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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A study done at Harvard found this:

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

How Social Media Affects the Brain

Other recent studies found this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

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

“So darlin’, darlin’, stand by me” ~ Ben E. King

So, one of my students and I always walk out to our cars together after my last class and today she said something no one has asked me before: “How do you take everything people put on you?” I looked at her quizzically and she went on to say this: “We are always sharing things with you and burdening you with our problems…doesn’t that get hard to deal with?” I told her that it didn’t and I was just the kind of person people open up too. But, as usual, I started thinking about this more and realized that it probably does affect me more than I let on…or that I even admit to myself.

As the Grand Poobah would attest too, teaching Psychology (and Sociology) puts you in a position of teaching topics/issues/concepts that are so personal. For example, in my Marriage and Family class (my area of expertise…I have enough experience 🙄) we talk about issues including domestic violence, child abuse with special emphasis on sexual abuse, rape, infidelity, divorce, alcoholism, mental disorders and their affect on relationships and the list goes on. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?

In my Theories of Personality class that my student is in we talk about attachment, parenting, various conceptions of personality development that can go awry, personality disorders, theories that explore our neurosis, Horney’s Tyrrany of the Shoulds, the Inferiority Complex (Adler), our Shadow archetype (Jung), anxiety and defense mechanisms (S. and A. Freud), identity formation (Erikson), issues relating to freedom (Fromm), love (Fromm), conformity, social belonging, narcissism, psychopathy, real self vs. ideal self (Horney and Rogers), self-esteem, self-worth, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-image and you get the point. ALL of these topics can bring things up in students and even though it sounds absolutely horrible to admit, tears are sometimes shed.

Today we talked about Humanistic theories and discussed Roger’s belief in phenomenology and how it’s OUR perceptions, based on OUR experiences, that need to be the focus of attention. We live in our own bubbles based on things we have gone though which skews perceptions…but those perceptions, though maybe not rational, are real and need to be validated. After all, they’re ours.

So one of my students is a recovering heroin addict who spent 6 years in prison and has been clean since. She lost custody and contact with her first 2 children because of this but has another little girl she’s raising with her partner. The little girl has special needs and acts out uncontrollably at times. She’s in the process of being evaluated, etc. but it’s really hard for my student to handle. When we started talking about how our experiences shape our perceptions, she started crying and said this: “I’m a horrible mom. I get so impatient and so frustrated and I’m giving her these experiences that are going to screw her up. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a mom.”

This broke my heart. This woman is one of the kindest, smartest, and most motivated person I know and she works and tries with her daughter so hard. But, she makes mistakes. She yells and gets upset and cries and is now beating herself up over these times her daughter is taking in. After she calmed down I asked her this: “Name a perfect parent.” She couldn’t. I said: “Name a parent who is 9.9/10.” and she said YOU and I started laughing. WHAT? I told her that you could write every single mistake I made with O on the huge walls of our lecture hall and would still need room for more. I even called O on speaker and asked him to rate my parenting…he said he would probably give me around a 7.5-8. So, in other words, I have degrees in Psych and Family Studies, have worked with ages from 2- 70, have certifications out the wazoo…and I’m a C parent 😳.

She started laughing and we talked about how we are all going to ‘give’ our kids negative experiences because we’re human…they’re human…and when you have 2 imperfect humans interacting, there’s gonna be issues. But that’s OK. It’s normal!

Throughout the same class, students have also talked about lack of self-worth stemming from an assault, growing up in an abusive home where there was never any acceptance or positive interaction, feeling inferior to everyone else, confronting their ‘shadows’ and things they have done that they regret, etc. And I listen, validate, comfort, and sometimes advise if I think it’s appropriate.

And you know, in all of my 28 years of teaching at the college level, I have NEVER once talked about domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, alcoholism in families, or anything else without a handful of students in each class talking about their own experiences or coming to my office to share with me. It breaks my heart. So much. And it’s hard to not bring that home and have it haunt me. I just want to take these young people and wrap them all up in a blanket and schlep them off to a bubbled island where they won’t ever hurt again.

But I have my own issues too. Ever heard of ‘Imposter Syndrome’? This is when you feel like a fraud in what you do…that you really aren’t good enough for the position. I feel like this a lot! Here I am…someone who did shitty in high school…standing in front of future lawyers and counselors and executives and teaching them for a grade that will be on their transcript forever. Sometimes I think I should be in one of the seats…not out in front.

And today? We’re talking about DV in class and I always get choked up. How can I not when ma suffered 28 years at the hands of a batterer? And then we listen to a 911 call placed by a little girl, 7, who’s reaching out for help while her step-father beats her mom in the background. This resounds with me. I used to hear R beat mom when I was in bed. The fear and paralysis and sounds and powerlessness are still there in my head. The first time I heard it I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was the most awful night in my life and growing up in a home with that throughout my teen years has affected me. So when I hear the call, I can understand the girl’s anguish. (And yes, I called 911, my grandparents, my sissy, etc. and we all tried to help ma as much as we possibly could but ultimately, it’s the victim that has to take the help 😔).

When I lecture about sexual abuse, how can I not think of the 2 years I was abused by my psychologist? How can that wound not be re-opened every single semester in multiple classes? Then, when my sweetie students start to share their stories with me, it crushes me.

I never get through my lecture on divorce without choking up to where I sometimes need to take a breather. I hated my parents divorce…it was so hard on sissy and I, and I swore my kid would NEVER ever experience the break-up of their family. Yet he did and I remember his pain. His tears. His shouts. His haunted eyes. And I beat myself up again and again for that.

When we talk about mental illness and it’s stigmatization and how hard it is to live with, I get angry. Why is there still so much shame associated with illnesses no one wants or deserves or asks for? And then when my students message me and tell me they experience depression or anxiety but can’t ask for help because they’re scared people will look at them differently, I cry…because they’re right. You are looked at differently.

So I guess I take on other’s burdens because they need me too. They need someone to share with and talk too and learn from…something I didn’t have in school. They come to me because I’m open about things I’ve gone through…they know about ma (she has actually spoken to some of my classes), me having bipolar, me having been abused, etc. I share with them because they need to know there are people behind these statistics…text chapters…articles. When I say to them: “I understand” they know it’s true. Look, they’re there for me everyday…the huge family I never had and they let me live out my passion to teach and make me feel like I might be making a bit of a difference in their lives. I get back so much more than I give to them so if another student ever asks me why I take so much on, here’s what I’m going to say: “Because I love you all.” It’s as easy as that.

Kristi xoxo

“But it’s time you started living…” ~ Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song

Dear Mary Tyler Moore,

So, I don’t know if God allows computers in heaven and I’m really not sure how’ll you’ll read this letter but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

I grew up watching you on the MTM show and wanted to be you so badly. Not only did you have this amazing apartment (where you even got to sleep on a pull-out bed…how cool was that? 😲) but good friends that were your neighbors. You were beautiful, funny, smart, empathic and loved to eat salads like I did. And you know…besides the beautiful, funny and smart parts, I’m very much like you were then.

Every show that I watched up until yours started airing was about a family…you know, the dad who went to work everyday, the mom who wore heels to vacuum in, and the darling little angels whose worse problem was getting lobbed in the nose by a football. Then you came on the scene: this unmarried woman who lived alone, had a successful career and embraced singlehood and all that it entailed. Wow. What a new concept to me.

It’s funny to re-watch these shows now because the sexism in the workplace is horrendous. Lou looking at your butt when you walk out the door…you making $50 less than the man who had your exact job but had a family to support…the men in the newsroom calling you honey and asking for coffee even though you were an associate producer. It’s hard to remember that this was normal for the 70’s and sometimes I have to wonder how much it’s really changed. We’re still making coffee…often being talked to condescendly…and have to keep doing better and better to prove that we are the woman for the job. I remember when I met a neighbor after moving into my house. He asked what I did and I told him I worked at the college in town; then he asked what department I was a secretary in. Now granted this guy was about a billion years old, but even so it shows that we still have work to do. 🙄

I took you as a strong feminist and until I started reading more about you and realized how much our views on women mesh. You weren’t a big fan of Gloria Steinem, huh? In your last TV interview, when asked about why you didn’t relate to her well, you said this:  “I believed that women—and I still do—have a very major role to play as mothers.  It’s very necessary for mothers to be involved with their children.  And that’s not what Gloria Steinem was saying.  Gloria was saying oh, you can have everything, and you owe it to yourself to have a career.  And I didn’t really believe in that, so that was a little difficult for me.”

When I read that, I actually shouted AMEN! When I was growing up amidst the women’s movement, I thought I had 2 choices: have a family or have a career. Gloria chose her career and after having an illegal abortion in 1957, said she needed to prove herself and make her life count. It was as if she couldn’t see any way to do both but you did.

Why is being a mom often seen as second to being a career woman? “Oh…you’re a mom…so you just stay at home?” Uh, yeah…I did. And no matter how much I’ve achieved on a personal level, it doesn’t mean jack shit next to the fact I raised an amazing young man who is doing such wonderful things.

We’ve gone from saying “You can’t have it all!” to “You can have it all!” but is this true? Christine Hassler wrote this in the Huffington Post in 2011: “…not only are we supposed to have it all but do it all at 100 percent: the career, relationship, children/family all while looking good, doing good and being good.”

Really? That’s having it all? Hmmmm…I think that might be having too much. After all, how can you give 100% to 5 different things? How is that possible, and why don’t men need to do the same? An article in Psychology Today says this: “It’s true that many husbands are more willing to pitch in today, but things are far from equal. Taking care of the home is still squarely on the shoulders of wives, despite the fact that many are working. Some studies suggest that women have almost three times the workload of their husbands. Interestingly, these proportions stay about the same, regardless of whether a wife has a full-time job, and whether or not her husband is currently working.”

Yeesh. Three times the workload? So let’s see: we have being a wife/partner, being a mom, having a career, looking good (which is a requisite for women in our society today), and being good which is also still a societal expectation. And then we wonder why the hell women are twice as likely to be on anti-depressants and more likely to be on anti-anxiety meds than men. Some of this is due to biology…thank you, estrogen. But like the APA says, there are life factors as well: unequal power and status, work overload, and being the victim of abuse.

Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Can you have it all?” but what your opening song says: “You’re gonna MAKE it after all.” And to me, making it means being who and what you want to be. That’s part of what feminism is to me: having a choice in creating the life you want instead of having to follow a preordained path.

You didn’t have a partner or family on the show, but you were happy. Fulfilled. Had fun experiences. You did have it all…a full, satisfying life you were living on your own terms, despite what our culture said at the time.

And in your ‘real’ life? I know you suffered with diabetes beginning in 1969 after having a miscarriage, and that this disease almost blinded you as you got older. You had a benign brain tumor in 2011 and were very open about being a recovering alcoholic. And worse of all…you lost your only son after he suffered an accidental gunshot wound at the age of 24. I can’t even begin to imagine what pain that brought to your life. Bless your heart. 🧡

You see, that’s what I love so much about the ‘real’ you..and not just the TV you. You stood up for your own beliefs. You fought battles and talked about them…were open about them…didn’t shy away from answering the hard questions about them. So really, in that regard, you were the MTM on TV…someone living an authentic life and being exactly who you wanted to be. How refreshing…and how rare.

Anyhoot, I admired you as a kid and I still admire you as an adult. Watching your show not only gives me some really great decorating ideas (like when you antiqued a piece of furniture by hitting it with a chain 🤨), but shows me that being single doesn’t have to be seen as a flaw. I don’t need to feel less than because I’m alone; actually, you’ve taught me that I’m really not alone after all: I have an awesome family, friends at school, my students, my neighbors, my pets…I’m really blessed! You showed me I can have a full, happy life with ‘just’ me at home. Being single isn’t a curse…it’s an opportunity. What a great lesson that is.

Finally, you taught me that voicing views different from others is a privilege we should all take more advantage of, instead of this ‘herd’ mentality. I can be loved…liked…and me at the same time. Confidence isn’t conceit and having a sense of self-worth isn’t selfish. It’s simply strong.

So thank you for the lessons growing up…and the lessons I’m still learning now. You know, I can picture you having coffee with Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou while trading stories about anything and everything that comes to mind. Perhaps you’ll let me join you someday. If so, I’d be honored.

Love,

Kristi xoxo

“Just another manic Monday…” ~ The Bangles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

“You’re not actually going IN to an asteroid field?” ~ Princess Leia

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve really missed it! But, I had a pretty tough spring and not having a self-imposed obligation to blog has taken some of the stress off even though I still wanted to be with my peeps. 😍

Let’s just go through 2021 together and take a look-see at my life.

January: Another semester of teaching during the pandemic and not being able to see my students in-person. Continuing the mask-wearing and fear of COVIDing and store closings and restaurant closings and the list goes on. Y’all know what I mean…you were in it too.

February: Tested positive for the Vid (apparently, that’s the ‘cool’ way to say it…and Lord knows how ‘cool’ I am 🙄) and was sick for about 2 weeks. I was lucky enough not to have the cough and breathing issues but was treated to feeling like the day after having the flu where walking to the bathroom seems to be a humungous chore. Then, my little Dottie had to be put down and I still cry over her every single day. There is such a hole in my heart and just writing these words brings tears to my eyes.

March: Went in for a simple D & C to take care of some fibroids but found out they were too advanced so a full hysterectomy was scheduled for April (during which time I am still teaching 8 classes online).

A Foley is a catheter!

April: Felt like crap on April 8th and got to where I was doubled over and feeling like I was going to pee myself every 10 seconds. Went to the ER and found out I needed emergency kidney stone surgery (the only upside to this was that the doc was hot. The only downside was that he was looking at my kidneys 😳). Recuperated for a couple of days and then went ahead with a full hysterectomy on the 11th. So…5 total hours of surgery in 3 days. I got to wear a lovely catheter bag and feel a tube up my twat while watching reddish pee continuously drip. Charmed, I’m sure. Then, 2 days later, the preforementioned bag clogged (only I can clog a freaking bag 😐 ) and my sissy had to rush me to my doc 30 miles away. She was a STAR and if it would have taken her 2 minutes more, my bladder would have burst and I would have died (no…I’m not being dramatic…the doc said this afterwards and it scared the shit out of me!) A huge plus for sissy is she got to see every. single. thing. that’s covered by my underwear. She starts therapy soon. Plus, I didn’t miss a day of teaching.

Mally and Edward!

May: Healing. Healing. Healing. AND, big news: I adopted a 3-4 year old Corgi dog named Mally (for the low low price of $2000)! She was a breeder at a puppy mill who had to be spayed after a C-Section, and since she was no longer ‘of use’ to the owner, she was put up for adoption. I was told she had been socialized, was well trained, had all of her vaccinations, blah blah blah. Well…come to find out, that was all a lie. Instead, she was treated like a thing, lived in a barn all of her life, had never been around people except for when she was having yet another litter of pups, needed vaccinations out the wahoo, and had absolutely no clue what toys, treats, and love were.

It’s been hard with Mally and I almost gave up. But I’ve started working with a couple of dog behaviorists and they are helping me so much. It’s like Mally has Reactive Attachment Disorder…as if she had spent her entire childhood, adolescence, and 20’s in a closet. So when we got her home, she cowered and submissive pottied, refused a collar or leash, and spent every minute when she was inside crouching between the 1 foot space between my bed and wall. However, she now walks on a leash, cuddles me on the couch, and is showing interest in toys/treats while responding to some simple commands and the consistent schedule she’s on. I love her and want so much to give her a good life! Plus, Edward is smitten! They chew and clean each other’s ears (🤢) and play and play and play! Since Mally was really only around other dogs, she is much more comfy with Edward than people…so he’s been a great thing for her! She has a LONG way to go, but I think she’ll continue to improve and I hope she’s happy with me. Since she’s a girl, she probably is. (As we know, men usually aren’t 🙄).

June: Spent the majority of time working with Mally, teaching summer scrool, and getting classes ready for the fall of which I have 3 on-campus! YEA! BUT, there’s more…

Bill moved to his house down the street and it’s adorbs. But we’re trying to figure out our relationship right now. The honeymoon type ‘glow’ has worn off and we’re seeing the ‘raw’ Bill and Kristi. I’m gonna be honest with you, there’s been some arguments and difficulties. Right now, we’re focusing on being friends while trying to figure out our true feelings and if we want to pursue working on a romantic relationship. We’re taking it one day at a time.

You know, we went from talking online, to living together while he looked for a house, to moving him down the street. We’ve never had a ‘normal’ type of courtship (like ma and pa Ingalls did…that word just seems so ‘old’ to me). Look, I want to date! Be wined and dined! Be treated like a little Princess! (Yes, you may roll your eyes at that last one…🙄). However, it’s hard for him to do this because in my cargo shorts, black t-shirts and grass stained sneakers, I look absolutely nothing like a princess. I look more like a princesses’ gardener. [SIDE NOTE: Kate and Wills, if you ever need another gardener, give me a shout. I think I would be able to work you in.] 😳

Couldn’t resist this!

Because I had been alone for a while and have always worked hard in my life, I think it’s difficult for Bill to imagine me wanting to be treated like a queen. (I graduated from princess to queen in 2 sentences…good work, heh?? 👸). Yes, I can mow and paint and wire things and build things but still want to be spoiled at times. And yes, I can make this difficult for a man when I do everything myself because I feel guilty asking for help. It’s kinda…or actually is…a no-win at times.

[By the way: I have worked so so so hard in my basement this summer! I’ve built countertops and created an indoor plant center/nursery and am now painting and pulling up carpet in my basement to create a cool rec room! I’ll post pics soon!]

Finally, I’m not doing well mentally. I’m usually manic in the summer and yes, I am this summer as well. When you paint for 12 hours straight and then mow and then run, I’d say mania has set in. But, I’m also depressed (refer to my spring stuff and the fact I have fucking bipolar…sorry, ma 😐). It’s a horrible feeling. In bipolar speak, this is called a mixed episode and I’ve never had one as severe as this one. In fact, I’m calling the doc today to get in for a med check and a possible new med that is showing a lot of promise among bipolar patients.

I’m also feeling really anxious (very common with bipolar anyway…just greatly exacerbated right now). For me, the full pandemic is still going on. Most people have gotten back to work and a routine and being around people again and having a reason to get up and out. Not me. For us profs, we are still working from home. The only time I go out is to go to Wal-Mart (for the love of all that is holy, when you go to Wal-Mart and are wearing a t-shirt for a dress, please wear underwear…) ma’s or sissy’s. And for an extravert, this is nothing. I need school so badly…to be around my students! On the other hand, I’m nervous too. After the debacle with a student threatening me a couple of years ago (and being blamed for it), I am still not treated well among a lot of my colleagues.

And for the icing on the cake, I’m working on 2 info repositories, one for staff and one for students, of mental health/illness resources and info for my college (per IL law). So…I’m the one posting the info to make sure the mentally ill and those suffering mental health issues/crisis are understood and helped…all while being ostracized for having bipolar. Hmmmm.

SO…it’s been a trying spring and summer and I’ve been close to a breakdown a couple of times. That scares the bejesus out of me. Look, I don’t have time for a breakdown. I am never not working (teaching or getting classes ready to teach…I have 9 in the fall) and can’t not be on my game. I can’t put my ma through another breakdown. I don’t know if I could get through another one myself. I’m working so fucking hard to keep it together and ma and sis have helped tremendously. I owe them both a lot.

Anyhoot, it’s really nice to be blogging again (and I know this cheerful post had to have been the highlight of your day) and just writing this was therapeutic.

Thanks for always being there for me peeps…y’all are so special to me. Truly. 😍

Kristi xoxo

“But you are not alone…I am here with you…” ~ Michael Jackson

So, the beginning of this post is going to show you my ‘Professor K’ side and I hope you’ll bear with me…and maybe learn a new bit of info to boot. In the United States we have awareness months and here is a SHORT list of issues that I feel are particularly important…let’s take a look-see:

  • January:
  • February:
    • American Heart Month – leading cause of death in the U.S. and a person dies of this every 36 seconds.
    • March:
      • Colon Cancer – it’s estimated that around 150,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year and is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
    • April:
      • Autism – 1:54 kids diagnosed each year with boys representing the majority of cases.
      • Child Abuse Prevention – there are 3.6 million referrals to agencies every year which represent 6.6 million kids. Between 4-7 kids die each day due to abuse/neglect.
      • Sexual Assault – 1:6 women and 1:33 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
    • May:
      • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) – 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. 80% die within 2-5 years of their diagnosis.
      • Brain Tumor – 24,530 new cases are diagnosed each year.
      • Mental Heath Awareness – 1:5 adults (with 45% seeking treatment) have a mental illness and 1:20 have a serious mental illness (schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar) with 65.5% getting treatment. 16.5% of youth have a mental illness with 50% receiving help. And, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-34: 46% have a diagnosed mental health condition and 90% have symptoms of one.
    • June:
      • Alzheimer’s – 1:3 seniors die of this each year and 6 million are living with it currently.
    • September:
      • Childhood Cancer – 16,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and it’s the #1 cause of death by disease in children.
    • October:
      • Breast Cancer – 13% of women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over their lifetime as are 2620 men (who are most likely to die from the disease).
      • Domestic Violence – 1:4 women and 1:9 men experience SEVERE physical violence which figures to 20 victims per minute.
      • Bullying – 20% of student are bullied at school and 31% of people have experienced it as an adult. Bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide ideation/completion.
    • November:
      • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – 16 million adults and 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Whew. Now remember, this isn’t all of the awareness months we have…just a sampling of the major physical and mental diseases that are experienced by so many people.

What’s my point? Well…this: around 9% of people have had COVID with 1:6 experiencing severe symptoms; approximately 2% will die from the infection and as of today, there have been 561,052 deaths in the U.S. Yes, COVID is serious and we need to tackle it. (By the way…did you know that during the same time period, 24,000 – 62,000 Americans died from the flu and pneumonia and is the 9th leading cause of deaths yearly? I didn’t. 😳) But, 48,500 people (kids – elderly) die of suicide each year and we take 1 month to highlight it. There’s no vaccine…no daily advice…and very few PSA’s, etc.

Sssssooooo…why do we only take a month to tackle the huge issues we have consistently in the U.S.? One month to focus on mental health when 20% of us have a mental health issue or illness? And, thanks to COVID, this number is increasing. The loneliness and depression people have felt during the pandemic…the stress and anxiety of losing jobs…it’s worsening and I think this trend will continue.

Let me tell you what it’s like to have a severe mental illness, which for me is bipolar: it’s hell. Truly…it’s that simple of a description. Hell. Every single day I’m on this earth I struggle with what’s happening in my mind. I can’t remember ever not having this…it’s been with me for the vast majority of my life. Like I’ve shared before, it was evident something was wrong with me as early as 3rd grade and by the time I was 13, my grandma talked to my mom about her worries regarding my mental health. I attempted suicide in high school and was either so depressed I could barely slog through my days, or I was so manic I could hardly sit still in class and did some really stupid things after school that I’m not real proud of. It was hard for others to handle this, so I really had only 1 close friend, but she was amazing; I know it was sometimes hard on her to be there for me like she was (thank you, M…I love you🥰) .

My brain has a little demon bastard in it. This guy (I picture him as a guy…go figure 🙄) dictates when I’m up and when I’m down. When I can function around other people and when I can’t. When I can go out without either crying or having anxiety or when I have to stay home and try to deal with the panic/mania my brain is producing. It tells me to spend $1000’s of dollars at a time and when I get depressed, it shames me for that money spent so I eat noodles and salad every night to save a few bucks (and remember, my anorexia feeds off of these small menus). It dictates how much love I can give at any one time or compels me to push people away. In other words, this mother fucker (sorry, ma…but you feel the same way about him 😐) has control over me.

Think about that. Control. Other words for control are: Power. Command. Dominance. Pretty strong stuff. ‘Kristi’ is rarely in control…and even when I think I am, it’s only because this guy has loosened his hold for a while and is allowing me that privilege. Look, try to understand it this way: when ma had breast cancer (over 20 years ago and has been fine every since 🙏), she had good days and shitty days. But regardless of how she felt on any given day, she always had the cancer. It was there with her for a year.

In the same way, no matter how those of us with mental illnesses feel…we still have the mental illness. This is why you simply can’t tell someone suffering from depression to ‘cheer up!’ Or someone suffering from anxiety to ‘calm down!’ Or someone suffering from a personality disorder to ‘get right!’. It’s akin to telling someone suffering from ALS to just ‘get up and walk’. See my point?

To be honest, I never knew the strength of my demon-guy until I had a mental breakdown 3 years ago and I realized that he is one strong son-of-a- bitch. He took me from being a fairly confident, secure woman to someone who was absolutely nothing. Everything that had been good in my mind was tossed away and only a shell remained. He filled this shell with suicidal ideation until I attempted again. He told me to cut myself all over my body…and I did. He poured words into my head like ‘worthless’, ‘ugly’, ‘you deserve to die’, and I believed them. In other words? He tried to kill me, and he almost succeeded.

Long after COVID is under control with yearly vaccinations, etc. we will still have people suffering from everything I talked about above. There’s no vaccine for cancer…for sexual assault…for human trafficking…for domestic violence…for child abuse. None. And there never will be.

That’s why it’s so important that we don’t have special ‘months’ where these issues are highlighted; instead, they need to be talked about all year around and publicized continuously. If we can all come together as a society and fight COVID…why can’t we do that with mental illness? Come together and learn how to recognize it in ourselves and others…how to seek treatment…how to help a friend or family member…how to direct people to the resources they need…how to listen…how to help…just how to talk about it.

Yes, I know suicide and mental illness and domestic violence and rape and child abuse and all of these other things are ‘icky’ to talk about. Just like the ASPCA commercials that show abused and dying pets. It kills me to see those and I used to look away. I don’t anymore. I watch them when they come on. Why? Because animals are being abused and killed daily and the only way to stop these commercials is to stop this treatment. I donate to local pet shelters…I rescue dogs…I always tell new puppy owners to spay or neuter their pets…I try my best to do what I can.

From Beacon Health Options

We can’t turn away and say: “I don’t want to see a PSA commercial about suicide while I’m trying to watch Wheel of Fortune.” You know what I don’t want? Someone committing suicide while I’m watching Wheel of Fortune. Why can’t we have these months where we strongly highlight various illnesses/diseases, but still talk about them and learn about them always? Domestic violence awareness shouldn’t end on October 31st. Sexual assault awareness should continue past April. And mental health awareness shouldn’t only be in May. We can’t let these arbitrary ‘months’ and the media dictate what we pay attention too. People are dying every single day due to mental illness. We need more than a month.

The ‘theme’ of this month highlighting mental health is “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” But you know what? When those of us who suffer from mental illness only hear and feel this support for 31 days out of the year, it pretty much feels like we are.

Kristi xoxo

“I try to hold on, but it’s slipping, slipping away.” ~ RED

So, holy crap! I have been hard at work getting my classes ready and starting school and I haven’t had time to post. I miss it when I can’t blawg because I miss talking to my sweetie peeps!!

Anyhoot, I had a completely different post I was going to write today but after a conversation with my sister this week, I decided to write about it instead. Here’s the scoop: sis texted me and said that she had gotten a new phone for her birthday and her hubby was helping her set it up. During the process, she got very frustrated and yelled and felt very out of control. She told me how bad she felt about her blow-up and how she hates that this happens at times.

My first thought was: ‘Girl, I totally understand’. And my second thought was: ‘Girl, it’s not your fault’ (love you Susan, 😍) .

Let’s take these one at a time, shall we? Like me, T has mental health issues and has suffered from depression, anxiety, and OCD for as long as we both can remember. According to the National Institutes of Health, ‘Many psychiatric disorders tend to run in families, suggesting potential genetic roots. Such disorders include autism, ADHD, bipolar, major depression, and schizophrenia.’

And then there’s this: According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illnesses are most likely caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors including inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth, and impaired neural networks in the brain.

Lovely, isn’t it? You know, the fact that we don’t know ‘exactly’ what causes mental illness but that it’s a combination of nature and nurture. It’s like so many of us with depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. are ‘programmed’ into our illness and we are driven by it. Right?

I know how my sis feels. Sometimes I’ll say things…do things…think things…that are completely inappropriate or hurtful. No matter how much I try to NOT do these, it doesn’t matter. My brain is directing the show and bipolar is the star. It’s so hard to describe how I can ‘literally’ (I hate the overuse of that word…so what am I doing? Using the damn thing. 🙄) be telling myself NO NO NO: Don’t buy that! Don’t say that! Don’t work on the house for 12 hours straight and then think of something else to do! Don’t burst out crying in this situation! Don’t make a jackass of yourself! But, I still do. My brain is a powerful organ (shutty the mouthies 😐) and bipolar is a force to be reckoned with. Often times my “Don’ts” become “Do’s” no matter how much I try to hold them back.

So does that mean that me, and others with mental illnesses who might act out, are off the hook for our behavior? Hmmmm. In a way YES, but in more of a way NO. Don’t you love it when I’m so clear in my stances? Perhaps I should be a politician. 🙄

Yes, we aren’t necessarily ‘responsible’ for all that our mental illnesses do in our lives because of the actual inherited traits and brain issues. It’s akin to a child stealing when they’re little, even though they have been taught not to: they simply don’t have the moral development or firm control over their impulses, and this makes it VERY difficult for them NOT to steal .

BUT we are responsible for giving sincere apologies, making amends when possible, and then working on ways we can recognize when things are getting bad and try to vent or express in other ways. My sister said how it’s not just the 1 issue that makes her blow-up…instead, it’s the culmination of many things (just like everyone experiences) and the blow-up might happen for so many reasons beyond what is seen. Sis had a stressful holiday season, has a physically and mentally demanding job, and does a lot for her kids and grandkids (lucky 😐). She didn’t lose control because of a phone. Sis lost control because she can only take so much. Others might be able to handle this stuff better. However, those of us with mental illness handle things differently. We ruminate. We second guess ourselves. We are constantly trying to appear ‘normal’ to others no matter how we might feel (those fucking masks we have to wear. Sorry, ma 🙄). We feel depressed. We feel anxious. We are trying so hard not to give in to what our brains are telling us. Pushing all of this down as best we can…hour after hour…day after day is exhausting. Trust me on this.

Scenic Railway – Luna Park (Melbourne)

My family knows I’m bipolar and they know I have low low downs and high high ups. They know these mood fluctuations are ‘normal’ for me but I try to hide them anyway. I don’t see my son as much as I’d like so when I do, you can bet I’m putting on a happy face (I am happy to see him…but my bipolar may be really pulling me down right then) to make the visit ‘nice.’ I know my ma has a lot of stress in her life and I try my very best not to put any more on her. I know my sister suffers from mental illness and as much as I’d like to call and vent to her, it might be too much for her to handle right then.

Look my sweetie peeps…mental illness is going to affect every aspect of your life whether you want it to or not. It’s going to ‘make’ you say and do things you’ll be shameful of when the crisis is over. These fucking (sorry, ma 🙄) illnesses take over so much of ‘who’ we are and as such, we are often at their mercy. And I don’t know about you and your own struggles, but my bipolar isn’t very merciful. All I know is that I have to cut myself some slack, take things day by day, and then make up for what I have done. It’s just the way life works when you have a mental illness.

Kristi xoxo

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ~ Stephen King

So, a friend was talking to me about one of their family members who has been formally diagnosed with bipolar but refuses to get help with it even though they are having trouble functioning in their day-to-day life. When I asked my friend: “What all is family doing for him?” their response was this: “Most of them are fed up…they are stepping away since he won’t get help and it’s so much to handle.”

Clear as mud to me.

Hmmmmm. Now first of all, I know how difficult it is to deal with someone who has a mental illness. I’m not the only one in my family with a mental health issue and there is also a lot of alcoholism as well, so I know it’s tough to be there for the mentally ill day after day. Then, when you add your own mental health struggles into the equation (I actually got through College algebra and trig with A’s. How in the name of all that’s holy I did it, I’ll never know. 🙄) it can be exhausting.

I think one reason for this is the idea that ‘if they would only get help, they would be OK’. Hmmm. Not true. ‘Getting help’ doesn’t mean your struggles are over. It means you are taking the steps to get as much help as you can in ‘handling’ your struggles. For example, heart disease is the #1 chronic physical condition in the U.S. (The CDC) and although there are ways to slow it’s progression, there is no way to cure it. So yes, meds, exercise, and a healthier diet can all benefit the person, but they are still going to have heart disease with consequences despite the intervention/help they are getting.

By the same token, we don’t expect someone with diabetes to suddenly take a couple shots of insulin and be ‘cured’ to where they need no further treatment; and when you say it like this, you can hear how ridiculous that even sounds. And, if that is the case, why do we think getting on a med or 2 and talking to a counselor a couple times a month is going to make everything better? Hmmm.

Think about this: heart disease and diabetes greatly affect a person’s life, but don’t all mental illnesses do the same? Don’t all of them affect brain function and as a result, lives? One day my sis and I were yacking and we were talking about how hard it is to live with our respective mental illnesses and we both said this: “I wonder what it would feel like to be ‘normal’ for a day or two?’ It was hard for either one of us to imagine since we’ve both been experiencing our issues for decades.

I’m still dealing with my freaking kidney stones (I go to a specialist on Monday who is going to stick a catheter up my urethra to see ‘what’s going on down there’…charmed, I’m sure… 😐) and as a result have some pain periodically through the day, can’t pee without it being bloody (there is no way on God’s green earth I could be a nurse or doc…), can’t eat without feeling like I’m going to throw up for a couple hours after, am tired all of the time, and am so bloaty (ugh…🙄) that I look 5 months pregnant (no, ma…put the phone down…I’ve been through menopause). I was telling Bill this week that I just wanted to feel ‘good’ for a day or 2 since I’ve had this since September. In fact, I kinda forgot what it’s like to pee yellow. 😳

If my ‘stones’ are as cute as this one, I’m going to make a necklace.

But, no one is ‘fed up’ that I have this (well…almost no one…) and they know it’s not my fault (I’m thinking of you saying this right now, Susan 😘). I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing (drinking lots of water, resting when I get tired, etc.) but of course that’s not going to miraculously cure me, is it? It’s obvious something needs to be done and more time has to pass. And, I also know that talking about kidney stones and pee is easier than talking about bipolar, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. I wonder why that is? Urine is better to talk about than bipolar? “Hi boss…I can’t be there today…I have a kidney infection and stones and am having a really tough time with it.” OR…”Hi boss…I can’t be there today…I have bipolar and am currently cycling through a depression that people are pissed about because they say I should be happy because I’m in love and it’s the holidays without understanding that moods and emotions are 2 different things so I’m being blamed for something I have very very little control over because my brain is fucked up and theirs might be too but if they are experiencing issues it’s different.” Now, which one do you think would be ‘best’ to say? Riiiiigggggghhhhhtttttt. The kidney one.

Look, I know how frustrating it is to see people not get help, or not get better even with help, or being a different person based on the day, or blowing up at you because of their own anxieties, or not being able to function day to day because of their depression, etc. I get it. I get how hard it is to be around those of us who are unpredictable. Who can’t always explain ‘where it hurts.’ Who you can’t really understand. I can’t tell you how many times I heard this in my life: “I just don’t understand you.” Well get in line, baby…because I don’t understand me either.

I know what I have and I know what it makes my brain look like and do, but I still don’t ‘understand’ it. I still don’t get why it’s in my head and how it controls my moods and how it makes me feel, etc. It was like doing my trig theorems…I got ‘how’ to do the steps, I just didn’t understand what the hell it was all for.

Getting help for mental illness isn’t as easy as people think. It took me decades to get the real help I needed and I still struggle everyday. It’s better, but I still have a disease. Sometimes just battling our minds day after day saps our energy to the point we have nothing else to use outside of ourselves. Seeking help is scary: Where do I go that takes my insurance? Where do I find a counselor that specializes in bipolar or eating disorders or depression (just like we often need a specialist for physical issues, we also need the same for mental ones. Counselors are not ‘one size fits all’). What will meds to do me? What if I’m misdiagnosed and any meds prescribed hurt me more than help me? What if the doc feels I’m so depressed I need shock therapy? What if my meds cause side effects that stymie ‘me’ and who I really am? What will my colleagues say if I talk about it? How will my friends handle it? My family?

In some families, friendships, work relationships, people pull away from you when you need them the most…when you admit to what you are fighting. So ‘getting help’ may not be the cure all for relationships that have been affected by a mental illness. In fact, it just might make some people walk away from you: “Glad you finally got help but you should have done it a lot sooner before so many things happened and I gave up on you.” Hmmm: “Glad you finally went in to the cardiologist and found out you have heart disease and are now eating better and exercising. You should have done that earlier, before I got fed up, because I really don’t feel close to you anymore and it makes me angry when you talk about this because you waited too long to go in and I’m really actually questioning if you actually do have ‘heart disease’ since you’ve been pretty much OK up to this point. Why couldn’t you have just started eating better a little earlier in your life? And hey, we all have things wrong with us. Duh.”

So, what DO people with untreated mental illness need? An ear. A safe place. A chance to talk about what they are feeling, thinking, etc. A conversation about why they aren’t seeking help. A promise that when they do seek help, you’ll continue to be there for them. An understanding that so many people hope that whatever is happening to them in their head will just pass…that it’s just a transitory thing. A willingness to say that you’ll go to appointments with them until they are able to do it themselves. A realization that taking a Prozac today isn’t going to make them deliriously happy tomorrow. An awareness that what does work today may not work in a year. And finally, the tenacity to keep being close to the person as they navigate a very scary journey on the road to treatment.

When are we going to start treating mental illnesses as illnesses? When are we going to understand that those of us with them didn’t ask for them…didn’t do anything to cause them…didn’t get them to piss you off? Why can’t we have compassion for all illnesses…diseases? Why do we give up on those who need help the most but are having the hardest time getting it? Hmmmmm…I’m not sure I understand.

Kristi xoxo

“I think, I think too much” ~ Florence + the Machine

So, my gramma used to worry about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I used to say this about her: “If gramma didn’t have anything to worry about, she’d worry about not having anything to worry about.” Well, come to find out, I worry and stress a whole bunch too, and often about little things that I’m finally learning just don’t mean a whole lot in the long run.

Of course, I do have an excuse (in other words, I’m ‘entitled’ to worry 😲) because as a YOUNG woman (shutty the mouthies, peeps) with bipolar, I also deal with anxiety. And, according to a 2012 study, around 60% of people with bipolar will deal with an anxiety disorder in their life. BTW, here’s my new tagline: “Bipolar…the mental illness that keeps on giving.” Blech. Anyhoot, along with the rumination, personalization, and sensitivity of bipolar, is it no wonder that I’m a worrier?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working hard on my house and I love doing it! I have my own toolbox now and have fun rummaging around in it (yes, I have to put stickers on everything I own…a quirk from childhood when I was just a small sprig that has continued into my 40’s (once again, shutty 🙄). I’ve learned to putty, sand, paint (properly!), replace electrical outlets, install simple flooring, put together furniture, drill, hammer (correctly…using the shoulder and not the wrist), etc. I just finished my home office up this week and can’t wait for my new office furniture to be delivered so I can ‘git ‘er done.’

I’m ‘crazy’ (go figure) about this color!

My neighbor, M, has been a complete doll throughout this process. Bless his heart…he’s loaned me drill bits and his electric sander, helped me move furniture upteen times, and has given me permission to buy a bunch of new stuff because when I’m feeling guilty about spending money, I’ll call him and say: “M…should I buy this?” And he says: “Why not?!” Why not, indeed. 😃

So a couple of days ago, I bought some new shelves and proceeded to take out the old shelves on my living room wall (which left 12 holes where anchors and screws had been) and then drill 12 new holes for anchors and screws. I got the new shelves up, stepped back, and absolutely hated them. I took those down and now had 24 holes in my wall. 24. I looked at my holey wall and just started sobbing. All I could see was the work I had done trying to make that fucking wall (ooooops…sorry, ma 🙄) look good and now it looked like swiss cheese.

My wall of holes while I’m puttying them. Blech.

I called M and told him all of this between gasps, sobs, and gulps of air. I am a horrible crier: When I cry…I cry. No little tears streaming down my cheeks that make me look vulnerable and tragically beautiful. Nope…I get spigots turned on, a red blotchy face, nose gunk running down my lip, all while my mascara glops up making me look like a raccoon. Very attractive. Anyhoot, after M was able to decipher my sobbing ramble here’s what he said: “You can putty them. It doesn’t matter. This is fixable.”

And, he was right (please don’t tell him that…I don’t want him to think he set a precedent or anything). It was fixable. But at that moment, it was overwhelming. I stressed over those holes…worried about those holes…and wanted them perfect NOW. So, I worked until midnight and got the wall fixed up. And…well…that was it. It was a wall again. Whoopee. Now, when I walk by it, I think “Why did that bother me so much?”

I guess I do have a couple of valid reasons: bipolar making me blow things out of proportion no matter how hard I try to reign it in, and the fact that I’ve tried to be perfect and do perfect all of my life, probably to make up for the imperfectness that I have so much of.

But I’m ashamed at my reaction because when I think about all of the things actually worth worrying about, seeing a wall with holes in it is pretty small stuff.

Like, I remember the night my dad left our family home and how it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. I remember feeling like ma, T and I weren’t enough for him to stay with us and that his new life with my step-mom was going to be so much better than what we had to offer.

I remember being bullied and the first time I realized that losing weight lessened it to the point where I lost 30 pounds in about a month, and in the process developed anorexia.

I remember the panic and fear of seeing the psychologist that sexually abused me every week, but also remember the feeling that I had to see him because I needed him so badly and how utterly confusing this was to me.

I remember when my ma was being beaten by her 2nd husband (that fucking bastard…and ma doesn’t mind me saying it in regards to him…she even has. You go girl!) and my sis and I worried, often, that he would kill her. I remember seeing black eyes, bruised cheeks, bruises and scratches on her neck/legs/arms, and the time in the hospital where he had beaten her so badly she was throwing up blood and her back was completely black.

I remember the last time I saw my gramma who had ovarian cancer and seeing her looking so weak and small…understanding it might be the last time I’d ever be with her in this life.

I remember when O was a little fella in his crib and I went in one night to check on him because he hadn’t gotten me up yet for a drink or diaper change. When I picked him up, he was turning blue and I was petrified. Hubby and I raced him to the ER in about 4 minutes and he was having a severe bout of asthma (which we didn’t even know he had) and was in an oxygen tent for a couple of days.

I remember when ma asked me out to lunch one day in October of 1998 and as we were eating our chips and salsa said this: “I found a lump in my breast.”

I remember O’s dad telling me I needed to leave our home and feeling like I was punched in the gut all while having no place to go to and fearing that I was losing my little family forever.

I remember sitting in Perkins with J and him holding my hands and telling me he would never ever cheat on me ever again, and then having him be with her the next day.

I remember waking up to threatening messages from a student who said he wanted to rape me and make me into a lampshade. When I was blamed for this, I remember feeling the greatest loss of optimism I’ve ever experienced when I learned that bad things happen to good people and there’s nothing you can do.

And then? I also think about the actual worries/stresses/issue that others have: I can’t imagine not knowing if I was going to be able to stay in a home another month. Or how it feels to see your kids hungry and not be able to feed them. I can’t fathom the stress of having a sick child but no insurance to get them the care they need, or losing your job because you have to care for that child. I am blessed to never know what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where you have to fear for your safety or work in a factory where you could lose fingers, arms, or a leg with just one mishap. I’ve never known what “You have cancer” feels like personally or be told that I have a certain amount of time left on this earth.

I’m ashamed for worrying about holes in a wall when the homeless people in our country would give anything to have 4 walls and a roof. It humbles me to think there are people that can’t read this because they never were given the chance of an education.

But you know what this has taught me? That I need to consciously work on making sure I see things for what they are. Inconveniences. Chores. Eye sores. There’s a hole in my wall…so what? Big fucking deal (I had to get one more in, ma…just ’cause 😏). My family loves me. My paint got smudged on the ceiling? Big deal. I can choose to eat whatever I want from my own stocked kitchen. Edward had a poop accident on my rug? OK. I’ll clean it up and continue to be thankful I have my best friend by my side.

I think we all need to know what a bad day, issue, or problem really is and what it’s not. I think we all need to look at our perspectives. Look around at the bigger picture. I guess we just need to be thankful that so often, our problems are just holes that can be patched up and then forgotten…and spend our energy on the things that really do need our focus and care.

Kristi xoxo

Romancing the Stone

So, I don’t even know how to start this post except by saying WHAT THE HELL? Now, if that’s not a great first sentence to pull you in, I don’t know what is.

Did you know, my sweet peeps, that it is now ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ to be mentally ill? OK. I’m going to pause a minute to let you take that in………la dee dah……la dee dah…..(pretend this is Jeopardy music 🎵). Yes my dears, it’s ‘in’ to be mentally ill. In fact, it’s become something that is not only sensationalized, but romanticized in so many ways in our society right now, particularly on social media.

It’s sad to me that to belong, too many younger people are now embracing the idea that they themselves have some type of mental disorder. Depression, anxiety, bipolar (🙄), a personality disorder, etc. These disorders have become ‘tragically beautiful’ or, at the very least, trivialize what mental illness really is. Regardless, mental illnesses are being sensationalized for attention and grasshoppers, that’s not right.

Look on Twitter…there’s this hashtag: #IGetDepressedWhen and here’s a couple of goodies – “I get depressed when my battery low” , or “I get depressed when I know summers almost over”, or “I get depressed when there’s no bacon for lunch.” Hmmmmm. I gotta be honest here. I’ve been struggling with depression as part of being bipolar for the great majority of my 40 years on earth (heh? OK, 50?), and I can honestly say, without reservation, that I’ve never ever been thrown into a depressive episode because I’m having a PBJ for lunch instead of bacon. Never.

Here’s a ‘quote’ I found: “She can paint a pretty picture but the story has a twist. Her paintbrush is a razor and her canvas is a wrist.” (Seriously…are you kidding me?) And another: “I think suicidal people are just angels who want to go home.” One more: “I’m jealous of people with enough self-control to be anorexic.” What the hell??? 😡

Let’s give these folks the reality of mental illness. Suicide is not a Shakespearean tragedy where the person was gracefully lifted from their pain while looking beautiful in their peaceful death. Not by a fucking (sorry, ma) long shot. Suicide is guns or pills or razors or ropes and it’s bloody and ugly and messy and scary and heartbreaking and irreversible. These people are never going to take a breath again…never have a chance of life again…never going to realize that what they went through could have gotten better to where suicide wasn’t the only option they could see. Plus, it’s hell on earth for the one’s that are left. The person didn’t commit suicide and then see how dramatically it played out on social media or how it became the basis for a Netflix show. They killed themselves. They are dead. And no matter what their situation or pain or illness, it’s nothing but a tragedy for both the victim and the survivors. Period.

And self-harm? Those of you that know me are aware that have I cut myself in the past and have 16 scars on my legs, arm, belly and boob. Two of my scars are over 4″ long and will be angry red welts forever. These scars are not beautiful. My body was not a ‘canvas’ I was decorating. The razor in my hand was not a paintbrush. There is nothing glamorous about what I did. I cut myself because I was having a mental breakdown that put me in such a depression that my mind told me it was the only thing I could do to release some of the pain. When I see my scars everyday, I don’t see a victory or a tragic piece of art. And I definitely don’t see them as being sexy as this quote says: “Call me crazy but I think emo girls/guys with self harm scars are sexy because it shows how much they have been through but never actually gave up.” And no, if any man ever looked at them and saw them as being arousing, I would run. Quickly.

And there are people who wish they were anorexic? Really? Well, as luck would have it, I have experience with this gem of a mental illness as well. There has not been a moment in my life from the time I was a freshman in high school (just a few years ago…) that I haven’t thought about how many calories are in a bite of food every time I eat something. Every. Single. Time. I can’t eat something because it tastes good. I can’t eat something out of pleasure. I can’t eat something not ‘necessary’ without feeling a lot of guilt and that I’m ‘bad’ for wanting it. I’ve known countless times what it’s like to be so weak from not eating that you can barely go from one task to another, and I don’t know how many birthday cakes, cookies, and other goodies people have made me over the years that I’ve trashed the moment they leave. You don’t recover from anorexia…you work every single solitary day to keep it in check, knowing that if you veer off a healthy course, you will succomb to the illness again. That is not having self-control, peeps…it’s actually quite the opposite.

You know, not only is this glamourization of mental illness a dangerous thing, it makes me wonder why anyone would want to be associated with something so stigmatizing in the first place. Maybe it’s giving the person attention or empathy or validation they are so desperately looking for. And if this is the only way that can happen in their lives, that’s something that needs to be addressed. Are there that many people not receiving the love and support they need without having to go to such lengths? Are there that many people shouting out: “See me” because they don’t feel ‘seen’ any other way? Are we living in a world where we are so into ourselves that we can’t see others crying for help unless the cry is so dramatic it can’t be missed? How sad this is.

I can’t imagine ‘pretending’ to have a mental illness…I wish to heaven I could experience what it’s like not to be mentally ill. It’s hard for me to understand why you would want to invent, and then share, a ‘mental illness’ because in reality, admitting you have one causes you to lose friends, opportunities, respect, and the list goes on. There are so many people that treat me differently now that I’ve ‘come-out.’ Some people/acquaintances/colleagues just stay away (which is fine…), others use it against me, while many just ignore it and pretend it simply doesn’t exist (“but you look normal”), plus I know it’s affected a couple of men from asking me out. Revealing a mental illness does not bring you the type of attention you think it might…trust me on this.

I talk about being bipolar for one reason, and one reason only, and this was voiced by a friend yesterday: “Well, you’re one of the people I look up too. You were one of the first people I knew to be extremely transparent about your mental health and that’s had an impact on me. It’s so important to destigmatize mental illness.” This is why I share it, my sweet peeps. I don’t share it for attention or sympathy or for ‘likes’. I share because I want people to know that mental illness sucks balls, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that should have to be hid. It’s a reality that too many people live with and we need to come together and make sure it’s treated like any other illness with support and understanding given to all who suffer from it.

Kristi xoxo

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