“Walk Among Us” ~ Recorded by the Misfits

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So, I was contemplating about how I often feel like I don’t belong in so many different situations, and I think I am starting to understand why a bit better.

I kinda hate the word ‘misfit’ but if I am honest with myself regarding the definition (“a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way”), it really does describe well how I often feel when I’m around others.

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Only about 1-2% of people in the United States have bipolar disorder…about 2.3 million people all together.  If you play around with the numbers (I’m I’m no math whiz, I actually still use my fingers at times…just ask ma), it’s about 46,000 in each state, and in terms of the number of counties in IL where I live (I’m sure you’re all jealous I live there since it’s such a great state right now 🙄), that’s about 450 people in my entire county of over 104,000.  Now here’s my point: I really am an outsider in terms of having bipolar.  Statistically, it would be pretty unlikely for me to interact with anyone else bipolar on any given day since it’s relatively rare compared to other disorders.  For example, about 20% of the population deal with anxiety disorders and about 14% have major depression every year; so although these are horrible disorders to have there are still many more people who might understand what others are going through because of their own personal experiences with them.  By the way, if you’re thinking you know numerous people with bipolar, ask yourself if they’ve actually been diagnosed by a psychiatric specialist or if they are assuming they are because of their mood swings.  It’s so easy to self diagnose in light of info online, and I’m guilty of it too.  Just this month, I’ve told my son I have 3 different diseases since I love to peruse WebMD.  Just sayin’.  (P.S.  O doesn’t worry about my diagnoses like he should…I wonder why 🤨 ).

When I’m around other people, whether it’s at school or at a family function or in the gym or where ever, the chance I’m the ONLY one there with bipolar is huge.  HUGE!  And since I’m most likely the only one there, how can I feel like I fit in with everyone else?  How can they understand how my mind works?  Or how sensitive I am to criticism or rejection?  Or how I might not be able to control how ‘manicky’ I am, despite others possibly saying, “C’mon, Kristi…just calm down!”  How can others understand how I might be really happy when I get somewhere but then get really down if something was said that seems silly to them, but actually hurt me pretty badly (“Kristi…you have to stop being so sensitive.  It’s getting old!”)?  How can I tell them them that even though I was so excited to plan on being somewhere, I’ve cycled into a depressed state where I can now barely interact?  When you think about, it’s no wonder I feel like I don’t fit in…like I’m always on the edge of whatever group I’m around.

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Now let’s throw another wrench into the equation:  research is showing that those of us with bipolar might experience either very HIGH levels of affective empathy or very LOW levels of cognitive empathy.  What’s the difference?  Affective empathy is when you basically ‘feel’ and ‘mirror’ another’s emotional states, whereas cognitive empathy is understanding someone’s emotions, but not actually feeling them yourself.

Well…we all know how lucky I am so…drumroll please…I was blessed with the VERY high level of affective empathy!  Yea. 🙄 What does that mean in terms of my everyday life?  Hmmmm…where the hell do I start?

I know this can be hard for others to understand, but I literally (I hate that overused word, but I’m too lazy to open up another tab and take a look-see at the thesaurus for another 😳) feel what others feel.  When someone is crying in front of me, I cry…not just because I see their tears and feel bad for them, but because I ‘absorb’ their pain like a sponge.  Empaths soak up the world of feelings that surround them and this can be so fucking exhausting (dammit…I was trying not to say it, ma…but…).  It’s hard enough to deal with my own feelings since those are plenty to handle as is.  But pour everyone else’s feelings into the mix, and it can wear me down completely.

This is a particularly huge problem in relationships.  Empaths take on the other’s emotions, absorb their stresses, feel their pain, etc.  It’s like we’re living the relationship on both sides:  their feelings seeping (or actually madly rushing) into us while our own are bubbling in there too.  Now, couple that with being mega-sensitive and personalizing things like those of us with bipolar often do, and I think it’s clear why relationships can become all consuming very quickly.

Even though I’m not always conscious of this happening, I am conscious of how over-whelmed I can get in relationships and how that can affect my mood and behavior.  When I get frustrated or distressed or upset, it can come out in anger.  Like I’ve said before, anger is more of a reaction we have which actually has other emotions buried underneath it (embarrassment, fear, grief, shame…).  And since people with bipolar have a lot of stuff happening under the surface, anger is something else that’s common among us.  Go figure.

When I think about my marriage to my son’s dad, I see it as the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.  Hubby 2 came from a really solid family and had one of those wholesome upbringings with nothing ‘bad’ really ever happening to him.  I didn’t have to absorb much from him because he was usually on a pretty even keel and my emotional stresses were fairly low.

Hubby 3 was much more of a challenge.  He brought a lot of baggage into our marriage and couple that with the bipolar suitcases I carry, it was a lot.  R’s moods were very unpredictable, especially those first couple of years, and having that load on me was problematic, to say the least.  His stresses became my stresses.  His anger became my anger.  His insecurities became my insecurities.  This is such a hard thing to explain to people who aren’t empathic sponges.  Sometimes he would say, “Why are you so upset?  It’s my problem!”  What he didn’t understand was this:  his problems were passed onto my little empathic heart and TA-DA…they became mine too.

The same thing happened when J came along.  I’ve said before that he has PTSD from being in the military and has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Both of these cause great fluctuations in mood and behavior and I wasn’t just watching that ride, I was on it with him.  Sometimes he’d wonder why I was so stressed or upset.  How do you explain it’s because everything he’s projecting/feeling/acting out on, I’m taking in…’literally’ (that damn word again 😐)?  His pain.  His anger.  His instability.  I was a passenger on that roller coaster with him, along with riding my own.  No wonder the weight of it often became too much for me.

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After he cheated a couple of years ago, I was angry.  And rightfully so!  But I also felt so much more:  I personalized the affair to the point I just knew it had to be my fault.  Cognitively, I know that’s not right.  Emotionally, that’s how I felt.  And then after, when we ‘started over’ and he became so much better to me, I not only had all I was feeling from the affair, but I was also absorbing all he was feeling too, whether he realized that or not (and no, I strongly doubt he ever reads this blog…someone asked me that the other day).  His own anger over his guilt.  His own doubts about our chances.  And even his own grief over the woman he loved and had been with.  Somedays this would be so freaking overwhelming that I couldn’t breathe, and the only way I could handle things was to channel them into anger.  It’s the quickest release there is when you get that overwhelmed with feelings…it’s like a pressure cooker easily exploding if you fiddle with the lid.

I used to wonder why I’ve had such a hard time getting past our relationship and it’s finally beginning to make sense to me.  When I caught him cheating the last time I saw him, he started crying and hugging me when he realized I knew someone else was in the apartment with him.  That emotional outburst pained me so much and it was extremely confusing to me.  I had so much running through my mind and my heart and then I had that to deal with as well.  I had my anger and confusion and disgust and disappointment  but all of that was connected with his pain too.  It was so much to handle and it was a horribly complicated time for me.  You know, I totally understand that being empathic like this isn’t something that’s rational, but it is something inside of me that I can’t control.  How I wish I could!

I’ve also been able to understand my need to be alone at times.  Being so overwhelmed by all of this ‘absorbing’ (like I’m a Bounty paper towel) means us empaths need time to get away from it all.  We need to process all of these feelings and stresses and moods so we can decompress.

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So many empaths can’t sleep with their partners (actually sleep with them all night…we like the naughty stuff 😳) because the stresses of the day and the burdens we’ve absorbed are simply too much.  We need that space to come down again.  To unload ourselves.  To be able to focus on our own stuff only.  I love to sleep alone.  There’s only 1 partner I’ve ever been able to sleep with and besides him, I’ve always had my own bed.  I used to feel SO guilty about that, and I know it’s  probably very hard for other people to understand.  It’s almost like you’ve been running a race all day, with others on your back, and you finally have a chance to put those burdens down, stretch out, and have it just be you without that sponge taking over.  There were times in my marriages where if I hadn’t had that, I would have burst.  Like a big zit. 😐

Anyhoot, not fitting in is actually starting to make sense to me.  I don’t necessarily like it, but I know I’m different.  My brain works differently.  My heart works differently.  My moods work differently.  My feelings work differently.  It does make me a ‘misfit’…I’m not like everyone else.  There are so many times I want to be and I think about what it would be like to be more ‘normal’.  More relaxed.  To be able to be around others without taking all of their ‘stuff’ in, along with my own bipolar issues.

But then again, sometimes I think that maybe it’s ok to be different like this.  Maybe others need me to be.  Maybe helping others with their burdens is a gift I’m able to give.  Maybe it pays others back for having to deal with me being bipolar.  Maybe, in a way, it’s what others should be more like.  Just a little.  Because think about it…if we could all ‘share’ our burdens, feel other’s emotions, take on some stress from others, wouldn’t that lead to more understanding and insight?  More compassion?  More appreciation for all of our different situations?  Wouldn’t that empathy make us better people that don’t cause pain because we feel it so intensely?  Hmmmm.  Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

Kristi xoxo

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” ~ Meatloaf

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Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

So, first of all I used the title of one of my all time favorite songs; in fact, this was my go to song in High School for making out at parties (sorry, ma).😳 For some reason, just thought you’d like to know that.🙄

Anyhoot, I was visiting with a couple of neighbors down the street last evening and we were yacking about lawn mowers (yes, grasshoppers…single life is exciting) and then progressed into other things.  The wife was talking about her physical ailments and I said a few things about being bipolar.  THEN she said this (and I’m quoting her word for word):  “Yes…I know exactly what that is.  My cousin has it and she’s crazy crazy crazy too.”  She continued telling me how nuts this gal was and used the word loony as well.  Granted she’s 63 (which I only say because not much was known about some of these things when she was younger and that might account for her bad choice of words) but I was gobsmacked by her indifference and view of what I happen to have.

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Museums Victoria

Why the fuck is it OK to use such degrading words when it comes to describing mental illness?  And believe me peeps…she ain’t the only one.  Take a look at these:  deranged, psycho, cray-cray, mental, delusional, wacko, mad, insane, schizo, freak, needs a straitjacket, screw loose, etc.  How many of us who have a mental illness have heard at least a handful of these in our lives?  I have a feeling all of you are raising your hands.  Or, how many of us have used these?  I’m sorry to say that number is pretty high too.

In this time of political correctness when using one word or posting one tweet can literally destroy a decades old career, why is it OK to use damaging words against people like me?  I understand that using the ‘n-word’ is abhorrent and there’s no excuse for it. Likewise, I know that the ‘f-word’ (an epithet for a gay man) is also extremely derogatory.  I also know that both of these populations are born with inherent biological  characteristics be it race or homosexuality.

But so was I.  I didn’t bring this bipolar crap on myself.  I didn’t ask for it…didn’t want it.  Certainly didn’t create it out of a need for attention (as some people think those of us with mental illness do.  Yes, it’s fun to ‘pretend’ to be someone perceived by others as deranged 🙄).

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Whoever dates this winner is some lucky girl.

I have a feeling normal people (what ever the hell that is…I don’t know if I’ve ever met one) just don’t know what hurt these words do to us ‘crazies’, and I’d be happy to tell you.  They make us feel even worse about ourselves than we already do.  They can deepen our depression by making us believe we are less than.  They make us feel guilty about having an illness that’s obviously perceived as defective.  They often make us less likely to see help since many of us don’t want to admit we are part of a stigmatized group (me…for a lot of years peeps).  These words make us feel shame.  Feel inferior…bad…inadequate.

Go to Pinterest and look up ‘funny’ mental illness memes…a vast majority of these are derogatory to sufferers.  And then twitter?  Take a look at some of these gems:

  • Andrew Tate @ Cobratate:  Then they pretend they caught some disease to absolve all responsibility.  ITS (sic) NOT MY FAULT IM (sic again 🙄) SAD.  Yes it is. {Note to Andrew…revisit your grammar texts from grade school and learn about apostrophes once again.}
  • Andrew Tate again (unfortunately): “Feeling temporarily depressed is real.  Being uncontrollably depressed without reason and requiring anything other than a new mindset is BS {Another suggestion…use punctuation.}
  • Jake Paul @jakepaul:  remember anxiety is created by you sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy and the answers will come chill your mind out go for a walk talk to a friend {Seriously?  Are we not teaching writing skills in schools?}
  • Katie Hopkins @KTHopkins: People with depression do not need a doctor and a bottle of pills that rattles.  They need a pair of running shoes and fresh air.  {Super…why didn’t I think of that?}
  • Katie Hopkins again:  Sympathy for the co-pilot is making me angry.  If you are suicidal, for goodness sake top yourself in private.  Attention seeking b✷stards.
  • So, I think you get my point.  Reading these actually made me choke up and the biggest lesson I learned from these is if I attempt suicide again, I’ll be sure to do it alone.  Thanks for that advice, Katie.

    OK…now do me a favor:  imagine similar tweets with race being the focal point of the negative tirade.  Nope.  Not going to happen (and I very obviously don’t want it too…I’m just trying to show an analogy) and if it does, bye bye career, account, and any respect you might have once had.

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    I believe in God and those of you with diabetes or heart disease, please heed these suggestions too.  Right?

    Even friends of mine will resort to using inappropriate words at times, without even realizing the impact on me.  The other day someone was yapping to me about ‘Rocketman’ (and for the love of all that is holy, watch it if you haven’t) and said:  “I never knew Elton was so troubled…I just thought he was crazy.”  Hmmmm.  OK.  Gee…imagine a neglectful upbringing, being introduced to drugs early on his career, and having an eating disorder.  Who would’ve thought there were ‘real issues’ behind his ‘craziness’?

    And yes, I’ve been guilty too.  I used to really like the phrase ‘Bitches be Trippin’ (until literally a couple of days ago when I started researching all of this…I just thought it was funny) until I read what the meaning is (from Slang Define):

    Used primarily by heterosexual males to justify the irrational behaviors of women.

    Paul:  I can’t understand why my girlfriend cried just because I forgot our nine week anniversary.

    Jason:  Don’t worry about it, dude.  What can you do?  Bitches be trippin’!

    In other words, crying because of something important to you (CRYING) which is probably the culmination of other things going on in the relationship means the woman is irrational (synonyms – crazy, insane, etc.).  Okey Dokey.  No more tears, ladies.

    Having bipolar is fucking hard enough, grasshoppers.  And when insult is added to injury and then used as the basis for jokes and laughter, the pain is worse.  When I’m around people that don’t know I’m mentally ill and they use such words, it cuts me to the core because words are weapons.  I feel my face flush…I get self-conscious…I feel shame.  Look, when bombs are used against you, it means you’re in a war.  And how well can we fight back when we’re the ones who are already beaten down by stigmatization?  By misinformation?  By myths?  By our mental illnesses?  Our anxiety…depression…personality disorders…addictions?  Simply stated:  we can’t without help.  But in this culture, which still allows mental illness to be an acceptable prejudice, that help is pretty hard to find.  How sad that is.

    Kristi xoxo

    “The Greatest Loss is What Dies Inside Us While We Live.” ~ Norman Cousins

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    Death by Asphyxia

    So, here we are as a nation having to be isolated from one another and then knowing we are taking a chance at getting COVID when we go out to get what we need.  Today I was at the grocery store and to be honest with you, I was scared by what I was seeing.  There were people there with not only masks on, but with huge bandanas wrapped around their faces so only their eyes showed.  When I would reach for something and my arm wasn’t exactly 6′ away, I’d get a dirty look.  The instant we let go of something, it’s sanitized.  Now, I know the measures need to be taken.  I get that, and I would be devastated if someone in my family contracted this.  But here’s my point:  we are taking so many measures to fight this virus.  This crisis.  And that’s the right thing to do.  I guess I just want to see the same measures taken for a crisis that has no ending in sight.

    Now, hear me out.  In 2018 (the most recent data I can find), 48,344 Americans died of suicide, which is about 132 people every day.  Further, 1.4 million people attempt suicide every year (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).  What scares me the most is this:  between 2007-2017, the suicide rate for teenagers (15-19) went up 76%.  Read that sentence again, grasshoppers.  Seventy-six percent.  For KIDS ages 10-14, the suicide rate tripled during that same time frame.  For both age groups, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and takes more lives than anything except accidents which include motor vehicle deaths (Centers for Disease Control).  Finally, men over 65 are at the highest risk for suicide, and people 85 and over are the 2nd most likely age group to die (NPR).

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    Sawyer Sweeten (Everybody Loves Raymond) Gunshot wound – age 19

    Obviously, I could go on and on with other statistics, but I think I made my point:  suicide is a public health crisis in America ALL of the time, and I think attention needs to be paid to this; particularly when it’s taking the lives of so many of our kids and teens, as well as adults.  Do you realize we are twice as likely to die by suicide than homicide, while cancer, heart disease and stroke deaths are lessening?

    Think about this:  suicide is preventable.  Yes, I said preventable.  Suicide is not about death, it’s about ending pain in the person’s life.  No one truly wants to die, we have a huge survival instinct.  Think about the Jews in the Holocaust, or the POW’s in Japan during WWII or Vietnam.  When I think how so many willed themselves…forced themselves…to survive in spite of the abhorrent conditions they faced, it astounds me.

    I teach about the Donner party in my Sociology classes, and most people joke about this:  “Hey…what are the Donner’s going to have for supper?  Aunt Jane!”  Actually, it was tragic.  These poor people who had lost the great majority of their food and supplies because of the Great Salt Dessert crossing and Paiute Native Americans who attacked them, got stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountains for an entire winter where literally, scores of snow fell which made climbing these impossible.  They tried numerous times though, but failed.  The first person that was eaten was a man who had begged his daughters to do so.  If they lived, he said, so would the rest of their family.  But no one ended up eating their kin, and no one consumed meat unless everything else had been used:  bark, leather, fur, etc.  That’s survival, peeps.  That’s what life means.

    Go back to those stats.  For kids and teens to be in such pain they end their precious, young lives is unacceptable to me.  Overall, not only do we have a suicide epidemic (literally) that cuts across all ‘lines’, but we have a mental illness/mental health crisis that is behind these horrific losses.  It’s a 2 fold problem:  a society that’s in so much pain, people of all ages are killing themselves because of problems bigger than they are mentally capable of handling at that point, and a lack of resources.

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    Anthony Bourdain – Death by Hanging        (1956 – 2014)

    Look at this:  The National Institutes of Health are the largest funder for biomedical research in the entire world.  In 2016, they spent $68 million on suicide, but 5x more studying SLEEP (what the fuck?), and 10x more on breast cancer which actually killed less people than suicide.  Something has to give.  We are spending more money on killers that take fewer lives.  Isn’t there something very wrong with that?  Doesn’t that show the value we place on mental illness and mental health issues?

    And like I said, the kicker is that suicides are preventable, primarily with hotlines where the counselor establishes connection with the caller quickly, shows care and empathy, and let’s them know there are other ways to end the pain they are overwhelmed with in their lives.  Another prevention?  Breaking the stigma of mental illness by making is less ‘risky’ for people to say they are battling depression, or feel like they are outside their bodies looking in, or are experiencing so much anxiety, panic, or mania, they don’t think they can handle it another day.  Men are 4x more likely to commit suicide, and are also less likely to receive help for mental health issues.  Hmmmmm.  Plus, these approaches don’t require social distancing, masks, or staying at home in isolation:  it requires work in terms of funding and education.  In my mind, that’s doable.

    I know these things all too well from my own experiences at attempting suicide – when you are in such a fucking dark place where you look around and see only this black hole enveloping you more and more, you have no way of seeing anything else.  That monster has you, and it takes someone outside of yourself to start the journey of climbing up those walls.  It takes someone showing you that you matter.  That you can survive.  Saying: “Things will get better…we all go through stuff.” or “You just got to look on the bright side.” or even “Don’t be so dramatic” are just going to make the person feel guilty for what they are feeling.  But saying “Hey,  I care about you  I want to help you” can.

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    Kate Spade – Death by Hanging (1962 – 2018)

    Edwin Schneidman was the pioneer in the study of suicide, and stated there 10 commonalities of it:  seeking a solution, cessation of consciousness, intolerable psychological pain, frustrated psychological needs, feelings of helplessness-hoplessness, feeling ambivalent, a feeling of constriction, a want of escape, communication of intent, and the coping skills the person has.  (The Suicidal Mind – Oxford University Press)

    Look at some of these closer.  How can we help ease people’s psychological pain?  By maybe recognizing and helping those with it?  By reducing the stigma of expressing this?  What about feelings of helplessness & hopelessness?  By giving people, such as the homeless, lonely, and sick something that gives them meaning?  Something they feel some control over?  Something to feel they are needed?

    And communication of intent?  Maybe we can help by addressing it.  Believing it.  Showing empathy for the person.  Helping them while standing beside them all of the way.  That’s what my ma did for me, and it obviously worked.

    Lastly, the coping skills the person has.  Mine suck balls, like a lot of others with bipolar.  I haven’t been able to cope with much since I was a gangly little girl.  Normal things hit me hard.  Very hard.  Just having a friend pay attention to someone else would devastate me (and I don’t use the word devastate lightly).  Having my ma or dad express disappointment in me would crush me down to where I felt incapable of being loved.  Having a guy reject my feelings in HS would get me so emotionally distraught, I felt I was a ‘nothing, like an invisible girl no one really saw.  Is it no wonder the first time I attempted suicide was when my first love told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore?  And my second time when too many things piled up on me at once that I totally collapsed under the weight of it all?

    We need so much to understand what some people can handle, others can’t.  When my ma would say “Honey, you’ll get over J and move on with someone who loves you back” I know her intentions were very good, she simply hated seeing me in so much pain.  But I couldn’t  ‘just’ do that, no matter how much I tried.  Her coping skills are amazingly strong, while mine are amazingly weak.  When people would say “Kristi, your nephew is in a better place”, I knew that to be true.  But guess what?  Maybe understanding that does comfort some, but it didn’t do shit for me when mourning a boy who had barely grown up.

    Look, peeps…we are in the midst of a pandemic.  We all need to stay healthy and safe.  We all need to be diligent about washing our hands, wearing our masks, and staying away from others.  But let me tell you something and I want to make this very clear:  suicide will still be around.  Long after this fucking Covid has either ‘run it’s course’ or we develop a vaccine for it.  However, suicide will still be taking lives, young and old.  Every single day we’ll see another 129 people kill themselves, all preventable deaths.

    I don’t know about you, but I want this epidemic to be over too.  Badly.

    Kristi xoxo

    The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 – 1-800-273-8255

    Shame on you.

    So, I was surfing around on my iPad last night, and came across a couple of blurbs about celebrities who have been age shamed lately.  Eva Mendes posted a pic and someone said she was getting older (OK…how should she stop time?), and another was of Gwen Stefani who wore a leotard, hoodie and boots with sequins while giving a concert.  People said she should ‘act her age’ and ‘quit performing since she’s so old’ (she’s 50!).  Lara Spencer on Good Morning America was age-shamed because she posed in a dress with ‘old looking knees’, and Madonna was shamed regarding her old looking hands, and actually had multiple, invasive, painful treatments on them to make them look younger.  And we all know about fat shaming:  take a look at the tabloids this summer and we’ll see pics of celebrities who have the “Worst Beach Bodies” because of weight.

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    Shame.  That’s an interesting word; one we need to understand since it’s being done so much to others on social media.  Do you know what it means?  To shame someone is to try to make them feel they are disgraceful or should be humiliated by what they ‘are’.  It means you should feel bad for whatever someone deems to be an issue.  Look at those words:  disgraceful, humiliated, guilty.  Damn.

    Of course we should feel shame when we do something wrong.  Self-shame in that regard is healthy since it makes us realize how wrong we were and then hopefully makes sure we don’t do whatever it was again.  I once read a parenting book that said “You should never allow your child to feel shame.”  What the fuck??  Of course I wanted O to feel shame when he did something wrong.  How else could he learn to internalize his own consequences for behavior?  And I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of things in my life I am ashamed of, and rightfully so.

    However, we aren’t looking at personal, internal shame.  We’re looking at what’s put upon us by others who want us to feel shame simply for ‘being.’  Age shaming?  OK…guess you’re not going to get older (let me know how that goes).  Fat shaming?  All righty…stop eating those desserts before you gain a few.

    Hmmmmm.

    But, what really hits home for me is mental illness shaming.  And yep, it happens.  The mentally ill are shamed for having a disorder or condition.  Period.  We are supposed to feel humiliated, disgraced, less than.  Our illnesses are shameful while other medical conditions such as arthritis, COPD, asthma, etc. are accepted as a struggle the person has to bear.  “Of course, take the medications that help treat the symptoms.”  “Of course you can’t join us for dinner since you aren’t feeling well.”  “Of course, take your time…I know you are struggling today.”

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    Gemma Correll

    What?  Of course physical medical conditions should be treated with such care and support!  But, shouldn’t that hold true for MENTAL ILLNESSES we well?  Sadly, those of us who live with mental illness hear things like this instead:

    • “Do you really need all of those meds?  Don’t they just screw up your brain even more?  I wouldn’t take something that messes with MY brain!”
    • “C’mon.  You’ve been depressed long enough.  Get out there and so something!”
    • “You can’t make it?  Why are waiting until now to tell me?  What the hell?”
    • “Therapy?  How does talking to someone help?  No one’s probing my mind.”  (Thank fuck for that.)

    And of course, the list goes on.

    Why is it that so many people look at mental illness as something WE are at fault for?  That we must have ASKED for?  That we should be able to control on our own?  Maybe they think we are ‘sick in the head’ because we’re being punished for something.  Why can’t people understand that our illness are often biological too?

    In a study done by Ole A. Andreassen at the University of Oslo, people with bipolar have thinning gray matter, particularly in the parts of the brain that control inhibition and motivation (the frontal and temporal lobes).  Psycheducation.org states that “Evidence is growing quite strong that a region of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex is underactive in people with bipolar disorder even when they are having no symptoms at all.”

    how-to-tell-the-difference-between-bipolar-disorder-and-depression-neuroinnovations
    health-innovations.org

     

    The Stanford University School of Medicine has determined that scrambled connections between the part of the brain that processes fear and emotion and other brain regions could be the biological reason for types of anxiety disorders and even depression.

    MRI’s show structural abnormalities in the brains of those with major depressive disorder or social anxiety disorder according to a study by Youjin Zhao from Sichuan University in China.

    In terms of eating disorders, findings are showing that the hypothalamus may not be functioning correctly in triggering the response of being full in the person.  Further, researchers are also determining that certain neurotransmitters in the brain are tied to eating disorders as well.

    So…we are finding more and more biological causes of mental illnesses.  Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and even some personality disorders.  Borderline, for example, is now considered an inheritable brain disease with specific brain abnormalities.  Wow.

    SSSSSOOOOO, here’s my question.  Why in the HELL are we shamed for having a biological brain disorder???  Answer that for me, peeps.  Mental illnesses are not made up for attention or an excuse or crutch people use when they can’t cope.  They are BRAIN disorders.  Period.  And we should feel guilty for having one (or in my case, 2)?  We should feel disgraced that our brains differ from others?  We should be humiliated to carry a diagnosis showing that we have brain abnormality?

    Wall-of-Shame

    NO, grasshoppers, we shouldn’t.  Why in the fuck should I apologize or feel shameful for having bipolar?  Why should I have to worry about ‘coming out’ and disclosing this to everyone?  (Kristi…are you sure you should talk about all of this?  What about your job?)  First, it’s a fucking career I went to school for 8+ years to get (so let’s get that straight right now!).  Second, why should I HAVE to worry about having an illness?  A disorder?  OH YEAH.  Because it’s in my brain.  Even though I earned a freaking M.S. in 18 months, while taking care of a toddler, and teaching to pay for it, people should still worry that I just might screw things up at school.  Well, I haven’t yet for 23 years…so…

    Here it is:  I’m so tired of people shaming other people for things that they can’t help or control.  I’m going to get old (OK, I’m already there).  I’m going to gain weight as I age (less estrogen, less metabolism, more tummy).  And I’m going to have this bastardly bipolar until the day I die.  Except now there are studies showing how dementia is more likely to happen among us who have bipolar, so that’s something else to look forward too as well.  Goody.

    We who have mental illnesses shouldn’t HAVE to be afraid to talk about it…ask for support…get compassion.  I understand when my neighbor with arthritis can’t carry in her own groceries, so I do it for her.  Why can’t others understand that when I’m depressed, I simply can’t answer my phone at times?  Can’t go out to the mall?  Can’t make plans for the week?  When are us ‘crazy, psychotic sickos’ going to get the same treatment as those with physical disorders?

    I don’t have the answer for that, grasshoppers.  But you know, I’m just hopin’ and prayin’ it happens soon.

    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