“Regret is useless in life” ~ Marlon Brando

So, the worst thing about not being able to blog much this semester is that I have so many ideas that when I do get time, I don’t know which to choose. In fact, I regret I have less time for this outlet than I’d like. Ooooo…I have a regret. Hmmmm.

I’ve been thinking about a lot about regrets lately. A few weeks ago, one of my friend’s daughters called me and said her mom had died…she had simply laid down for a nap and never woke up. I was gobsmacked. Linda was a really genuine, down to earth, sweet woman and it didn’t matter how much time went between seeing each other; she was the type of friend you could pick right back up with as if a day had never passed. She’ll be missed.

You know, I think I’ve always just ‘assumed’ that I’ve got a lot more time to live. Ma and pop are both in their late 70’s and one grandma lived well into her 90’s. Ma’s parents died young…at age 63 for both of them…but they also lived a very sedentary life. Grandma was a chain-smoker and had been for decades and grandpa died of cirrhosis of the liver because of life-long alcoholism. So, their young deaths were definitely tied to these lifestyles (but, they were the BEST…most of my happiest memories are with them 🙂) and since I’m fit, eat well, don’t smoke or drink, and otherwise take pretty good care of myself, I tend to think I have years and years left. But…that’s not guaranteed, is it?

Car accidents, cancer (which there is a family history of on both sides…ma is a breast cancer survivor!🌞 ), Alzheimer’s (which my older grandma died of…it is such a horrifying disease and broke all of our hearts), falls (like from my roof when I’m dancing a jig while cleaning out my gutters just to make my bestie across the street laugh 😬), and simply being bipolar. Yep…that’s one I think about more than I probably should. The National Library of Medicine reports that studies show female bipolar ‘patients’ have about a 10.6-8.3 years lesser life-span (while men lose 12.0-8.7 years) than the general population. This is even a bit higher than the 10 year reduction in life-span for chronic smokers. Charmed.

And suicide: again, the National Library of Medicine found that the rate of suicide among bipolar patients is approximately 10–30% higher than the corresponding rate in the general population. Research has also found that up to 20% of (mostly untreated) those with bipolar will end their life by suicide, while 20–60% of ‘us’ will attempt suicide at least one in our lifetime.  In other words, being bipolar ain’t so great. Go figure.

So, because of my friend and the suddenness of her death, I’ve been thinking about my life and ruminating over regrets that I have. Regretting something is really wishing it never happened…in fact, regret is often called a useless emotion since you can only regret what has already taken place which makes it too late to change things. All that’s left is the sorrow of that , which leads to guilt, shame, remorse, etc.

Daniel Pink (author of The Power of Regret) says there are 4 major types of regret: 

  • Foundation Regrets: these are failures to be responsible or conscientious which can center around money and health.
  • Boldness Regrets: not taking the action you wanted…being INACTIVE in terms of going after a job or reaching out to someone you want to get to know. In other words, passing up chances that could have changed your life. Pink’s study found that these inaction regrets outnumber action regrets. So, what we don’t do makes us more sorrowful than what we do do. Interesting, isn’t it?
  • Moral Regrets: pretty self explanatory but let me phrase this in my Kristi language: those times when you fucked up royally. Pink found that although these tend to be the fewest of all our regrets, they are actually the most painful ones for us.
  • Connection Regrets: neglecting the people that you should be connecting with more.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative carer and author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying says that the 6 most common regrets those with serious illness have are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier.

Hmmm…is there anyone of us that can’t relate to these? Good Lord, as I look back on my regrets, I see them in all of these categories and in this list of common ones. Before I even started reading Ware’s work, I actually had thought of these very ones. The worst for me? Not living my life authentically…and actually, still not doing so in many ways.

We’ve talked about masks and how those of us with mental illness hide behind them out of shame, embarrassment, pressure, expectation, etc. I did for most of my adult life. Who wants to admit they have a mental illness that is so stigmatized? So misunderstood? Has so many myths circling around it like vultures who want us to believe we’re ‘crazy’ and violent? How can anyone in their right mind (yes, that pun was intentional 😳) want that rosy attitude directed towards them? The solution? Hide. Pretend. Be who others want you to be. Expect you to be. Demand that you be. That’s a tough thing to do and in fact, many of us know that it’s fucking (sorry, ma) exhausting and really does nothing at all in the long run anyway. Masks fall off…they disintegrate…they shift and budge. They are simply unsustainable. And when the elastic does break on them people say things like “You used to be so ‘normal.” Or, “You never used to speak up like that.” Or, “Ummmm…no…I don’t think I can do lunch with you today…ummmm…something came up.” Or, “Of course Kristi is to blame for that, she’s bipolar…you know, they’re all nuts.” Is it any wonder we put them on in the first place?

But then I think about WHO I put them on for and realize they can all fuck off anyway (not gonna apologize for that one ma, since you say the same too 😐). Those I pretended for were really going to love me forever? Or be my best friend? The assholes (I’m on a profanity roll here…) who wouldn’t accept someone mentally ill in their midst were really worth me being someone I wasn’t? Well no…they weren’t. And believe me, the only regret I have with this one is just how recently I learned it.

Another one I’m still working a lot on is a boldness regret…one of inaction. Look, I’ve been bullied a lot in my life…as have many of my sweet peeps. My sister is a badass and this is why: she isn’t rude or mean or a fight-picker, but by golly she’ll stand up for herself with absolutely nothing held back! In fact, she still does it for me in place of the times I can’t! My inaction regarding standing up to people was more understandable when I was young and sickly and skinny, but still doing it at 55? No…it’s pretty much bullshit by now. After all, I’m in my 50’s (yeeeeesh…) and shouldn’t be so hesitant to say what I really want and need to say. Right? I can do this for my son…in fact, sticking up for him has always been easy no matter what his age. I’m quite the mama bear! But to do it for myself? Hmmm…perhaps I need to harness that bear for myself as well.

But, I don’t. I think it’s why the other people have usually blamed me for their actions: cheated on me…my fault. Yelled at me…my fault. Accused me of things…my fault. You get the point. And why do I acquiesce to this? Hmmm…maybe in some part because I had to be more timid and accommodating around ma’s bastard of an ex. If I stood up to him…didn’t agree with him…didn’t nod my head and smile no matter what he said, ma was the one in danger. Period. So, that ‘I’m sorry’ became a sort of mantra for me. And now? Bipolar is to blame. No matter what I say or do or feel, it can be easily turned around to the fact that since I have bipolar, I must be the one in the wrong. It’s a great scapegoat for anyone to use against me when they need someone outside of themselves to blame. Blech.

And of course there are all of the other regrets too: I do work too much at times…let friendships get pushed aside in all the busyness of the week…not spend the time I should with those that mean the most to me. But the good news is this: regrets are things that have their origins in the past…and don’t have to be our futures. So, my pledge to myself? Be me with no excuses. Reach out and make time for those I love and if papers don’t get graded that day, the world won’t end. Stand up for myself and say “Hey! Lay off!” Nurture the friendships I’ve built over these last couple of years. Take a bit more care with my moolah so there won’t be regret with that later in life when I’ll be looking into what old folks home I want to spend my golden years in. And not be scared to be happy…whatever that happy may look like.

But one thing I don’t regret? Starting this blog, getting to know all of you, and making some pretty awesome friends along the way. Thanks, peeps.

Kristi xoxo

Good Lord, I wanted Billy Ray’s hair so badly (along with a few other ‘things’ too😳) !

“This is our life, this is our song” ~ Twisted Sister

So, I absolutely hate not having time to blog! You know, I love that you readers are spending time with me and reading my stuff but honestly, I actually do this for myself as well. Sometimes probably more so than others (see…I’m not lying…I don’t want my already point nose to grow anymore than it currently is 😳). For me, writing is therapeutic and let’s me work through things that I’m mulling or feeling or experiencing. When I try to keep a personal journal, I’m all gung ho for the first 2 days and then nothing. Writing here kind of keeps me doing it since ma likes reading these while consuming her quarter cup of Grapenuts but doesn’t open this until the Jumble and Wordle puzzles in the newspaper have been solved. I know where I stand.

Anyhoot, I get articles from PsychCentral delivered to my inbox and one came through the other day entitled: “Bipolar Eyes: Myth or Fact” and I was intrigued (took me 4 tries to spell that right 😐). I had absolutely no idea there was research confirming that those with bipolar actually have eyes with unique physiological features. I went to the actual scientific study to read more but after terms like ” inner plexiform layer” and “peripapillary RNFL thickness was reduced in all temporal sectors (P < 0.005)” I went with the summary from PC.

Apparently, these changes include:

  • Pupils tend to dilate during times of emotional arousal during both unusually high or low moods. This dilation can cause more sensitivity to light and that is usually during a manic episode.
    • This happens to me! I usually am pretty manic in the summer and last year was a doozie (it was BL – before Lamotragine). Working in the sun was causing me some headaches which are rare for me and I could feel myself squinting more and more despite having clip-on sunglasses (🤓). However, the other downside to this is my squint wrinkles are deepening.
  • The excitement from a manic episode might cause the eyes to look more ‘energetic’ or even wider.
    • Ma has said this to me so many times! Last summer she kept asking me if I was ok since she saw more and more rooms painted everyday when she stopped by (ma lives 2 miles from me and 8 from Terri…Terri is the smart one – and the pretty one 😎 ). I’d tell her I was fine because she worries enough about me and sissy…and I put her through hell 4 years ago. Anyways, when I would say “Ma, I swear on my original sociology text that I’m OK” she’d look at my eyes and say “Bullshit.” Yes, ma has a mouth on her. That’s where me and Terri get it.
  • Bipolar impacts eye movement and there’s slower reaction times in these during a depression. It also affects ‘vergence movements’ which allows for depth perception since the eyes are moving toward and away from things.
    • Well…this would have been keen to know since I was scampering around on my roof last summer while my neighbors laughed and took pics of me. 😬
  • Research is also showing that it’s more difficult for someone with bipolar to discern different colors. This is said to be due to thinning retinas and the rods and cones (something I know absolutely nothing about 😐).
    • This is so weird: The other day, I took down a plant hanger from my kitchen wall and patched the holes. I didn’t have any left over paint to touch it up so I took some of my cabinet paint…which is very similar…and doctored it up with some black, white, and any other color I thought would work just to make it a tad darker and a tad bluer. I was convinced it was a perfect match when I looked at my finished product. But when I used it, it was very very BRIGHT BLUE when I needed a soft BLUE GRAY. Now I know why!

When I read through all of this, I was amazed because I do complain about my eyes at times. Some researchers are saying that by looking at some of the physiology of the eye could help determine if that person has a higher chance of developing bipolar. Wow.

After reading all of this fodder-all, I searched for more physiological differences in terms of bipolar and found this in TechnologyNetwork: “In the largest MRI study to date on patients with bipolar disorder, a global consortium published new research showing that people with the condition have differences in the brain regions that control inhibition and emotion.”

I also found this from Pronhorpsych: Studies have shown that bipolar disorder reduces the amount of gray matter in your brain which affects processing info, thoughts and feelings; controlling impulses and sensory info; and regulating motor skills. The authors of the article state this: “This may explain why manic episodes often seem impulsive, careless, and thoughtless. Less gray matter might also lead to feelings of sluggishness and frustration, as well as trouble doing simple tasks when you have a depressive bipolar episode.” Charmed, I’m sure.

And genes play such a role:  “Research has identified 64 regions of the genome that are associated with an increased risk of bipolar disorder which is more than double the number of genes previously identified.” (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News). This explains why we see it passed down throughout generations.

Finally, Frontiers in Psychology report that those with bipolar tend to have an attraction for negative emotions and focus more on threatening images than positive ones. You know, I like to think of myself as being a positive person and I really am with others. But, often times when I’m alone I do ruminate over negative things I’ve done or seen or have experienced. Maybe that’s why I sometimes hold on to anger more than I need too. Hmmmmm.

So, ya’ll are probably yawning now (like some of my students 😦) but all of this info that I slugged through did something very powerful for me: it validated that my emotion, behavior, impulses and struggles are real. Really real. Not just me ‘acting up’ or ‘allowing myself to get so down’ or ‘being way too out-there.’ It’s the disease (the term used by many researchers) that’s affecting my life. My way of being. My actions. I take meds to counter-act this and for stabilization but no medicine can take all of this away. No medicine can change brain structure or genetic make-up.

But this information can maybe change the stigma that’s associated with bipolar and other mental disorders. Just understanding what underlies bipolar and then the physiological underpinnings of other disorders such as depression and anxiety can maybe help people look at ‘us’ through a different lens. A lens that recognizes that who we are is greatly affected by what we have. No one asks for mental illness. You’d be a fool if you did. The fault lies in our brain, not personal weakness. And you know, my realization of these things normalizes my condition in my eyes. I hope this lessens how hard I am on myself. How guilty I feel when I’m cycling. How less than I feel as a person.

And more than anything, I hope it changes how all mental illnesses are seen. As ‘real’ illnesses that need to be treated as such and not to be ashamed of.

Kristi xoxo

P.S. Best 80’s video ever! 😉

‘Cause it makes me that much stronger’ ~ Christina Aguilera

So, this has been such a BUSY semester and I hate that I’m not blogging! I’m re-vamping all of my online classes along with videoing (is that a word? 😳) full lectures for each chapter in depth. It’s a crap load of work but worth it…the students are giving me some great feedback. Yea! (However I will admit this: I do my hair before that webcam goes on and when I’m recording, I do my best to channel Katie Couric 😃).

Anyhoot, another project that’s keeping me busy is that I’m a team lead in bringing the JED program to our campus! This non-profit works with high schools and colleges in helping them recognize the specific needs of the school and students and then helping them implement mental health resources and such. We need it so bad on our campus…so many students come to me to talk about their depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues and just today, a student talked to me about the time she attempted suicide. Our teens are really suffering right now and I worry about them.

Why are they struggling so much right now? According to The Light Program: “…there are multiple factors involved, including pressure to succeed in academics, financial stress, uncertainty about which major or career path to choose, increased social media use, and less stigma around seeking help.” In terms of the reduced stigma (which is still not where it should be 😐), it may be that students have always had these issues but are now feeling more open about seeking help for them. Hmmmmm.

The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds says that the mental health among college students is a crisis and backs up this claim with reporting this:

  • Almost half of college students had a psychiatric disorder in the past year
  • 73% of students experience some sort of mental health crisis during college
  • Almost 1/3 of college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and substance use are associated with lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out of college
  • More than 80% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year and 45% have felt things were hopeless
  • 20% of female students report sexual assault or threatened sexual assault according to the Center for Disease Control
  • Only 25% of students with a mental health problem seek help

In addition they state that there is a tremendous lack of services in colleges and universities with the ratio of certified counselors to students overall being about 1:1000 – 2000 for small to moderate size schools.

At any rate, research has recognized the 5 biggest mental health challenges that college students face and having the resources in place to help address these is needed so badly. (In fact, studies clearly show that these issues greatly affects student success).

  • Depression: the American College Health Association found that 40% of students experienced at least 1 depressive episode during the 2018 school year and this was pre-pandemic. We know depression is even more of an issue now. In addition, severe depression rates have doubled in college students between 2007-2018.
  • Anxiety: A study from Pennsylvania State University (I know a GREAT blogger from Pennsylvania 😃) published a study in 2016 that found 61% of survey respondents (100,000 of them!) said anxiety was a ‘leading student mental health issue.’ In fact, The American College Health Association’s (ACHA) 2015 Finally, the National College Health Assessment survey, reported that nearly one in six college students (15.8%) had been diagnosed with, or treated for, anxiety. The same survey found that 21.9% of students said that within the last 12 months, anxiety had affected their academic performance, defined as receiving a lower grade on an exam or important project, receiving an incomplete, or dropping a course.
  • Eating Disorders: Sadly, the National Eating Disorders Association reports that 10-20% of female college students and 4-10% of males have an eating disorder which can include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. In fact, anorexia is the most deadly psychiatric diagnosis with a mortality rate of 5.86 which means those who suffer from it have almost a 6x greater chance of dying (both suicide and physical issues stemming from the self-imposed starvation) than others in the general population.
  • Addiction: Stats from 2019 show that alcohol plays a leading role in the more than 1,500 annual deaths on college campuses. 35% of students have or do binge drink and 25% abuse other drugs including prescription painkillers, cocaine and ecstasy.
  • Suicide: this is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students and the suicide rate among people 10 to 24 rose 57% from 2007 to 2018 (CDC). Around 11% of college age respondents in a June, 2020 study  said they had seriously considered suicide over the past 30  days with people aged 18 to 24 being significantly more likely to  report this and 25.5% said they had seriously  considered suicide. That’s 1:4 of our young people having considered suicide. Honestly? That scares the shit out of me.

So what’s my point? I believe college’s number 1 job is education and that’s what I do…teach my curriculum as best I can. BUT I also believe that in order to ensure student success in terms of academics, we need to address these mental health issues as well.

You know, when I was struggling so much 4 years ago and had a break-down, I could barely function. Luckily, the worst time was in the summer and my online classes are always completely ready to go when a semester begins. I have all of the work, lectures, etc. posted as well as the modules I use set up to open and close automatically each week. In other words, they pretty much run themselves in terms of the nuts and bolts and I spend my time grading, communicating, discussing, etc. I was able to get by that summer…although I know I wasn’t at my best by any means. And now? Despite the stability I enjoy, I still have issues with having bipolar everyday. No medication is going to ‘erase’ this brain illness: I still have ups and downs (and am in a bit of a depression right now for various reasons 😕), still have to force an effort to be the Professor K I’m expected to be each day, still have heightened emotions that are just part and parcel of bipolar, still ruminate over things and beat myself up easily, and the list goes on (and on and on…charming).

Students and their ability to work and function is the same. Had someone reached out to me in college and recognized what I was refusing to address in the way I needed too, my life could have been very different. Actually, I think that even with no resources offered at that time, just being ‘seen’ for who I was and what I had would have been a relief. A validation. Someone outside of ma or pop who would have said “What you’re dealing with is important to me and I’m concerned” and validating my struggle.”

All of us want to be seen. All of us want to be heard. Not everyone struggling needs intervention…after all, doesn’t everyone struggle at various times in their lives? However, we all need to feel support and know that no matter what, there is a place that we matter. For so many students that I see everyday, that somewhere is here. On my campus. And it’s up to us to make sure we are ready for that task.

Kristi xoxo

“To be yourself is all that you can do” ~ Audioslave

So, I was grading a paper from a student last night and it was a great one. She went above and beyond my expectations and added pages to the minimum I require. But, here’s what she said at the end of it: “People tell me I write too much so I’m sorry for the length of this.”

WHAT? People tell her she WRITES too much? Puts too much effort into her work? Goes further into the subject to learn as much as she can? And this is wrong? Yikes. 😳

But think about it, we are given messages like this all of the time. Some of the one’s I’ve acquired though out my life have truly affected how I see myself. For example, one that both my sissy and I hear all of the time…even now…is this: “You are too loud and out there.”

OK…we are. My sissy and I both speak loudly, laugh loudly, and cry loudly. That’s just who we are…but it’s wrong? Hmmmmm.

One of my partners used to tell me to use my inside voice when we’d be talking at home but I already was. I’ve been teaching for 30 years and you can’t speak quietly or with no expression/movement and be listened too. In my lecture hall, I have to speak loudly so all my students can hear and so I can really emphasize things and put some enthusiasm in the class. Talking loudly IS my inside voice and should be accepted as such. Right?

Another one sissy and I have both heard (we are very similar except she was always much prettier than me 😃 ) was: “You are way too emotional! You need to calm down!” But why?

In an informational sheet from James Madison University they say this: “There are 8 primary emotions. You are born with these emotions wired
into your brain. That wiring causes your body to react in certain ways
and for you to have certain urges when the emotion arises.” These 8 emotions are anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust and shame. In other words, sissy and I have emotions that are programmed in a way that greatly affects how we express them. Why is this bad?

Being told I’m too emotional is really saying this: “I’m uncomfortable or don’t understand your emotion so bottle it up and deal with it differently.” I hate that! All of us should have the ‘permission’ to express our emotions in the way they are wired. Suppressing emotions is damaging…and eventually they are going to cause stress, anxiety, a blow-up, etc. Maybe being ‘so emotional’ is healthy in that they are being dealt with and worked through. T and I are also strong extraverts who tend to display emotion outwardly since extraverts are oriented more to the outer world where we are comfortable putting it all out there.

Another message? “You try too hard.” Try too hard? Really? Me giving a 100% in school or relationships or friendships is too much? Hmmmmm. One time a partner said to me: “I can’t give back all you give…it’s too much.” But here’s the thing: giving too much is just ME…I don’t expect as much back (of course I expect some though😐 ). But I’m a giver…I want to buy things for people and cook for them and make things for them and give them a lot of attention and surprise them with presents and the list goes on. Actually, I don’t know if you can ‘try too hard’ in a lot of things. Sure, if what you’re working towards is unreasonable you need to know when to say ‘when’. And maybe more importantly, when you’re in a relationship where’s there’s no appreciation and reciprocation, or you’re with someone who you can try with all the time but still not create the atmosphere you want, you obviously need to evaluate if that effort is needed. BUT, in things that are important to you, 100% should be expected. Right?

Finally, the last message I’ve heard many many times is this: “You need to slow down!” Look, I’m a ‘quick’ person: I walk fast, work fast, paint fast, clean fast, talk fast, etc. That’s who I am and I like it…I can get a shit-load done everyday and it feels good. When I’m walking with someone down the hall or need to wheedle my way around a dawdling grocery shopper, it’s hard for me to slow down to their pace. It’s just the way I am! 👩

For me, I think a lot of these messages tie-in to being bipolar. Even when I’m not in a manic state, my brain is still firing pretty quickly. My thoughts are still zooming around. I still have the need to ‘git ‘er done’ in terms of tasks. Even when I cycle through a depression, I still have the physical energy but also the deep feelings of sadness, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, etc. that are a part of depression. It’s hard to explain how I can be so down that my thoughts are very dark…but am also feeling the firing energy that propels me forward. In other words, I’m bawling while painting. It’s strange! (Luckily though, my mood stabilizer has truly been a God send ! 😃)

Anyhoot, maybe we should all stop telling people ‘who’ they should be and ‘how’ they should act, and instead see differences in behaviors as just that: unique differences. You know, I really like the MBTI personality assessment tool and one of it’s creators, Isabel Briggs-Myers says this about the different personality types: ‘Each type has it’s own gifts and should be looked on positively. And, understanding type should serve as a basis for better understanding of behavior and appreciation of people’s differences.’ I relate this idea to people as a whole…we need to accept and understand the variations in behavior we see and not make people feel like they have to suppress or change who they really are. After all, we are who we are. 😀

Kristi xoxo

“I got a real good feeling somethin’ bad gonna happen” ~  Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert

So for once, I’m actually having trouble formulating sentences because of all the info I’ve been sorting through for this post. Let’s see if I can unravel this tangled ball of yarn (I crochet…I had to use this analogy… 🙄).

Anyhoot, being back on campus this past semester reiterated to me how smartphone use and social media are in the forefront of most (or at least a LOT) teen’s lives. I’m pretty adamant about putting phones away while I’m lecturing…it may sound ‘old school’ but I think it’s rude. As I tell my sweetie students, I won’t be on my phone when you’re talking to me. However, my nagging doesn’t work and if I excused every student from class for using their phone that day, I wouldn’t have many left to lecture too. It makes me sad to think these bright young people can’t not look at their phone for 50 minutes.

I also got upset when I walked into class everyday and found 95% (yes, I kept track) of my students on their phones instead of interacting with one another. When I started teaching in the late 90’s before smartphones and social media, my classes would be buzzing when I walked in. In fact, it was sometimes difficult to shut them up! How I wish for those days again when students talked, connected, discussed and made friends…’real’ friends and not just a face on a screen. Even when I see my students in the ‘pit’ (a place where students gather on campus…you have to somewhat cool to get in it 😎 ), they are interacting WHILE using their phones as well. I see a lot of screen sharing “You have go to see this!” so even the face to face interaction centers around social media.

In December of 2020, I wrote a post saying how I was going to quit social media and honestly, I felt almost brave taking this step since I’d be giving up something I centered much of my life around. But the funny thing is that I don’t miss it at all. Nada.

When Mark Zuckerberg created ‘The Facebook’ in 2004 (originally called this before it morphed into just Facebook), it’s intention was to connect students across the campus of Harvard. It was for students in one location that would help those of similar ideas/interests find one another. That’s all. But as we know, it grew at a phenomenal rate and there are now 2 billion users worldwide. Although FB wasn’t the first social media platform (remember MySpace?), it began the trend of countless other SM sites to where 73.7% of all internet use is for social media. Wow.

So, we know the breadth of the use of SM but why is it coming under constant scrutiny and why do I worry about it so much in my student’s lives? Here we go (but first a disclaimer – SM can be a GREAT tool for connection too…we can’t forget the positives!):

A study done at Harvard found this:

“When an individual gets a notification, such as a like or mention, the brain receives a rush of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways, causing the individual to feel pleasure. Social media provides an endless amount of immediate rewards in the form of attention from others for relatively minimal effort. The brain rewires itself through this positive reinforcement, making people desire likes, retweets, and emoticon reactions.”

How Social Media Affects the Brain

Other recent studies found this:

“Social media facilitates an environment in which people are comparing their realistic offline selves to the flawless, filtered, and edited online versions of others, which can be detrimental to mental well-being and perception of self. Excessive social media use can not only cause unhappiness and a general dissatisfaction with life in users but also increase the risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Constantly comparing oneself to others can lead to feelings of self-consciousness or a need for perfectionism and order, which often manifests as social anxiety disorder.”

And the last nugget from the Harvard study (FOMO means Fear Of Missing Out):

“FOMO can take a toll on self-esteem and lead to compulsive checking of social media platforms to ensure that an individual isn’t missing out on anything, which can cause problems in the workplace and in the classroom. A study conducted by Harvard University found that social media has a significantly detrimental effect on the emotional well-being of chronic users and their lives, negatively impacting their real-life relationships and academic achievement.”

Now, are these findings ‘valid’? According to numerous other studies that have found the same info, the answer would be yes. In fact, The National Institute of Health (NIH) has officially linked teen depression to social media use: ‘These young adults who are affected with social media-linked depression often describe feelings of anxiety, envy, narcissism, poor body image, loneliness and decreased social skills. And, these effects are cross-cultural and not linked to socio-economic status.’ Remember, the brain still develops through the mid twenties so the effects of these issues can be more impactful with teens and can influence their actual brain development (and since they spend so much time on SM, this can influence these effects as well).

Think about this: the rewiring of the brain…the chance of increase of anxiety and depression…a skewed perception of yourself…more life dissatisfaction…increase in the chance of social anxiety disorder…and possible impact on face to face relationships and academic achievement. Why in the world would we ask for this by using SM? Is it addiction? Actually, yes; we get ‘addicted’ to that rush of dopamine and keep seeking it out. Addictionaly, SM platforms are GREAT at their algorithms which help them to feed you what you want so you’ll be hooked even more. Charming.

Does these consequences happen to everyone? Of course not! Does the likelihood of these things increase with the amount of social media use? Yes. And, research shows that teens are on social media between 5-7 hours a day! More than any other activity besides sleeping. And in terms of adults? The average time spent on SM is 2 hours and 3 minutes. Compare it to this: The Office for National Statistics found that the average couple spends only 2.5 hours a day together with 1/3 of time spent watching TV, 30 minutes eating, and 24 minutes doing housework. This literally leaves 3 minutes that couples spend conversing…not just saying things like “is the laundry done?” a day. Wow.

So, both teens and adults are making social media a priority…if not the main priority…of their time. Is it any wonder then that we see this:

In her book iGen, Jean Twenge found a substantial increase in major depression or suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and more attempted suicides after 2010, versus the mid-2000s. Plus, this increase was by far the largest in adolescents and young adults.” And The American Psychological Association said: “Frequency of social media and smartphone use tended to be associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.” Yes, this is an association/correlation which isn’t necessarily tied to cause; but suicide rates have increased 60% for those 10-24 since 2007. Hmmmmm.

Look, I know this is a LLLLOOOONNNNGGGG post, but as someone who is concerned with mental health and mental illness, all of this scares the fuck (sorry, ma 😳) out of me. Truly. What if I told you that I have a ‘product’ that can increase mental health issues, impact your life negatively, and take time away from your family? Would you buy it? Would you force others too? My sonshine is always telling me to get back on Facebook or join another platform to keep up with things 🤔. I tell him that I keep up with things by calling people. Actually talking to them. Having them over. Finally, most importantly, would you let your kids buy this product?

But that’s what’s happening. Yes, people can say: “It doesn’t impact me…I’m fine!” but is this objective? From my experience I can see a decrease in my anxiety since quitting social media…I don’t see conflict over politics or faces/lives that I’ll never live up too…I don’t compare myself to people as much as I used too…I’m not involved in the ‘high school’ antics among my own peers…and I don’t need the external validation of a thumbs up like I very much once did. I’d post something and then look constantly to see how many likes I had and the more that came, the better I felt. In fact, quitting SM for over a year now has sort of reprogrammed my brain to where it was before. It took a while to get past that need for validation and to get over the idea that I need to let everyone know exactly what I’m doing. And to be honest, I love it.

Kristi xoxo

P.S. Take a look see at this to get ideas on how to use social media in a healthy way by Sannyu McDonald Harris: be intentional in the use and not on auto-pilot (this was my biggest downfall!), focus on real life relationships, limit your time on SM, only follow pages and people who bring you joy (not bring you down!), avoid using SM before bedtime (because of the blue light impacting sleep), use mindfulness and live in the moment, and take a break. 😃

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” ~ Sylvia Plath

So, my sweetie students and I were discussing Fritz Perls today (father of Gestalt Therapy 😳) and it reminded me so much of what else I’ve been studying: mindfulness. The whole idea behind Gestalt (‘configuration’) psychology is to be more aware of yourself, to stay present, and to process things in the here and now. Further, it’s also based on the idea that our overall perception depends on the interaction between many factors, including our past experiences, current environment, thoughts, feelings, and needs. Whew. Nice lecture, huh?

Anyhoot, as we were talking about our perceptions of ourselves and how much it affects the ‘whole’ of our being, one of my students who knows me well said this to me: “Professor K, you are always so dismissive of yourself. You always put yourself down and act like less than who you really are.” Wow. This really hit me because I know what I think about myself on the inside, but had no idea that it was seeping into the outside as well. However, as I’ve been contemplating it (in the new meditation area I made in my house…complete with chakra stones and all!😲 ), I started to understand where this has come from and why it’s such a big part of the ‘whole’ that I am.

I’m talking about rejection. None of us likes rejection…right? However, some of us handle it better than others. My sissy is wonderful…truly! She is never scared to speak her mind is one of the most authentic people I know in my life. If someone doesn’t like her, she says: “Fuck them! What the hell does that mean in my life?” I love that and wish I was that strong! Instead I say: “Why the hell don’t you like me and how can I act so you will?”

You know, I’ve talked a lot on this blawg about wearing masks and taking off the mask that covered up my bipolar was so hard. Having to confront the part of me that has a mental illness was terrifying…both in terms of myself but also in terms of how others would see me. But that’s my big ‘mask’ accomplishment…that bipolar one. But what about the others?

As we all know, I’ve experienced rejection in my life, like so many of you have as well. Do I take it harder because my emotional make-up is screwed up by my bipolar brain? Am I just more sensitive? Hmmmmm.

I think this rejection started in grade school when both T and I were bullied…we both had buck teeth and mousy hair and didn’t have the coolest clothes. And this continued through high school with me. I had 2 bullies that were particularly brutal and as many secrets as I’ve shared with ma, sissy, partners, and friends, I’ve never ever told anyone what one of the bullies would call me. It still hurts that much after 35 (cough cough) years. 😔

Then we have my relationships. O’s dad was terrific and I thought our marriage was a good one and would last forever. After we divorced, I was convinced we would co-parent O and be friendly and cordial…hells bells, we’d known each other since the 3rd grade and that’s a lot of history. This didn’t happen though. In his family, after you get divorced, you get cut out of pics and the ex-spouse simply pretends like you never existed. Charming. 🙄

So, when we see each other at graduations, weddings, etc. he nods at me. Yes, I said NOD. I gave birth to his only child (who by the way is amazing beyond anything) and we were married for 13 years. And he nods at me. Hmmmm. That may be his families mode of operandi, but it sucks balls because it feels like such a rejection. Not even a ‘hello’? Jeez.

Fast forward to Hubby 3. I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately and I’ve always said how we were still besties and talked just about everyday. But I did something last week I didn’t think I’d ever do: I told him ‘goodbye’ and that I couldn’t be his friend anymore. He’s with another woman…the one who was in his life while we were still together. He says he loves me…wishes he’d never divorced me…that I made him happier than anyone…but he’s with her. Period. He made his choice and can’t have it both ways. The straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back was this: a couple of weeks ago, the ‘club’ went down to Daytona for a bike thing and he took her with them. They had a vacation while down there and he got in the ocean for the first time in his life…something I had always wanted to do with him. Throughout all of our marriage, I’d ask to go on these trips with him and he’d say no every time. But then he took her. And that opened my eyes to the fact he’s hanging on to something that’s no longer there and I don’t deserve, nor need to listen to the ‘fun’ he has with his (I want to put another word in here but I’m going to be nice 😐) girlfriend when he never did the same with me. I realized, like a curtain opening, that he doesn’t love me…he just wants me in the wings and I’m not going to do that anymore.

Then J came into my life and started cheating on me months into the relationship and continued throughout the entire 3 years we were together. If that’s not a rejection, I don’t know what is. Basically it said: “You aren’t enough for me. I don’t love you enough to be faithful. I love this woman more.” Yikes. How can you feel good about yourself in terms of how men see you when this is thrown at you again and again? Then when we ‘broke up’, he never spoke to me again…and still never has. Yes, I loved him for 3 years through some pretty bad crap not many women would have, adored and parented the heck out of his precious kids, and helped him go from a jobless vet living in his grandma’s basement to someone with his own home, money, etc. He always used to say I ‘saved him’ but he treated me like shit and then walked away without another word. Rejection to the max.

Finally, my last relationship. Yep…I thought this was it. We had so many great times and I traveled all the time to see him in another state and then had him live with me while he found a house here. He has a self-proclaimed ‘anger issue’ and when he lashed out at me a couple of times, I let it go. I wanted to make it work! Then we got Covid and Dottie died and I had 3 surgeries and he was moving and my mania was out of control due to meds and the list goes on. So, we get into an argument where he said some pretty nasty things…and I said something back that I know hurt him. He walked out and I’ve literally never seen him or talked to him again…even though he lives 1 door down from me! He completely ghosted me after knowing each other 35 years. Once again, rejection.

By Bianca Xunise – there’s an entire comic about this on The Lily. It’s GREAT!

Being dismissed like this by these men has created a ‘habit’ of demeaning my own self…even though I really do love who I am. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been made to feel I’m expendable. Extraneous. So…bored with me? Have sex with other women. Tired of being with me? Move in with the (cough cough) woman (🤢) you were seeing before you walked out the door. Angry at me for losing my temper? Ghost me and never acknowledge I even existed in the first place.

Am I that easily forgotten? That easy to get over? That easy to pretend like ‘we’ never happened?

See, I don’t do that. It’s beyond me how B and I could have gone through the birth and raising of our son and spent 13 years of our lives together every day…often working side by side…and then nothing. I don’t understand how you can say you’re in love with someone while making plans to hook up with another woman at the same time. I don’t get how you say you are committed to a relationship, say some pretty terrible things, but when something is said back, it’s over. By the way, I’ve e-mailed this guy 2 times…I’m obviously blocked so I used another address. It was actually an apology about my role in the argument and I’ve never heard a thing back. It hurts but as T says, ‘fuck him!’ She’s the best!

I don’t know why I still find the need to do this, but I depend on others for much of my validation. See, I feel really good about me in terms of me. But in terms of men and relationships, I’m starting to think I’m one of these women who will be used and thrown away. It makes me wonder if any of these men ‘really’ loved me. Their words said they did…but their actions? Nope.

So back to my student: I need to quit being so dismissive of myself. Quit thinking I am ‘rubble’ that can be tossed away. That I’m not worth working for…trying for…apologizing too…or even talking too. Is it a game guys play? Hmmm. I don’t think so. I know my son doesn’t do this…I know my dad didn’t do this with ma…I know sissy’s hubby is there through good and bad. So is it me? How can I not think that? But even more frustrating, why am I convinced it’s all about ‘me’ and my short-comings? Why can’t I see outside of myself at their short-comings too?

I always call ma on my way home from school and we were talking about this. She said: “Kristi, this is their lack. Not yours. You wouldn’t do this to someone…but they would. That shows you who they are.”

And she’s right. I’ve had a couple of relationships that I ended and we’re friends. I would never ghost somebody. Ignore them. Act like they never existed. It’s cruel and simply not in me to do.

Here’s what I told ma today as we were finishing up our daily cluck fest: “You know, I don’t think I want someone else in my life. It’s too hard knowing that what they say and what they might do may not match up. It’s just too damn hard to take that risk again.” And I meant it. But that’s sad to me. To think that these men just didn’t take away themselves but took something inside of me too. The openness to believe in people and the ability to trust them when they say forever. They’ve taken away my ability to look at myself and not be so judgemental…so brutal about ‘what could I have done different?’…so willing to think it’s all me. Thanks, guys. 🙄

You know, it makes me sad to think I might be alone for the rest of my life…but you know what? It makes me even more sad to know how people can deceive you and lie to you and hurt you…and they don’t really care.

Kristi xoxo

“Just another manic Monday…” ~ The Bangles

So, I called in sick on Friday which is something I rarely do. In fact, I have 2,176 sick hours accumulated over the course of my tenure which will add a year to my retirement when I decide to take it…I’m still so young now (cough cough). Anyhoot, my symptoms were: fatigue, lower back pain, arm pain, chest pain, shoulder pain, hand pain, leg pain, foot pain, and knee pain. Other than that, I felt great. 🙄 And, since I have so much insight into the workings of the human body and read WebMD on a regular basis, I have figured out the culprit to all of this: a patio.

For the last couple of years, my backyard was ‘meh’ and after getting Mally, it worsened this summer. There was a BIG dirt & weed (not the good kind 😐) patch and although I tried seeding it and covering it and watering it and putting barriers up around it, Ed and Mal continued their quest to make my backyard look like crap in that particular area. I called a couple of landscapers about laying a patio in the spot and the best quote I got was $2000. Wwwwaaayyy too much for me to justify…so…I decided to do it myself. Let’s take a look-see:

Digging this area out wasn’t bad at first…in fact the first shovel full was quite delightful as I reveled in creating this myself. By the 5th shovel full, I wanted to move to a condo that offers complete yard maintenance. But, with Edward, Mally, and Chloe (my baby grand-chihuahua) cheering me on, I got it done and after her inspection, Mally told me it was fine.

Now the fun part was going to start: picking my pavers at Lowe’s but before I could do that, I had to move the dirt pile I had stupidly piled up on the little concrete pad right behind me. I was so intent on digging, that I just tossed the scoops of dirt willy-nilly and was now trapped. So…I grabbed the God forsaken shovel again and moved all of the dirt to my driveway. In front of the garage and too close to the backyard fence gate. Then, I hosed off the area by where I was working and created a crap ton of mud…in front of my garage and the fence gate. The result? A 6×6 area of mud that I had to shimmy through the gate and climb over in order to get into said garage all while wearing clothes caked in dirt, water, mud, and I think some poopies I missed while cleaning up the yard before digging. Charmed, I’m sure.

Finally, I was off to Lowe’s without changing. What the hell…I just plopped a beach towel on my Jeep seat and took off with the assumption no potential mates would see me. 🙄

Did you know that when you study psychology and sociology in college, you don’t pay too much attention to math? Did you know it’s very difficult to turn 16″ paver sizes to feet in terms of figuring number and did you know it doesn’t take 100 of the fuckers to cover a 10×10 area? Well…I didn’t. And, when the old man was waiting with his forklift to get me a pallet and I was on my calculator punching in random numbers because I had no clue what I was doing, I said: “Bet you wouldn’t believe I’ve been teaching all my life…” He said: “Nope. I wouldn’t have.” Thanks, gramps. 🙄

So…since my Jeep could only hold so many pavers, I took 16 with me, along with sheets of paver bases which I also had to figure size of. To make a long story short(er), I ended up going back to Lowe’s 4 times. To get more pavers. To get 1 more paver. To return the many paver bases I had bought too many of. And, to get moolah back on the 64 extra pavers I had paid for and didn’t need. As a result, I know every person in the Garden Center by name now…everyone in the Garden Center thinks I’m an idiot…and they are all praying I never start another project again.

I got the area paved and it’s not perfectly level. No matter how much I tried, some of the pavers just wouldn’t get even! Once my back gets better, I’m going to dig out 3 and if I get those OK, it will look great! All in all, I lifted 1,750 pounds of pavers, pea gravel, and bricks along with the hundred shovel fulls of dirt.

Plus, I did a few more things in the backyard:

The bricks I took out are now bordering these grasses…I’m going to fill in with pea gravel later!

Now, along with this rigamarole, I also painted shutters, my awning, and trim on my house along with cleaning up the gutters. My sweet neighbor watched so he could YouTube it if I fell off the roof. I didn’t, but it was close.

Now, I did all of this in a period of just 4 days. That’s a manic episode for you, peeps, and I’m in a doozie of one because of all my med changes. You know, mania is a tough thing to handle. On one hand, getting all of this done by myself makes me really proud…unlevel pavers and all. I love knowing I accomplished fixing things up myself and have learned a lot! But, the motor inside of you during a manic phase never shuts off…and you can’t make it. I knew I was exhausted on day 3 but couldn’t stop myself from continuing until I about dropped. This weekend, I’ve been be TRYING to lay around and rest and I’m doing my best. Ma’s first tendency is to say: “Kristi, you need to slow down and not worry about getting things done so much!” and I know this is what I would probably say to someone too. But, that’s akin to telling a depressed person to “Just cheer up” or a person with anxiety to “Just calm down.” Neither works for those either. Mania is just as much out of my control as when I’m depressed. I’ve been on my mood stabilizer for a week now and up my dose tomorrow. It’s going to take a couple more weeks to kick in and until then, I just need to deal with this the best I can. I’m trying to channel it in ways that are productive, but it is what it is (my least favorite saying of all time.).

Anyhoot, thanks for looking at my yard work and understanding how much it means to me to have done it myself. Y’all are wonderful…truly! 😍

Kristi xoxo

“He opened the lid and shook his fist…” ~ Monster Mash

A drawing I did of my brain this week.

So, I got my daily newsletter in my inbox today from bphope which is an excellent website all about bipolar with features and stories, treatment news, relationship advice, etc. and every so often, there will be articles about the myths which abound with this mental illness. There always seems to be new ones and I’m sure I could add a lot to what’s already out there. But I’m having a somewhat down day today and realized that myths aren’t what I am most focused on in with this disorder right now…it’s fears.

“You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This gem was first said by President Roosevelt in 1933 (after being swiped from Thoreau 😳 ) and I don’t want to be disrespectful but this is a crock of crap 💩 . Now, I understand what he was saying: you don’t want fear to paralyze you to where you can’t keep advancing but instead move backwards, and in the context of the Great Depression, this is probably sound advice. But, it also puts an onus of responsibility on people to never think they have a right to buckle…to stress…to become overwhelmed which to me are very human reactions to fearful situations that need to be expressed and validated.

Look, if a tiger was charging at me full-speed with fangs gleaming and roars emanating, I would NOT advance. I would NOT be able to retreat. I WOULD, however, most likely stand in that spot, paralyzed, with pee running down my safari shorts. Right? 😳 (Note to self: order some cute safari shorts…)

Those of us who have bipolar…or any mental illness…experience a lot of fears and if we can’t admit to them…talk about them…be validated for them…we feel yet another piece of additional guilt added on to an already huge list of things we have to feel bad about.

One of my biggest fears is that I’ll never find anyone in my life (outside of my wonderfully supportive family who truly does understand this 🥰) who will be able to fully understand that having bipolar is not a character flaw, a weakness, a manipulative ploy to control them. Bipolar is a biologically based illness…period. Various medical tests including MRI’s and CT’s show dramatic differences between healthy brains and bipolar brains and being a neurological illness, it literally changes how the brain operates.

Now, do we understand exactly WHY this happens? Nope. Does that mean it doesn’t happen? Nope. There are lots of times this happens with ‘accepted’ disorders/illnesses/diseases: Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Bell’s Palsy, and Parkinson’s to name just a few. There’s no question that these are biological in nature…I don’t think anyone would dare say that those with Alzheimer’s are just being dramatic and if they would just try, their memory and associated physical conditions would miraculously return to normal. It gets old to be blamed for a condition you have…and it’s gets old for having to apologize for it over and over again.

Silhouetted profile with pills forming a brain’s outline

On the same note, having to rely on meds to control this illness is scary too, although I realize that all meds can be scary. Look at what we’re seeing in terms of conditions that have altered their chemistry as a result of the over-use of antibiotics. According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million of these antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. yearly and no fewer than 35,000 people die because of this.

Psychotropic meds are scary simply for the fact they are operating on your actual brain functioning…your center so to speak. You know, in a way it’s like being an alcoholic: you need the ‘chemical’ to balance yourself. Take a look-see at this from Alcohol Rehab Guide:

“When someone abruptly quits drinking, the neurotransmitters are no longer inhibited by alcohol and the brain scrambles to adjust to the new chemical imbalance – causing the debilitating side effects of withdrawal which are separate from the “feel good” effects of alcohol consumption.”

It’s the same with my meds in that they affect my neurotransmitters and chemical balances; however, I NEED the meds to do this or my bipolar would be completely out of control. It’s not an addiction…but a need. And of course there are withdrawal effects when the med is stopped. According to Healthgrades: “Some drugs (and combinations of drugs) are linked to higher risks of obesity, diabetes, heart problems, thyroid disorders, kidney problems, and other chronic illnesses, all of which can shorten lifespan when left untreated.”

Courtesy of imgflip.com

If this isn’t bad enough, there’s also the fear that our meds will lose their ability to be effective and will need to be changed (like mine are right now). So, you’re faced with often terrible withdrawal effects as your brain re-adjusts without the med and then have to begin something new…hoping it will work.

In fact, Healthgrades also states: “Studies show that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to die early than people without the condition, by anywhere from 10 to 25 years.” I’m 54 (blech 🙄) years old. I want to live as long as I can to see my future grandbabies (cough cough, son…), to be productive in my life, to fulfill dreams I have…and the list goes on.

Another fear? Research at The National Center for Biotechnology Information has shown a significant increase in dementia in older people who have bipolar. Well hells bells…that’s great to know. 🙄 Not only is my life-span shortened but I may not realize what’s happening in it the last few years anyway. Charmed.

So, there are things to fear but fear itself and when you have a mental illness, there can be a lot of fears. Having these doesn’t mean I don’t move forward but it does mean that I carry the burden of these everyday. We all do. And we all need to be ensured by others that we are loved…special…smart…funny… in spite of what’s on our shoulders. Or what’s in our heads.

Kristi xoxo

“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

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