“Oh, It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night” ~ John Lennon & Paul McCartney

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So, yesterday sucked balls (for some reason I really love this term).  I’m having a bit of a tough week, and yesterday I pretty much lost it.  I’m missing my son and his girlfriend since they are in their own apartment now…I’m working really hard to get my house in order and have a wrenched back and purple/numb finger to show for it…and this week marks the 3rd anniversary of seeing my nephew for the last time before his death.  Also, this is the exact time that J began making plans to see his ex which started his back and forth abandonments and cheating.

In some ways, I’m really proud of how I’m handling things because not long ago, I would have been much worse.  It shows that I have grown and healed to some extent these past couple of years and that I really am stronger.  But it also brings me back to a place that I never wanted to visit again.

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My sis and I were talking about this last week as we discussed things happening in our quarantined lives.  She’s always worried about me…she was my protector growing up and still plays that role today.  I know she’s proud of how far I’ve come since that fucking breakdown 3 years ago, but she also knows once you experience something like that, there’s always a chance of going back.  I have to agree.

Anniversaries are tough, aren’t they?  The anniversary of someone’s death.  The anniversary of a divorce.  The anniversary of a marriage or relationship that failed. The anniversary of a tough time in your life.  As much as we like to put things behind us, they still have a tendency to haunt.

For some reason, I find myself saying “I’m Sorry” an awful lot lately.  It’s almost like I’m going back to a somewhat ‘weaker’ me I thought I had all but buried.  Maybe since these anniversaries are here though,  I find myself going back to being a ‘people pleaser’, just  to ensure I don’t get hurt again.  Hmmm…I don’t know.

One of my precious students messaged me last month and asked me something I’ve had other students deal with as well:  she had been sexually abused as a child and was worried about having a child someday herself.  How would she protect them?  Would she be able to recognize when something was wrong?  How could she open the road of communication early so her child would feel comfortable sharing things with her?  Other students who have been physically abused worry they might end up repeating the generational cycle they were in, that their own parents lived.  I’ve had female students tell me they will never marry or live with man because they are so scared they’ll be in a  domestically violent situation like their mom was.

So, I tell them it’s understandable how these serious past issues are affecting their present.  I talk to them about being conscious of the damage these situations caused will help them in stopping these cycles.  After all, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge (Dr. Phil 🙄).   I also recommend they develop a support system of friends and family who are aware of the issues, see a counselor to learn how to put ‘safeguards’ in place, talk to their partners about their fears, and to make themselves understand they don’t have to be like those who hurt them.  They can make a cognizant decision to be the kind of parent or partner they want to be, and anyone, with enough ‘want’, truly can break this cycle of abuse.

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We are all in cycles…patterns…dances…whatever terminology works best for you.  I know I am.  I fall for someone and immediately I’m so elated and excited since I love to love (that sounds like a great title for a song), and I want to share with them, be with them, and get to know all I can about them!  Falling in love excites me; it opens my heart and so much flows from it.  I think this can be attributed to the feeler inside of me…the empath.  This sensitive person I am who when I feel something, I feel it strong and want to share every single bit of myself with that person.  The problem?  It can be hard to keep up!  I know it can be overwhelming.  I know I’m very excitable.  Well…I know I’m bipolar.

I also know that when I’m around others, I try very hard to be the person who never rocks the boat.  It’s almost like Everyone Loves Raymond…I want everyone to love me!  And I guess I’ve learned, through various life experiences, that to do that I need to acquiesce to the wants of others.  To make sure they’re happy. Satisfied.  “If I’m good enough and sweet enough and act happy enough, this person or these people, will have to like me!”  For some reason, I associate any criticism, hearty disagreement, or conflict with the idea the person has ceased to approve of me, and for those of us who are sensitive ruminators who tend to personalize things, this is terrible for us!  As a result, we do what we say we won’t do again:  push our own needs down, do all we can for the other person, envelop them with a love that’s very hard to return, and then take blame for when things go wrong.  I don’t like this dance and I’m trying so hard to change the steps.  But when this is the only way you’ve danced for 50 years, that’s easier said than done.

This fucking bipolar.  I know so many people have it much much worse.  I truly understand that and I thank God every single night about how grateful I am for the blessings I have.  But I still hate this.  It’s so easy for people to say, “Of course I understand you’re bipolar”, but it’s not so easy to understand that if I am more emotional or sensitive to words and behavior than others are, it’s because of this brain illness.  Unless you’ve been there, how do you describe what it feels like to have your brain pushing you one way, when you really want to go the other.  Pushing you to have that emotional, hypersensitive reaction instead of letting you tone it down to what is more appropriate.  What’s more realistic.  You’re fighting an opponent that’s very very difficult to beat.

Maybe I need to put some of those masks back on that I tore off a couple of years ago.  I am starting to understand masks can be a good thing too and we really do wear them more than we think.  Sometimes I say to myself, “OK, Kristi, who do you want to be today?”  When I get into another relationship, will I be able to put on a mask that says: “I’m a bit reserved because I don’t want to give so much that you have the power to destroy me.”  I wonder what that mask would look like?

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There are so many ‘anniversaries’ for me in the spring and summer:  my grandparents dying, 2 husbands leaving, 2 weddings (and no, the weddings and leavings were not necessarily the same people…and yes, I understand this aspect of my life is a freaking soap opera), my nephew, J, my breakdown, etc.  It’s impossible not re-visit these.  To make yourself forget.  And so many of these bring me pain.  Remembering my sweet nephew who was killed on a Naval ship continues to bring tears to my eyes.  Looking back at my weddings and remembering the excitement of starting a new life with this person, and then trying to understand how the marriages fizzled out like they did.  I smile when I remember my grandparents, but get choked up too after all of these years since I wish they were here to hug and talk too.  Having to go back to all J did and trying to still build myself up from being torn down like I was.  And remembering that breakdown.  That fucking breakdown.  Actually, I’m reminded of it everyday since I have scars that mark the time.

I’m going to try to put on a ‘strong’ mask for this summer.  I’m not going to be fake or go back to being someone I’m not.

I just need to consciously remember I’m capable of handling anything that might come my way.  Old memories…new situations…new people.  I’m not going to have the mask completely cover my face though.  I’m going to have more air holes so I can breathe.   More flexibility in how it fits.  A better representation of who I am compared to masks I used to wear.

So anniversaries…memories…do you worst.  I’ve got the ability to handle them now.  And to be honest with you, I’m pretty proud of that.

Kristi xoxo

Let ’em Say It.

So, my sister and I were yacking yesterday (have you noticed that I’m usually talking with someone?) and we started discussing words that people are very apprehensive to say.  Let’s take a look-see:

  • suicide
  • domestic violence
  • cutting
  • depression
  • abuse
  • rape
  • molestation

And the list could go on.

The reason we got on this subject was that we were talking about the Netflix series “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”  This little 8 year old boy was brutally murdered by his mother and her boyfriend and suffered horrific abuse all of his life.  The most heart-breaking thing about this poor child was how social services and law enforcement let him down time after time after time, allowing this abuse to continue.  Once, a social worker actually told little Gabriel to quit lying about being hurt by his mom.  Wow.

As my sis (T) and I were talking about this, I told her how incredibly hard this documentary is to watch and how, at that point, I hadn’t finished the last couple of episodes.  So we had this conversation:

“Are you going to finish watching it?”
“Yes, T. But it’s hard to get through…it’s upsetting me so much.”
“Well guess what? What he went through is harder than what you’re watching.”
“I know. You’re right.”
“Kristi, how are we going to stop things like this from happening if we can’t face it or talk about it?”

And she is absolutely right (she loves hearing that from me).  There are so many issues we need to acknowledge, learn to talk about, learn to ask about, but for some reason we turn away from them.  Maybe hoping they’ll go away?

In my classes, I talk about a LOT of ‘icky’ stuff;  after all, I teach Psych and Socio so it’s part of the job.  We talk about everything I listed above, and I know how uncomfortable that makes some of my students.  Many of them have never heard the words being used so freely.  And to be honest with you, some of them are still new to me.

Those of y’all that know me have already heard my mom’s story.  She married her 2nd husband (the fucking asshole…sorry, that’s what I say EVERY TIME I think of him.) when I was in high school and they were married for 28 years.  During those 28 years, he beat her, strangled her, slammed her head against the ceramic tile in the bathtub more times than she can count, and mentally tortured her until she turned to alcohol to dull some of the pain.  It took so much to do so that she developed cirrhosis of the liver and has esophageal varices.  She finally came to me at 5:00 a.m. on Aug. 13th, 2011 (yep, I remember it to the minute) and said this:  “You said you would help me and I can’t take it anymore.  He’s going to kill me if I stay.”  Hubby 3 and I called the police, got a restraining order, got his stuff out, installed an alarm system, etc.  You know, T and I spent 28 years trying our best to help her, but like many of you know, until the person is ready, all you can do is be there the best you can.

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To this day, there are still people in our family that won’t use the words domestic violence in regards to what mom went through.  They won’t say that R beat the shit out of her, once to the point where she was throwing up blood in the ER with her back looking like someone water colored it purple (I will never forget that sight as long as I live).   They don’t want to admit that mom had black eyes more times they can remember (but chose to ignore), because talking about DV just isn’t OK.  In fact, some of them are actually friends with this monster on social media (Yes, he is a monster.  His 3rd wife died of a stroke she suffered after R threw her against a wall).  Well…I guess ignoring it makes it go away right?  (By the way, mom has been sober now for over a decade…T and I are so proud of her!).

NO!  Things like abuse, rape, suicide, and molestation thrive in secrecy.  And for years, my sis and I kept the ‘secret’ too.  We didn’t want to face what R was doing to mom and mom wouldn’t admit to anything;  but we knew we finally had too.  We HAD too.  We had to let the secret out so mom would know we were there for her, that we knew what was happening.  Mom talks about it now and is open with her experiences.  It’s no longer just ‘something in C’s marriage’, or ‘R is just crazy’, etc.; it was ABUSE.  Serious abuse that could have killed her, but by the grace of God, didn’t.

Mom’s guilty of sugar-coating things too though.  After my formal diagnosis of bipolar, she would tell her friends about “Kristi’s problem” , “Kristi’s condition.”  Finally, I said this to her (and I wish you could hear my screechy voice to get the full effect), “MA. I have bipolar.  I’m fucking mentally ill.  Get it?” She laughed…and yes, she got it.

Take suicide.  Sometimes people will ask me, “What was it like when you tried to hurt yourself?”  And I say, “You mean when I attempted suicide?”  Say what it is, man!  It’s OK to use the word.  I didn’t try to hurt myself.  I tried to KILL myself.  There’s a difference, isn’t there?

Yep.  I’ve also cut.  A lot.  In fact, if I EVER get a new partner (that’s a slim chance, peeps), I’m going to be most worried about him seeing the scars.  Anyhoot, I’m not going to lie about the scars people see.  “Oh my God…were you in an accident?”  “No.  I cut myself.  I’m bipolar, I was going through a terrible breakdown, and I used a razor blade and cut myself numerous times.  Luckily, I’m doing better now…thanks for asking.”  People look gobsmacked when I say that, but hey, it’s the truth.

How is it a little boy can be fatally abused while scores of people obviously turned their heads?  How can molestation go on for years in a household when there are obvious signs to what’s happening?  Why is it we say “How ya doing?” as we walk by someone who is looking down, instead of saying “Hey, you look really depressed.  Is something going on with you?  Would you like to talk?”

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One of my students came to me a few months ago, and I knew she was trying to tell me something, but just couldn’t get it out.  Knowing she’d been depressed, I said this:  “Are you thinking about suicide?”  She literally gasped and started crying.  She said: “You said it.  You said suicide.  You SEE me.”  And yes, I did.

I know these words…these issues…these horrible problems are hard to discuss.  Uncomfortable to talk about.  Not ‘polite’ conversation.  And here’s what I say about that (in me and my sister’s words):  “Who fucking cares?!”

If we don’t ask a friend about her bruise, how will she know we are there to help and support her (or him) if it is abuse?  If we don’t look in the eyes of a child who is exhibiting signs of sexual abuse and ask them if anyone is touching them inappropriately, how will they find the strength to share their ‘secret?’  If we don’t use the words rape when a drunk girl is assaulted at a party while passed out, how can we ever punish the offenders and make sure they can’t hurt another girl again for a long time?  If we see a teen (or an old lady of 53) with multiple bandaids in odd areas and never ask if they are cutting themselves, how will they know others are suffering that same compulsion too?

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My God…think about this.  We can’t use these uncomfortable words, so the consequence is to keep our heads buried while people continue to be hurt?  Really?  I’m sure when mom hears the words Domestic Violence, it isn’t as bad as when R had her on the floor with his hands around her neck, squeezing until she couldn’t breathe.  Right?

For fucks sake (I only use that word to make ma cringe and my sis laugh every time they read my blog), we have to address these issues head on.  Not use the vocabulary that tiptoes around the problem, but words that lay it out there bare.  Naked.  For all of us to see.  Because until we do that, grasshoppers, little sweet Gabriel isn’t going to be the only victim to be let down by us all.

Kristi xoxo