you finally went in to the cardiologist and found out you have heart disease and are now eating better and exercising. You should have done that earlier, before I got fed up, because I really don’t feel close to you anymore and it makes me angry when you talk about this because you waited too long to go in and I’m really actually questioning if you actually do have ‘heart disease’ since you’ve been pretty much OK up to this point. Why couldn’t you have just started eating better a little earlier in your life? And hey, we all have things wrong with us. Duh.”

So, what DO people with untreated mental illness need? An ear. A safe place. A chance to talk about what they are feeling, thinking, etc. A conversation about why they aren’t seeking help. A promise that when they do seek help, you’ll continue to be there for them. An understanding that so many people hope that whatever is happening to them in their head will just pass…that it’s just a transitory thing. A willingness to say that you’ll go to appointments with them until they are able to do it themselves. A realization that taking a Prozac today isn’t going to make them deliriously happy tomorrow. An awareness that what does work today may not work in a year. And finally, the tenacity to keep being close to the person as they navigate a very scary journey on the road to treatment.

When are we going to start treating mental illnesses as illnesses? When are we going to understand that those of us with them didn’t ask for them…didn’t do anything to cause them…didn’t get them to piss you off? Why can’t we have compassion for all illnesses…diseases? Why do we give up on those who need help the most but are having the hardest time getting it? Hmmmmm…I’m not sure I understand.

Kristi xoxo