So, I’m sitting in my office at school and I feel like bawling but in a good way! A few things have happened that make me feel that feeling where you’re so happy but so emotional that bawling just happens.
Ma went in for a procedure yesterday regarding her esophageal varices and the news was good! Everything is looking the way it should and this issue is definitely under control! YEA! As my peeps know, ma is my rock and has always been there for me and I don’t know what I’d do without her, though most likely it would be moving in with my son (don’t tell him that and God forbid he’s reading this right now 😳).
But for the past couple of years, sissy and I have been doing a lot for ma and it feels good to us. We like being able to ‘pay it back’ in terms of what she’s given us and all I can say is this: “T….when ma moves in with you in her ‘elderlier’ years, I’ll come by and help all I can. K?” 😎
Then, I’m completely off one of the meds (Effexor) that was causing me to have MORE issues in terms of mania than I would have had without it. As I wrote before, 2 of my meds were at odds with one another and just getting this one completely out of my system has made such a difference. Before ma went into the OR she even said to me how much more calm and centered I am! (We ended up having to wait for about 3 hours before she got in so I read her some short-stories…when I’d look up at her, she’d be so engrossed in listening that it tickled me 😍).
I go back to the doc tomorrow and he’s going to start weaning me off my 2nd med (Prozac) which should be an easier process. The withdrawals from Effexor can be bad unless you’re carefully weaned. I had forgotten to take it a couple of times during the last few years (I wasn’t diligent in filling my script 😬) and after just 2 days without it, I was a crying/yelling/manically depressed mess. My sissy experienced the same thing when she was taking it and missed a couple of doses. Prozac should be easier on me and then I’ll start the mood stabilizer that is indicated for bipolar! I can’t wait to continue on this road because my hope is so high with controlling this fucking (sorry, ma 🙄) illness.
Also, my Mally is doing so much better! She is coming when I call her about 80% of the time and is interacting more with Eddie and I when we’re all inside. She’s responding more to treats and knows some commands: night night (to get her in her crate to sleep in at night), walk (she loves these but if I don’t get the leash on her before she goes out, she won’t let me put it on her…and that little shit can slip by me quickly!), c’mon, and treat! A couple of nights ago, I walked both her and Eddie together and besides Ed almost pulling my arm out of it’s socket, it went really well. I’m so pleased with Mally’s progress!
Finally, I am so so happy to be back on campus and for some reason, feel much more relaxed and loose. I think it’s because I missed it so much and also because of the last year and a half online. Putting all of my classes out there virtually made me go through the materials so thoroughly and I kept searching for more and more ways to encourage engagement. I’ve always been prepared but just feel like I have more in my storehouse of info. Today, 2 girls walked me to my office and one of this said this: “I love your class! It’s the only one I’m actually learning something in!” The other student agreed.
Now, am I bragging? Well…a bit…🤭…but actually, that’s the way it should be. I want my students to come out of each class feeling it was worth their while and these comments made me see it is so far. But the best thing is this: I get something from my students everyday as well…and that makes me happy!
So…I’m feeling emotional. A good emotional. When you have a mental illness, things don’t always line up like this and when they do, it needs to be savored. I’m always going to have good weeks…bad weeks…mediocre weeks…tough weeks…depressed weeks…manic weeks…and just plain shitty weeks. But, this week is a winner…and I’m lovin’ it!
So, OH MY GOSH…it feels so so so so so so so good to be back in my classroom! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! 🥰
We’re in the 4th week of the semester now and I have 6 online and 3 on-campus classes. For the first couple of weeks in the classroom, the mood was a bit subdued. Not a lot of excitement about being back since it had been so long and a lot of students got used to the convenience and routine of online learning. But this week? It’s a 180! We have the spark back…the mojo…the groove (I’m a 70’s girl…what can I say 🙄)!
I don’t know how many times I’ve said that teaching is my passion (probably more than a million) but these past 18 months really made me see it anew. I like teaching online and have been doing it since 1999. I took a series of online classes myself in the early 2000’s and earned my Master Online Teaching Certificate from the U of I. Impressive…right (that should get me a date 😐)? So, not only am I educated in the pedagogy of this type of teaching, I’ve experienced it as a student too. This makes me look at my classes and ask myself: would I like this? If the answer is a NO (!), I re-vamp until I would.
Hubby 3 liked being my Guinea Pig; after I would get my classes created, I get him in a student view and tell him to click all around and tell me what he didn’t understand. Invariably he’d find something that wasn’t clear and I’d change it. It really helped me out and I think I have it down pat now.
I feel like I can still build relationships with students online…that’s part of what you need to learn to teach this way effectively. It’s little things like always using their name in every comment, etc. you make…offering a couple extra credit points where they have to e-mail you an answer to a question like “Where would you live if you could live anywhere and why?” They have to expand on their answer and then I always respond. It gives us a chance to talk more one on one about things we’re interested in. I make videos every week so they know a ‘real’ person is out there and I try to create discussions/activities that are meaningful.
BUT in my opinion, no matter how well online classes are structured to be interactive and worthwhile, they are just not the same as my face to face. Period. To me, nothing can take place of seeing faces…expressions…calling on students who I can tell are getting it…asking students what they don’t understand…and having students walk me to my office everyday after class. I love this ‘real’ interaction and it’s happening this semester in all 3 of my campus courses. It makes me feel like I am making connections and without those, you don’t give the student much motivation to listen and learn from you.
I also think the academics are different for both types of classes, and online learning can either be an easy way to ‘slide’ through a class, or a challenging way to get as much as you can out of the class; the amount of individual effort is crucial in terms of what students actually get out of the class. In fact, I truly believe that many of my online students learn more than the ones I have on-campus because they are so driven to get all they can from them.
Dedicated and eager students absorb everything and learn how to actively work with the material given and learn more than just the topics: they learn independent research, time management, computer literacy, how to express themselves only in writing (which I think is a GREAT skill to master), etc.
On the other hand, I’ve had students who simply slide by in them…that’s always going to happen for whatever reason (but to be fair, that happens on campus too). Not reading the info I provide…not watching the videos I make or upload…looking up answers for quizzes instead of studying all of the material first…putting the bare minimum into discussions where it’s obvious that a couple of things from the topic were googled and stitched together. I hate this! I don’t want students to walk out of (or in this case, log off of 💻) my classes without them knowing everything they possibly can about the material. And with psychology and sociology, it’s not just info to learn…it’s info to use! That’s important to me and why I teach what I teach.
Lord knows I am a pro at psychology even without a textbook. For fuck sakes (sorry, ma 🤨) I’ve had a fucking (I couldn’t resist) mental illness for as long as I can remember…literally. I’ve experienced a whole plethora of things that have gone into my psyche and I don’t think even Freud would want to dig around in there…it’s probably a gooey mess.
But learning all about psychology means learning all about why our minds work the way they work. Why we think like we do…dream like we do…remember like we do…perceive like we do. EVERYTHING we’ve ever experienced is stuck in that glob of cells somewhere and it affects us in one way or another.
And then sociology means learning about how our society affects us and what issues are important for all of us to understand. Hopefully, my students come out being much more aware and educated about racism, gender issues, ageism, the structure of society and how we all fit into it, class issues, cultural differences, etc. Right now we’re studying socialization in my Intro classes and my students are learning how their environment has affected them since the day they were born. We talk about how we develop our self image…our sense of self as it pertains to others…how our personalities were developed in the context of our environments…how the media affects us…the power our family had on our development, etc. This is stuff that’s important to know!
(By the way, just in case you can’t tell, I love to teach what I teach!)
Anyhoot, after being away from actual student ‘bodies’ for so long, just being back and being able to talk to them in person is awesome. The last few months of school being closed was really tough for me and the other teachers and profs I know. It was a long time to have to work from home, and a very long time not being in the actual environment that you were meant to be in. Like a fish out of water, so to speak! 🐟🐠🐡🦈🐬
So, my sweetie pie students…I’m so happy to be back to see half of your beautiful, and I assume smiling, faces again. I’ve missed you all so much and truly got lonely for you. If you’ve had me before, welcome back! Seeing you again was wonderful! If you’re new…YEA! I can’t wait to know you better and see you grow!
So, I went to a specialist a couple of weeks ago in another city and feel so good about what my future bipolar treatment plan looks like! Yea!
First, this guy has both an M.D., and is a psychiatrist, plus a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. In other words, we’re on the same intellectual level (🙄). Anyhoot, he did the most thorough evaluation I’ve ever had and really dug around in my brain…Lord knows what he could have found.
According to Doc, I have been on the WRONG bipolar regiment for quite a while now and he was gobsmacked by what I was being treated with…particularly since the treatment was OK’d by another psychiatrist in the town I live in. However, that doc only met with me for minutes…he didn’t take the time to really find out all about my symptoms, and I’m a bit pissed by him just throwing some meds at me.
Basically, I am on 3 different anti-depressants which actually are working AGAINST each other in my brain. The 3rd is pretty much a mild one and is OK right now, but there are a few problems with the 2 main ones: just taking them together, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, actually counteract one another and are NOT indicated for bipolar. In fact, Doc said that both together are actually causing a ‘conflict’ in my brain chemistry and are most likely worsening my bipolar symptoms. He said that not only has it been like I’ve been on nothing for the my mental illness, but I’ve actually had a drug combo that was triggering more symptoms. What??? It’s making my bipolar worse? Yep…it sure is.
This was a major kick in the ass for me. For these past couple years I have been struggling more and I truly blamed myself. I kept thinking: “Hey…you are on these meds so anything you aren’t ‘controlling’ is your fault.” But actually, that’s not true. Doc put it this way (I think he dumbed it down a tad for me…thank God 😳): “These 2 meds are fighting one another…one is pulling stuff out and the other is pushing it back down. This fight is stressing out your brain chemistry even more.” NOTE: I’m assuming he means neurotransmitters but I can understand him using the word ‘stuff’ because when I asked what country he was from…he has an adorbs accent…he said to try to guess. I said “Turkey?” and he said “YES!! How did you know that??” And I honestly replied “I watch 90 Day Fiance.” He gave me a look for a long minute or two, scratched something else down on his pad, and continued our talk. 😳
Now, he also informed me that these 2 meds can also cause sweatiness, nausea, tremors, incoordination, etc. and I actually do have some tremors…they mostly occur in the evenings but were scary when they first started. I’ve also been tripping since I was a tot so I’m assuming my body was preparing itself for this drug cocktail ever since. Just sayin’.
Anyhoot, Doc is weaning me off of one of the meds right now and I’m almost completely done with it. I already feel better and he said I would because I’d be stopping that conflict in my brain! I feel MUCH less rattled and MUCH less manic…it feels goooooood! After I’m off of this one completely (Thursday) I see him a week later and then I’ll wean off the 2nd med. Once these are out of my bod, I’ll get prescribed Lamotrigine again which he feels is the best mood stabilizer for bipolar.
However, I’ve been on it before and although it seemed to help me, I was pretty zombie-ish. Doc said that was partially caused by these other meds and the fact it couldn’t work on my fucked up (he didn’t use that particular word but it’s the closest one I can think of…sorry, ma 🤨) chemistry. He said that really, all I need is a mood stabilizer and mild anti-depressant. With these 2 working together the way they should, I will be more stable than I’ve ever been before.
You know, it’s scary to sometimes think of how different my brain chemistry is and how much I need meds to stabilize it. During my evaluation, doc had me pick a past manic and past depressive episode and tell him all about it…he guided the questions. It was like he was dissecting my brain to really understand what happens when I experience these. Then he had me talk about my most recent ones and he did the same. After doing this, I realized that the episodes really have changed over the last couple of years.
When we were looking at these, I started bawling (go figure 😐) and he asked me why; after all, I wasn’t talking about anything disastrous that should be upsetting me. I said this: “I’ve been feeling like I’m on my own with this (bipolar) and to know I just wasn’t getting the right help I needed makes me sad. I would love to turn back these couple of years and live them differently.” He said he understood but that time can’t be changed…we just have to go forward and live from this moment on.
That’s sometimes easier said than done though…isn’t it? I actually wish I would have gotten help a LONG time ago instead of thinking: “I’m a psychology professor…I know what I’m doing.” I hate that I hid from this diagnosis for so much of my life and that it’s finally at the age of ‘cough-cough’ 54 that I’m seeing long-term hope. I hate that people have been affected by something I’m trying my very best to deal with. I hate I need meds and help and that this is one thing I can’t do on my own. I hate that at times I feel sorry for myself when I should always be grateful for who I am and all I have.
Anyhoot, I’m just so relieved that not only am I on a much better plan for bipolar, but I have some understanding of why things have been so tough for me. I love that I’m already feeling less conflicted and more ‘even’ and can’t wait to continue on this path.
Like any physical condition, mental illness is something that needs treatment…help. It’s not something we can talk ourselves out of or wish away. Like a broken leg, it needs a cast to straighten it out. In my case, both of my legs were casted and I couldn’t move/improve easily…I was battling myself. I’m not shamed by having to see a psychiatrist…by having to be on meds…by having this fucking (you call it this too, ma 🤨) illness. I’m just grateful there are people out there that can give me the tools to control it the best it can be controlled so I can live my life in the way I want…not in the way the illness wants.
So, I was writing another post about Bob’s Burgers and how much I love Linda but I’m feeling like a bit of a failure today and I need to get it down. Lord I love my 3rd grade teacher who put the love of writing in me. (She also used to kiss us all on the cheek every Friday and if you were lucky, you’d be first in line and get a lipstick mark on your face 💋!)
Anyhoot, I got my Corgi, Mally, on May 22nd from a breeder in my town. Bill and I were together then and visited her for the first time on May 2nd. She was really attentive to us and since I’d been wanting to adopt another dog, Mally seemed like she’d be a great fit for me. The breeder no longer needed Mally because of her last litter which had to be a Cesarean; so, since she could no longer have puppies, she was letting her go.
The outside of the breeder’s facility was clean and the barn where the dogs were kept and bred appeared to be nice too. She talked about how it was heated and air-conditioned but when we asked to go in, she wouldn’t let us. This should have been a red flag, but I was enamored with Mally and knew I was going to take her regardless.
Mally is 3-4…her actual age isn’t known because I got no medical records, AKA papers, etc. When I asked who the current vet was, the breeder told me the name of the facility but then said she wasn’t completely sure. Hmmmmm.
Anyhoot, I called the facility and they had no record on Mally. I also called a couple other vets in town and got the same answer. So, I took her in to get her vaccinated and examined and come to find out, she had an intestinal bug that’s only gotten through drinking dirty water. In other words, Mally was a breeder in what I now think is a puppy mill and her care was obviously minimal.
When Bill and I got her home, she spent the majority of her time in the space between my bed and wall (about 12″ in width) and unless we physically moved her, she wouldn’t go outside. However, once she was out she seemed happy. She played with Eddie and really responded to him. After all, she was used to being ONLY around dogs and it quickly became very clear to us that she had little to no human socialization. The first time I tried to smooch on her and give her a squeeze, she backed away in terror. (Now yes, I understand that men have done the same to me, but we’re going to focus on Mally right now 🙄).
It’s been a bit over 3 months now and I’m still struggling with her. She has made great strides but this is definitely a marathon I’m facing and not a sprint. She will come when I call her about 60% of the time (which is up from 0), finally responds to treats (she had never gotten any), and cuddles with me and Edward on the couch whenever I’m reading or watching the boob tube.
For some reason though, she has a lot of trouble after dark. No matter how well she came in for me during the day or responded to my voice, it’s a HUGE battle at night. I’ve put leashes on her (recommended by a trainer) when she’s out so I can grab it to reign her in, but Mally is fast! (She will NOT pee or poop while on a leash so I can’t just hold it…and it took us weeks to even get a collar and leash on her 💩). Bill and I both worked on leash training and she’s fairly good when she’s walking through the neighborhood but fights it in the yard dreadfully.
Yesterday morning, I got up before dawn to get some videos done for my classes and Mally wouldn’t come in from peeing in the yard with Ed…she usually does in the morning because she gets a goodie right after. It was still dark and she reacted like she does at night and because I was going to be late for class, I finally had to leave her out (with shelter and water) and my son came right over and got her in.
Why O? Well, Mally doesn’t like men. Period. She’s scared of them and when Bill would come into my yard, Mally would immediately run to the door. It’s the same thing with O: right when he walks into the yard, she runs inside. There were times when Mally submissively peed when Bill or O was around but that’s lessening. Yea! Her vet is male (and a 30 year old hunk with a man bun…I’m hoping Edward gets a rash or something soon so I can see him again 😳) and it took him quite a while to cajole her out from under the bench in the examination room when she was vaccinated. Even my pop can’t get her to come over to him and he’s pretty much a dog whisperer.
So, my quandary is this: I’ve been talking to dog behaviorists/trainers as well as an expert in Corgis and based on their experiences with puppy mill ‘bitches’, she believe that Mally will never be truly socialized around humans or completely lose her fear of men.
What she’s experiencing is akin to the human version of Reactive Attachment Disorder which is what neglected, un-nurtured kids develop because they don’t have a consistent person to attach to or be loved by. You see this in cases of children raised for their first couple of years in orphanages or by parents who have no emotional investment in the child at all. In Mally’s case, she was always in the barn with other dogs or outside in a field with them…she didn’t know what living in a house or around people was like. Further, I don’t know if she had ever had a leash on her besides the time when she got her C-Section and the only attachments she had, her many litters of pups, were taken away from her right at 8 weeks and all at the same time. When Bill and I picked Mally up, the breeder gave us a small baggie of food and said: “Well…Bye!” No affection towards Mally at all. She had no love…cuddles…family…socializing. She was simply a commodity for the breeder and her only job was to make money. Period. It breaks my heart to think of what her first 3 years were like.
And, like kids, once a dog gets past a certain age, the ability to attach becomes less likely. According to VetInfo: “Dogs with attachment disorder may exhibit any number of behaviors such as hyperactivity, they can be destructive, eat too much or too little, become clingy or unable to bond with their owners, and they can be impulsive.” I see a lot of this is Mally: her eating is not consistent, she hasn’t bonded with me, and she can be VERY impulsive.
At a few points this summer, I thought about surrendering Mally to a Corgi rescue that’s a couple cities away. I know she needs professional training and although I talk frequently to one, it’s not the same as her being trained directly by a specialist. I thought about this again yesterday after having fought through a couple of issues with Mally these past few days, and I am frustrated, scared, and angry.
I question if I’m ‘enough’ for Mally in terms of training and giving her a good life. I’m frustrated I’m not making more progress with her and want so bad for her to be happy. And I’m angry as hell that a ‘breeder’ would raise and use a dog like Mally and that this is happening all over the country everyday. But, I talked to the trainer and she said this: “Kristi, Mally will never be a ‘normal’ dog. She’ll always be different than what you’re used too because of her early upbringing. Some dogs like her can be ‘saved’ in terms of living a normal life, and some can’t. Based on Mally’s time with you and years of neglect, she most likely is one who will always carry some issues with her.”
L went on to say that her rescue would take her and do their best to rehabilitate her…one of the rescue workers wants a female anyway and would give her a good home. So, I thought and thought about this. All day I kept asking myself what was best for Mally.
Then I realized what I have been doing wrong all these months; instead of that question, I rearranged some words and asked myself this: “What would I want if I were Mally?” And it hit me. I have been Mally in terms of feeling broken and unloved and different and scared and needy. Period. What if ma would have given up on me when I broke down? I wouldn’t be here typing this now. What if my sissy wasn’t there for me when I text her 911 (which is our code for ‘call me now!’) so I can vent and cry and get another perspective on things? What if O didn’t tell me how wonderful a ma I am and how much he loves me? What if my pop didn’t send me sweet texts everyday to let me know how much he cares? What if…what if…what if…?
Mally does need training, and I’m trying the best I can. But I realized that she needs a lot more than that. She needs love. Understanding. Patience. And someone who will look at her and tell her she’s special. I want her to know that no matter what, I’m her ma. Through the good and the bad.
Yes, I’m going to continue to get frustrated and wonder what I’ve gotten myself in to. But last night we were on the couch (watching Bridezillas…thank God I don’t have a daughter to worry about marrying off 🙄) and she looked up at me and I saw a glint in Mally’s eye for the first time. Her eyes didn’t look sad or defeated or empty. They looked like they had some life and love in them. Just like it took me a couple of years to build back up from breaking down, it’s going to be the same with Mally. Will she ever be ‘normal’? To be honest, I really don’t know what the fuck (sorry, ma 😳) that is anymore.
But I do know this. Mally is mine and I’m her mama. I’m going to stick by her and love her and do my best with her. We’re going to journey on our issues together…a bipolar ma with a neurotic pooch and Edward leading the way. And, I think it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
So, I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a guy I dated for a while around a year ago. We didn’t end on great terms which bothered me a lot because we started out as really good friends. Anyhoo, what he wrote made me cry but in a good way.
In his message, he said he had gone back and watched the TedX talk I did about being bipolar and also thought about things I told him about this mental illness. And this is some of what he said:
“The combination of your past experiences, coupled with the struggles you deal with every minute of your life, made our entire interaction both too impulsive and too similar, from your perspective, to past abusive experiences.
I know you have times where you say things differently than you would at other times. Another part of your struggle. I see many of the things you said to me as heavily influenced by those times and your illness. My hurt and pain over some of those things was real. But, when I take all things into consideration, I realize that you ARE the sweet girl I remember from school. You suffer from bipolar disorder that causes things to be said and done in a way that the sweet girl wouldn’t ordinarily say or do them. It can’t be helped. And it’s not intentional.”
I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that this man diligently worked to understand what being bipolar is like and how it affects my interactions with others. I also think it’s insightful of him to see how my past experiences have shaped me as well. BUT, I know that being bipolar doesn’t justify what I said or did. Justifying means proving yourself right…and I was NOT right in so many things we struggled with. However, understanding bipolar sheds light on my behavior but doesn’t absolve me to not take responsibility.
Being in a manic phase does make you feel ‘high’ so to speak, but can also make you irritable and touchy (😳). Couple that with racing thoughts, impulsive behaviors, and incessant talking, you can see it’s a recipe for disaster in any relationship (BTW: did you know that 90% of marriages with a partner having bipolar end in divorce? Hmmm… 🤔). Another issue with mania is delusional thinking; for example, feeling extra important and talented (my Oscar speech is ready to go…all I need is to get a ticket to Hollywood, find an agent, learn to act, get an audition, make the film, and then walk up on the stage. Very do-able…right?? 🙄) . What this can do is make us feel better than others, and as we all know, this is the foundation of passing judgement on others. It makes me sick…literally (I hate this word…except it actually fits right now)… to know I’ve been that way. I am the FIRST to say: “Hey! Don’t judge me! It’s not my fault I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar!” Yet, that same bipolar has caused me to judge others at times…something I would never do out of that manic state. I feel horrible for that and have tears in my eyes as I’m reflecting on this.
On the other hand, being depressed makes you feel hopeless and worthless. You don’t feel like having sex, going out, or doing anything fun; plus, you see the world as being one big disappointing poop-fest (which right now, it kind of is…🤨) and feel pessimistic about everything. Charmed, I’m sure.
But I’m not always manic or depressed and I’m just ‘me’. Kristi. My brain is calmed and I can be much more in control of who I am, what I say, and what I do. These breaks of euthymia can last from days to months. So, in a nutshell, the people around me have no idea ‘who’ is going to show up on any particular day and how long that Kristi will last. Will it be manic Kristi…Oscar winner extraordinaire? Depressed Kristi who wants to hide in a cave and never come out? Or just Kristi? Average, mousy, plain old Kristi? It’s a crap shoot and I know how confusing that can be! It confuses me as well!
My dad, step-ma and I were having breakfast the other day and talking about mental illness since it’s such a cheerful subject to peruse over omelets and pancakes at Perkins. Pop is mentally ill himself and also has bipolar. I knew he did because I can see what I go through in him, but this was the first time he said it to me directly. When I look back at my life with pop growing up, I was always wary of which pop I’d be getting on any given day. Sometimes pop was the funniest, most energetic parent ever and other times, sissy and I would walk on eggshells not knowing what was going on. I know he understands how bipolar has affected his relationship with his daughters and I also relate since it’s certainly affected my parenting as well. Pop is a great parent…actually a very kind, helpful, generous man in general. But he’s mentally ill…and it’s going to affect his life and relationships regardless. (I love you, pop! 🥰).
Now, I also have anorexia which isn’t too surprising since there’s a pattern of comorbidity (I just love using words that make me sound smart 🙄) between eating disorders and bipolar. This makes sense since both have genetic components and we can see similar symptoms between them like compulsiveness (over-exercising for me), loss of appetite when manic, feeling worthless when depressed which causes me to be very hard on myself in terms of how I see me, and then being more touchy overall. One comment that I’ve put on a few pounds will reverberate through my brain again and again until I take action. I also think it’s a control/dysregulation issue as well: emotional dysregulation with bipolar and eating dysregulation in anorexia both involve the pre-frontal cortex as well as the neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine. In many ways, these 2 illnesses go hand in hand.
So, what effect does anorexia have on my relationships with others? Well, among other things I can be judgmental of the weight of others. It truly doesn’t come from disdain but from envy. I would absolutely love to eat something…anything…without thinking about how many calories are going into my body and how that will affect my weight. When I see bigger people, I am wishing I could eat more freely and with more enjoyment, and not beat myself up if I choose to have a dessert. This jealousy has caused me to say some pretty bitchy things; however, using that judgment against others might once again be understandable but it’s definitely NOT justifiable. At all.
You know, having this fucking bastard (ma…you know if I say it once, I’ll say it again…🙄) of a mental illness, times 2, makes life hard for me, but I also realize life is so much more difficult for others. Believe me, I know how blessed I really am! But honestly, bipolar sucks balls and sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I wonder why in the name of all that is holy, I have to have it. Why I have to go through so many ups and downs and problems and breakdowns and horrible thoughts of suicidal ideation and times of self-mutilation, etc. Why I have to be at the mercy of a brain that seems to not know what the hell it wants. But I think I’m finally beginning to understand the purpose of it. At first, I thought it was ‘simply’ to do what I could to help break the stigma of having it. But now, after reading the e-mail I got, I realize this: it’s more important to promote an understanding of the disorder. Breaking the stigma means getting rid of the ‘shame’ associated with bipolar (and all mental illnesses!) and that’s such an important thing to do! But understanding means to be empathic, considerate, and forgiving of the people and associated behaviors of those who have a mental illness because you’ve learned what these illnesses entail. And peeps, that’s what I need to promote. See the difference?
Yes, I have mental illness and it affects all of my interactions the vast majority of the time. And to have someone understand that, and then apologize for not recognizing that earlier, humbles me. But it’s really not their apology to make. No matter what is going on in my brain and how bipolar (and anorexia) affect me, I still am responsible for me. For what I say. For what I do. And to anyone and everyone that has been affected by that, I’m truly sorry.
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).
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.
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.] 😳
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. 😍
So, did you ever have a little something randomly just happen in your life but it made a big impact on you anyway? I did last night.
I had just gotten done running and was walking around a track that encircles a pond by my house. I live in the inner city and am used to, sadly, seeing homeless people around. While I was walking, I saw an older man holding 2 plastic garbage bags and I waved to him and said ‘Hi’ and he smiled at me and waved too. On my next lap, I saw him again and he waved and smiled at me and I smiled back. Finally, on another lap, the guy was almost out of my sight and I knew I wouldn’t see him again. I looked over to where he was crossing through a parking lot and he smiled at me so wide, held up his garbage bags for a big wave, and the joy on his face moved me to tears.
Yes, this homeless guy had a look of joy on his face. I don’t know where it came from. Me smiling and saying ‘hi’? Him on his way to a friends or a someplace where he’ll be warm and fed? Maybe he left a place that gave him clothes and such for the winter months and that’s why he was carrying the bags. It could have been any of these…or more…but the thing was his face. He didn’t have a closed lip, little grin. He SMILED…a huge open mouth, no teeth, joyous smile that radiated. Truly.
After I stopped sniveling (and yes, I would have helped him if he had asked…that’s a given 😐), I started to have another feeling that’s a hard one to deal with. Shame.
My friend started an organization/non-profit (Stand Up For Grace) about 15 years ago and I’m on it’s board and have helped her in various ways from the start. Anyhoot, SUFG works hard to support orphaned kids in an extremely impoverished area of Nairobi, many of which have disabilities, HIV, or other issues outside of being orphaned. At Christmas, we make stockings for each child and they get a piece of candy, a pencil, and a toothbrush. That’s their Christmas and they love it. Their diet mostly consists of bread and porridge for breakfast, and then maize, beans, and rice for the rest of the day. When volunteers visit, they often provide a meal with meat which gives the kids much needed protein.
But once again, here’s the thing: the kids are spirited too. They are so thankful for each and everything they get and the annual stocking is looked forward to each year. The kids sing, write beautiful letters proclaiming their love to the people who donate to the shelter, and talk openly about their love for God and how blessed they are everyday.
And then here I am with so many ‘things’ to be thankful for. My house, furniture, food, pets, plants, water, lights, heat, and the list could go on and on but suffice it to say it’s immeasurable. The homeless man had very few ‘things’ but was still joyous. Still happy. Still willing to share a smile and make someone’s day because of it. The orphans are the same…they have so little but spread so much love and delight to everyone around them.
Why do we…meaning people like me…always think we need to have more? I went to the General ($ General🙄) today to grab a few things and as I was looking around, I thought about how there was more food there and more things available than the kids in the orphanage could even comprehend. They don’t have band-aids most of the time and I bought some off of a shelf that held dozens of different types. They eat porridge and I walked by aisles with bread, peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal, milk, orange juice, etc. I get to choose what I want to have for dinner tonight, and I might bitch about it for being left-overs. Regardless of whatever I have, the kids and most probably the homeless man, won’t have anything close.
When I got home, I started looking around. Truly looking. And I started feeling so embarrassed about the amount of crap I have. Why do I worry about my lampshades matching? Why the hell do I think about buying a new rug when mine is perfectly fine? Why do we feel we have to have ‘special’ placemats for a variety of occasions? Was it really necessary to buy a new bathmat to match my towels? Did I really ‘need’ that new phone case I got last week? Am I shopping for a sectional because I actually ‘need’ it or want it?
I think we live in a culture where we see ‘things’ as making us happy. “Oooooooo…once we move to our new house things will be so great!” Or, “I’m so overjoyed with my new car!”
Look, I’m so guilty of thinking that and I spend WAY too much money on trivial things I want without really thinking about what I need. Minimalism is the new trend and organizers tell us to clean out our closets and drawers, say ‘goodbye’ (literally…I am not going to say ‘goodbye’ to the jeans I just donated that are now too small for me 😳) to the things we are tossing and get along with less.
But think about that. We have so much, we need to GET RID of the clutter…junk…crap…but there are so many people in this world that need these basics and here we are fussing and fighting over them. I get rid of a shirt because I think it’s ugly now…and how many people need a shirt for the winter? I get rid of boots that just aren’t trendy anymore…and I think about the women who could use these everyday.
I re-did my house this past year: painted all of the rooms, bought some new furniture, got some wall art, replaced old outlets, etc. And after I was done, I was pleased. Proud. But I wasn’t ‘happy’ because as I told ma, I didn’t have anyone to share my home with. I was content in it but I was still missing a piece until Bill came into my life and that’s made me happier because now it’s not just things…it’s a relationship inside those walls.
I guess seeing that homeless man and thinking about the kids I do work for makes me realize what’s really important in life. Making connections. Sharing a smile. Making someone laugh. Reconnecting with a friend…or making a new one (I love you, Susan! ❤). Hugging my ma and pop. Snuggling with Dottie and Edward. Taking meals to my neighbors. Watching my son work on his photography.
You know, I’d give up any and all of my ‘things’ to get to be with my gramma and gramps again. To make my mom’s bad liver great again. To take away the beginning of my pop’s Alzheimers. To stretch out time so I can see my sister more. To see and love on my son more than I do.
The ‘things’ in my life are OK…but when you get right down to it, they really aren’t that important after all. In 50 years, when I’m gone and playing with my dogs in heaven (God loves animals…duh…🙄) who is going to remember my outfit that didn’t match one day? Or the fact I washed my car all the time? Or that my yard was trimmed each week? Probably no one. But I hope my sonshine talks about my love of animals to my great-grandkids. I hope my grandkids remember a gramma that stopped whatever she was doing to read a book to them or get in the sandbox with them or teach them how to play poker. Because when it gets right down to it, isn’t that what life is really about?
So, Bill is a runner and has completed 4 ultras, and for those of you who may not know running jargon, these are runs over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles…the ones he has done are 100 miles. He has literally run 100 miles in a 24 hour period. And, he has done this on 4 separate occasions. When I typed those last 2 sentences, I was using my ‘gobsmacked’ voice (I talk when I type…no surprise there 🙄) so that each word came out like I was saying a sentence such as: “I am now seeing a UFO land in my yard with little green men working their way up my porch steps.” That’s how flabbergasted I am by the thought of running 100 miles (I don’t think I have ever typed or used the word ‘flabbergasted’ in my life. Hmm…I am sounding more and more like my gramma everyday 🤨).
Anyhoot, he is starting to train for another ultra and asked me to do it with him and I non-committedly said: “When?” He said it was next November and I said: “November 2028? Because that’s how long it would take me to run the freaking thing anyway.” He said: “No, Kristi. Eleven months from now.” After I laughed and rolled my eyes, he said he was being serious…that he thought I could do it. So, I did what any other grown, mature 54 year old woman does: I called my ma. Here’s our conversation…word for word…
“Ma, Bill wants me to run an ‘ultra’ with him next November.”
“That’s nice. Where is it?”
Ma, it’s down south and is an ‘ultra’.
“That’s nice. Why are you telling me this now? Will you want me to watch you do it?”
“Ma, do you know what an ‘ultra’ is?”
“Yes, Kristi, I do. It’s when you run a race and then get an ultrasound afterwards.”
“No, ma…it’s a 100 mile run.”
“What? You are out of your flipping mind if you think you are going to run a 100 miles. You have bipolar and fibromyalgia, both which cause you to be on meds that you have to take every single day at the same time every single day and that affect you in numerous ways. You will run that ultra over my dead body.”
So, I’m going to run the ultra in November and I’m actually kind of obligated now anyway. The last time ma said that it would be over her dead body if I did something, it was when she forbade me (2 years ago 🙄) to pierce my nose. Long story short: I pierced my nose.
Anyhoot, Bill and I were yacking about it and I said I didn’t know if I had what it takes to do something like that and he said this: “It’s mostly mental…you need a lot of mental fortitude and the right mind-set to get through it.” Well, the minute I heard it was ‘mostly mental’ my first thought was “I’m fucked” (sorry, ma…but I know you are cussing anyway so…😳). But as I started thinking more and more about it, I think I can do it.
Did you know that even though bipolar affects ‘only’ about 3% of the population, it’s the 6th leading cause of disability in the world (WHO)? And that along with ‘just’ the symptoms of depression and mania, people with bipolar often experience anxiety, have ADHD, might experience PTSD, or have a co-existing substance abuse disorder?
The Social Security Administration determines eligibility for bipolar based on various criteria, with the specific ones associated with bipolar to be the following:
Depressive syndrome characterized by a minimum of 4 of the following:
Anhedonia (loss of interest in almost all activities)
Appetite disturbances with changes in weight
Psychomotor agitation or ‘retardation’
Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Suicidal thoughts (at times)
Manic syndrome characterized by a minimum of 3 of the following:
Pressured speech (in other words, not being able to NOT talk)
Flight of ideas
Decreased need for sleep
Engaging in activities with little awareness of the consequences (at times)
So, take a look-see at these lists that determine disability benefits and the symptoms in red are the ones I ALWAYS experience during various episodes. Always. However, I have NEVER had a psychotic break (although hallucinating that Taron Egerton is…well…doing ‘something’ to me would be a nice one 😏).
Now, what’s the point of me showing you all of this? How does me qualifying for disability have anything in hell with running an ultra? Everything!
You see, I have a lot of mental fortitude and I know there are so so many people out there who suffer from mental illness that do as well. We are the ones who have to work. Who have to care for our families. Who have to make decisions. Who have to get out and do for ourselves what ‘everyone’ else does. Except, we’re doing it with a potentially incapacitating mental illness.
My ma knows a gal who is bipolar and can’t live on her own, take care of herself fully, or work at any job other than a part-time one that is menial in nature, despite her intelligence. Now, I’m not saying menial work is bad…any honest/hard work is something to be proud of. I’m simply saying this gal is forced into such a position because of her mental illness. And just so you know, I’ve worked many a ‘menial’ jobs to get through college…my favorite? Getting up at 2:00 in the morning to work at a laundromat doing all of the wash for a local hotel. That, my sweetie peeps, was actually kinda cool.
So why have I been able to teach in the same school for the past 24 years and work for the state and teach GED classes and teach elementary school in years past? Because I had too. And, because I wanted too. I was the main breadwinner in my marriages for most of their duration and for 2, the entire time. I was also the primary caregiver in terms of taking care of my sonshine, taking care of the indoor and outside work, etc. It ‘was what it was’ and I’m here to tell you this:
There are times when I’m so depressed that I walk into my classroom and force myself to not start bawling but to lecture and stay focused and create the energy to see the class through. But I do it. I fucking do it. I depend on my work for all that I have in terms of money, etc., and I know my students depend on me for all they need from their classes. I have an obligation to them to be my very best every single time we’re together and I learned, a loooong time ago, that I needed to be able to summon up the backbone and tenacity to do that for them.
Then, there are days I’m so manic that staying focused and not jumping around and talking so fast my students need an interpreter is tough tough tough to control. But once again, I do it.
And I’m not special…not by a long-shot. Millions of people live with their mental illnesses every single day and do what they need to do. We work when we want to huddle in a corner and cry. We parent when our energy is so sapped by what’s going on in our brains we can barely think straight. We partner when we’ve given so much to ourselves to get through the day but are still finding more to give to them as well.
We aren’t heroes. We aren’t super-people. We have these illnesses and we’ve learned how to deal with them the best we can. I know there are some mental illnesses that are so severe that this simply isn’t possible. And how horrible for those that suffer from them. Being on disability for any illness/issue that is incapacitating is nothing to be ashamed of…that’s what the benefits are for. But those of us that are able to get through aren’t seen the same.
“You work and live by yourself…you must not have bipolar very bad.” (I’ve actually had that spoken to me…grammar included). “How can you work and be so sick…isn’t that bad for your students?” (Ditto on this one too). No, it’s not ‘bad’ for my students. I’m a great professor (the one thing in this world I am actually good at 😐) and no matter what it takes to get me to ‘work’ everyday is worth it…I need the people and conversation and a chance to share my passion and that feeling of accomplishment I get when I come home from campus or log off my computer. My family and students are my heart and I will always be there for them.
Back to the Ultra. Can I do it? Fucking right I can. I have the mental fortitude and strength of a dung beetle! (OK…I had to use that example because the dung beetle is the strongest insect on earth and my ma always says I’m full of crap! 💩). I struggle with mental illness everyday and persevere through the really shitty things bipolar throws at me.
So, ma…I’m going to do it. I definitely don’t want it over your ‘dead body’ and I know that was your way of making your feelings known in an even more dramatic way than usual. But you don’t have to worry. Because you know that I’ve gotten over things in my life and gotten through things in my life that pale to running ‘just’ a 100 miles. As the song says: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
So, one of my sweetie peeps asked me why I didn’t blawg over Thanksgiving weekend and the ‘easy’ answer is that I’m just too doggone busy with grading, preparing finals, and roasting my famous turkey I handed out to my neighbors (bless their hearts…no salmonella yet 🙄). However, the ‘true’ answer is this: I have a love/hate relationship to holidays.
Now, when I was a kid I loved loved loved the holidays and I still do! Ma and pop always made me and T’s birthdays and Christmases awesome. Every birthday, pop would call us up from work in the morning after we got up, to wish us a happy birthday before we left for school. Yes, I know this sounds ‘boring’ to my grasshoppers who have grown up with cell phones and constant contact, but for pop to call us from work was a huge deal ‘back then’ (I’m sure the local operator who had to connect the wires was a nice gal 😐). We loved getting ‘the call’ and then ma would pack up cupcakes and Kool-Aid for us to take to school for our class party. Now it literally (well…not literally or I’d be dead…but I’m trying to be dramatic here) breaks my heart that schools around my area don’t allow for homemade treats anymore. Sigh. Things were sometimes better in the old days. Anyhoot, after dinner, gramma and gramps would come over and we’d get to open our presents and bask in the glory of being in the spotlight that night. (Also, ma would let us pick our dinners and I always chose Kraft Mac and Cheese with green beans…every year…she got off easy, huh?)
Now, I love love love to open presents and I readily admit it. And yes, I know it’s much better to give than to receive which is why I just adore finding stuff for people that is funky or unique or really shows the person that I ‘know’ them. But, I do LOVE getting presents too! I love the wrapping paper and the shaking of the boxes and the anticipation of tearing off that first piece of paper and then seeing what the gift is. It always amazes me because because somehow, no matter what, the present is always something I wanted. Ma says I’m still like a kid when I open presents…and she’s right. (Of course, I’m just a couple decades out of ‘childhood’ so… 🙄).
Christmas was even better. T and I would always wake up and she’d come into my room and we’d dare each other to wake up ma and pop so we could all go in the living room to see what Santa brought. We’d say: “OK…on 3 we are going to yell WAKE UP…ready…1….2….3….” and we’d chicken out. Of course, the folks were already awake and wondering what the hell was taking us so long! Pop would say he wanted a BIG breakfast before we could open but T and I would yell NO and we’d unwrap our loot. Ahhhhhhhhh….the smell of paper, boxes, fresh plastic, etc. always takes me back. That afternoon, we’d schlep over to gramma and gramps where there were more presents and a special dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin. It was a GREAT day every year.
And, I love Christmas with my little guy so much (he’s 6″ 😳) and he still gets so excited about the holiday too. However, ahem, it would be so much better if only I had a grandchild, ahem, to enjoy buying cutsie little clothes for, ahem, and every toy ever produced by Fisher Price…ahem…but I digress. *Note to son: read this paragraph again. And again.
So, why do I say I have a love/hate with holidays? As I’ve gotten into my 40’s (shutty the mouthies, peeps 😉) I’ve realized that holidays are a wonderful way of celebrating so many things: being thankful, the birth and resurrection of Jesus, the love of our lives, being an American, etc. But, here’s the thing: shouldn’t we be doing this all the live long day?
One year I was in Walgreens buying a Valentine for Hubby 3 (the mouthies are still shutty 😐), and I told the old gal at the register “Happy Valentine’s Day!” I knew her from going into the store every single day and she said this: “It’s not really a happy day for me…my husband died last year.” Ouch. I felt so so bad for my blunder and gave her a hug over the counter. I went home that night and really started thinking about why we assign 1 day a year to celebrating our ‘love’ by giving flowers, candy, cards, stuffed animals, etc. Then I started thinking about all of the other holidays and felt the same.
Look, I love eating turkey on Thanksgiving (but not yams…I hate yams…🥔) but I think that we need to have thankfulness in our hearts everyday. Every single day. And, I think we need to share this with those around us while showing our appreciation for all we have. I don’t want to have ONE day where I say I’m thankful for my family…for piss sakes, I’m thankful for them every single day and I try to tell them often. Everyday, I’m thankful for my students, my pets, my friends, my neighbors, my precious blawg readers, my home, the food I have, the money I earn, my health, etc. The list can go on and on. Even at my darkest, I had blessings. When things were falling down all around me, I still had my ma…my son…my family. Even though this fucking (sorry ma 😳) bipolar makes my life hellish at times, I still have my physical health. I still have a doctor who helps me fight the damn thing. I still have people who stand behind me. Right?
And Christmas? Look, I know you all aren’t Christians because I have readers from all over the globe (that humbles me more than you could ever know 😘), but I know you all have spiritual beliefs and like I’ve said before, I believe God is the alpha and omega…the one and only…and the true God for any religion you practice and follow. Anyhoot, I talk to God everyday. I thank him for all he has done in my life and every night when I pray, I thank him for sacrificing his son for my sins. And I’m not going to ‘just’ thank Jesus for this salvation once a year…I thank him everyday as well I should.
And, here’s a little rant for ya: I hate the materialism of Christmas. I mean really…when you think about it why do we give gifts to each other on a day we should be celebrating the gift given to us? Like I said, I love presents and all the trimmings that come with Christmas, but actually, wouldn’t us giving the gift of time, money, help to those who are sick, homeless, poor, etc. actually be more appropriate for what the holiday is really about? I also have a problem (please don’t send me shitty messages…this is only my opinion 😐) with people who are scornful…disdainful…of my beliefs in Jesus only to be the ones who decorate and ‘buy’ for Christmas the most. Hmmmm. They laugh at me (yes, to my face…I’ve had colleagues tell me I’m ‘stupid’ for my beliefs…that I’m too ‘smart’ to believe in a higher power 🤨) yet natter on about how they much they love Christmas break and how much they got for Christmas and how much they ate over Christmas and how much they celebrated over Christmas. ‘Nuff said.
And back to Valentines day…I don’t want someone giving me flowers once a year to show their love. How about getting my car washed in the summer when it’s filthy? Or leaving me a card on a random Wednesday because you luv me? Or buying me the book you know I’ve been wanting to read? As someone who has had some…cough cough…experience with relationships (🙄), I’m here to tell you this: they need to be nurtured everyday. And yes, I do this myself.
The 4th of July? I love the fireworks and eats and the patriotism every year, but I’m here to tell you that I love America. Yes, we have some very big issues we need to tackle. Yes, things aren’t always just and fair. Yes, as far as we’ve come in terms of race relations, equality for women, understanding of mental illness, etc. we still have a long ways to go. However, I can talk about these things without fearing retribution from my government. I can practice what I believe. I can question, protest, vote, petition, and write what I want. I have the right to marry who I want, wear what I want, be educated, access info on the internet, own property, start a business, etc. Yes, I’m truly thankful to be an American every day of my life.
And other holidays? Thank a veteran every time you see one. Think about those who have passed and maintain the memory of them. Celebrate men like Martin Luther King Jr. regularly and strive to be more involved in your community. Tell your ma and pop often how important and loved they are…not just once in May and then June.
Look, you don’t have to make everyday a holiday…that would become tedious and disingenuous. Have fun with our holidays…cook turkeys, bake cookies (BTW, I’m a great taste-tester…just wanted you to know 🙂), wrap gifts, shoot off fireworks, and have a ball with family and friends. But you can also be thankful and loving everyday. You can have an open heart everyday. And most of all, you can keep that wonderful feeling of celebration all the year through.
So, after all of the successes ma, sis and I have had in cutting our own bangs and hair, along with home coloring and highlights, I have absolutely no idea why none of us are licensed cosmetologists. 🙄
Ma, for some Godforsaken reason (and I blame Pop for not intervening 🤨), loved to put me and T’s hair in pink foam rollers. Apparently she thought we were future Shirley Temples and could make her and pop a buck or two in vaudeville. EVERY single time ma would do this, she would say (in a snarky voice I might add): “Girls, these won’t hurt at all to sleep in.” Well…ma…I can finally say it: “Bullshit.” So, after a night of tossing and turning thinking my gray matter was going to be squashed out of my ears, the rollers came off and we did NOT look like Shirley. We weren’t even close. And the more she did it, the worse it got…not better. What did we look like you might be wondering? Well…picture 2 girls who are NOT twins, dressed alike in the most horrifying outfits the 70’s had to offer with what looked like Halloween wigs on their heads. No wonder T and I have panic attacks whenever we see the color pink. Just sayin’.
Ma also loved to cut our bangs. Even when they were short, she still loved to cut the damn things. She’d either put a piece of tape (not ‘hair tape’ like ‘beauticians’ used to use but plain old Scotch tape which was sticky as hell) across our bangs and then ‘cut the tape off’ or, even better, use her finger as a horizontal guide across our bangs and try not to cut her finger off. Either way, T and I (see pics) had bangs that always sloped up our foreheads and were so short you could have shown a movie on said foreheads; plus, there was always…ALWAYS…a chunk (not just a piece but a CHUNK 😳) of bangs left long. Charming. And, until just now, I never thought to ask ma this: “Ma…in the name of all that is holy, why didn’t you just slice off those remaining chunks?” T…I’ll let you know what she says.
Then, when my sis and I were in our teens, T loved to mess with my hair. Note that I didn’t say we loved to mess with each others hair…I was the guinea pig in this particular part our relationship. When I was in the 7th grade, T read an article about how cool hair looked if you braided it wet and then slept on it. So, one night while her boyfriend “Jack” was at the house (on whom I had an incredible crush…like I did on all of T’s boyfriends 😲), she wet down my hair and started braiding. I couldn’t wait to see my head afterwards since I pictured myself looking like Bo Derek (look it up, younger peeps…she was in the movie 10) before the actual ‘do’ was finished. After looking in the mirror, I saw that I DIDN’T look like Bo…I actually looked like someone who had just stuck a bobby pin into a light socket.
Anyhoot, I slept on the braids all night long, woke up, took out the rubber bands, and viola! I had half crimped hair, frizzy, absolutely terrifying hair. T hadn’t realized the braids needed to be small and tight for actual ‘waves’ to happen and since she wasn’t the best braider in the world, she didn’t braid up to my scalp so the top of my head was as flat as my chest at that time, while the bottom stuck out like Roseann RoseannaDanna. Since I was already running late, I had to go to school like this and yes, I got a lot of looks. And no, they weren’t admiring. At all. 😐
Now, braiding and making ‘crimps and curls’ might not have been T’s area of expertise, but we thought we had a surefire way of getting noticed when school started back up. One summer, T took some of her allowance, rode her bike to the local ‘Thrifty Drug Store’ and bought a bottle of SunIn. This is still sold today (T? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?) but I’m assuming the formula has changed in the last 35 years. Basically, you put a BIT on your hair, lay out a ‘short’ while, and then bam!…you look like Farrah Fawcett (once again, peeps…look her up…she was actually quite hot 🤭)
The minute she came home she started spraying our heads and instead of just dampening our locks, she decided to soak our locks. And then, instead of laying out for a few minutes (per the instructions which T and I didn’t read until…after…) we actually toasted ourselves for the entire afternoon…in direct sunlight. Yes, we were dehydrated. Yes, we were burnt (we didn’t care about sunscreen back in the ‘olden days’ 🙄). But it was going to be worth it! We tottered into the bathroom (the dehydration make it difficult to walk), rinsed out our hair and…wait for it…saw that it was orange. ORANGE. I’m not talking about red/coppery highlighty orange. Nope. I’m talking about traffic cone orange that made us both look like circus employees. 🤡 Charmed, I’m sure.
So, T wasn’t great at ‘chemicals’ either but still wanted to mess with my hair. The best solution? Style it! T would blow dry my hair with her white Conair dryer (it was awesome…and lasted for decades! No kidding!) which was great…until she would whip the dryer around from my right to my left, in front of my face, and hit my nose every. single. time. Then, the curling iron was brought out. She waited until it got as hot as a stove top and then would sear curls into my hair…often hitting my ears and neck in the process. In fact, she may have branded me. So, did I look beeeaaaauuuuttttiiiifull after all of this? Well…no. My hair was full of static electricity (we didn’t understand what conditioners were for…we used Prell and that was it🤨) and the curls were all over the place. Literally. But, bless her heart…those were the most fun afternoons we spent together. Truly. 😘
Fast forward to me cutting hubby 2’s hair and O’s. Let’s see…I want to make sure I say this next thing diplomatically…so here goes: Hubby was cheap. His wallets never ever wore out…they just went out of style. So, one day he said this to his sweet wifey: “Kristi. Why are we spending so much money on haircuts for me and O when you have clippers you use on Scooter anyway?” Well…I had no answer for that. Why wasn’t I cutting my family’s hair like I clipped the fur around Scooter’s butt so he wouldn’t get dingleberries? Beats me.
The minute these words were out of his mouth, I ran to get the clippers, put veggie oil on them (didn’t have clipper oil…ce la vie), set up a lawn chair on the deck, got out an old sheet and the ‘barber shop’ was ready to go. O went first. I basically put on a quarter inch blade and shaved his head. He loved it (of course he was 5) and kept saying how ‘cool’ he was. Not ‘popular cool’ but cool…since he had no way to hold in his body heat anymore. Hubby saw this and I could see the regret of his suggestion in his eyes. But, he sat down and told me this: “Kristi. I do not want a shaved head. I have to work tomorrow among mechanics as well as my brother and dad and really don’t want to get made fun of. Just give me a slight trim and go around my ears.”
Ok. Sure. I put on a longer blade and gave him a ‘trim’ and then went around his ears. Now, how to you go AROUND an ear with a STRAIGT edge? Beats the hell out of me. When I saw the results I realized I made hubby look like Spock from Star Trek…the hair around his ears was a completely shaved line and he now looked ‘pointed.’ But, before I could tell him what a miserable job I did, he said this: “Kristi. Can you trim up my mustache and eyebrows too?” SURE!! Why not? Remember how ma trimmed our bangs? Well…I used the same technique and hubby was left with an extremely crooked mustache and most of his left eyebrow gone. When he looked in the mirror he said: “OH MY GOD!!!” Quite loudly, I might add. Trying to salvage what I could from the incident I replied with this: “But honey…I saved you $8.00 😏”. I would love to tell you what he said, but I’d better not. The words would make ma faint.
So, why am I remembering all of this today? Well, for the upteenth time I just colored my hair and trimmed/thinned my bangs. EVERY single time I do this, I swear to ma and sis that this is the last time I’ll ever work on my own hair. I’ve even thrown away my scissors while ma watched (I live a mile from Walgreens…just saying 😁). Have I looked in the mirror to see the color and how my bangs look? No. I have not. I got out of the shower, towel dried my hair, combed it while the mirror was steamed up, and then boogied out of the bathroom. I’m trying to get up my courage to go back in, but keep finding things to do. Like write to you all. Anyhoot…wish me luck.