“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

“I think, I think too much” ~ Florence + the Machine

So, my gramma used to worry about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I used to say this about her: “If gramma didn’t have anything to worry about, she’d worry about not having anything to worry about.” Well, come to find out, I worry and stress a whole bunch too, and often about little things that I’m finally learning just don’t mean a whole lot in the long run.

Of course, I do have an excuse (in other words, I’m ‘entitled’ to worry 😲) because as a YOUNG woman (shutty the mouthies, peeps) with bipolar, I also deal with anxiety. And, according to a 2012 study, around 60% of people with bipolar will deal with an anxiety disorder in their life. BTW, here’s my new tagline: “Bipolar…the mental illness that keeps on giving.” Blech. Anyhoot, along with the rumination, personalization, and sensitivity of bipolar, is it no wonder that I’m a worrier?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working hard on my house and I love doing it! I have my own toolbox now and have fun rummaging around in it (yes, I have to put stickers on everything I own…a quirk from childhood when I was just a small sprig that has continued into my 40’s (once again, shutty 🙄). I’ve learned to putty, sand, paint (properly!), replace electrical outlets, install simple flooring, put together furniture, drill, hammer (correctly…using the shoulder and not the wrist), etc. I just finished my home office up this week and can’t wait for my new office furniture to be delivered so I can ‘git ‘er done.’

I’m ‘crazy’ (go figure) about this color!

My neighbor, M, has been a complete doll throughout this process. Bless his heart…he’s loaned me drill bits and his electric sander, helped me move furniture upteen times, and has given me permission to buy a bunch of new stuff because when I’m feeling guilty about spending money, I’ll call him and say: “M…should I buy this?” And he says: “Why not?!” Why not, indeed. 😃

So a couple of days ago, I bought some new shelves and proceeded to take out the old shelves on my living room wall (which left 12 holes where anchors and screws had been) and then drill 12 new holes for anchors and screws. I got the new shelves up, stepped back, and absolutely hated them. I took those down and now had 24 holes in my wall. 24. I looked at my holey wall and just started sobbing. All I could see was the work I had done trying to make that fucking wall (ooooops…sorry, ma 🙄) look good and now it looked like swiss cheese.

My wall of holes while I’m puttying them. Blech.

I called M and told him all of this between gasps, sobs, and gulps of air. I am a horrible crier: When I cry…I cry. No little tears streaming down my cheeks that make me look vulnerable and tragically beautiful. Nope…I get spigots turned on, a red blotchy face, nose gunk running down my lip, all while my mascara glops up making me look like a raccoon. Very attractive. Anyhoot, after M was able to decipher my sobbing ramble here’s what he said: “You can putty them. It doesn’t matter. This is fixable.”

And, he was right (please don’t tell him that…I don’t want him to think he set a precedent or anything). It was fixable. But at that moment, it was overwhelming. I stressed over those holes…worried about those holes…and wanted them perfect NOW. So, I worked until midnight and got the wall fixed up. And…well…that was it. It was a wall again. Whoopee. Now, when I walk by it, I think “Why did that bother me so much?”

I guess I do have a couple of valid reasons: bipolar making me blow things out of proportion no matter how hard I try to reign it in, and the fact that I’ve tried to be perfect and do perfect all of my life, probably to make up for the imperfectness that I have so much of.

But I’m ashamed at my reaction because when I think about all of the things actually worth worrying about, seeing a wall with holes in it is pretty small stuff.

Like, I remember the night my dad left our family home and how it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. I remember feeling like ma, T and I weren’t enough for him to stay with us and that his new life with my step-mom was going to be so much better than what we had to offer.

I remember being bullied and the first time I realized that losing weight lessened it to the point where I lost 30 pounds in about a month, and in the process developed anorexia.

I remember the panic and fear of seeing the psychologist that sexually abused me every week, but also remember the feeling that I had to see him because I needed him so badly and how utterly confusing this was to me.

I remember when my ma was being beaten by her 2nd husband (that fucking bastard…and ma doesn’t mind me saying it in regards to him…she even has. You go girl!) and my sis and I worried, often, that he would kill her. I remember seeing black eyes, bruised cheeks, bruises and scratches on her neck/legs/arms, and the time in the hospital where he had beaten her so badly she was throwing up blood and her back was completely black.

I remember the last time I saw my gramma who had ovarian cancer and seeing her looking so weak and small…understanding it might be the last time I’d ever be with her in this life.

I remember when O was a little fella in his crib and I went in one night to check on him because he hadn’t gotten me up yet for a drink or diaper change. When I picked him up, he was turning blue and I was petrified. Hubby and I raced him to the ER in about 4 minutes and he was having a severe bout of asthma (which we didn’t even know he had) and was in an oxygen tent for a couple of days.

I remember when ma asked me out to lunch one day in October of 1998 and as we were eating our chips and salsa said this: “I found a lump in my breast.”

I remember O’s dad telling me I needed to leave our home and feeling like I was punched in the gut all while having no place to go to and fearing that I was losing my little family forever.

I remember sitting in Perkins with J and him holding my hands and telling me he would never ever cheat on me ever again, and then having him be with her the next day.

I remember waking up to threatening messages from a student who said he wanted to rape me and make me into a lampshade. When I was blamed for this, I remember feeling the greatest loss of optimism I’ve ever experienced when I learned that bad things happen to good people and there’s nothing you can do.

And then? I also think about the actual worries/stresses/issue that others have: I can’t imagine not knowing if I was going to be able to stay in a home another month. Or how it feels to see your kids hungry and not be able to feed them. I can’t fathom the stress of having a sick child but no insurance to get them the care they need, or losing your job because you have to care for that child. I am blessed to never know what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where you have to fear for your safety or work in a factory where you could lose fingers, arms, or a leg with just one mishap. I’ve never known what “You have cancer” feels like personally or be told that I have a certain amount of time left on this earth.

I’m ashamed for worrying about holes in a wall when the homeless people in our country would give anything to have 4 walls and a roof. It humbles me to think there are people that can’t read this because they never were given the chance of an education.

But you know what this has taught me? That I need to consciously work on making sure I see things for what they are. Inconveniences. Chores. Eye sores. There’s a hole in my wall…so what? Big fucking deal (I had to get one more in, ma…just ’cause 😏). My family loves me. My paint got smudged on the ceiling? Big deal. I can choose to eat whatever I want from my own stocked kitchen. Edward had a poop accident on my rug? OK. I’ll clean it up and continue to be thankful I have my best friend by my side.

I think we all need to know what a bad day, issue, or problem really is and what it’s not. I think we all need to look at our perspectives. Look around at the bigger picture. I guess we just need to be thankful that so often, our problems are just holes that can be patched up and then forgotten…and spend our energy on the things that really do need our focus and care.

Kristi xoxo

Romancing the Stone

So, I don’t even know how to start this post except by saying WHAT THE HELL? Now, if that’s not a great first sentence to pull you in, I don’t know what is.

Did you know, my sweet peeps, that it is now ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ to be mentally ill? OK. I’m going to pause a minute to let you take that in………la dee dah……la dee dah…..(pretend this is Jeopardy music 🎵). Yes my dears, it’s ‘in’ to be mentally ill. In fact, it’s become something that is not only sensationalized, but romanticized in so many ways in our society right now, particularly on social media.

It’s sad to me that to belong, too many younger people are now embracing the idea that they themselves have some type of mental disorder. Depression, anxiety, bipolar (🙄), a personality disorder, etc. These disorders have become ‘tragically beautiful’ or, at the very least, trivialize what mental illness really is. Regardless, mental illnesses are being sensationalized for attention and grasshoppers, that’s not right.

Look on Twitter…there’s this hashtag: #IGetDepressedWhen and here’s a couple of goodies – “I get depressed when my battery low” , or “I get depressed when I know summers almost over”, or “I get depressed when there’s no bacon for lunch.” Hmmmmm. I gotta be honest here. I’ve been struggling with depression as part of being bipolar for the great majority of my 40 years on earth (heh? OK, 50?), and I can honestly say, without reservation, that I’ve never ever been thrown into a depressive episode because I’m having a PBJ for lunch instead of bacon. Never.

Here’s a ‘quote’ I found: “She can paint a pretty picture but the story has a twist. Her paintbrush is a razor and her canvas is a wrist.” (Seriously…are you kidding me?) And another: “I think suicidal people are just angels who want to go home.” One more: “I’m jealous of people with enough self-control to be anorexic.” What the hell??? 😡

Let’s give these folks the reality of mental illness. Suicide is not a Shakespearean tragedy where the person was gracefully lifted from their pain while looking beautiful in their peaceful death. Not by a fucking (sorry, ma) long shot. Suicide is guns or pills or razors or ropes and it’s bloody and ugly and messy and scary and heartbreaking and irreversible. These people are never going to take a breath again…never have a chance of life again…never going to realize that what they went through could have gotten better to where suicide wasn’t the only option they could see. Plus, it’s hell on earth for the one’s that are left. The person didn’t commit suicide and then see how dramatically it played out on social media or how it became the basis for a Netflix show. They killed themselves. They are dead. And no matter what their situation or pain or illness, it’s nothing but a tragedy for both the victim and the survivors. Period.

And self-harm? Those of you that know me are aware that have I cut myself in the past and have 16 scars on my legs, arm, belly and boob. Two of my scars are over 4″ long and will be angry red welts forever. These scars are not beautiful. My body was not a ‘canvas’ I was decorating. The razor in my hand was not a paintbrush. There is nothing glamorous about what I did. I cut myself because I was having a mental breakdown that put me in such a depression that my mind told me it was the only thing I could do to release some of the pain. When I see my scars everyday, I don’t see a victory or a tragic piece of art. And I definitely don’t see them as being sexy as this quote says: “Call me crazy but I think emo girls/guys with self harm scars are sexy because it shows how much they have been through but never actually gave up.” And no, if any man ever looked at them and saw them as being arousing, I would run. Quickly.

And there are people who wish they were anorexic? Really? Well, as luck would have it, I have experience with this gem of a mental illness as well. There has not been a moment in my life from the time I was a freshman in high school (just a few years ago…) that I haven’t thought about how many calories are in a bite of food every time I eat something. Every. Single. Time. I can’t eat something because it tastes good. I can’t eat something out of pleasure. I can’t eat something not ‘necessary’ without feeling a lot of guilt and that I’m ‘bad’ for wanting it. I’ve known countless times what it’s like to be so weak from not eating that you can barely go from one task to another, and I don’t know how many birthday cakes, cookies, and other goodies people have made me over the years that I’ve trashed the moment they leave. You don’t recover from anorexia…you work every single solitary day to keep it in check, knowing that if you veer off a healthy course, you will succomb to the illness again. That is not having self-control, peeps…it’s actually quite the opposite.

You know, not only is this glamourization of mental illness a dangerous thing, it makes me wonder why anyone would want to be associated with something so stigmatizing in the first place. Maybe it’s giving the person attention or empathy or validation they are so desperately looking for. And if this is the only way that can happen in their lives, that’s something that needs to be addressed. Are there that many people not receiving the love and support they need without having to go to such lengths? Are there that many people shouting out: “See me” because they don’t feel ‘seen’ any other way? Are we living in a world where we are so into ourselves that we can’t see others crying for help unless the cry is so dramatic it can’t be missed? How sad this is.

I can’t imagine ‘pretending’ to have a mental illness…I wish to heaven I could experience what it’s like not to be mentally ill. It’s hard for me to understand why you would want to invent, and then share, a ‘mental illness’ because in reality, admitting you have one causes you to lose friends, opportunities, respect, and the list goes on. There are so many people that treat me differently now that I’ve ‘come-out.’ Some people/acquaintances/colleagues just stay away (which is fine…), others use it against me, while many just ignore it and pretend it simply doesn’t exist (“but you look normal”), plus I know it’s affected a couple of men from asking me out. Revealing a mental illness does not bring you the type of attention you think it might…trust me on this.

I talk about being bipolar for one reason, and one reason only, and this was voiced by a friend yesterday: “Well, you’re one of the people I look up too. You were one of the first people I knew to be extremely transparent about your mental health and that’s had an impact on me. It’s so important to destigmatize mental illness.” This is why I share it, my sweet peeps. I don’t share it for attention or sympathy or for ‘likes’. I share because I want people to know that mental illness sucks balls, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that should have to be hid. It’s a reality that too many people live with and we need to come together and make sure it’s treated like any other illness with support and understanding given to all who suffer from it.

Kristi xoxo

“Sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions.” ~ Stephen King

kristi dottie and edward 2020

So, I was in Wal-Mart yesterday which is such a great place to be on a Saturday afternoon but what the hey…there’s nothing else any more exciting for me to do on the weekends 🙄.  Anyhoot, there are arrows on the aisles showing which direction you are supposed to go and even though I want to rebel…just because I need some pizzazz in my life…I followed them.  I think I was the only one in the store that did.  Go figure.

walmart_arrows

But here’s the thing:  I found myself apologizing for people getting in my way when they were the ones disregarding the arrows.  I apologized.  Me.  Then when I was driving home, I started thinking about how many other things I apologized for in the 30 minutes I was there (it seemed like an eternity…just sayin’ 😳).  I said ‘sorry’ to people who cut in front of me with their carts…a lady who almost ran me over with her electric scooter when she was backing up (but thanks to my lightening fast reflexes, I was able to save myself)…a guy who reached in front of me and grabbed a loaf of bread (not the healthier whole grain, but good ole Sunbeam)…a couple who cut through the self-scan lane I was on and knocked into my cart…and finally, a guy who shoved past me at the exit.

Scooter

All in all, I’d say I apologized at least a dozen times…if not more. *BTW:  the lady who almost backed into me was looking at vacuums and I very politely put the one she wanted into her basket (how she was going to see to ‘drive’ was beyond me 😳).  I told her she almost ran me over but I wanted to help her anyway since I survived and she didn’t bat an eye.  I wonder if she has scooter insurance…I feel a stiff neck coming on.

You know, this is a habit I really need to break.  I find myself saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  It doesn’t matter if I’m to blame or not, I feel like if something goes wrong, I need to put a ‘sorry’ out there.  And I don’t say it lightly…I actually mean it.  Like when the guy pushed past me, I started thinking that maybe I was going too slowly.  Maybe he had an emergency and I was in his way.  Maybe he won the lottery and was going to collect his millions.  No matter what, I MUST have done something to create that situation.

I did the same thing today at the gym (our leader kicked my ass today…I can barely move).  I apologized when someone slopped some cleaning solution on my shoes, and numerous times when someone would bump into me.  And even though they might not apologize, I do, whether I was the ‘bumper’ or the ‘bumpee’.

So, writing this blog has it’s ups and downs.  (Yes, grasshoppers…I’m changing the subject but it’s all going to make sense…stay with me…).  The up is that I get messages like this almost daily:

“I want to say ‘Thank You’.  I read something recently on your blog, and it stuck with me, in relation to toxic positivity.  I just appreciate and honor the fact that you’re real and authentic, and I admire the fact that you speak openly about depression, anxiety, and mental wellness…it makes those of us, who aren’t okay, feel seen and heard.  It gives us the courage to speak to our words our pain, and reach out.

Lately, things have been kinda crazy, and a lot of hard changes have happened.  However, I know this truth:  You are strong.  You inspire me to find strength and move forward.  You’re loved, I’m so grateful for you.”

And then, one of my students from a few years ago wrote to me and told me that she was so happy I taught about Domestic Violence in our classes and took the information seriously.  She said she also appreciated me sharing ma’s emotional story which is hard for me to do and often makes me cry.  She said that she dated someone a few times and started seeing the warning signs I preach about.  She ended the relationship and later found out he was a violent guy.  She told me I saved her from something that could have been detrimental to her and her beautiful kids.

bipolar-quote-5

Now the downside?  I was starting to explore a some-what relationship with an old friend but we ended up being like oil and water (I was the oil…I use too much conditioner on my hair 🤨) and argued about…well…almost everything.  Anyhoot, no matter what happened or anything that might have been said, it was always my fault.  If he said something vile…it was my fault.  If he lied to me…it was my fault.  If he ‘tested’ me…it was my fault.  THEN, there would be a reference to me being bipolar and how that makes me ‘crazy’ so duh, it REALLY is my fault.  Hmmmmm.  Obviously, I ended things (or actually he did…but I took him up on it and now it’s my fault I didn’t try harder… 🙄…as my grandpa would have said:  “You can’t win for losing.”).

But here’s the thing:  I did apologize for everything.  Again and again and again.  I never said:  “I’m sorry but…” but sincerely apologized.  Like anyone, I said things I needed to apologize for…I’m no saint, that’s for sure!  But he didn’t buy my apologies, and then would say: “I’m sorry but YOU…” etc.

Putting my life out here like I do and talking about having bipolar makes me a target in so many ways.  People now know how overly sensitive I am…how guilty I can feel…how those of us with bipolar ruminate and question and worry…how impulsive and jumpy I can be, etc.  By knowing this, my mental illness can be used against me.  Who’s going to believe the ‘crazy’ one isn’t to blame for relationship issues?  Who’s going to believe ME if there are different sides of something being told?  After all, everyone knows that ‘bipolars’ are cray cray.  Right?

1l5ma8

Wrong!!  We are not fucking crazy (sorry ma, but talking about this gets me pissy 😠).  I’M not fucking crazy.  Period.  Yes, I have a mental illness.  A pretty serious one at that.  But guess what?  I’ve built a great career after years and years of schooling.  I raised a son who kicks ass in everything he does (except basketball…sorry, porkchop).  I was the ‘breadwinner’ in my last marriage (yes peeps…the 3rd one 🙄) and am financially independent now.  I do everything with the house and yard.  And the list goes on.  Just because I have a mental illness does not mean I’m crazy.  In fact, compared to some ‘normal’ people I know…I’m pretty damn ‘sound’.

So, why do I keep apologizing for every little bitty thing that happens and the biggies too?  Do I believe I need too because I am bipolar…cray cray…mentally ill?  I think I’ve kinda been ‘trained’ to over the years.  I think some people like to prey on those perceived as weaker or ‘less than’ in their eyes.  As a result, we take on more of what happens in any situation than someone else might.  (Since 25% of the population suffers a mental disorder or illness at some point in their lives, there’s a chance these ‘judgy’ people might be on the other side someday.  I don’t wish that on anyone.  But the reality is, it could happen).

So, I’m not going to do it anymore…keep saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  Well, I am probably going to go to my grave (it better be a BIG stone, son…BIG…🙄) apologizing for dying.  But I am going to try to stop feeling like I’M the one that’s always wrong.   Like I’m the one who’s always in the way.  Like I’m the one always to blame.  Like I’m the one…the only one…that has affected whatever it is that has happened.  I’m not going to apologize for being me.  If others want to use what I write against me, that’s fine.  Go ahead.  I’m actually pretty fucking tough for my size (right ma?).  But as long as what I write helps people, I’m going to continue.  And no.  I’m not sorry for that at all.

Kristi xoxo

 

A Good Mom can say Bad Words.

ocean water wave photo
Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

Dear Son,

So, I don’t know what it is with letters right now.  I’ve written to Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian ( 🙄 ) and Robin Williams lately, but now I’m writing to the most important person ever…you.

Anyhoot, I know I could have sent this to you directly but you know how important education is to me (even though you didn’t complete the 2 classes you need to get your degree…we’re still not done discussing that, SWEETIE 😒) and I wanted other mentally ill mothers to read what I’m going to say too.  I know you won’t mind since you got such a rockin’ birthday present this year…just sayin’ 😬.

Baby, I know it wasn’t easy having a mentally ill mom.  You can deny that all you want and say it never affected you but I’m not stupid (even though from 13-20 you thought I was) and I know it did.  You always tell me what a great ma I am and I think I remember every time you’ve ever said it because that’s how much it means to me.  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I don’t believe you.  (I also don’t believe you didn’t drink before you were 21…and I’m pretty sure I’m right 😳).

I think I was a good mom…better than some but worse than others.  I do know I was the kind of mom that was a go-getter and worked hard to give you the life I wanted you to have.  I didn’t always succeed though…not by a long shot.

bipolar-quote-4

You know how freaking happy (I won’t cuss in this…gramma would yell at me for a week and you know how screechy her voice is 😐) I was when you were born, but I was scared as hell too.  There were so many times in my life that I didn’t understand myself…didn’t understand what I was feeling, or why I was doing the impulsive things I did so often, or why my head was filled with so much noise it was sometimes hard to hear anything over the din, or why I’d run like a motor one day and then crash the next.  My Lord (yes, I know you don’t believe in God but I’m going to change that come hell or freaking high water 😈), how was I ever going to know what you needed and felt when I was so lost myself?  I was petrified.  *And a little secret?  So was your dad…but he’ll never admit it.

Anyhoot, there were times in my life when I didn’t know if I could take care of myself… times when if grandma and your great grandparents (who would have totally adored you) hadn’t of, I don’t know where I’d be right now.  Then when I was preggy, I started to wonder if I’d be able to cope with everything a ma has to do and I was so scared I might not be able to take care of you.  But I did.  And I loved it (even changing your little diapers…except when your dad would feed you spinach and then I would have paid anyone a thousand bucks to take that over for an hour or so 😲.  And yes, I know it’s not ladylike to say ‘bucks’).

You were so patient with me and even when I did mess up, like when I would try to shove rice cereal down your gullet when you were crying, you didn’t care.  You were such an easy going baby (until you got colic and I thought your dad was going to go as nutsy as I already was, but luckily you out-grew that in 4 of the longest months I’ve ever experienced in my life 🤨) and exactly what I needed.  It’s funny how you spend 9 months wondering ‘who’ you are going to get, and then no matter what, you get exactly who you wanted.  Period.

positive-quotes-in-time-of-sickness-with-on-mental-health-and-illness-healthyplace-5

I don’t think people realize how those of us with mental illness struggle so much with parenting.  Obviously, you know how sensitive I am.  How impulsive.  How much I ruminate.  How much I question myself.  How deeply I feel guilt.  How quickly I assume blame.  How I feel so much empathy for others that it can be overwhelming.  How I feel like I have to ‘do’ and ‘give’ for anyone to love me.  How I’m either busy busy busy or so down I’m pretty much camped out on the couch for a period of time.  Of course you know all of this now, but didn’t for all your growing up years.  Remember when you came home that one day after being bullied in the 2nd grade?  I was distraught.  Your pain was my pain and I wanted to wrap you in a blankie, tuck Barney under your arm, and put you in a plastic bubble with me.  Seeing you hurt was the worst thing imaginable.  Your pain always became my pain and that’s why I often over-reacted to things you experienced, which is pretty ‘normal’ for those of us with bipolar.

When I made wrong decisions, I’d beat myself up for days and days even though you forgot about it within hours.  When you brought home a bad grade (sigh…) or did something you knew you shouldn’t have, I blamed myself.  It was because of me that these things happened.  I was to blame.  Yes, I know you would tell me that it was YOUR fault…your decisions…your choices.  But I still felt the culpability began and ended right here.  That’s why I never had the heart to really punish you (actually, I can think of VERY little you ever did to warrant punishment…you really were, and are, a great kid 😀).

I think one of the hardest things I had to overcome as a mom was dealing with school things.  The education stuff was a cinch, but the ‘mommy one-upping’ stuff stung.  You know I don’t have real friends.  That I have a pissy (sorry, ma) track record for relationships.  That I just don’t feel like I fit in because I truly am different from most everyone else.  It was so tough seeing the other moms cluster together at Scout meetings or during PTA nights while I felt like I was on the fringe.  I wanted to be more comfortable in being a part of all of this.  I wanted you to have just a regular ole mom.  Instead, you got me.  *BTW:  no exchanges.

23bad064e53d17c6466fa766290a7769

My biggest failures with you was this:  I didn’t try hard enough to be ‘normal’ and I didn’t summon up enough courage to eventually say I wasn’t.   I didn’t want to admit that something was very wrong with me.  I couldn’t face it.  I wanted to be like the mama’s I saw on TV growing up like Carol Brady and Shirley Partridge (both can singe really well so we do have that in common 🙄).  I think I pretended adequately for quite a long time though; I certainly had your dad fooled (not too hard to do…) and even though I’d always say I’m FINE (!) when gramma would ask me, she knew I was lying.  But, she wanted me to be fine so badly that she forced herself to believe I was telling the truth.  I can understand that since I was doing the same.

So I wrote off my depression as just ‘too much stress’ and my manic phases were channeled into making sure the house and the yard were perfect.  It was just “Kristi” being “Kristi”…no big deal.  “She’s just that way.”   But, it’s why I push you to talk to me when I see you aren’t feeling OK…I just need to know what’s bothering you in case it’s something serious we need to deal with.  I don’t want you to pretend or put on a mask like I did for so long.  I want you to be real with me, and I’ll support you…no matter what.  One of my biggest fears is that I might have passed something down to you and I pray every night I didn’t.   However, if God Forbid you should ever develop a mental health issue, it’s your dad’s fault.  K?  😏

Leaving your dad and agreeing to a divorce was the stupidest, most impulsive thing I’ve ever ever done in my entire life.  It went against everything I had tried to do for 13 years:  give you a solid family foundation.  Your dad and I were having issues…I know you’re aware of that.  But the manic phase I was in for quite a time took over and my decision making sucked big time.  I know it’s so hard for you to understand what it’s like to ruminate like I do, but I will never…ever…forgive myself for putting you through a divorce.  I always swore I wouldn’t.  I feel like I took away something of your teenage years by making you live between 2 houses.  That isn’t easy…I know that from my own experience.

I think I want to be perfect for you because that’s actually how I see you.  Yes, us mamas have rose-colored glasses and it’s very hard to see you any other way.  So, I want to take on any dragons that threaten you and give you all I possibly can to make your life better.  It’s so hard to do that though.  My own monsters take a lot of work themselves and because of bad financial decisions, I can’t give you what I wish I could.  I just feel so less than as a ma.  Like you were gypped.  Like I was the clearance ma no other angel in heaven wanted until you felt sorry for me and plopped yourself into my lap (it was an excruciating ‘plop’ by the way…16 hours worth…just sayin’ 🙃).

I get so scared when I think about how bipolar worsens as a person ages.  Depression increases…dementia is common…self-harm can be an issue…and suicide is something that is never fully out of the mind of someone with bipolar.  When I think about these things, I can’t help but cry.  I’m YOUR ma.  My job is to take care of you whether you’re 10 or 30.  I never want you to have to take care of me.  It shames me to think that could happen one day.

Actually, just being mentally ill shames me.  I know it sounds crazy (go figure 🙄) but there are so many times in my life I feel like I had to have done something horrible to be given this particular disease.  And, had I not done what ever ‘thing’ that was, you would have gotten the healthy ma you deserve.  It pains me to think of that.

I know your attention span is waning because you’re impatient like me, but I just want you to know this:  I’m so very sorry for how my illness has affected you all of these years.  I know I’ve embarrassed you.  I know I’ve made mistakes with you.  I know I do things that are outside your realm of comprehension.  I know I cry too much and talk too much and worry too much and need too much.  And I’m so sorry for that.  Don’t say that an apology isn’t necessary.  I’m the ma…and I know best (except in the case of gramma where I know best there too…just sayin’ 🤨).

This fucking (OK, I said it…I’ll record what ma says to me so you can hear 🤯) disorder has guided me into some hellish places over the years.  Places I pray you will never ever see.  But for some reason, God gave me you.  You.  The light that’s always there…shining like the star you are.  Thanks for that, Porkchop.

Marmie xoxo

“Embarrassment and awkward situations are not foreign things to me.” ~ Paul Rudd

barb

So, yesterday I was in ACE Hardware which is close to my house and where I go all of the time.  Since I’m in a bit of a manic phase, I’ve been traipsing over there even more to get my painting supplies and other what-nots.  Anyhoot, I know the store like the back of my hand but for some reason, I could not find the lightbulbs yesterday.  This store is locally owned and the people who walk the floor to give you that old-fashioned service are mostly older, retired men (who are simply adorbs with their pants up to their nipples 😉).  After wandering through the dozen or so aisles, I was asked if I needed help and I said: “Sure, I just can’t find the lightbulbs…I guess they must have been moved.”  His deadpan reply was:  “No ma’am…they are right here where they’ve always been…turn around.”  And yes, there they were, 4″ from my face.

0C3125C9-7E20-4AB2-BDCE-60A5F3B40FA8

THEN, I had to buy a couple of screws  and was filling out the little paper sack with the screw price (shutty…I know I could have worded this better 🙄) and trying to calculate the total (very difficult:  price x quantity).  I was secretly using my fingers and must have looked perplexed because grandpa came up to me again and asked, AGAIN, if I needed help.  I said I was just having a little problem with my calculation and he looked at my sack and said, “Well, ma’am, you have 6 screws at $.09 each.  That would be $.54.  6 x 9 = 54.”  I tittered and said:  “Would you believe I’m a college professor?”  And this old geezer (who was married…I checked…🙄), said:  “No.”  Then, he walked away shaking his head.

OK.  Gotta admit this was pretty embarrassing.  I looked like a complete twit and wondered how I’ve managed to get along so well in life thus far since I’m obviously incapable of seeing objects and multiplying single digit numbers.  Then, it got me to thinking about other embarrassing times in my life, and unfortunately, there are a lot of ’em.

So, I play the flute and am mediocre at best.  Or, to be honest, I’m probably a few steps down from that.  But my best friend in high school played the flute VERY well (she’s actually freaking amazing on it 😀) and I wanted to sit by her in band and be 2nd chair so I decided to take lessons with the same guy she studied with.  His name was Mr. P and I had a HUGE crush on him.  He had traveled all around the world and was very cosmopolitan.  He’d play the piano along with my fluting and tell jokes I loved hearing.  I’d spend hours in front of the mirror before I rode my 10 speed to his house, just to make sure my hair was ‘feathered’ right and I had my strawberry Bonne Bell lip gloss on just so.  One afternoon, he was trying to broaden my range and had me play really high notes.  I worked and worked at playing a high C and when it finally happened, something else happened too.  I farted.  Or pooted.  Or passed gas.  Use whatever term you prefer but I wanted the floor to open up so I could fall in and never be heard from again.  The worst part?  He didn’t acknowledge this case of the ‘vapors’ but I’m the type to laugh when I’m nervous, so I started giggling like a lunatic (yes, big shocker there).  He, being a gentleman, tried to ignore this too, which made me more nervous, which made me more gassy, which made me more giggly.  Long story short?  He left town not much later, gave up teaching flute, and embarked on a figure skating career.  If he ever would have won a gold medal, I was going to take the credit for it.

maxresdefault
Newman Theatre

As some of you know, I’ve got the grandiose delusion that I actually have Oscar winning acting abilities if I could simply be discovered (my family disagrees, but what do they know?  Their last name isn’t Spielberg…just sayin’).  Of course, this began when I first saw Jodi Foster (btw, my big girl crush) and knew I could be just like her.  Anyhoot, I was always too shy to try out for plays in high school since that was for the popular folk (no-talent boobs who are still bitchy…get over yourselves already, please) that I was much too intimidated by to be around.  But one day an opportunity presented itself:  during Jr. year, my English Lit class was reading “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, and I was playing Laura that day.  She is physically and emotionally impaired with a lot of mental fragility (wonder why I was chosen?), and her mom was desperate to find her a husband (once again, this part fit me like a glove).  Anyhoot, I was excited to read this part because it would show the snotty seniors in my class how much they needed me in their plays.  There’s a part of the play where the horn of a glass unicorn is broken off and Laura yells:  “My GLASS MENAGERIE!”  Menagerie is pronounced ‘men-aj-er-ee’ but I SCREECHED ‘man-a-jer-aw’.  The class started cracking up and I was horrified!  My big chance at a movie career (actors from my Illinois high school often make it to Hollywood) ended and I was humiliated.  Bye bye, Tinseltown.

Another embarrassing moment happened when I was getting ready to start my Jr. year in college.  I went to community college my first 2 years (and now teach at the same college 😃) and was so so so excited to be the first in my family to go on to university.  As hard as it is to believe, I was a bit smug about this.  Anyhoot, Hubby 1 and I were dating at the time and we were at “Cousin Fred’s”.  I kid you not…there was a store where I live actually called this.  It was a great store and one of those where you could find about anything you need, but it was a bit dumpy.  So we were checking out and I was wearing a shirt from my new college and the cashier said:  “Are you going to that university?”  I thought: “How cute…this guy, a cashier at Cousin Fred’s (!), wants to know if smart, academically motivated Kristi is going to a big, scary university.  Bless his heart!”  I say, in a pretty snotty voice now that I think back to it, “Yes…I’m going to be a junior.”  It sounded like I was saying, “Why yes, I’m queen of the freaking world.”  The guy said:  “Cool.  I just got my Masters there.”  Hubby 1 started cracking up!  After looking at this guy dumbfounded that out of all the people who have asked me about college, I had to be snotty towards the 1 who actually had his graduate degree, I kinda mumbled something like “Good for you!” and moseyed out of the store.  Yes, this put me in my place.  Yes, I have never bragged about anything again.  And yes, I sorta lied on that last one.

081d3cedc26ffe622d1b445c0fd49c9a
Best White Shorts Ever!

Once, I was at another store in my town called Venture that was also a bit of this and a bit of that.  I was wearing white shorts and as I was meandering the aisles, I noticed a lot of people admiring my butt.  I was 17 and thought WOW, I must be looking good!  Whispers followed me and my confidence was growing and I started smiling at these guys who ‘wanted me’ and the women who ‘wanted to be me.’  I glided through the check-out, sashayed my way to the parking lot, and when I got home I looked in my full-length body mirror to see my amazing ass.  What I saw was thin white shorts that showed my dark brown underwear perfectly.  Yes, dark brown underwear was a thing in the 80’s and I was too stupid to think they would show through THIN white shorts.  These guys weren’t admiring my behiner…they were laughing at me!  From this day on, I never…ever…ever…leave the house without looking at my backside first.  Just in case.

There are so many times I’ve tripped in front of people (and always look at the floor like there was a spill or something), waved to someone who wasn’t waving to me, said hello to someone who had no idea who the hell I was, talked to someone with a huge piece of food stuck in my teeth, got caught smelling my armpits, argued about something ad nauseam and then realized I was wrong, wasn’t able to get an easy word out, couldn’t complete a high five and having my palm just swat the air, said “That’s great” when I couldn’t hear someone and then realized what an inappropriate remark this was, gone out in my greasy face and lank hair to run a quick errand and then seeing a dozen people I know, and the list goes on.

Isn’t it funny how we think our families are embarrassing or we see embarrassing things on YouTube and we thank our lucky stars that it wasn’t us?  It’s so easy to point out other people’s moments and so hard to face our own mortifications.  I probably embarrass myself at least a dozen times a week…I’m clumsy, awkward, and have the tendency to say and act before thinking about it which can set me up for a lot of humiliating situations.  But I can laugh at them now.  Out of all the things I face having this fucking (first time in this post, ma &#128516) bipolar disease, being embarrassed is the least of my worries.  You know, I learned not long ago that if you can laugh at yourself, it’s one less time you cry.  And believe me…for those of us with mental illnesses, laughing can feel pretty damn good.

Kristi xoxo