Don’t Fence me In.

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Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

So, my counselor and I had an excellent conversation today, and I really look forward to seeing her every week!  Yea!

Anyhoo…we are talking about relationships, because as you know from my last post, me and relationships just don’t get along too well.  Let’s put it this way:  I have a 100% fail rate for them!  ‘Nuff said.

As we were talking about the ‘why’ behind all of my relationships ending, I began to see so many of my problems lie in the fact that my boundaries are pretty poor.  In fact, if my boundaries were a fence, even a chihuahua could escape.  Easily.  Having bad boundaries makes it very easy for people to get in.  And for me to get out.

One of the many ‘wonderful’ characteristics of being bipolar is impulsiveness.  And I’m not talking impulsive as in buying a new shirt I don’t really need.  I’m talking about impulsiveness throughout every area of my life, including relationships.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never done things half way.  I do them the entire way, and then some, or I don’t do them at all.  When I was 30-something, I was still carrying around baby weight (from a 65 pound gain…I couldn’t eat just one Oreo when I was preggers, I had to eat the whole damn sleeve) and wanted to lose it.  I called my dad who had been a runner since I could remember, and we met at a track.  I couldn’t finish an 1/8th of a mile, so I did what any rational person would do.  I signed up for a marathon.  When I started acrylic pour painting, it wasn’t enough to create a canvas or 2.  I had to buy every painting supply known to man…fix up a studio in my basement…and make so many canvases that I’ll be giving them out as Christmas gifts long after I’m in a nursing home.  See what I mean?

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I do the same thing in relationships.  I jump in…without looking…without thinking…without considering the consequences of what that jump could do to me.  Once I’m in, I’m in.  I fall too quickly.  I love too hard.  I give too much.  I want even more.  And the problem is this:  once I get outside that boundary which should be in place to protect me, I’m VERY hesitant to get back behind the little fence there is.  After all, freedom is better!  Take my Edward.  He’s such a good dog, but if I’m taking out the trash, and leave the gate open, he’ll take off and never look back.  I can tempt him with every known treat, and he’ll still value that freedom more than the safety of home.  Even though it’s dangerous!  Even though it’s unknown!  Even though something could happen to him that could cause great injury!  For some reason, being outside of a gate is so much more fun than being inside it.

Like Eddie, I want that gate open, especially in relationships!  The simple fact is, I love love.  I hope you read that correctly…let me try it again:  I LOVE love.  🙂  I love falling in lust…building up love…getting to know someone…unlocking the secrets of someone…cuddling with someone…knowing I have someone in this world just for me.  Little old me.  OK, little OLD me.

It’s intoxicating, isn’t it?  That first tug of the heart.  The first kiss you share when your heart is beating so hard you wonder if it will ever be the same again.  But like anything intoxicating, it can be so dangerous too.  1ce81319ae2fb2a691e22822a6618feb

We learn to ‘feed’ off the impulsiveness.  It becomes almost addicting.  It becomes something to us that puts us in a tunnel.  And then all we can see is that tunnel and the person in it with us.  We can’t see the dangers associated with it, just like a drug addict might not see the consequences of their use.  Our rational mind has been blinded, and our impulsive, emotional side has taken control; face it, it’s MUCH more exciting to listen to our hearts than to our heads.

Hence, people like me put up with a lot of things they shouldn’t.  After all, we slid ourselves into this tunnel, we’d better learn to like it; we ran outside the gate, we’d better take advantage of it.  So we’ll let people say horrible things to us without calling them on it.  We’ll let them use us:  financially, emotionally, and sexually, because saying no to them, trying to build up another fence while we’re out wandering around, is just too damn hard to do.  And anyway, whose got the time or tools for that?  We’ll let them cheat on us, with no consequence other than making them ‘promise’ they’ll never do it again.  We’ll let them put their hands on us, when we swore to ourselves that would never ever ever happen.

But after a while, you do get tired of this.  Tired of being in such a dark place.  Tired of exhausting yourself justifying to others your objection to leaving.  Tired of having a hollowness inside of you that nothing outside the safety of a fence will quench now.  Tired of looking in the mirror…and then looking away…because you don’t want to see, or acknowledge, the pain you can no longer hide in your eyes.  Tired of feeling less than.  Tired of feeling like a thing, instead of a person.  Tired of not being ‘you’ anymore.  You are just so fucking tired.

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Since my last relationship ended, I have come to understand that the safety of a fence is actually so much more comfortable and satisfying than running around without a leash.  I finally have gathered some tools now.  I finally have time now.  I have the know-how to build my fences, and keep them in repair.  I have the want to protect this person I’m getting to know better and better each day.  A person I’m actually starting to like.  Maybe loving myself is right around the corner.  Maybe I’m the ‘one’ I’ve been waiting for all my life.

I guess I’ve just come to the realization that I’m worth taking care of.  And if that’s not motivation to get busy nailing these boards together, I don’t know what is.

Kristi xoxo

It’s Ironic…Ain’t It?

So, my Master’s degree is in Family Development and Education.  I’ve taught hundreds of classes and workshops on marriage and family, and I even have a book through amazon on how to have a happy marriage.  And then I get this question from one of my Facebookers:

“I hate to ask this but are you embarassed (sic) to have been married 3 times since you teach about this stuff?”

Well, Grasshopper, let me give you an easy answer:  yep.

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I guess I could end there, but we all know how I love to hear myself talk (even if it is in my head) so let’s continue.

With Hubby #1, we were both so freaking young!!  I truly believed, with all of my heart and soul, that I was an adult at 20.  I also thought that we could live on ‘LOVE’ (you need to say that in a way that the word is stretched out a bit like I do in class).  I was finishing up my senior year in university and had to student teach during the entire spring semester, which meant no money was coming in on my end.  Hubby was working at the customer service counter of TJ Maxx.  Yep.  That was all we thought we needed to get by.  Minimum wage job with less than 40 hours a week…and love.  Guess what?  Reality set in quick!  So why did this marriage end?  Because we had no idea what we wanted!  We were still kids!  Neither one of us had any idea what we were doing, and to top that off, I know my untreated bipolar caused a LOT of problems.  We lasted 4 years…and bless his heart for having the courage to understand we were never going to work.  The divorce broke my heart, but it was the right thing to do.

Then Hubby #2 came along.  I grew up with him and we went through school together from 3rd grade to community college.  He was newly divorced.  I was newly divorced.  And our loneliness brought us 2 friends together.  We had a happy marriage!  I really loved the years we were together, raising our son, and creating the little family we had.  I think our problem was complacency.

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My Gift!

 

Thinking this is never going to end, so why put more into it than you have too.  I’ve learned, the hard way, that complacency kills.  It makes you not acknowledge what needs to be worked on.  It makes you close your eyes to problems that are springing up.

Hubby #3 was an enigma.  He was a big, tough, motorcycle riding, muscled guy with skull tattoos who belonged to an outlaw motorcycle club.  People were shocked that we were together because we’re so different!  But hubby had such a sweet, funny, smart side and he could make me laugh so hard!  This big old tough guy bought me a finger puppet the first year we were married.  He was ‘Cookie’ and we took this puppet everywhere we went!  I even have pictures of ‘Cookie’ in front of some Van Goghs’ at the Chicago Art Institute (our favorite place to go).

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Damn…my hair looks great in this! 😉

 

He decoupaged with me…painted with me…was so so proud of everything I made and all of the accomplishments I worked for.  But hubby came from a very bad background…his parents were horribly abusive and negligent and it was hard for him to just be my hubby.  The motorcycle club was a brotherhood to him.  Was a family.  The kind of the family he never had as a kid.  So it became more of his life than I was.  He knew it and I knew it.  We were living in different worlds after 10 years, and when we divorced, it hurt both of us so much.  We stood in front of the judge together, holding each other.  The Judge asked if we really wanted the divorce…hubby had to answer because I was too choked up.  But, we’re friends and we talk everyday.  I’ll always be a part of his life, and I know he’ll always be my best friend.

So,  it does sound bad that I’m a 3x divorcee.  But you know what?  When I think back on my marriages (why do I suddenly feel like Elizabeth Taylor?), I am so appreciative of each one of them.  Hubby #1 helped me grow up.  Helped me to understand my actions have consequences.  Helped me to see that marriages take more than just love…they take work and effort and understanding and humility and forgiving and asking to be forgiven and on and on and on.

Hubby #2 gave me the greatest gift I could ever have gotten on this earth.  My boy.  Those 13 years we had together as a family are the happiest years in my life.  I loved being a mommy and a wife.  I reveled in it.  I wanted some of the moments we shared to last forever and ever and ever.  But the thing is, neither one of us put in the effort to make that possible.

And Hubby#3?  He gave me passion!  He awakened in me things I didn’t know were there!  As much as I loved my first 2 hubbies, this guy took my breath away.  I thought I’d die if I couldn’t see him everyday, and when we were together, I couldn’t keep my hands off of him.  He is the one man in my life that made me feel like a sexy gal!!  OooooWeee!

Of course I’m sorry that my marriages ended.  And I take a lot of responsibility for this.  I was an untreated bipolar going through manic phases (did you know you can plant a half acre garden in a couple of hours??!) and depressive episodes (where I would force myself to make dinner and then sit at the table and smile).  I didn’t want to admit what was happening in my brain.  By the time of Hubby 3, I just wanted a relationship to work so bad, the things in my head were pushed to the side as much as possible.  Would any of these marriages have lasted if I had been treated?  Hmmmm.  Maybe so.  But maybe not.  Marriages take 2 people.  Both working.  Both trying.  Both putting in all they can.  These divorces weren’t their fault.  Or my fault.  Each one was our fault.  df2c21640f561869bb1990053494eb19

So, grasshopper…I’m not embarrassed.  I’m lucky to have had 3 men in my life that gave to me, taught me, loved me, and awakened me.  Will there be a #4?  Not if my mom has any say in it.  And I doubt it.  I would have married my ex-partner.  I really would have.  But maybe marriage just isn’t for me!  Kinda like milk.  I drink it…I get sick.  I get married…I get divorced.  However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t good while they lasted.

Kristi xoxo

 

Learning to Chill.

So, I’m in my 2nd week of working from home.  Last week, I moved all of my on-campus classes to an online learning format, and this week, I’m starting to interact within my classes, while getting my students acclimated to this new way of doing things.

First, I know some people are complaining greatly at having to social distance, and that’s understandable.  It’s boring.  Inconvenient.  Tedious.  But, I just have to remember that it’s keeping me, and my family, away from the virus as much as possible.  And so importantly, that the healthcare workers on the front line…the business owners who have had to shutter their operation…the people that have been laid off indefinitely…those are the ones truly making sacrifices.  Some that will last the rest of their lives.  How sad that is…and how thankful I am to only have to stay home and teach online.  I’m blessed.

Having said that, I’m not good with inactivity.  Being bipolar, I’m used to UPS and DOWNS.  And to be honest, there’s not much in-between for me.  Actually, just not in terms of mood, but for everything.  I either love a food or hate it (beets and iced tea come to mind).  Want to watch a movie 100 times (Rocketman!!), or turn it off after the first 10 minutes.  Decide to buy that shirt the minute I see it, or pass it by with a small ‘blech’.

So activity is the same way.  If I get up and started, I can do so much and feel mega-productive.  But, if I allow myself to laze around a bit, I feel even more lazy and then guilty about being lazy and then feeling guilty about feeling guilty about being lazy.  Yes, it’s a circular trap I find myself in, and it perpetuates itself like rabbits.

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What is ‘lazy’ exactly?  And why does it have such a bad connotation in our society?  It doesn’t matter what word you use to describe it (idle, sluggish, slow, etc.), being lazy goes against what we are told to do:  and that’s to get things done!  Multitasking is the new way we need to go about our days!  Right??  If we aren’t doing at least 2 or 3 things at once, we’re not doing enough; we’re just couch potatoes.  Loafers.  A lazy-bones.   And look on Facebook.  People try to ‘out task’ others by listing all they did that day.  “I got my house re-plastered and painted by 6:00 a.m.  And now I’m getting ready to run a quick half-marathon before finishing the book I’m writing.”  “Oh yeah?  Well, I did all of that as well, except I ran a full marathon, the book I’m finishing is a tome, and I did 23 loads of laundry too.  But whatever.”  Sheesh.  When did it become a status symbol to knock ourselves out so much?

I’m learning that lazy isn’t a bad thing after all.  Being slow is OK.  Idle.  I’m tired of tiring myself out all of the time!  I’ve been working since I was 16 years old, and have tired myself out for the great majority of my life.  I cut the grass more times than necessary.  I vacuumed the living room even when it didn’t need it.  There were only a few dishes in the sink, but by golly, I did them, because God forbid they wait until more are added.

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And what did that get me?  Not the martyrdom I wanted.  It got me nothing.  Well, nothing beyond being able to say “Look what I did today.  See…I’m not lazy!”  Does anybody remember what my backyard looked like in 2006?  Or that my rugs were extra fluffy a few years ago?  Or that my dishes still had a bit of yolk on them last week?  Probably not.

I think I know where this came from.  My self-esteem has never been great; as I’ve mentioned, I was always different from other kids and making friends was really hard.  So, I started to believe that to fit in or make friends, I had to DO SOMETHING in order to show my worth.  It wasn’t enough just being me. I had to GIVE.  Sometimes it was an over-abundance of time I gave.  Or presents.  Or money.  Or energy into proving “LOOK AT ME!!  I DID ALL OF THIS FOR YOU!!  NOW DO YOU SEE HOW AWESOME I AM?”

The problem with this is you start to understand it’s never enough.  And you start to feel resentful of the fact YOU feel you have to give.  But where is that resentment directed?  Towards the people YOU feel you have to give too.  So unfair to them.

My mother-in-law from Hubby #2 (my son’s dad) was perfect.  Martha Stewart perfect.  So busy…productive…self-sacrificing along with being a perfect gardener, cook, parent, and believe me, the list goes on.  She’s an amazing woman and I love her so much still, but she was a hard act to follow.  Especially since we lived right next door to her and her accomplishments were seen everyday.  To feel worthy of hubby, I felt I had to keep up.  Do just as much, if not more, to show I was ‘just as good.’  Or even just plain old good.  I’d be exhausted by the end of the day, and not feel any sense of accomplishment.  Just wondering if I did enough and being frazzled about what the next day would bring.

In my last relationship, I knew something was wrong from the start.  I have great intuition and usually trust it.  However, my heart just happens to be so much stronger, and it often prevails in romance.  Because he was still in love with his ex, and was still in touch with her regularly (although I was told I was paranoid when I’d ask him about it), I truly believed that if I did enough…gave enough…proved myself enough, it would be the catalyst for him to love me instead.  So I did.  I gave all I had.

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Literally.  All of my energy and time and emotion and forgiveness and money and gifts and home and everything else you can think of.  And you can see where that got me; after all, I’m writing this as a single woman.  When we broke up (well, when I walked in on him with another woman…I guess that could be considered a break-up), I reminded him of all I did give him.  I fancied the idea that if he remembered all of my sacrifices, he’d realize my value.   He didn’t.  It was all for naught.

Now I’m trying really hard to work on understanding my value comes from me; from just being me.  Not from what I give or what I do.  But for who I am with the person…what I feel for them…what they feel for me.  I don’t have to ‘buy’ my worth; dammit, I’m worthy as I am.

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So I’m learning that it’s OK to be ‘lazy.’  To read on the couch for hours and get lost in a book.  To cuddle with my pooches and nap with my arms around them.  To putz around in my sewing room and take my time making something; not just to get it done and checked off a list, but to enjoy the process of cutting and sewing and creating with the fabric.  To scroll through Facebook and see my past students show off their new baby.  I think these things are more meaningful and more memorable than making sure my check-list is a tad longer than yours.

And with relationships?  Yes, of course I’m still going to give (when my Prince Charming arrives).  But I’m going to give of ‘me’…of who I am.  I’m not going to work and work and work so he can say:  “Wow…I need Kristi because she does this and gives me all of that.” I want him to say:  “Wow…I love Kristi for the woman she simply is.”

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard those words before.

Kristi xoxo

 

What the Hell?

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So, I teach Sociology at our local community college, and now that the nation is practicing social isolation, I am working hard to get all of my on-campus classes switched to online learning.  This isn’t necessarily a big deal for me, since I’ve taught online classes forever, but as I’m working on lectures and content for my Sociology of Deviance class, I am getting a bit angry…perplexed…wondering about what we consider to be deviant in our culture.

First, deviance is an act or behavior that goes against societal norms (rules) we have in place; and it isn’t always an easy thing to recognize since it’s dependent on so many variables like culture, context, place, etc.  Also, a behavior/act isn’t necessarily considered deviant even if it goes strictly against a societal norm; instead, we take into consideration the ‘label’ society has placed on it; for example, does this behavior cause anger in people?  Scorn?  Disgust?   And finally, sometimes you don’t even have to ‘do’ anything to be labeled a deviant.  You simply ‘are.’  People with physical or mental disabilities are often considered deviant.  Labeling people like this as deviant stigmatizes them.  It connects them to negative stereotypes which can cause them to be ostracized ; looked down on as outcasts.

Now, think about this.  SOCIETY can ‘say’ a person is deviant simply because the person is ‘different’.  Or simply because the person ‘is’.  Because they exist.  Because they are them.   “Holy crap, Batman…what the hell is this?”

“Let me tell you, Robin.”  This means that ANYONE can be labeled deviant…have a stigma put on their head…and be treated as such at anytime in their lives.  Right?  First, let’s take a look at age, simply because (God willing) we will all experience this eventually in our lives.

Oh, Lord…I hate talking about age.  As a woman who is (cough cough) 53 (I know…that’s a really BIG number!), I have seen the way I’ve been looked at over the last 10 years or so, and can’t believe the difference!  When I turned 40, it was a celebration!  “Girl…you are in the prime of your life!!  40 is the new 30!”  Actually, it isn’t.  40 is 40.  30 is 30.  And so on…you get my point.  But when I turned 50?  I was almost ashamed!  What do you say to a 50 year old?  “Ummm…you look great FOR 50!”  That’s about it!  And what a horrible sentence to hear!!  Let me translate it for you:  “Kristi…I don’t know what else to say, so I’m going to tell you that you look OK for being 50…but if you were 40, you’d look like hell!”  Hmmmm…what a compliment.

Look in ANY women’s magazine.  Know what you see?  Products that work from the ground up to make sure nothing on you looks old.  Nothing.  We’re talking younger looking feet (which I rarely show off)  to younger looking hair.  And face creams?  If I tried everyone that was advertised AND that promised to wipe away my years, I’d go broke.  Quickly.

Best-Anti-Aging-Products

But why would I want to ‘wipe away’ my years?  Why is it deviant to get old?  Why does society tell us our worth is less as we grow up more?  Why is a natural aging process a bad thing?  And why, because of these messages, should us older people (more so for women than men in our society…much more so) feel guilty if we have wrinkles?  I don’t get it.

Mental illness is considered deviant too.  Because face it, being mentally ill makes others feel uncomfortable.  We’ve all heard the words.  At least I have.  People use crazy or nuts as a synonym for bipolar all of the time.  Even Katy Perry, in her song Hot and Cold, says “…love bipolar” for a crazy type of unhealthy/game playing love.  So, I’m deviant because I’m mentally ill too?  Because I have a brain disease I did absolutely nothing to get?  Because I might cry?  Or be angry?  Or be depressed?  Or be manic?  These make people uncomfortable?  Scornful?  So I’m LABELED deviant.  LABELED.

Guess what labels do?  Labels make us see ourselves through that mirror.  Like sociologist Charles Cooley described in his “Looking Glass Self” theory, we see how we appear to others, and reflect back what we’ve perceived.  Don’t believe me?  Then why are so many people ‘ashamed’ to talk about their mental illness?  Reluctant to let their friends know how much they are suffering on the inside?  Hesitant to tell people they’ve dated for a while because they fear it will negatively affect their relationship?  Afraid they will be treated differently by colleagues?  Worried they might be passed over for promotions?  Embarrassed to say their Dr.’s appointment is with their psychologist?  Humiliated when words like ‘psycho’ are used to describe behavior tied to their own mental illness?

And for people who have cut…have attempted suicide (2 other groups I fall into)?  Wow.  The stigma is fierce!  How dare I have been in so much psychological pain, that I felt the only relief came from using a razor blade on my legs.  How could I have hurt myself, even though the physical hurt took away some of my mental hurt?  AND, what an awful person I am that I was in so much pain and so much anguish, that I truly felt, at that time, being with my grandma and grandpa in heaven was better than my life on earth.

These labels…this stigma…is something we have to endure.  Not because of what we have.  But because of how we’re seen through the attitudes people have.  Opinions.  Reactions.

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Dammit.  I don’t know about you and what you might endure in terms of stigmas, but I’m tired of feeling ‘less than’ over issues I can’t help.  Yes, I’m old.  Yes, I’m mentally ill.  And that’s just to name 2, or this blog post would be so long, I’d have carpal tunnel after all the writing (and probably be stigmatized for that as well).  And NO.  I will NOT be made to feel demeaned because of these things.  I refuse too.  I will continue to talk about being bipolar.  About why I used to cut.  About why I took a handful of pills.  About all of my struggles, and all of my successes.  I will do this again and again, because until we all speak out against stigmas (and in my case, mental illness stigmas), we will never see them gone.  Until we all learn to accept everyone for who they are…what they might have…how they might be ‘different’, we’ll never see the change I think we need to see most in this world.

Acceptance.

Kristi xoxo

Living with Me.

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So, my son lives with now.  He’s 26 years old and is a professional photographer (who, by the way, is freaking amazing!) and needs to put his money into his equipment which means living on his own isn’t possible right now.  Previously, he lived in Texas for 3 years, and even though I went down to see him a few times a year, it wasn’t the same as having him close by.  Having him here right now is special to me…it’s like we’re catching up on lost time.

But.  And there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?  We are 2 adults, with very different personalities, who are sharing a house, kitchen, shower, food, etc. and there’s bound to be difficulties.

I know I’m not easy to live with.  Sometimes I hate living with myself!  Having bipolar means I’m very unpredictable.  I don’t care how ‘stable’ one is with this illness, there is still ups and downs, and I’m sure it’s very hard for my son to know what ‘ma’ he’s dealing with day to day.  There are days I’m laughing.  There are days I’m crying.  There are days when I’m so tired or crazed or impulsive that figuring me out is probably next to impossible.  I get that.  I really do.  And I admire him for being able to adapt to what woman I happen to be that day.

Yet sometimes my son isn’t easy to live with either.  He’s a 26 year old young man, who has lived on his own since he was 18.  He’s used to his independence and being able to have his home his particular way.  He’s also starting a business that requires so much marketing, web site work, along with mastering the use lighting, film development, and editing.  In addition to all of this, he’s scared.  Scared of taking this chance and making this work.  So much is riding on making this business a success.

I’m so proud of him for doing this though!  Taking this risk and putting everything he has in it – money, time, energy – is stressful, and I tend to forget that.  I forget that this stress affects him, which can make his mood unpredictable as well.  Like me, he has great days when things seem to be in place, and hard days when he questions his work and wonders if he’s made the right decision.

Together, we can be awesome!  There’s no one I’d rather spend time with and his sense of humor, his ideas, the way we can joke about things is so fun!  On the flip side though, we can also be volatile!  Two different adults, with different ways of communicating, different ways of dealing with conflict, different ways of seeing the world.  When this happens, there are hurtful words exchanged with feelings damaged and tears flowing.

But you know.  That’s OK.  We can’t grow as adults without resolving these issues.  Without using conflict as a way to move forward in our relationship as grown ups.  With our contrasting personalities, and my mental illness, conflict is inevitable.  But it doesn’t have to pull us apart.  Conflict can aid in more understanding of one another, more compassion towards one another’s needs, more depth in our connection.  Something I think we both want.  And need.

All I know is this:  my son is my heart.  Truly.  Having this time with him, watching him build something that’s uniquely his using a talent I could see in him when he was only a few years old, and experiencing his growth as a man is worth any arguments we might encounter along the way.

Kristi xoxo

The Battles We Fight.

So…!

Wait.  I need to stop here first and admit something:  I’ve always hated it when people begin paragraphs with so, and I get on my students all the time about this!  And, I just read an article about how using the word SO undermines how people see you.  BUT, it just seems SO handy and such a good intro, that it’s now going to be my signature move!  🙂

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SO, I went to a new psychiatrist this week; he is the over-seer of my counselor and she wanted me to have a ‘med check’ since this f%^&ing depression isn’t lessening at all, despite better personal circumstances AND being on my meds.  I liked him right off;  he was much more thorough with me than another I had seen, and really took his time explaining my options.  First, he told me that the anti-depressant I’m on now isn’t well indicated for bipolar.  I was put on this since Effexor is indicated for fibromyalgia (which I also have…go figure), but since that’s not as serious as the bipolar, he wants to change it in 3 weeks.  He did put me on a mood stabilizer which I am a bit nervous about.  I’ve been on Depakote and Lithium at times, and both gave me thoughts of suicide and self-harm.  I was too scared to try another, but he put me on Lamotragine which doesn’t have that particular effect.  He believes that getting on a stabilizer, as well as a new anti-depressant, will really help me with both my cycles and the depression.  He said I’ve basically been fighting this depression by myself…with no real ‘help’ at all in terms of my meds.  I can’t wait until I start feeling the benefits of the Lamotragine and once it’s had a chance to build up a bit, that’s when the other will be switched.  I’m optimistic!

You know, using the term ‘battle’ is an interesting choice of word, and one that fits for all of us at so many different times in our lives.  For some, the battle can be won and for others, it’s never over.  But we all fight them, and sometimes we forget that.

As much as I hate having bipolar, I also know how very lucky I am.  Things could be so much worse for me.  My mom’s bestie has Primary Lateral Sclerosis, a diagnosis that came after much testing at the Mayo clinic.  Prior to this, docs believed her to have Parkinsons.  This poor woman has suffered, and is suffering so much.  Her speech, her ability to eat, her physical dexterity and abilities, her pain, her weakening…everyday she faces challenges.  Here’s the thing though:  she is the most optimistic, positive woman when it comes to this disease, and she sends me messages all of the time offering ME support!  How does she do this?  How can she be fighting such a battle, and still be concerned with someone else?

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I think I know.  Because giving support is just as important in receiving it, no matter what you are facing.  After I post things on Facebook regarding issues I might be having, I get a ton of support, which boosts me and makes me feel better and less alone in whatever it is I’m going through.  Then, I get dozens of private messages from people who share their own struggles and issues with me, and I talk to them and help them the best I can.  Even if it’s just being a listening ear or validating their experience, or making them feel less alone.  More cared about.  Loved.  Important.  And the best thing is this:  doing this makes me feel better as well.  Not that that’s the purpose of me helping them, but it’s a nice extra consequence of doing so.  It reminds me how much we all deal with, whether it’s known or not.  That we are never alone.  There is always someone else out there struggling.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say, beyond “I care and I’m here.”  And I used to think this wasn’t enough.  I wanted to have answers for everyone!  I wanted to fix them!  I wanted to wave a magic wand and POOF, their lives would suddenly be OK!  But I realized that all I want when I’m needing support is hearing those words of care and concern myself.  I know my mental illness, or issues I might be dealing with won’t be fixed with some words.  But those words are still comforting to me.  Are still important to hear.  For all of us, at anytime.

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A drawback to recognizing and supporting others who are struggling is this:  guilt.  How can I talk about depression or being bipolar, when others are looking at painful, progressive, and potentially deadly diseases?  How can I lament my loneliness at not having a partner, and the grief I still feel at losing him, when others are embroiled in contentious divorces in which they could lose their children?  How can I cry over things in my life, when there are those being beaten regularly.  Raped?  Are homeless?  It makes me feel so small to think I make my problems sound important next to these.

But does another person’s suffering mean ours isn’t valid?  Who defines what constitutes suffering and what doesn’t?  Should I feel bad…for feeling bad?  Well, I do.  Then, that guilt and feelings of selfishness make me feel even worse about myself.  Talk about a circular pattern to get into.

But ultimately, a battle you fight is your battle.  It’s your pain.  It’s your life.  And that pain is valid.  Always.  It may not be as severe a pain as others feel.  But it’s still pain.  Your pain.  And it’s OK to acknowledge it.  OK to ask for support with it.  OK to reach out.  Just remember the others in the war as well.  They too need all we do.  Support, guidance, validation, love, help.  And by giving those, we help to get more to fight our own battles with;  and we become more compassionate, more understanding, more open.  Things that help us all.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

The Coronavirus and Mental Health.

So, we’re in the midst of this pandemic and there is so much information on the virus itself and the importance of social distancing and staying at home to contain it’s spread.  Of course I think that any measures taken to reduce the spread of this are necessary, but I do worry that the mental health issues associated with this isolation, for everyone and not just the mentally ill, aren’t being addressed as much as they maybe should be.

We are social creatures, aren’t we?  We need people and the groups around us (family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.) to provide needed benefits – most importantly, meeting our emotional and social needs.  And since the isolation (both physical and emotional) and distancing we need to practice for at least the next couple of weeks is in place, I believe we are going to suffer mentally because of it.

Isolation and loneliness are 2 big concerns right now, particularly for the elderly and those who are already experiencing these issues.  And, I do believe we will see even more of an influence of these now.  You can be isolated and not lonely, and lonely and not isolated, but for many, these 2 things go hand in hand.  Choosing to be alone, and enjoying that time, is much different than being forced into isolation!  And people choose to be ‘alone’ among ‘groups’ often times anyway.  Going to the store, getting to the library, working out at a gym.  These might be done ‘alone’ or by yourself, but there are still people around who you can interact with to a degree.  Home-bound isolation is a different thing.  People can go from alone to lonely pretty quick in this circumstance.  Take a look at this article published in 2019 on social isolation which states:

There is…”evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.”  “In addition…(it was) found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause for every race…”.
Obviously, this is for more long-term isolation, but the implications are clear.  Isolation has a huge consequence on people and their health.  

Families are also suffering.  My mom lives by herself and has a very active social life.  With so many fears of the virus regarding the elderly, mom and her friends have cancelled their weekly activities.  I know this is going to affect her mood, and I worry she’ll go out to a store or something, just to be around people which can put her at risk.  As much as my sis and I tell her not too, she’s very stubborn.  Since I was in Florida for a week and flew out of Tampa which is a ‘hotbed’ of the virus, I don’t want to be around her just in case I have the virus without showing signs yet.  So, we are isolated from each other too.

My sister is worried about her grandchildren as well, and looks forward to seeing them often during the week.  Missing out on that interaction is hard for all of them.  Plus, one of my nephews has a serious condition which could require medical attention at any time.  How scary that hospitals might be over-run and medical attention is delayed.  Not being to be around our families is a great hardship for so many! 

And then you add other factors into the mix:  fear, anxiety, stress, confusion, helplessness, and powerlessness to name a few.  We all, I think, are feeling these to some degree.  As much as the news upsets me regarding all of what’s happening right now, I don’t want to stay away from it either since I need information to keep myself and family safe!  It’s a Catch 22!  The news makes us more stressed and fearful, but the info provided is important! 

Anytime you see stress increase, you see a greater likelihood of domestic violence and child abuse.  Will this time increase the already huge numbers of victims of family violence?  And, we know that high levels of stress can cause physical sickness (high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.).  Furthermore, the stress isn’t going to end after the isolation is lifted.  Businesses are losing customers or closing down for a period of time, and economists are saying we’ll suffer a strong recession which will continue this stress for an extended period of time.   And, I know that stress over money is one of the BIGGEST stressors a couple faces in their relationship. 

I really worry that for the mentally ill, these issues can exacerbate their conditions.  Making anxiety disorders worsen, depression to deepen.  Also, will counselors or behavioral health centers stop seeing clients?  Will meds get filled on time?   Will AA and NA meetings be able to continue? Then what about people who are schizophrenic and have paranoid delusions?  Will this worsen their thinking with all of the conspiracy theories circling around right now? 

Finally, I also wonder how our world, our own society, will be changed because of this time.  Will we continue more isolating behaviors out of fear another virus could be around the corner?  Will people start getting more and more of their needs met through non-contact ways such as social media?  Will students, who have never taken online classes but are now forced to work online for at least a couple of weeks, find the classes to be more convenient and our on-campus students numbers decrease?  Will people become disgusted with society because how some are behaving, and come to see society as a more dangerous place than they had perceived it before?  The questions are endless.

So, what do I think we can do to lessen some of these effects?  Here’s my list:

  1. Stay on a schedule.  Get up at a regular time, have a daily plan with meals, work, etc. and structure your time accordingly.  
  2. Get outside!  Sidewalks, parks, hiking trails…none of these are closed and being outside, and especially around nature, can be comforting and uplifting.
  3. Do some cardio!  Those of us with depression know that cardio actually increases the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters, and improves sleep too!  All of this can help alleviate feelings of depression!
  4. Keep connected to family and friends.  This is a great time to use social media for connection (but be careful, too much social media use can backfire…particularly with so many loud opinions being broadcast!).  Also, instead of calls or texts, video chat for a more personal experience.  
  5. Help others.  Reach out to your older neighbors and let them know you are willing to run errands for them or get their refills picked up.  Let them know you are around if they need something done!
  6. Tackle yard and house chores.  I’m going to use some of my time to get my darn closets cleaned out and then get my yard all raked for spring.  Things I have trouble finding time to do!  Put these chores on your calendar to keep you on track!
  7. Take breaks from work.  Working remotely, as some of us are doing, is very different than being in an office or around students.  Make sure you take breaks from the computer often, and don’t try to do 8 hours of work in 3 just to get done!  Spacing out your time can help relieve the tediousness.
  8. Try a new hobby.  You don’t need to go to the store to get a pencil and paper…watch a youtube video on drawing and see what you can do!  Or, if you have some supplies (paints, crayons, glue, yarn, fabric), learn to crochet or knit…watercolor…decoupage!  
  9. Give yourself a break!  This is important…being around kids, family, etc. in a close environment can be stressful, and taking a short walk, nap, or just a time-out might help with these situations.  
  10. Keep your kids structured and engaged as well.  There are so many places publishing free content for kids right now, and doing these activities together can be fun!  Here’s a great website to give you some activity ideas, and then a fun e-learning site with a ton of lessons.  And, take a look at this:  

There are so many questions we have…and not a lot of answers.  But I do believe these issues are going to have a huge impact on everyone’s mental health, and possibly worsen those already dealing with an mental illness.  Let’s all take care of ourselves and families the best we can, and reach out if we need help.  Stay healthy and safe and if you have any other ideas to share, please comment below!

Kristi xoxo

The Importance of being Honest.

So, I’m cycling through a pretty bad depression right now.  It started in the Fall, and it’s been hanging on a long while.  Hopefully, I’ll start to be back up again soon, but with bipolar, you can never tell.  And depression is a hard fight, because so much of it is out of our control.

Depression (and mania) aren’t ‘moods’…they are states.  And there’s a big difference there, one I wish was recognized more because calling ‘depression’ a MOOD disorder isn’t technically correct.

Moods are temporary feelings of whatever emotion is there:  happiness, sadness, grieving, gloomy, cheerful, energetic, and the list goes on.  And we all experience a huge range of moods!  We have happy days and sad days, but those days don’t last.  The SITUATION underlying the emotion (which causes the feelings that are ‘saturated’) doesn’t last, because for the most part, that’s what they are based on.  Getting a raise makes me feel happy.  Getting rejected makes me feel sad.  But, these moods pass as others take their place.  That’s why people will say to those who are sad:  “Cheer up…this will pass.”  And they are right!  It will pass.  Although I think saying “Cheer up” nullifies the person’s emotional mood and makes it appear to be insignificant, I get what they are saying.

But states are different creatures.  They aren’t place dependent.  People dependent.  Money dependent.  They are simply there.  And they are more than just the feeling that’s being projected.  For example, people who might be sad for a while may not experience anything else but that sadness.  Whereas people who are depressed also have trouble sleeping, have changes in eating, are restlessness or lethargic, have slowed thinking and memory issues, experience trouble making decisions, entertain thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and the list goes on.

The causes of depression are different too.  A major life event can trigger depression in someone, but there are underlying issues at work as well that go along with that stressor:  According to Harvard Medical “Certain areas of the brain help regulate mood.  Researchers believe that, more important then levels of specific brain chemicals, nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits have a major impact on depression”.

So once again, like we see with so many mental illnesses, depression is in the brain.  Not in the situation.  That’s why for depression, meds are needed to regulate this brain chemistry and function, as well as counseling in order to learn better ways to cope with what is happening.

Last night, I was feeling extra down, and put on Facebook that I was really struggling with depression.  So many people reached out to me, and just knowing there is so much support and care out there really helps.  It doesn’t make me ‘less depressed’, but it does make me feel important and loved.  Anyone can use that anytime!

A couple years ago, I never would have posted anything like that because I was still trying to pretend my way through life, and hide the pain I often experience with bipolar.  But like I’ve said before, how can I expect to work against mental health stigma if I’m not genuine myself?  How hypocritical that would be!  When I was in Florida, I posted about how people on the beach were looking at the scars on my legs from when I cut myself.  Once again, if I can’t put issues out there that are related to mental illness, what am I preaching ‘lessen the stigma’ for?

I bought this artwork, created by the Chariho Youth Task Force for their Mental Health Awareness Campaign.  Digital copies of this art can be purchased here for $5 and all proceeds go to mental health programs and information.

BUT, maybe there are people who think it’s OK to talk about depression.  That’s not ‘ugly’.  However, how can you even mention that you’ve cut?  That’s bloody and gross and scary.  Here’s the thing though, cutting does go along with my illness.  It just does.  I hate that I’ve done it.  I hate my scars.  I hate how people look at me when I’m at a pool or my shorts ride up a bit.  Even more though, I hate having an illness that has made my brain so confused at times, that cutting is the only outlet given for any type of psychological relief.  I know how hard that is to understand.  I don’t understand it.  But I know it’s a demon to fight when it rears it’s ugly head, and that at times, I’ve lost the battle.

This reminds me of my Human Sexuality class and what we were discussing the other day.  I was lecturing about development from pregnancy through birth, and when I got the part about what pregnant women often suffer, everyone was OK until I said the word “hemorrhoid!”  EVERYTHING  else was met with nods…but this??  Shouts of UGH and looks of horror!  WHY?  Because hemorrhoids are ‘icky’…nothing we really want to think about!

There are a lot of things about mental illness that are ‘icky’ too.  But we need to hear it all.  The way it really is.  That’s the only thing that will help people speak up and out about mental illness, and then get the support and help they need.

The mentally ill should not be living in a society where there is shame in having a disease/disorder/illness that’s out of their control.  We have the control to get help for it (if it’s available and affordable…2 BIG ifs), and learn better ways of coping with it.  But it’s always there.  Always.  Just like diabetics can be medicated appropriately and watch their diet.  Even if the diabetes is controlled though, it’s still there.  It’s a lifelong disease.  It’s not going to disappear.

The mentally ill don’t have diseases that will just disappear either.  And, the mentally ill won’t disappear, no matter how much we try to NOT talk about the issues that aren’t easy to face.  Don’t we all have the right for care, support, and understanding, regardless of where our disease or illness originates?  Don’t we all have the right to talk about our illnesses?  Our struggles?  Without stigma or shame? I believe we do.  And I’m going to keep doing it until everyone can do the same.

Kristi xoxo

A Personal Buffet :)

So, how do we know what we want in a mate?  It’s almost an unconscious thing, isn’t it?  Like going to a buffet where we look over the food and say, “Oooooooo…yum!”  or “Blech!”, without even really thinking about it.  Isn’t that true about people as well?  You can see someone and think, “Wow…OH YEAH!”  or say, “Uh, no!”  Either way, our choices are clear even if our reasoning behind them isn’t.

At counseling the other day, A (my therapist) asked me what I wanted in someone since working on relationships is one of our goals.  I didn’t have an easy or fast answer for her.  But I think it came to me last night.

In my Marriage and Family classes, we talk about mate selection and see that there are many theories out there to try to explain how this works.  For example, Siggy talks about how we are more likely to choose a mate much like our opposite sexed parents (this was written in the Victorian era where heterosexual relationships were the only focus) in order to finally resolve the Oedipal and Electra complexes.  This is what kids experience around the ages of 3-6 or so, where they really want to possess their same sexed parent, while rejecting the other.  Obviously, this causes much family stress, and the kids start to emulate their same sexed parent so they can eventually, as adults, win a mate like the opposite sexed one.  PHEW!  Sounds crazy, right?  BUT…I have to say this:  research does show that we are more likely to marry someone more like our parents than not!  (This scares my son to death!)

There’s also the Ideal Mate Theory in which we create an image of what we want through early childhood experiences and then seek that person as an adult.  Maybe that’s why so many women want their prince to ride on their white horse and swoop them up!  And, maybe that’s also why when we meet the one we think is our mate, we say, “I think this is Mr. or Mrs. Right!”

Other theories exist too…like how we pick mates that complement what we need or lack.  Or ones that have just enough similarities that we have an instant connection that brings us together.

But these theories don’t take practical things into consideration, things I happen to think are pretty important.  Like, how many kids does this person want?  What’s their political stance?  Their criminal history?  How many times have they been divorced?  Is their extended family supportive?  Do they drink excessively or use drugs?  Do they follow your religion?  And the list goes on.

However, here’s another wrench with all of this:  you would think by now I have a type, and that couldn’t be further from the truth!  All 4 of my mates (3 hubbies and 1 partner) couldn’t have been anymore different from each other!  Hubby 1 was a metrosexual, well dressed, higher class guy, while Hubby 2 was nerdy and a very hard worker.  Hubby 3 was an Outlaw biker (literally) and my last partner was a younger veteran.  What a variety; perhaps I should practice polygamy to get everything I want??  🙂

So, when A talked to me about what I wanted, I knew it was more than what can be explained by the above, but I couldn’t put into words what ‘soul’ (for lack of a better word) I was looking for.  And then it hit me last night.  Simply stated, I want a man who is just as willing as I am to work and fight for the love we have.  That’s it.  Just one sentence.  But a very powerful one to me.

See, I used to think I was clingy.  And to a degree I might be.  But maybe that isn’t really what it is though, because I’ve always been financially independent and very capable of doing anything and everything that’s needed around the house, yard, etc.  I was the one my spouses would often turn too, instead of the other way around!  I was the rock.  The fixer.  The one who built back up whatever had been broken.

But when I was broken.  Or needed something fixed.  Or needed a rock, that’s when problems started.  The help wasn’t there.  The understanding.  The support.  While I was willing to invest everything into the relationship, they were willing to only invest a bit.  So, them pulling out of it didn’t ‘cost’ them as much as it cost me.

Maybe it’s because I’m “extra sensitive” (another wonderful trait of bipolar) that I simply can’t understand this.  How people can love you one day, and say the next that they don’t.  How you can spend years with someone, building them up, forgiving them for transgressions, supporting them through their pain, but when it’s about you, they turn their back.  And then, you’re the one that’s wrong.  Wrong for reaching out.  For trying.  Why do some people think relationships are easy?  And when there’s an issue, just drop them, because fixing it might be work?  Really?  Having problems means there’s no love?  No foundation?

I don’t think there’s any relationship that requires more work than that of a parent and child.  I remember when Oliver was a little guy…he’d wake me up in the middle of the night, and I’d have to force myself up on 2 hours of sleep after a 14 hour day.  When he was around 4, Oliver, who had asthma, got pneumonia.  And I did too.  But, I had to ignore mine and hold Oliver upright 24 hours a day for 4 days straight, giving him breathing treatments every 2 hours which the poor guy fought.  Just me, alone, because his dad had to work at his business.  It got to the point where I was so tired, I was in a hazy fog that enveloped me.  I didn’t know if I could keep going but then he started to get better and I could nap.  And all of this time, I kept thinking that if I didn’t do this, he could literally drown in his sleep.  Was that work?  OMG, yes!!  Did I begrudge him of it??  NO!!  Because that’s what parents do.  Period.

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Why can’t that same commitment be made in terms of mates?  Holding the person up.  Allowing them to breathe with your help.  Making sure they get through the next day?  Giving all that you have, and a little more, to make things better.I do that.  To a fault actually.  And I used to think it was wrong.  But is it?  Why is it wrong to be the one who won’t let go of the rope when they still believe there’s a danger of the other falling?  Why is it bad to say, “I forgive you.  Again.  Because I love you.  Still.”?  Someone once told me this was weak.  Really?  To me, it’s freaking strong.  Because like I did with Oliver, you have to dig down, find resources you don’t know you have, and use them to make sure what you love is preserved.

I guess I’m old fashioned, but I think maybe my way, instead of the way relationships are disposed of so easily in our society today, is actually the right one.Once, when I was a teenager,  I asked my Grandma what held her and Grandpa together.  They were the ONLY couple in my family that had never been divorced and I needed to know why.  After all, they were married just a short while before Grandpa served 3 years in the Navy during WWII.  I’ll never ever forget what my grandma said when I asked how they made it through all they did:  “Because we’re married.”  That’s it.  That was her answer.  And when you think about it, what more needs to be said?  They made a commitment.  They honored it.  They worked at it.  They invested in it.  Through everything.  Period.  Maybe I get my ideas about relationships from her.  And if so, I think that’s a very good thing.

Kristi xoxo

Breathing Lessons.

I absolutely adore Anne Tyler.  She is my favorite author ever and if I could only read 1 author for the rest of my life, it would be her. 

For some reason, 1 of her books really resounds with me and as I listened to the audio this last week over vacation (for the umpteenth time) I started making notes on my phone as I walked to it.  I realized that so much of what I was hearing was ‘me’; that it expressed things I maybe didn’t see, or couldn’t put into words. 

In “Breathing Lessons” a man and his wife, Ira and Maggie, take a day trip to go to a funeral.  As the day progresses, you get a glimpse into their lives and histories, and meet others along the way.  The entire book takes place in a 10 hour period, and the insights that are revealed about this couples’ lives are so impactful.

Maggie reminds me of myself.  Awkward.  Wanting to always please.  Wanting to hold onto things that may need to be let go of.  Worried about her looks.  Not always confident in her worth. 

One of the biggest struggles Maggie has is saying goodbye to her daughter who will be leaving for college the next day (her son already lives on his own), and wanting to reconnect with her 7 year old granddaughter who she hasn’t seen for years.  She wants to start over; be needed by a child again.  Have the family she reveled in.  Not hear the silence when she walks in her door.  I feel for her.  I know how difficult it can be to want to take steps backwards and not forwards.  To be back in that time when Ollie was young and I was the most important thing on the earth to him.  I remember subbing in his Kindergarten classroom, and he couldn’t stop holding my hand throughout the afternoon and calling me “MOM” in a voice that told every other kid in there, that I was HIS mom and only their sub!  There was another time when he went to a sleep-away church camp (at which I cussed when I found out he forgot his Bible, then cussed again after I cussed…it was obvious the leaders felt Ollie really needed them, growing up with a mom like me!) to spend 4 nights.  This seemed like forever to me but like every mom, decided that having those days to myself would be heaven.  I got a call the morning after his first night…it was Ollie telling me he threw up and I needed to get him.  I raced to the camp with a bucket in tow, and he was really quiet during our drive home.  I plopped him in bed and told him I’d fix some Jello and check on him while he was napping.  About an hour later, he came into the kitchen, with tears streaming down his face.  He said “Mom…I LIED TO YOU!!!  I wasn’t sick!!!  I just wanted to be with you!!!”  I laughed and said he never had to lie about wanting to be home!  And we went to the pool and had a great day!

Ollie lives with me now after being on his own for 6 years, and we have fun together, but he’s not my boy anymore.  He’s his own person with so many centers in his world now.  And that’s the way it should be!  Of course!  But like Maggie, I wish I could rewind and do it all over again, and savor those moments even more.  Why does growing up happen so fast? 

In another part of the book, Maggie is trying desperately to get her son and his ex-wife back together so she can be with her grandchild.  The problem is, their relationship was horrible from the start, although Maggie can’t seem to accept that.  Or even see it.   Her son was just too immature and self-centered to be a good husband, and her daughter-in-law was too demanding and childish.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is Ira talking about Maggie to their son: 

“She believes it’s all right to alter peoples lives.  She thinks the people she loves are better than they really are, and so then she starts changing things around to suit her view of them”.  ~ Anne Tyler
I had to listen, and then finally read, that quote so many times because it resonated in me.  Is that what I do?  Particularly in relationships?  I’m thinking yes.  
I had my weekly counseling appointment today and I love my counselor.  She is someone I really click with and I’m surprised by how much I’m able to share and how vulnerable I allow myself to be with her.  We were talking about my last relationship, and I told her I was still reaching out to him because I wanted to save him.  From himself.  He’s the one with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who really hurt me so many times during our 3 years together.  He told me how he had given up on things; how he is just going to be alone and miserable for the rest of his life.  And I tell him how wasteful that would be.  You see, he’s living DOWN to his diagnosis of BPD, as if having this is a death sentence.  A slow death sentence.  I told him how a diagnosis needs to be used for understanding, and how you learn to recognize what the disorder or a mental illness is doing, and find constructive ways to cope.  It’s not a death sentence.  The diagnosis should be a map.  
My counselor asked me why I had such a need to show this to him, particularly since he really doesn’t listen to what I’m saying.  I told her because I felt guilty.  Ashamed.  Like I didn’t do enough to help him during our years together.  Didn’t have the right words to say.  Wasn’t enough for him to want to work on his issues.  Like I was to blame for when he lashed out, because I was the one that triggered it.  She looked at me and said this:  “But Kristi, he has Borderline.  That’s what they do when they don’t get help or try to learn how to cope.  That’s who they allow themselves to become.”  
I don’t know what it was, but I felt a relief after those words were spoken.  A weight dropped.  It wasn’t my fault that he kept abandoning me.  That he put his hands on me.  That he cheated on me.  That he told me he left this last time because of what I said.  It was the disorder.  The fucking disorder.  I tried for so long to not see him as having these issues…I wanted him to always be the great guy who put me on a pedestal and made me feel I was the center of his world.  But I wasn’t.  As much as I want to rearrange things and make them right…good…to suit how I want them to be…who I want him to be, I can’t.  And he didn’t do these things out of maliciousness.  Or because of something I did.  It was because of an un-diagnosed disorder.  I still want to help him .  But NOT out of guilt now.  But out of compassion and love.  My counselor said the words I guess I needed to hear about a lot of things:  “It’s not your fault.”
This is my favorite scene in Good Will Hunting.  
I think a lot of us need to hear the words: “It’s Not Your Fault”.  
And I think Robin Williams does it better than anyone.
And I realized something else.  I don’t need to be the center of someone’s life to be important.  Needed.  Worthy.  I’m a center already.  My center.  My Florida trip showed me this.  That I can be enough for me.  That I can have a life with me.  I don’t need to rearrange people to make them something they aren’t just to have them.  I don’t need to pretend they, or me, are something we’re not. 
It was a pretty cool thing to discover all of this.  That I’m not always to blame for things.  That I can’t make people take my help unless they want too.  That I don’t have to be driven by guilt anymore.  That I can make mistakes and I’m still a pretty OK person.  That I don’t have to have everyone’s acceptance.  That I can give myself the validation I need.  That I don’t need to take steps backwards; because moving forward is journey enough.
I’d say, all in all, that Florida was really good for me.  
Even despite being burnt. 😉
Kristi xoxo