“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

“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

“Only the Strong Survive” ~ Jerry Butler

Dear Simone,

So, ever since I learned to do a cartwheel in the 3rd grade I’ve always loved gymnastics. And although I felt I was destined for greatness after that accomplishment, it turned out to be the only half-way coordinated thing I was able to do after years of trying others, so I decided to let my other talents shine. I’m 54 and still deciding on what those are. 🙄

Anyhoo, I suffer from bipolar as well as an eating disorder, and wanted to tell you this: the decisions you made regarding not competing in the finals of some of the events everyone expected you to win golds in was an extremely brave thing to do. I can’t imagine how difficult this decision was to make…working your entire life for this opportunity and then having to pull out shows me what a horrible state you were in. Then to top it off, you were treated to cruel posts, tweets, editorials, etc. about how you just weren’t being a professional.

Well, I have a couple words to say to those people and I hope you won’t get offended, but fuck them. It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and wax eloquently about how you had an obligation to perform no matter what…hmmmm…I’d like to meet these people since apparently, they’re perfect. 🙄

Look, I know you have had a tough time in your life. Between shuffling through various foster care homes before being adopted by your grandpa, being bullied in high school because you were muscular, and having a brother who went through a trial for a shooting that he was acquitted for had to have taken such a toll. But…there’s more, isn’t there?

In 2013, you were treated by a sports psychologist because of how you felt after not performing as well as you wanted too at the U.S. Classic. Already you were under pressure to be the very best at the age of 16. For piss sakes, at 16 I was trying to drive a freaking stick shift and learning to flip burgers at Hardee’s…and I thought that was overwhelming.

You’ve also talked about being diagnosed with ADHD which is a term people throw around way too much. “Hey…this kid can’t sit still…he must be ADHD.” Nnnnnoooooo. He’s a kid. Actually, ADHD is a true mental health disorder that is a lot more than being a bit hyper, and it can make life extremely difficult to navigate. Hell, if it was just not sitting still, every 1st grader in the country would have this diagnosis (and come to think of it, that’s almost the case). And as an adult? ADHD causes anxiety, emotional issues, hyper-focus, restlessness as well as many others.

Then, so sadly, you were one of the victims of Larry Nasser (former US Gymnastics doctor), the son-of-a-bitch who sexually molested more than a hundred of his patients. You stated this caused you to have suicidal thoughts and as someone who was sexually abused by a doctor as well, I can relate to this. I was the same way. And I also know that the abuse never leaves you. Instead, it lives inside you as a memory that will always have some effect on your life, relationships, etc. It doesn’t have to define you…but it does become a part of you.

Finally, if all this wasn’t enough…you were forced to train an extra year after being ready for the Olympics prior to the pandemic hitting. This understandably caused you to go into a depression and even question if you wanted to continue in your gymnastic path…the path where you were to be the GOAT! Talk about pressure!

Soooooo gee…how dare you break down and step away from competing (except for the balance beam and you should be so proud of that bronze medal 🤩) after all of this.

Honey, I don’t know why the fuck (sorry again) people would have shown concern and sympathy for you had you broken your leg…but if your mind has a breakdown, you’re vilified for it. You would think that in 2021 there would be more understanding of mental health. But, as someone who deals with mental illness everyday and teaches psychology, I can tell you there’s not. The stigma is strong and for people who have no experience with it, saying things like ‘suck it up’ or ‘you have to go on’ is easy. Rrrriiiiigggghhhhtttt. So…let’s wait until they suffer a heart attack and then say: “C’mon buddy, suck it up!” Think that would fly? Think that would be the compassionate thing to do? Of course not and right now, there might be somebody saying what a bad analogy this is. After all, heart attacks can kill. But as you and I both know, so can mental health issues and illness. So really, it’s a perfect analogy.

I think you making the decision to not compete was a strong, brave thing to do, and the one that probably saved you from injury or even worse. I’ve had a breakdown. And I know just breathing. Just getting through the day. Just talking to others can be insurmountable at times. Having to perform in front of the world who expects you to be perfect? Impossible. You did the only thing you could.

In one of your interviews, you said you realized you were more than just a gymnast…and you’re right. You are an intelligent, beautiful, kind, funny young woman who has a talent you have used to motivate and awe so many people in this world. Yet, you also have the position and celebrity of your voice being heard. So I ask you to please do this: continue to take care of yourself and tell the haters to piss off; then, continue to talk about mental health and mental illness. Help us to break the stigma that’s been in place for…well…forever. I have a really strong feeling that you’ll touch just as many lives using your voice as you do your gymnastic talents.

Blessings to you, champ…

Professor K 🥰

P.S. If you want me to teach you my cartwheel, just holler.

“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

Will the real me please stand up?

So it’s been a while, peeps and I’ve missed y’all! It’s been a crummy couple of weeks…not only did my Little Dot pass and I miss her every hour of every day, but I also found out I need a full hysterectomy and will be having the surgery on May 17th. The timing is blech. You see, I LOVE my break between spring and summer classes…and now I’ll be spending it on the couch with Bill and Ma taking care of me. Hmmmmm…them waiting on me hand and foot…getting me whatever I’m peckish for…doing all the housework. Actually, this may not be so bad after all! I’m just glad I’m finally going to feel better after feeling lousy since September. Whew! 😳

Anyhoot, my Intro to Sociology class had a discussion last week about statuses and roles: we occupy various statuses and play roles tailored for them. As Erving Goffman said, we’re on a stage when we’re with others and ‘dramaturgy’ is the word he used.

People don’t like this idea. “I don’t ACT…I’m always me!” BUT…then you ask them: “So, who are you?” And usually the answer comes in a ‘what’ form: I’m a professor. I’m a mama. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. You get the point. But that’s not really YOU…that’s just your statuses. Right? And yes, I play roles with my statuses; believe you me, I would never talk to ma the way I talk to my sissy. She’s probably plop over from horror. 🤨

So, let me ask you again: “Who are YOU?”

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot after grading the discussion and most of my students kept answering in terms of what they do. However, when I asked if we can ever REALLY (I’m into capital letters today…notice? 🙄) know our ‘true’ selves, most everyone said yes. Hmmm. That’s sort of a dichotomy though, isn’t it?

For me, I believe that we never get to know the ‘true’ soul inside of us and here’s why: from the second we are born, we are given statuses such as boy, girl, daughter, son, sister, brother, grandbaby, etc. Immediately we are a ‘what’ and we have absolutely no conscious awareness of a ‘who’ inside of us. We don’t know anything about anything at this point in our development! Now, when we do start being cognizant of ourselves, we’ve been so completely socialized into the above that these statuses have become a part of us. “I am a sister and daughter and friend and grand-daughter, etc.” THAT’s who I am.

Remember John Locke? He was the philosopher who used the term ‘tabula rasa’ for the first time in the 17th century (he and ma were great friends in high school…I think they still keep in touch 😐) and this basically means that we are born without any mental content at all. We are a blank slate or, as Locke put it, “white paper, void of all characters”. We are empty vessels needing experience and perception to start building up our awareness of the world…and of ourselves. Now, we have our own ways of interpreting these experiences and perceptions…that makes us unique individuals…but it’s a process. A learning curve.

I think about how many ‘people’ I’ve been. Not just in terms of statuses, but in terms of periods in my life where I’ve felt changes within me that have become a part of me. My parents divorce was probably the first time I could understand that life would never be the same from what I had known for 12 years and it made me look at the world a bit differently. A bit more guarded. A bit more understanding that things don’t necessarily last forever.

When I was bullied in high school, I learned that people can hurt you for no other reason than wanting too. That being good to others doesn’t mean they will be good to you.

I learned as a new mama to look at the world through someone else’s eyes while at the same time seeing dangers every where I went. “What could hurt my boy?” “Is this person safe for him to be with?” “Should I let him ride his bike alone to the park?” It’s like I became more open and more closed at the same time.

All of my relationships have shaped me in various ways…some good and some bad. I’ve certainly learned that I have a huge capacity for love…that I have a need for security…that I like being a part of a couple. But, I’ve also learned that people will lie to you…cheat on you…promise to keep a secret and then tell it anyway just to hurt you…leave you…use you…abuse you…etc.

Has this all shaped the ‘me’ inside? You betcha. I’m not the same today as I was 3 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago (that’s going back far enough…don’t want to give my age away 🙄).

Now, with this pandemic having been around for a year now, I’ve basically been at home by myself for a great majority of the time. My students and colleagues, who are my main source of social activity, are suddenly gone and I spend my time working on a screen and then around the house. Days will go by where the only person I talk to is Bill or ma. I thought this forced alone time would finally let me find the real me that’s supposedly deep inside. But it hasn’t. It has shown me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of, etc. but it’s not letting a ‘me’ come out.

And here’s what I’m thinking: that maybe my ‘me’ is already here. A conglomeration of all my experiences and perceptions and knowledge and trials since the beginning of my time. Maybe Kristi IS a professor and mama and daughter, etc. Maybe the me inside is the me I’ve created throughout the years. So…maybe the question we should ask ourselves isn’t ‘WHO are you?’ but ‘HOW are you?’ Hmmmmm…

Kristi xoxo

“I gave you a vegetable last week…how dare you get sick.” ~ Anonymous

So, the following conversation happened a couple of days ago between me and ma…word for word (note: J, D, and T are mom’s ‘lady friends’):

Ma: “Kristi, I broke my ankle while you were driving home from Indiana.”

Me (in a screechier voice than normal): “What??? You BROKE your ankle??? Do you need me to take you to the ER???”

Ma: “No…I’ve already been and have a boot on…no worries.”

Me: “Tell me EXACTLY what happened.”

Ma: “I was walking down the stairs and missed the last one, fell, and hear a POPPING noise. So, I waited an hour then walked down to J’s house to see what she and D thought. Then, I walked home, got on my make-up, and drove to the ER. That’s about it.”

Me: “Ok…I need to get this straight in my mind before I have you committed. You hear a popping sound and see your ankle swell in front of your eyes so you walk down the block to J’s to see what she and another 80 year old woman think you should do since they were both teachers and apparently also have their MD’s. After they tell you ‘it’s bad’, you totter home, put on your make-up which takes you a half hour, and then you drive yourself to the ER.”

Ma: “That’s about it.”

Me: “I hate to ask this, but what did you do then?”

Ma: “Well…I had plans to eat with T and help her cut out a quilt so I just drove there and spent the afternoon.”

Me: “Oh! That makes total sense, ma.”

For fuck sakes…my mother is a mule. A stubborn mule. But you know, I really can’t think of a time when she was sick or hurt that she didn’t take care of herself or play it down. Even when she was battling breast cancer, she did all of the cooking for her and her bastard of an ex and cleaned up the house. And before you ask, YES! I was MORE than willing to do these things for her…begged to do these things for her…and went over there daily to do these things for her. And YES! EVERY time I got there, the house was already clean and she had supper all lined up for the evening. I’d say: “Ma! What the hell? Let me help you!” And she said: “I’m fine. I’m not an invalid.” (I’m just as stubborn…I don’t like help either 😐).

I come from a family where illness definitely isn’t coddled. “Toughen up! Walk it off!” It’s like a sign of status to see who can be the ‘sickest’ and still be the most productive. My pop is the same way so sis and I grew up thinking that being sick didn’t mean you stopped working so she and I do the same. I remember when O was 5 and had pneumonia (it took me 4 tries to spell that right 🙄) and we went back to the docs for another chest x-ray to see if he was getting better. When I was there, I was hacking around but told the doc it was just a cold. He listened to my lungs and ordered an x-ray for me too and come to find out, I also had pneumonia in both lungs. And, I was still teaching my classes and taking care of the house.

I’m not saying this is wrong…I think being strong is a great attribute to have and not ‘wallowing’ in your illness is probably a lot more healthy than doing so. I’m proud of my ma and pop, and the fact they are still working and being productive in their mid 70’s shows that working and staying active is the best way to go. I also a believer in having a positive attitude and know that at least for me, the more positive I am when sick, the less ‘sick’ I feel. (I used to love saying this to O when he was a little guy: “If you break your leg, don’t come running to me!” It always made him laugh!”)

So, I’ve been having problems since mid-September with peeing blood with pain every time I wee (I know, I know 🤢), being tired all the time, getting nauseous every time I eat, pain in my sides and back, etc. I’ve been on 3 different rounds of anti-biotics for 6 weeks total and had an ultrasound that shows 2 small kidney stones (I’m going to make a necklace out of them after they pass just to gross out ma). My doc sent me to a specialist yesterday and he was adorable. Anyhoot, we were yacking while he was examining and he said: “Kidney stones aren’t doing this. We need to figure this out.” So, he ordered me to get 3 CT scans this week as well as him doing a cystoscopy on Thursday. I asked him: “What are you looking for?” And he said: “It’s a good chance, with your symptoms, that it’s bladder cancer. I also want to rule out a tumor on your kidneys.” So I said: “What if it’s not one of those?” He said: “I’m not sure…we’ll just keep at it until we know.”

I’ve written before about ma telling me when she found a lump in her boob and I’ll never forget the feeling of being punched in my gut. I also remember when my son was being tested for leukemia and prayed so hard God got tired of hearing from me. The feeling of hearing ‘cancer’ and ‘son’ in the same sentence does something to you that’s truly indescribable.

So yesterday, when the doc said this, I started to get that punched in the gut feeling again. Not because of ‘me’, but because of how it would affect O, ma and Bill. O was with me at the appointment and he said: “Ma…don’t worry. You’re going to be fine.” Ma said: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” Bill said: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” But guess what? I’m worried.

And as Bill and I were chatting last night and I expressed this to him, I said: “Why it is wrong to be scared? Worried? Aren’t those valid feelings right now?” And he thought about it and said they were. But, he also said that until I knew something for sure, I should still be positive which I also am: if it’s cancer, we’ll fight it.

Sometimes I think the word ‘cancer’ is stigmatized like the words ‘mental illness’. Both are things people don’t want to really talk about or necessarily be around. In terms of being bipolar, I knew there was something very wrong with me when I was a teen (zits, braces and all 🙄), but as I got older I kept thinking: “Bipolar only affects around 1-2% of the population…I can’t have that!” Well, why not? By the same token, 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.S….why shouldn’t I be one of them? Why do we always think that these things ‘happen to other people’ and not ourselves? Why do we shy away from even contemplating it? Why do we feel guilty if we’re scared?

All of us are ‘someone else’ to ‘everyone else.’ Right? And by denying or ignoring or insisting that it can’t be cancer…or mental illness…or that someone is suicidal, etc. prohibits us from helping them or giving them the support they need. Why do we put our energy into pretending that something ‘can’t be true’?

I hope hope hope (and pray pray pray) that I don’t have bladder cancer. I hope hope hope (and pray pray pray) it’s something that can be cured/taken care of with a magic pill. But, I’m also being realistic and I’m scared. If I do have it, of course I’ll be tough! Of course I’ll be strong! Of course I’ll get through it like millions of other people do every year! Once something is ‘named’ it can be fought and I think it’s the not knowing that’s making me worry. After I finally got diagnosed with bipolar and started getting the help I needed, my life improved so much. Hiding it…denying it…just made me still stay ‘sick’. I’m not expecting to have cancer…but I’m not ruling it out either since doc is leaning that way. I’m not going to pretend I’m immune to cancer and become complacent about my health. Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is always power.

Thanks for listening, my sweet peeps. ❤❤❤

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

“Let it all hang out.” ~ Weezer

So, sometimes it’s hard to come up with things to blawg about. I think about whether I want to be serious, funny (yes, some of the posts are meant to be funny…at least ma and sis gets them 🙄), educational, etc. But then someone messages me and let’s me know exactly what I need to say. Bless their hearts…they are doing half my work for me!

Anyhoot, yesterday I posted about body image struggles and one of my past sweetie students and I talked a bit and she said this today:

“I always thought you were so badass because you are so fit, you held down a full time job, and were a mom and you in my eyes were your own woman but it just shows everyone struggles with voices in their head. I always looked up to you while I was in your classes as someone I wanted to be like one day and I want you to know you are loved by so many people.”

Now Pinky Tuscadero was a BADASS!

First, this choked me up and I had to use my hankie. Second, this gal is a beautiful woman, excellent wife, and amazing mama. To have her say these words means so much. Third, am I a badass? That sounds so freaking cool to me. “Hello everyone. My name is Kristi and I’m a badass!” 😎

But here’s what made me think: we all have personal struggles…voices in our heads telling us things about ourselves that no one else sees…obstacles we are personally trying to overcome day after day. Isn’t it amazing though how we are so good at hiding these? How we feel like we need to keep these to ourselves? I wonder why we do that? Why we don’t allow others to see our struggles so they can learn from them…help with them? Know they aren’t alone.

I think there’s still such a huge misconception regarding mental health and mental illness. None of us have ‘perfect’ mental health…and when someone talks about another person acting so ‘normal’ I wonder what that means. Is there a ‘normal’? Or…is there a ‘normal’ for each of us? I tend to think the latter is true. But we’re so hard on ourselves when we don’t feel that mental health ‘perfection’…probably because there are so many books, quotes, mantras, meditations, etc. that tell us we can have it if we follow their advice. Uh uh. Not true.

I love that my student saw me so positively and sees that you can be strong and smart and funny…yet still have struggles. Having a mental illness or mental health issues doesn’t take away from the ‘soul’ of who you are. It just puts up hurdles we have to learn to jump.

Hmmm…isn’t that a great analogy? Sometimes I can jump over my hurdles really well…they’re sitting ‘low’ that day, and other days I struggle to get over even one of them.

We need to be more vocal about our struggles. Our battles. Our obstacles. I hate that people think they’re alone and that everyone else has it figured out. We need to teach more about mental health and mental illness. We need to stop pretending to be ‘perfect’ and wearing the masks we feel we need to don everyday. We need to be honest when someone asks about how we are. Instead of saying “I’m fine” why can’t we say: “You know, I’m struggling today…can you talk a bit?” Or, when we see someone who looks down or anxious or stressed…why can’t we say: “Hey…you OK today? You need anything?”

Why is it so fucking (sorry ma 🙄) easy to blab to all and sundry about our physical issues? After all, there’s nothing more I like than to hear about people having trouble with constipation and the many laxatives they’ve tried. 💩

Charming.

But we can’t talk about our mental issues? We can talk about pooping, peeing, bleeding, leaking, erecting, etc. but we can’t say, “I’m depressed and I need help.” Or, “I’m thinking these things about myself and need someone to talk too.”? Sheesh.

Why is it still so taboo? Why do we picture people that do struggle as ‘less than’? (Why am I using so many ‘quotation marks’ today?🤔 ) Why can’t we admit that although what you see on the outside looks pretty good, the inside is needing some help. Some attention.

I love that my sweetie-pie student sees that inner struggles are something we all have. I love that she told me she’s going to be talking to someone about hers. I love that she understood she can reach out to me and I’ll listen.

Most of all I love being able to open up to my peeps about all of my struggles…body image, being bipolar, anxiety, relationship issues (shutty 😐) etc. I love that you listen and support and care. But, I’d really love it if this was the norm. If all of us felt comfortable talking about our mental health. Opening up about our struggles. Getting the help and support we need.

That, my sweet peeps, would be awesome.

Kristi xoxo

Just take a Chill Pill.

Photo by Efdal YILDIZ on Pexels.com

So, yesterday when I wrote my blawg post, I was having a TERRIBLE day. It was ghastly. Dreadful. BUT, today I’m doing a ton better and I’m going to tell you why.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I’m transitioning from Effexor to Prozac for my bipolar depression and that the Prozac is working great (hallelujah 👼), so I was extremely disconcerted this week when everything started going to hell in a hand basket (is it sacrilegious to use hallelujah and hell in the same sentence? Ought oh… 😳). I didn’t know if my tummy troubles and sweatiness and clamminess were the flu, something I ate or what it was but then something else started happening last night that freaked me out.

In the early evening, I started having ‘shocks’…like little electrical ‘pricky’ (get your minds out of the gutters, peeps 😐) feelings all up and down my arms and legs and it was so freaking bizarre. So, I called my doc today (he really is marvelous…and married…🤨) and we figured out what it was: I had stopped my Effexor completely this week and bam…all of what happened these last couple of days were withdrawals from it. Even though I had tapered off according to plan, some people just can’t stop it even after a 75% reduction or so…and, since I’m just so gosh darned blessed (I really am…I’m being sarcastic here…) I’m one of them! Whoo hoo!

So, he had me take 37.5 mg this morning and I cannot believe the difference. I feel a 1000 times better now and doc and I are going to taper me little by little by little so this doesn’t happen again. It might take months but that’s OK because I don’t want a repeat of that reaction. 😳

And since Wednesday, while I was having all of the physical side effects, I was also very very very very emotional. Very. I bawled more in the past 2 days than I have in a couple of years. Ma and I were talking last night. Wait, let me rephrase this: Ma was talking while I was bawling last night and I knew she was scared. When I told her this morning about yacking to doc and having things figured out, she said this: “It was like you were starting another break-down…that’s how bad you sounded.” I thought that too…not necessarily a break-down, but I knew something was definitely not right. It scared me big time.

I’ve been thinking about psychotropic meds this morning and at first, I was telling ma how scary it is to be so dependent on them and to have your body so affected by them. I hate that. I really do. Knowing that a med is working in your brain is kind of frightening.

But then I thought that all meds for serious conditions can be scary. Diabetics who stop taking their insulin can go into shock. People on beta-blockers and high blood pressure meds can actually die from withdrawal, and those who are on opiods for pain can face serious withdrawal effects too.

There’s always been debate about whether or not psychotropic meds do more good than harm and vice versa. Expert Peter Gotzsche says this: “Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm – by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drug and demential drugs…and using only a fraction of the antipsychotics and benzodiazepines we currently use.”

Hmmmm. I do think these drugs are over prescribed. For example, according to a study in CHADD, 4.4% of adults in the U.S. have ADHD. But, I would conservatively estimate that at least 15-20% of my students any given year are on ADHD medications. In terms of antidepressants, about 8% of Americans have diagnosed depression but about 13% are taking antidepressants.

When people tell me things like: “I was given antidepressants once and they didn’t help” I think, “Were you depressed? Clinically depressed to the point you couldn’t function without some kind of intervention?” Hmmm. It’s kind of like antibiotics being prescribed for things other than actual bacterial infections, or too soon after a diagnosis to see if the bacterial infection will clear up on it’s own. But we do live in a culture where if we go to the doc…we want to walk out with something that will make us feel ‘treated’ even if the treatment isn’t necessary.

I believe there are too many people on psychotropic meds…I know so many who have said they went to their doc and talked about being stressed and worried and bam…they had a prescription with little to no follow up and no psychological counseling to complete the treatment. That’s just not right.

Yesterday showed me how powerful these drugs work in my mind and how easily ‘messing’ with them can have pretty shitty consequences. But I also know this: I have bipolar…of that there no doubt. I need the 2 meds I’m on because I’ve lived without them and believe me, that didn’t always go well. I know I have brain chemistry that differs from you ‘normal’ 😳 folks and my meds help to regulate that. I also know there will always be people that look down on those of us who do need to take these without understanding the ‘why’ behind them being prescribed. But, I also know this…I’m so freaking grateful to have meds available to me that allow me to live my life with very little of my illness holding me back. Truly.

Kristi xoxo

“And she’s dancing like she’s never danced before.” ~ Flashdance

So, I’ve talked a lot in this blawg about depression but not much about mania. I actually think this is harder to understand because not as many people have experienced it. The National Institute of Health found estimates to range from .08% to 1.6% for people who experience a manic episode in their lives. That’s not many, peeps. So why am I talking about this now? Well…because that’s what I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of weeks and I gotta say that it sucks. Big time.

See, about a month or so ago, my doc helped me taper off of lamotrigine because the side effects were really bothering me. One was muscle weakness and everyday felt like the day after a bad flu. You know, that weakish, blech feeling where trudging around your living room is tiring. And as someone who likes to run and workout (because it helps me so much with the depression 😐), this was horrible! Prior to starting lamotrigine, I was running 4-5 miles a day…after I got on it, I could barely do a half mile.

Then there were also a couple other effects that I just can’t abide because of what I do: professoring (and no, before you ask I was not an English major 🙄). I was espeically struggling with some memory issues and I was having trouble finding the right words and them getting them out…speaking problems are a side effect and it was scary to me that I couldn’t ‘talk right’. Finally, my concentration was being affected. Soooooo…bye bye, lamotrigine.

I also tapered off of my anti-depressant (which really wasn’t the best one for bipolar) and am now on prozac which I would marry if I could. (SIDE NOTE: the other day, ma and I were yacking to a man who was at least 1000 years old. After he left, ma actually said this sentence to me: “Kristi…I wonder if he’s single for you?” What the fuck (really, ma…you kinda deserve this one)? I said: “Ma. For piss sakes. That man was born during the Civil War (bless his heart, he was a doll…but…), can barely walk, talk or eat without assistance, and the chance of him being able to be naughty is a billion to one. So….no.” God I love that woman for trying though😍).

Anyhoot, getting off a mood stabilizer and then stopping one anti-depressant and beginning another triggered a manic episode. Yea.

So many people have said to me that they wished they could be manic so they could get stuff done. But you know, let’s be honest here…that’s like saying “I wish I could be depressed so I could get some rest.” It’s just the other end of the spectrum and even though it’s a ‘high’, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

I haven’t slept more than 4-5 hours a night for these past 3 weeks or so and it’s not that I’m not tired because I’m actually pretty freaking exhausted (after you hear all that is buzzing around in my head, you’ll understand this 😳). But, when you’re manic, nothing turns off so I lay in bed with my mind literally going so fast I can’t even keep track of my thoughts. Even now, typing this, I’m thinking of a 100 different things…here goes my head at this very moment: making some lists by scribbling keywords in my notebook, worrying about getting some work done, wanting to deliver something to ma’s, wanting to create some interactive homepages for my classes (one of them is up for my Theories of Personality class and it rocks!), looking at Eddie and wanting to walk him since it’s not quite as hot today as it has been, seeing that my backyard needs weed-n-feed, remembering I have someone coming over to buy a bike and I want to get it looking good for them, knowing I just re-potted 2 new monstera deliciosas I bought (AAAAGGGGGHHHHH…these made me sosososososo happy to get!) and I need to get them in place with the right amount of light, having to put together a piece of furniture that I got and then having to call FedEx because they lost another one (my desk I really need), wanting to start 2 other posts with ideas I just came up with typing this, getting my dishes done, needing to sand a wall I puttied because I borrowed my neighbors sander and don’t want to keep it too long, knowing I have some stinky towels hanging up outside that need laundered, wanting to vacuum, needing to pack up some books to take to the Salvation Army, now wanting to go out and buy my own sander, and wanting to run back to Lowe’s (where I’ve already been) and get a plant for my daughter. That’s it. All that’s in my head now. And in bed? Just multiply these thoughts by 100. Peeps, it’s fucking overwhelming.

My notebook…this is how I write when I’m manic!

How would I illustrate this? Hmmm. You know when cars accelerate and you can see the wheels start to turn…then after they get going fast, it almost doesn’t look like they are spinning at all? That’s close.

Yes, it’s ‘nice’ to have the energy to get things done as opposed to not wanting to do anything at all but it’s a ‘frenetic’ energy where you are so frazzled, you are moving from one thing to the other to the other and thinking more and more as you do this. I can’t even take the time to write everything down…that takes too long!

But here’s the thing. People try to help me navigate through all of this when I’m manic, but nothing ‘helps’. When you’re depressed, people might say “You need to get up and get moving around…that will help.” Or, “Remember how lucky you are compared to others!” Or, “Everyone feels down…you just have to snap out of it and stop moping.” Now, for my peeps with depression or who have experienced a depressive episode, did any of these statements,or others you might have heard, help? Nope.

Ditto with mania. My sweet ole ma is worried about me and last night told me that I just had to calm down and call the doc and have him do something. But he can’t. There’s nothing to do. This is part of the freaking mental illness I have and it’s going to happen. I can’t calm down…but the thing is, I wish to hell I could. I can’t just take a deep breath…slow down…take a nap…etc. Just like when I’m depressed, I can’t force myself to ‘cheer up.’

I think my depression is a little easier for ma to handle. She hates when I’m down, but I’m not as much “out there” in terms of the bipolar. But with mania? You KNOW there’s something going on. My sweetie past student and I were yapping on the phone today and she was so so so confused because I was trying to tell her so much so fast! With mania, I’m so much more talkative, loud, emotionally demonstrative, ‘fast’ in everything I do (I’m like a kid when I’m manic in that I don’t want to take the time to pee…it’s too much of a break from what I’m doing 😲), so wired up and anxious, so distractible (this is coming up as misspelled but isn’t distractible a word?? 😳).

The upside? My house has never looked better because I’ve done so much to it. I also have so so so many ideas for art projects I want to do, as well as ideas for how I want to paint my living room! I’ve organized and organized and you could eat off my floors (why do people say that? I’ve never eaten off a floor and hope to heaven I never do 😐). I also am doing more and more things in my classes and from the feedback I’m getting, my sweetie pie students are liking it! (I’m so so so blessed to have these sweeties in my life…I miss them so much since we aren’t on-campus 😥). In fact, being manic and living alone while socially distancing from people is hard!

Anyhoot, that’s mania for you and understanding it is just as important as understanding depression. It’s also important for people to realize that mania is no different from depression in that you can’t help it. I know how hard that is to get for those that have never experienced it. But please don’t tell us to ‘calm it down’ or ‘just stop it’. Those of us who experience mania would give most anything to be able to do that. Just let us talk and do and plan, but keep an eye on us…that’s what we really need. We might want to spend too much or do something that’s not a great idea, so help us out with that if you can.

I know my mania cycle is probably going to be here for a time but I’m handling it fairly well. Ma, sis, and son are letting me yack at them and vent to them and let me tell me all the stuff I’ve done. That’s what I need. Just people there for me as I experience the other end of the spectrum that bipolar is all about. Maybe that’s the key for all of us with mental illnesses or disorders: having people there to support us and hold our hand through whatever pitfalls we have to traverse. And I’m lucky I have that…not just with my fam, but with all of you who support me every time you read this. Thank you.

And by the way, if you have any roofing, painting, sanding, building, arting, crafting, plant buying, potting, hugging, or anything else you need, holler at me. Lord knows I have the energy to ‘git er done’ for you. 😉

Kristi xoxo