“And she’s dancing like she’s never danced before.” ~ Flashdance

So, I’ve talked a lot in this blawg about depression but not much about mania. I actually think this is harder to understand because not as many people have experienced it. The National Institute of Health found estimates to range from .08% to 1.6% for people who experience a manic episode in their lives. That’s not many, peeps. So why am I talking about this now? Well…because that’s what I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of weeks and I gotta say that it sucks. Big time.

See, about a month or so ago, my doc helped me taper off of lamotrigine because the side effects were really bothering me. One was muscle weakness and everyday felt like the day after a bad flu. You know, that weakish, blech feeling where trudging around your living room is tiring. And as someone who likes to run and workout (because it helps me so much with the depression 😐), this was horrible! Prior to starting lamotrigine, I was running 4-5 miles a day…after I got on it, I could barely do a half mile.

Then there were also a couple other effects that I just can’t abide because of what I do: professoring (and no, before you ask I was not an English major 🙄). I was espeically struggling with some memory issues and I was having trouble finding the right words and them getting them out…speaking problems are a side effect and it was scary to me that I couldn’t ‘talk right’. Finally, my concentration was being affected. Soooooo…bye bye, lamotrigine.

I also tapered off of my anti-depressant (which really wasn’t the best one for bipolar) and am now on prozac which I would marry if I could. (SIDE NOTE: the other day, ma and I were yacking to a man who was at least 1000 years old. After he left, ma actually said this sentence to me: “Kristi…I wonder if he’s single for you?” What the fuck (really, ma…you kinda deserve this one)? I said: “Ma. For piss sakes. That man was born during the Civil War (bless his heart, he was a doll…but…), can barely walk, talk or eat without assistance, and the chance of him being able to be naughty is a billion to one. So….no.” God I love that woman for trying though😍).

Anyhoot, getting off a mood stabilizer and then stopping one anti-depressant and beginning another triggered a manic episode. Yea.

So many people have said to me that they wished they could be manic so they could get stuff done. But you know, let’s be honest here…that’s like saying “I wish I could be depressed so I could get some rest.” It’s just the other end of the spectrum and even though it’s a ‘high’, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

I haven’t slept more than 4-5 hours a night for these past 3 weeks or so and it’s not that I’m not tired because I’m actually pretty freaking exhausted (after you hear all that is buzzing around in my head, you’ll understand this 😳). But, when you’re manic, nothing turns off so I lay in bed with my mind literally going so fast I can’t even keep track of my thoughts. Even now, typing this, I’m thinking of a 100 different things…here goes my head at this very moment: making some lists by scribbling keywords in my notebook, worrying about getting some work done, wanting to deliver something to ma’s, wanting to create some interactive homepages for my classes (one of them is up for my Theories of Personality class and it rocks!), looking at Eddie and wanting to walk him since it’s not quite as hot today as it has been, seeing that my backyard needs weed-n-feed, remembering I have someone coming over to buy a bike and I want to get it looking good for them, knowing I just re-potted 2 new monstera deliciosas I bought (AAAAGGGGGHHHHH…these made me sosososososo happy to get!) and I need to get them in place with the right amount of light, having to put together a piece of furniture that I got and then having to call FedEx because they lost another one (my desk I really need), wanting to start 2 other posts with ideas I just came up with typing this, getting my dishes done, needing to sand a wall I puttied because I borrowed my neighbors sander and don’t want to keep it too long, knowing I have some stinky towels hanging up outside that need laundered, wanting to vacuum, needing to pack up some books to take to the Salvation Army, now wanting to go out and buy my own sander, and wanting to run back to Lowe’s (where I’ve already been) and get a plant for my daughter. That’s it. All that’s in my head now. And in bed? Just multiply these thoughts by 100. Peeps, it’s fucking overwhelming.

My notebook…this is how I write when I’m manic!

How would I illustrate this? Hmmm. You know when cars accelerate and you can see the wheels start to turn…then after they get going fast, it almost doesn’t look like they are spinning at all? That’s close.

Yes, it’s ‘nice’ to have the energy to get things done as opposed to not wanting to do anything at all but it’s a ‘frenetic’ energy where you are so frazzled, you are moving from one thing to the other to the other and thinking more and more as you do this. I can’t even take the time to write everything down…that takes too long!

But here’s the thing. People try to help me navigate through all of this when I’m manic, but nothing ‘helps’. When you’re depressed, people might say “You need to get up and get moving around…that will help.” Or, “Remember how lucky you are compared to others!” Or, “Everyone feels down…you just have to snap out of it and stop moping.” Now, for my peeps with depression or who have experienced a depressive episode, did any of these statements,or others you might have heard, help? Nope.

Ditto with mania. My sweet ole ma is worried about me and last night told me that I just had to calm down and call the doc and have him do something. But he can’t. There’s nothing to do. This is part of the freaking mental illness I have and it’s going to happen. I can’t calm down…but the thing is, I wish to hell I could. I can’t just take a deep breath…slow down…take a nap…etc. Just like when I’m depressed, I can’t force myself to ‘cheer up.’

I think my depression is a little easier for ma to handle. She hates when I’m down, but I’m not as much “out there” in terms of the bipolar. But with mania? You KNOW there’s something going on. My sweetie past student and I were yapping on the phone today and she was so so so confused because I was trying to tell her so much so fast! With mania, I’m so much more talkative, loud, emotionally demonstrative, ‘fast’ in everything I do (I’m like a kid when I’m manic in that I don’t want to take the time to pee…it’s too much of a break from what I’m doing 😲), so wired up and anxious, so distractible (this is coming up as misspelled but isn’t distractible a word?? 😳).

The upside? My house has never looked better because I’ve done so much to it. I also have so so so many ideas for art projects I want to do, as well as ideas for how I want to paint my living room! I’ve organized and organized and you could eat off my floors (why do people say that? I’ve never eaten off a floor and hope to heaven I never do 😐). I also am doing more and more things in my classes and from the feedback I’m getting, my sweetie pie students are liking it! (I’m so so so blessed to have these sweeties in my life…I miss them so much since we aren’t on-campus 😥). In fact, being manic and living alone while socially distancing from people is hard!

Anyhoot, that’s mania for you and understanding it is just as important as understanding depression. It’s also important for people to realize that mania is no different from depression in that you can’t help it. I know how hard that is to get for those that have never experienced it. But please don’t tell us to ‘calm it down’ or ‘just stop it’. Those of us who experience mania would give most anything to be able to do that. Just let us talk and do and plan, but keep an eye on us…that’s what we really need. We might want to spend too much or do something that’s not a great idea, so help us out with that if you can.

I know my mania cycle is probably going to be here for a time but I’m handling it fairly well. Ma, sis, and son are letting me yack at them and vent to them and let me tell me all the stuff I’ve done. That’s what I need. Just people there for me as I experience the other end of the spectrum that bipolar is all about. Maybe that’s the key for all of us with mental illnesses or disorders: having people there to support us and hold our hand through whatever pitfalls we have to traverse. And I’m lucky I have that…not just with my fam, but with all of you who support me every time you read this. Thank you.

And by the way, if you have any roofing, painting, sanding, building, arting, crafting, plant buying, potting, hugging, or anything else you need, holler at me. Lord knows I have the energy to ‘git er done’ for you. 😉

Kristi xoxo

“Sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions.” ~ Stephen King

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So, I was in Wal-Mart yesterday which is such a great place to be on a Saturday afternoon but what the hey…there’s nothing else any more exciting for me to do on the weekends 🙄.  Anyhoot, there are arrows on the aisles showing which direction you are supposed to go and even though I want to rebel…just because I need some pizzazz in my life…I followed them.  I think I was the only one in the store that did.  Go figure.

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But here’s the thing:  I found myself apologizing for people getting in my way when they were the ones disregarding the arrows.  I apologized.  Me.  Then when I was driving home, I started thinking about how many other things I apologized for in the 30 minutes I was there (it seemed like an eternity…just sayin’ 😳).  I said ‘sorry’ to people who cut in front of me with their carts…a lady who almost ran me over with her electric scooter when she was backing up (but thanks to my lightening fast reflexes, I was able to save myself)…a guy who reached in front of me and grabbed a loaf of bread (not the healthier whole grain, but good ole Sunbeam)…a couple who cut through the self-scan lane I was on and knocked into my cart…and finally, a guy who shoved past me at the exit.

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All in all, I’d say I apologized at least a dozen times…if not more. *BTW:  the lady who almost backed into me was looking at vacuums and I very politely put the one she wanted into her basket (how she was going to see to ‘drive’ was beyond me 😳).  I told her she almost ran me over but I wanted to help her anyway since I survived and she didn’t bat an eye.  I wonder if she has scooter insurance…I feel a stiff neck coming on.

You know, this is a habit I really need to break.  I find myself saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  It doesn’t matter if I’m to blame or not, I feel like if something goes wrong, I need to put a ‘sorry’ out there.  And I don’t say it lightly…I actually mean it.  Like when the guy pushed past me, I started thinking that maybe I was going too slowly.  Maybe he had an emergency and I was in his way.  Maybe he won the lottery and was going to collect his millions.  No matter what, I MUST have done something to create that situation.

I did the same thing today at the gym (our leader kicked my ass today…I can barely move).  I apologized when someone slopped some cleaning solution on my shoes, and numerous times when someone would bump into me.  And even though they might not apologize, I do, whether I was the ‘bumper’ or the ‘bumpee’.

So, writing this blog has it’s ups and downs.  (Yes, grasshoppers…I’m changing the subject but it’s all going to make sense…stay with me…).  The up is that I get messages like this almost daily:

“I want to say ‘Thank You’.  I read something recently on your blog, and it stuck with me, in relation to toxic positivity.  I just appreciate and honor the fact that you’re real and authentic, and I admire the fact that you speak openly about depression, anxiety, and mental wellness…it makes those of us, who aren’t okay, feel seen and heard.  It gives us the courage to speak to our words our pain, and reach out.

Lately, things have been kinda crazy, and a lot of hard changes have happened.  However, I know this truth:  You are strong.  You inspire me to find strength and move forward.  You’re loved, I’m so grateful for you.”

And then, one of my students from a few years ago wrote to me and told me that she was so happy I taught about Domestic Violence in our classes and took the information seriously.  She said she also appreciated me sharing ma’s emotional story which is hard for me to do and often makes me cry.  She said that she dated someone a few times and started seeing the warning signs I preach about.  She ended the relationship and later found out he was a violent guy.  She told me I saved her from something that could have been detrimental to her and her beautiful kids.

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Now the downside?  I was starting to explore a some-what relationship with an old friend but we ended up being like oil and water (I was the oil…I use too much conditioner on my hair 🤨) and argued about…well…almost everything.  Anyhoot, no matter what happened or anything that might have been said, it was always my fault.  If he said something vile…it was my fault.  If he lied to me…it was my fault.  If he ‘tested’ me…it was my fault.  THEN, there would be a reference to me being bipolar and how that makes me ‘crazy’ so duh, it REALLY is my fault.  Hmmmmm.  Obviously, I ended things (or actually he did…but I took him up on it and now it’s my fault I didn’t try harder… 🙄…as my grandpa would have said:  “You can’t win for losing.”).

But here’s the thing:  I did apologize for everything.  Again and again and again.  I never said:  “I’m sorry but…” but sincerely apologized.  Like anyone, I said things I needed to apologize for…I’m no saint, that’s for sure!  But he didn’t buy my apologies, and then would say: “I’m sorry but YOU…” etc.

Putting my life out here like I do and talking about having bipolar makes me a target in so many ways.  People now know how overly sensitive I am…how guilty I can feel…how those of us with bipolar ruminate and question and worry…how impulsive and jumpy I can be, etc.  By knowing this, my mental illness can be used against me.  Who’s going to believe the ‘crazy’ one isn’t to blame for relationship issues?  Who’s going to believe ME if there are different sides of something being told?  After all, everyone knows that ‘bipolars’ are cray cray.  Right?

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Wrong!!  We are not fucking crazy (sorry ma, but talking about this gets me pissy 😠).  I’M not fucking crazy.  Period.  Yes, I have a mental illness.  A pretty serious one at that.  But guess what?  I’ve built a great career after years and years of schooling.  I raised a son who kicks ass in everything he does (except basketball…sorry, porkchop).  I was the ‘breadwinner’ in my last marriage (yes peeps…the 3rd one 🙄) and am financially independent now.  I do everything with the house and yard.  And the list goes on.  Just because I have a mental illness does not mean I’m crazy.  In fact, compared to some ‘normal’ people I know…I’m pretty damn ‘sound’.

So, why do I keep apologizing for every little bitty thing that happens and the biggies too?  Do I believe I need too because I am bipolar…cray cray…mentally ill?  I think I’ve kinda been ‘trained’ to over the years.  I think some people like to prey on those perceived as weaker or ‘less than’ in their eyes.  As a result, we take on more of what happens in any situation than someone else might.  (Since 25% of the population suffers a mental disorder or illness at some point in their lives, there’s a chance these ‘judgy’ people might be on the other side someday.  I don’t wish that on anyone.  But the reality is, it could happen).

So, I’m not going to do it anymore…keep saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  Well, I am probably going to go to my grave (it better be a BIG stone, son…BIG…🙄) apologizing for dying.  But I am going to try to stop feeling like I’M the one that’s always wrong.   Like I’m the one who’s always in the way.  Like I’m the one always to blame.  Like I’m the one…the only one…that has affected whatever it is that has happened.  I’m not going to apologize for being me.  If others want to use what I write against me, that’s fine.  Go ahead.  I’m actually pretty fucking tough for my size (right ma?).  But as long as what I write helps people, I’m going to continue.  And no.  I’m not sorry for that at all.

Kristi xoxo

 

“We don’t want no devils in the house, God…” ~ Kanye West

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Dear Kim,

So, I’m going to be honest right from the start and I hope you understand but I’m not a big fan of yours.  I’m sorry, it’s just that I try so hard to teach  my sweetie students that their beauty and worth comes from within, and then for them to see you on Instagram wearing corsets, in make-up that looks to be as thick as a steak, and then photoshopped to where you have no hair follicles kind of confuses them.  But anyhoot, I digress (which is very common for me to do 🙄).

Kim-Kardashian

Look, your husband needs help.  And he needs it now.  It’s true Kanye and I have very little in common.  I’m white and he’s black.  I’m a woman and he’s a man, I’m a middle-class professor in a smallish city in IL and he’s a star that jet sets across the world, and I’m not running for president (yet…but a gal at Hobby Lobby told me I should…what do you think 😳?).  However, we both have bipolar disease and that connects us more than anything else could.

I know you are well aware of his mental illness, but I don’t understand why you haven’t helped him get the long-term treatment that could benefit him tremendously.  Yes, he was in a mental health facility for a short while in 2016 which led to his diagnosis, but that was only a band-aid on what he really needs.  I know he doesn’t want to take medications in case it ‘stifles his creativity’ (I like to macrame 🤨) and in his line of work I get that.  But you need to realize that Kanye suffers from something called anosognosia which is an inability for him to realize he sick.  You have to be his ‘eye’s for him right now.

And Kim, he is very sick.  Look, if your hubby was suffering from appendicitis and needed to go to the ER, you’d take him in a flash (or your chauffeur would…I have one too I can call on: I call her ‘ma’ 🙄) even if he said it was just gas.  By the same token, people with mental illness often don’t ‘see’ what’s happening to them and if they do, they’ll deny the fuck out of it (BTW, does your ma get pissed when you say ‘fuck’…I know mine does.  Maybe they could chat sometime about that.  Also, I’d like to ask Kris to show my ma how to style her short hair in different ways…I think she’d like that 🤔).  I know this because I’ve done the exact same thing.

A lot of people don’t realize that some of us with untreated bipolar can become psychotic, and in my humble opinion (it’s actually not humble…I’m kinda smart about stuff like this since I’m a psychology professor…just sayin’) your hubby is experiencing pretty severe delusions which puts him in this category of symptoms.

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Look, he’s compared himself to Picasso, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson (I wouldn’t be too proud of that one…just sayin’) and Shakespeare.  The most egregious one though?  Jesus Christ.  Honey, these are humongous signs that Kanye NEEDS meds in order for him to have a better grasp on reality.  He’s also admitted to being ‘hyper-paranoid’ which shows even more psychosis.

This all has to be hard on you and your adorable kids and having a daddy that’s mentally ill is something that all the clothes and toys in the world won’t fix (BTW, I wear a size 6 and would love any hand-me-downs 🤩).   Kids need their daddy to be ‘there’ for them and not just physically, but mentally too.  Your cutie boys, Saint and Psalm (I named my little guy – he’s 26 – Oliver and I thought that was a bit edgy) need a strong and stable male role model.

We all know how people laugh at your husband.  They call him crazy.  Ignorant.  Stupid.  Insane.  Psycho.  I don’t think he’s aware of this and if he is, doesn’t take it seriously.  But  I do know this has to hurt you because it’s hurt me and my ma when I’m called bad things too (another question, do you ever call Kris ‘ma’?  I just can’t picture that for some reason 😵).  Over the years I’ve been called crazy, psycho, a liar, and an attention seeking bitch just to name a few.  And every time I hear words like this, it’s like my heart is being pierced again and again.  The hurt is unfathomable.

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It’s funny how most of us use the correct rhetoric in TALKING about mental illness, but so many people don’t try to UNDERSTAND it when it shows itself.  If I have a very high fever and start babbling incoherently (which I do most nights after 9:00 p.m. which is my bedtime…I’m a real party animal like yourself 😎), no one will take the words seriously (which is very true right now since I’m single.  BTW, do you know Taron Egerton?  Just askin’).  Right?  By the same token, I wish people accepted the fact the mentally ill will say and do things their disease/disorder is directing.

Kimmy (can I call you that?), getting your hubby help can do more than stabilize him…it could save his life.  MentalIllnessPolicy.org  reports that at least the 5,000 suicides per year that are committed by people who have schizophrenia or bipolar could be prevented if the people get adequate psychiatric treatment.  And Dr. Ken Duckworth (NAMI) states that at least 90% of all suicides are by people who have an untreated or under-treated mood disorder.  See, we aren’t just talking about his mental well being here, we are talking about his survival.

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I can tell you this, Kim:  having bipolar sucks balls.  Bad.  Having so much swirling around in your head and going between being so happy and so depressed is like riding a roller coaster that never ends.  I actually don’t know what it’s like to have a ‘normal’ functioning brain and if I contemplate it too much, I get over-whelmed.  I really do.  You know, not much scares me in the world.  Yes, I have concerns and live my life with some caution, but my fucking brain and emotions are the most scary thing I have to encounter.  And I get to face it everyday.  Every single day.  As I’m writing this paragraph, my stomach is turning and my eyes are tearing.  It’s like a boulder sitting on my shoulders and some days it’s a bit lighter and on others it’s heavier.  But the damn thing is always there.  Always.  This boulder has made people back away from me…dump me…treat me differently…and affect how my co-workers see me and my contributions even though I’m a fucking amazing professor (yes, that’s bragging, but why can’t we toot our own horns sometimes?  That’s going to be another post so stay tuned! ✎).

Kimmy, get your hubby help. Silence his freaking YES MEN and screw what others say.  Please.  I know this is a monumental task and that you can’t force him to take the help that’s out there. But you can put consequences in place if he won’t…like distancing your little sweeties from his instability.   Please don’t make him suffer anymore.  He needs you right now to forcibly guide him in the way you know he needs to go.  Now.

Kristi xoxo

“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

“Number 47 said to number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.” ~ Elvis Presley

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So, my sissie and I were yapping the other day and during our conversation about her new LPN position, she said her boss had told her something she’d been thinking about a lot regarding love.  Basically, it was how we are all given only 3 true-love relationship coins in our life, and because of that, they need to be used wisely and sparingly…with great care.

Wow.  My first reaction was why the hell didn’t I hear this 40 freaking years ago, and my second (which I know you are all thinking so I’ll just put it out there 🙄) was “Son of a bitch…mine are definitely spent.”  😳

Hmmmmm.  Is this true?  Do we really have a finite number of times we can experience true, fulfilling, ‘real’ love with another, or can we actually have that time and time again in our lives?  I think back to my past relationships and question how deep and meaningful that love really was, and whether or not I had experienced it with everyone I’d been with.  I adore Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love which states there are 3 aspects (sides) to love:  passion (the sexual chemistry), intimacy (the emotional connection), and commitment (the cognitive decision to stay with the person long-term, through thick and thin).  If you have all 3 of these components in your relationship, Sternberg says you are experiencing ‘consummate love’ which is what we all (well…most of us) strive for with our partners.  Just having a couple of the sides represent different types of love…for example, passion plus intimacy is a romantic love without any commitment to weather the storms that might come along.

So, have I experienced this ‘true’ love in every relationship I’ve had?  Is this idea of consummate love something like that of Maslow’s idea of self-actualization where it’s the ‘goal’ of life, but not necessarily something that everyone can achieve?  Is having ‘just’ 2 sides of the triangle mean you haven’t had ‘true’ love?  Can you feel ‘true love’ without having a solid 3?  Can you be satisfied with having less than the 3?  If you start out with just a couple of the ‘sides’, can you build the other with conscious work and determination?  What if you feel the 3 sides, but your partner doesn’t?  Does that negate the ‘true love’ in your own heart?  Hmmmmm…

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror. 🙄

OK, so let’s take a look-see at my relationships (yes, this is going to take a while since Elizabeth Taylor and I are twins… 🙄).  My first one was in high school when I didn’t know beans about what love really entailed.  I ‘loved’ my boyfriend, but didn’t have any idea how to create something meaningful outside of high school ‘love’…writing my first name with his last name in my notebook and making out with him in my basement on ma’s nubby green 70’s love seat, praying she wouldn’t traipse down the stairs with a basket of laundry to start (by the way, she did do that at a very awkward time…cough cough…and if that doesn’t kill the mood, I don’t know what does.  Thanks for that one, ma.).  Does anybody in high school really have the experience and cognitive ability to love fully?  I don’t think so.  YES…I know high school sweethearts who have married and are still together, but I have a feeling their love matured a great deal from what it was solely in high school.

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How about Hubby 1?  I was besotted with him and was definitely in love with him, but still, at 21, pretty darn immature regarding the significance of marriage.  We were WAY too young and had some really stupid beliefs like we could live on love, and not money.  Obviously, that worked out well.  With Hubby 2 though, I had all 3 sides of love.  I actually consider him my first ‘real’ marriage.  We had our son, raised him together for 13 years, built a couple of houses together, moved out of state together, and really got close to each other’s families.  It was a much more mature love in which both of us had divorced and wanted to work to make this marriage the one that lasted.  And #3?  Another true love…and one that was different than that with my son’s pa, but still all encompassing.

So, the question you are probably shouting is “Then why the hell did they fail, dumbass?”  (You don’t need to cuss at me, grasshoppers…you know ma doesn’t like that 🙄).  The answer?  Beats the fuck out of me.  More on this later.

Now, with J?  I had all 3 sides…bad.  I definitely had the passion and intimacy going into the relationship, and the commitment grew quickly for me.  In fact, my commitment was almost too much since it held on to him during situations when I should have let go (e.g. cheating).   But, to be honest, that’s what commitment is, isn’t it?  Holding on?  Getting through the bad?  Learning from it?  OK…sounds good…but does that mean abusive behavior should be ignored because of commitment?  Nope.  Of course not.  So with J?  The biggest issue I think that was inherent in our partnership was his own ‘triangle’.  I know he had intimacy with me because he shared so much of his childhood trauma and war experiences with me.  But passion?  Obviously not.  And commitment?  Uh huh.  Unfortunately, as I readily found out, a relationship is only as strong as it’s perceived by the lesser invested member.

Now, why did the ‘real’ ones fail?  Why did they end in divorces?  Why didn’t the commitment we apparently had not win out?  I think a lot of it had to do with me being bipolar.  Let me rephrase that…me being a not yet diagnosed, untreated bipolar.

When I was in manic phases, I was high with so much impulsivity, poor decision making, and feeling so freaking good, I didn’t think anything bad could ever touch me.  So why work on negative things in a relationship when I’m having just too much fun being up?  Screw that.  The result?  I did things and said things during these times that contributed greatly to the erosion of the marriages, and at those times, could not even begin to see what the consequences of that were.  Not real proud of that.  And then when I was cycling through a depression?  I didn’t have the energy, desire, or even the capability of knowing what was happening in the marriage…I was too deep down into my tunnel to see anything but that terrifying darkness those of you with depression can readily relate too.

So, what if I would have had more insight (or acceptance, since I knew something was very wrong) about being mentally ill?  What if I had been treated at that time with meds and counseling (as I am today)?  Would that have saved these marriages?  Could I ‘blame’ being bipolar for being a pretty shitty wife at times?  Is that fair?

Well yes…in a way it is.  I literally can’t help what my brain is like…how it operates differently from others.  I can’t control the cycles on my own.  I can’t prevent myself from the emotional states and related behavior of being bipolar without meds (and meds don’t prevent the states…it just works to lessen them).  Or can I?  Do I sometimes use my ‘brain’ disease as an excuse?  Or do I have more control than I might think?  And, does anyone who is mentally ill know the answers to these questions in terms of their own experiences?

What if I had gotten help when I should have growing up (wait…let me rephrase that:  what if I would have gotten the right help from a professional that wasn’t sexually abusive)?  Would I have had more insight into my behavior, emotionality, and sensitivity?  Would my spouses have (I sound like a freaking polygamist)?  Would they have understood these issues better, and worked with me to handle being bipolar in the context of our marriages?

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So, back to the 3 coins.  Let’s say this is right and we have only these 3 coins to spend on love  relationships.  We’re given these coins at the start of pubes, and are told that’s it…you can’t have more.  Would we be more careful in jumping into relationships?  More understanding of what we are truly looking for instead of just ‘trying’ things out?  Would we become more selective?  I wonder if I would have made different decisions based on this.  Even though everything was telling both of us that marriage #1 (sigh) was probably not a super idea, M and I did it anyway.  Maybe I would have saved that coin instead.  Using a coin on O’s dad was the best freaking coin I could have ever spent though.  And #3?  I think I would have spent that one too…we had 10 years that were definitely worth it and are still great friends to boot.

Now, what about J’s?  Oh wow.  This is a toughie.  I definitely spent my last coin on him, and this relationship hurt me the most emotionally than any other one ever did.  I know I was in ‘true’ love with him and thought he was my soul-mate (the only time I’ve ever said that about anyone).  So, was the coin I spent worth it?  Yep.  If not for anything else, just the fact I was in his kids’ lives for 3 years.

Well…the problem is obviously this and what I’ve been thinking about:  my 3 coins are spent.  Used up.  My piggy bank is empty.  Does this mean, if the 3 coin idea is true, that I’m out of ‘loves’?  Here’s what’s weird:  I think I kind of am.  Sometimes I think my heart has been broken and then glued together so many times that it’s just not up to the task of trying again.  And even if it is up to the task, is my head?  Will I ever invest the ‘commitment’ side into someone else again?  Trust to do that?  Or, can’t I help but invest that, no matter how bad of an investment it might be?  (Like me investing in bitcoin, lost on that one 🙄).  Maybe the banker in charge of the coins will have mercy on me…give me another one as a ‘tip’ so to speak.  Hmmmmm…if that happens, I’ll tell you one thing…it’s staying in my pocket until I’m damn sure the money is going to be well spent.

Kristi xoxo

“You could get used to anything if you had to. She knew that now.” ~ Stephen King (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon)

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So, I was talking to a guy from high school and we were getting close when we had a couple of arguments, which ended in him breaking things off.  Later, he messaged me and said it was my fault since I have so many issues I won’t face, but that he got a message from another gal (DD boobs…he included that information to make me feel bad about my own physique which isn’t quite as big as this 😐), who is also bipolar (what’s the chance since only about 2.8% of the population has the actual diagnosis as determined by a professional), and miraculously issue free and ‘normal’.  Okey dokey.  Good to know that a well endowed woman with a serious mental illness is fine and dandy.  Kudos to her. 😳

Now, are you fucking kidding me?  I DON’T face my issues?  Don’t fess up that I have things going on because of being bipolar as well as experiences I have had?  Then what, in hells name, am I writing about?  OMG (please say that in a Valley Girl voice).  I fess up to everything, including a lot of things that aren’t even my fault, per se.  My goodness… I’ve taken blame for the whole shebang of  anything that’s ever happened to me in this world.  Yeesh.  (Note, I don’t take blame for this pandemic and I had nothing to do with the quarantine.  I’m an extrovert…quarantines are very difficult for us.  Just sayin’).

Anyhoot, these last 8 months of being partner free has shown me there are actually a lot of advantages to being single, and I have come to realize that being alone and healthy is so much better than being with someone and unhealthy.  I wish I would have had this epiphany earlier in life.

Let me tell you, even the little advantages living single has are pretty peachy:  like putting something down and having it there waiting for me in the same place when I need it again.  Unless of course, I put something down and forget where the damn thing is because my memory sucks balls.

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I LOVE filling my fridge with what I want!  I get to go down the aisles of the grocery store (Aldi’s…it rocks) and toss in anything and everything that sounds good to me.  Then, when I get home and unload, with Dottie and Eddie looking on expectantly for more goodies, no one is there to say “Why are you buying so much of this?  Why in the heck did you get that stuff again?”  “We’re having chicken again this week?”  (Yes, we are having chicken ‘again’ because it’s the only thing I know how to make half way decently).  I get any food I want, and then eat what I feel like while watching bad auditions on America’s Got Talent, without worrying if I have a piece of spinach caught in my front teeth (which is common…my teeth are magnets for globs)…it’s bliss.

Showering is a biggie too: my shampoos and conditioners and face washes and body gels and shaving cream, etc. are all organized in my caddy and they stay that way.  Plus, when I pick up my favorite conditioner and squeeze, it’s not empty.  And my razor?  The blade is how I left it…it’s not been used on a scratchy beard and neck which causes it to be dull and therefore shreds my already old lady legs.  That, my dear peeps, is absolutely wonderful.

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If I want to start a load of laundry at midnight…OK.  If I want to stack up my dishes until after I finish my macrame project (I’m on a macrame kick…my entire house is being decorated with cotton cording and no one is rolling their eyes), I will.  If I want to wash my windows, again, OK…no one is bitching about how I already did it 3 years ago and therefore, they don’t want to help.  If I want to vacuum and admire the blob of hair, fur, dust, yarn bits, and beads while emptying my shark, I will without someone saying how gross that is.  If I set my mower blade too low and cut my grass to within an inch of it’s life so I don’t have my pooches dragging in so much, by golly, I’ll be naughty and do it.  The yard is all mine….muahahaha.  If I want the dogs on the couch and cuddled up next to me, there’s no one looking at them jealously and telling me dogs belong on the floor (well Mister, you belong out the door, so there).  If I want to skip the deodorant, not wash my hair everyday, postpone the shaving for another week, and wear a blue nightie with red Crocs at night, I can.  And hells bells, if I want to watch 90 Day Fiance’ and yell advice to the screen (because we all know what a relationship expert I am 🙄), I’ll do it.  Like the song says, little things mean a lot, peeps.

In terms of biggies, I think one of the best things I’m experiencing, which is a very different feeling for me, is that I’m no longer walking on eggs.  Look, it’s no secret in the study of marriage and family (which my M.S. is in…shutty the mouthy) that men tend to set the emotional tone in a relationship, good or bad (there are exceptions of course, but overall this holds true).  Think about it:  a dad has a bad day at work and mama says:  “Kids…keep it down tonight, your dad has had a bad day at work.”  But when mama has a bad day, who the fuck cares just so dinner is on the table, the laundry is done, and bills have been paid (P.S.  I had to take a quick break…I forgot to make my Jeep payment 🙄).

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I’ve walked on eggs for most of my life.  R, the asswipe that abused my mom for so many years, made anyone and everyone in my mom’s life step lightly and carefully.  The consequence of not doing so was mom getting hurt which was a far too great of risk to take.  If he got upset that person was yelled at, but my mom was ultimately the physical scapegoat for his anger.  I couldn’t bear to let that happen, so I learned fairly early on to smile, nod, agree, and tread as softly as I could.  With Hubby 1 and 2?  Not quite as bad, but still felt I was often  balancing on a tightrope, and one slip could mean the end of things.  Then, with Hubby 3 (shutty…one of these days I’ll make y’all a freaking chart) and J?  Eggs were all over the place.  Actually, landmines might be a more accurate description.   The nerves this wrought showed themselves physically (I aged a LOT in 13 years…more than probably necessary and thank you Lady Clairol for your help now) as well as psychosomatically:  tummy aches, tension headaches, backaches, tightness in neck and shoulders, etc.  And the mind?  Feeling that I couldn’t express myself…speak assertively for myself…actually be myself.  And now?  None of that.  I never knew how much those freaking eggs affected me, until I was on firm ground again.

And talk about people pleasing.  No matter how much I tried to please my exes, it was never enough.  Never.  I always felt like I should be giving more, doing more, and expecting less.  But I now have someone else to put that energy into pleasing (besides Eddie and Dottie), and that’s me.  And goodness gracious, I’m very appreciative of the spoiling 😍.

Finally, I am so relieved of not always being scrutinized in terms of having bipolar.  Look, if I’m experiencing a bad day, you don’t have to bring up the fact that I’m mentally ill…I tend to remember I am.  If I’m angry, sad, elated, hyper, depressed, whatever yes, I know I have bipolar; please don’t ask me if I took my meds 😬 and then tell me life would be easier if I just put more effort into it (heh?  I’ll work on changing my brain physiology asap).  You know, when I was married to O’s dad and was in a bad mood (hard to believe, huh?), here’s what he would say: “So, ya got PMS…right?”  Wrong, buddy.  Sometimes women can be in bad moods because of things other than Aunt Flow visiting.  Like, for example, you missing a dinner it took me an hour to make because you were working on a car and forgot there was a phone 3 feet from your face (just pulled that out of my ass 🙄).  Yes, bipolar has lots of fun symptoms, but I’m not ‘just’ bipolar.  I’m actually so much more than that, and not having it thrown in my face at convenient times (like, when someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own actions), is relieving.  Truly.

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You know, I used to be anxious about ‘being’ single because of a divorce/break-up, but over the last few months I’ve learned how freeing it really is.  I’m now making a conscious choice to stay single for a time (or forever knowing the prospects out there) because I’m finally living life on my terms….in my own way.  I’m discovering more and more about myself everyday, and am liking what I see.  I’m happy.  Strong.  Capable.  Content.  Proud.  And grasshoppers, if that’s not an advantage to living alone, I don’t know what is.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

“We Don’t Need No Education” ~ Pink Floyd

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National Alliance on Mental Illness

So, I’ve been teaching since I was 24 years old:  2 years olds (who scared the crap out of me), 5th and 6th graders, high schoolers, and of course, college, and through these experiences, I’ve learned there are 2 types of students – those who memorize and learn what they need to know for the subject, and those who take what they are learning and apply it to their lives in ways that allow for change and more insight to come about.  I think a lot of us are actually both.  There were classes I took where my main objective was to do all I could to get my grade and then scoot the hell on.  Ask me what I ‘learned’ in College Trigonometry.  The answer?  Not much.  I got my A and was very proud of that, but I never applied the info after my final exam; it wasn’t ‘important’ enough to my life and what I wanted to do, so the info has fallen by the wayside (Note to Dr. S:  you were an AWESOME professor to teach me something that was so hard for me to pick up…bless your heart in heaven!).

I guess I’m feeling this way about what I’m trying to do with blogging: to educate others and help people see the inside perspective and challenges of mental illness, and then to take that info and run with it.  But I also understand this is very hard to do, particularly for those who have no experience with these issues themselves.

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Besides my brain (🙄), I’m really quite healthy, and so it’s difficult for me to understand what it’s like to have diseases and physical illnesses.  For example, diabetes.  I have a friend with this, and he is struggling with a bit of a weight problem .  At times, I nag (yes, I said nag…I’m quite good at it actually) him to walk more, ride his indoor bike more, and eat better because I’ve read that losing weight and exercise is a great help for a diabetic.  And for me, this would be easy.  But I’m me…not him.  I don’t have any idea what it is to struggle with low blood sugar, to have to wear a monitor that’s showing insulin levels which must be checked dozens of times a day, to have diabetic neuropathy which makes balance and walking difficult.  I simply haven’t had this so I have no clue what it’s like to walk in his shoes, and the ‘advice’ I give to him is much more demanding to do than I can ever imagine.

But by the same token, it’s the same with mental illness.  You can read all you want on it…show greater acceptance of people who suffer from it…vow to be kinder to those who have it, but actually doing these things is tough if there’s no personal experience to draw from.

I’ve written a lot about how bipolars have heightened sensitivity and stronger emotional reactions, and research shows that even during our ‘middle’ states (called euthymia – where we aren’t too high or too low but experiencing more stable moods), we are still ‘hypersensitive to emotional stimuli and higher arousability.’  In other words, I’m a  potentially hot emotional mess, regardless of my cycle (that word always makes me think of my old menstrual cycles which I’m happy to say menopause has taken care of, thank the Lord).  I’ve also written about Rejection Syndrome which once again (if one has this particular symptom which I’m lucky to be blessed with myself 🙄) is always a part of a bipolars life regardless of cycle (but more pronounced when depressed ).

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So, people have learned this from me and understand I have a brain disease that doesn’t affect my liver or my heart or my bones.  But, how can someone understand what it’s like to have a brain that is so ‘much’ unless they’ve experienced it themselves?

Instead, those of us with bipolar might hear:  “OMG, don’t be so sensitive.”  OK…”OMG, don’t be so diabetic.”  Or, “OMG…you are so emotional and moody…you need to have better control of these things.”  OK…”OMG…you are so low on insulin and have nerve pain in your legs and feet that you need to have better control over those sugar levels.”  When it’s put this way, how silly and indifferent it sounds.  But to us with mental illness, the comparison is real.  (P.S.  If you grew up in the 80’s, feel free to say OMG like a Valley Girl).

Look, I can’t control my moods…my emotions…my sensitivity anymore than someone can control what their pancreas is doing right now.  And yelling at us, or accusing us of using our disorder (yes, it’s very fucking fun to be on an emotional roller coaster all of the time) or ridiculing us for having ‘something in our heads’ compounds our symptoms even more.  The above is hard enough:  add guilt and shame to the mix and it can be deadly.  Literally.

No one asks for a mental illness (and if they do…well…they’re nuts).  Whether it’s major depression, generalized anxiety, a personality disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc., we were just lucky enough to have been dealt that card (or often times, cards).  So, why are we blamed even though we’re the victim of the disorder?

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I had a really sweet person talk to me on Facebook not long ago and they said this (with truly the best intentions):  “But you seem so normal.  I thought bipolars were like, more crazy, than you are.”  Hmmmmm.  Do you know what ‘crazy’ actually means?  Deranged.  Insane.  Mad.  Unless we’re channeling Ted Bundy, that’s not what mental illness is.  We are ‘normal’ people in that we love, work, read, garden, run, raise kids, clean our houses, mow our yards, ride our bikes.  Bipolar and all mental illnesses/disorders are always with us and these things can be a huge struggle at times; but we’re not ‘always’ the disease.  Major depression is always with my sissy, but she’s not always at the mercy of it.  Schizophrenia is always with my nephew, but he has stable times when you wouldn’t ever suspect he could be psychotic.

Look, I love love love that y’all who don’t have a mental illness are reading this blog.  It shows you have a desire to learn more about these issues, as well as enjoying my incredible wit 🙄.  But may I ask you a huge favor?  Will you please do more for me?  For all of us who have these illnesses and disorders?  Try to use the info for more understanding.  More compassion.  More accurate perceptions that being mentally ill doesn’t mean being crazy.  Help others understand that too by correcting them when you hear stereotypes or misinformation.

My goal here is to stop the stigma of mental illness.  I guess it started with me on these pages…but it ends with all of us.

Kristi xoxo

I Never Promised you a Rose Garden.

So, I actually wrote another post for today, and was getting ready to edit it, when something inside of me needed to write this.  Having this blog has given me an outlet for so much of what I feel.  It really helps me to get my thoughts, feelings, struggles, ideas written down and out of my head.  And to have you, my sweet grasshoppers, read it, is just icing on the cake.  (Hmmm…cake.  Maybe I should send my son to Kroger to get one…).

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Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

I started seeing a guy not long ago.  I’ve known him for over 20 years, and he’s one of those friends that you can go a while without seeing, but then when you do, it’s like no time has passed.   It’s just always comfortable.  We were on the same dating site (something I will never ever do again) and so I saw that he was wanting a relationship.  He asked me to dinner a while back, and I cancelled on him.  I didn’t know if I was ready to go out with anyone, and I didn’t want to send the wrong message.

Not long ago though I saw him, and after a friendly hug, I decided to ask him out.  He’s a really kind man and I was compelled to see where this could go.  I’m a very very firm believer that the best relationships begin as friendships.  You won’t always have the passion and you won’t always feel a lot of love for the person during difficult times.  But, if a friendship is the foundation of the relationship, you have a strong base to keep you together.

So, we went out a couple of times.  I loved it.  I felt so comfortable and we talked about everything out there; and because I’d known him for so long, we shared so much about our lives and ourselves right off the bat.  We cuddled, held hands, smooched but that’s all.  I wanted to take it slow.

After those first 2 dates, I didn’t hear from him much and finally I asked him if everything was OK.  He told me he had never wanted a romantic relationship in the first place (ummm…you were on a dating site…see the irony?), and said he had told me that during our first date together.  I don’t remember him doing that.  I was too busy admiring the flowers he got me and the dinner he had prepared.  Hmmm.

I started crying after receiving that text.  To be brutally honest with you, I thought he had really wanted to go out with ME.  That he was the one that was really excited about it.  That he saw me as a catch.  In fact, my little brain thought he had had a crush on me for a while.  Obviously, I was deluded!  (Not the first time that’s happened…’nuff said.).

I called my mama and she was really taken aback by my reaction.  She said: “You weren’t in love with him.  Why are you taking this so hard?”  I think I have an answer to that:  because it’s another rejection.  Another person saying, “You aren’t good enough.”  Another man turning down all I have to offer.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Maybe that’s the problem though.  All I offer.  Because I offer a hell of a lot.  Not only because I’m such a feeler and giver (on our first date, I made a bracelet for his daughter and baby quilt for his new granddaughter), but because I can’t hide who I am.  I can be a bit mouthy, a bit excitable, a bit…well, too ‘much’.  But how can I not be who I am?  It’s like when I was a kid and a teacher or my parents would tell me to calm down.  I couldn’t!  Literally couldn’t!  Just like now, it was simply a part of who I am (bipolar) and there’s no switch to turn it off.  I wish with all my might there was.

bipolar roller coaster

Now, I have a confession to make.  It’s a toughie, but I need to say it.  I asked my ex, J, if he would like to try our relationship again, with counseling to help us deal with our issues and understand how to manage each others mental illnesses.  Listen to what I’m saying grasshoppers…I asked HIM to try again.  I’m gonna say it again: I asked HIM…the guy who cheated on me (with someone that works at my vets…guess I’m gonna get a new one now since I’m sure everyone knows the drama).  And his answer?  To me asking HIM…giving him a chance…telling him we can get help?  It was no.  In fact, it took him a while to say that…I guess it’s quite the ordeal to tell me that I’m not wanted.

Another confession.  I’ve never broken up with a guy before (including my hubbies).  They have always dumped me.  Rejected me.  Damn.

Look, I know I’m different.  I’ve known that since I was a very little girl.  I know my mental illness was showing itself in childhood…we have proof of my depression and mania.  Actually, now that I think about it, this guy didn’t lie to me about not wanting a romantic relationship until after I encouraged him to read this blog.  After 20 years of friendship, I thought it would be OK.  Hmmm.

me
This is what I wrote in the 3rd grade.  I was already questioning why I was alive and how there was too much going on in my head to hear more than one thing at a time.  

I know I’m not a bad person.  At least I don’t think so.  I think I have a lot of really positive qualities.  I’m smart.  I’m extremely loving.  I’m loyal as hell.  I’m forgiving.  I can make a mean ass pot of chicken and noodles, and my bathroom is always clean.

For fucks sake (I had to get that word in for ma and sis), I know this rejection shouldn’t hurt so much.  Shouldn’t make me question myself so much.  Shouldn’t make me cry and wonder if I’ll ever find a partner again.  I know I’m OK alone.  But I don’t want to just be OK.  I want someone to love me back.  I need that connection.  That partnership.  That feeling of belongingness that is inherent to us all.  And I’m not gonna lie:  celibacy sucks.

So listen up, God.  I’m 53 years old (I know you know that but I just wanted to emphasize it) and I am ready for my forever.  If you want to send them along, I’ll toddle over and meet them halfway.  I promise.

Kristi xoxo

 

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.”

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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

 

 

World Bipolar Awareness Day!

world dayu

So, it’s not as exciting as Christmas or as fun as Halloween, but today is World Bipolar Awareness Day, and it’s something important to recognize!

You know, there are so many misconceptions out there in terms of what bipolar is, or is not, so let’s learn more about this brain disease with my infographic below!

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In terms of the mania, here’s what those of us who have bipolar can experience (Mayo Clinic) with my comments in the parenthesis:

  • ABNORMALLY upbeat, jumpy and wired (I can barely sit down when I’m manic)
  • Increased activity, energy, or agitation (last summer, I walked 8 miles every single morning and then more in the evening, painted the interior of my house in days, created dozens of pieces of artwork, painted all of my wood furniture, kept up with 3 online classes, did tons of yard work and the list goes on!)
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (when I’m manic, I feel like I could rule the world!  Literally!)
  • Decreased need for sleep (I have to take OTC meds to induce sleep)
  • Unusual talkativeness (my mom knows I’m getting depressed when I stop talking non-stop)
  • Racing thoughts (sometimes I cry because all of the thoughts are so ‘busy’ in my brain it scares me)
  • Being easily distracted (my mom will tell me something and I’ll be looking her in the eye, and then I say “What?” and she has to start all over.  I’m distracted by my thoughts, sounds, what I’m seeing around me…all the while thinking how I could incorporate this into some kind of art)
  • Poor decision making (whooo-weeee…where the hell do I start with this one?  How about spending $20,000 on motorcycles in one weekend?  Or, allowing my ex to move back in with me days after he cheated on me?)

In terms of depression, we can experience these things:

    • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness with lots of tears (I will cry over anything, everything or nothing.  I literally feel like there’s a whole inside of me that will never get filled or healed again)
    • Marked loss of interest in activities (I can’t even think about painting or even coloring a page…I just don’t have the ‘will’ to create at all)
    • Significant weight loss or weight gain, or changes in eating habits (when I’m manic, I’m too busy to eat, and when I’m depressed, I’m too sad to eat.  Also, eating disorders often go along with bipolar, and since I’m a recovering anorexic, this isn’t good for me at all)
    • Insomnia or sleeping too much (depression makes me want to nap during the day and it’s harder than hell to get myself up and face the night)
    • Restlessness or slowed behavior (everything feels like I’m doing it in slow motion)
    • Fatigue or loss of energy (oh yeah)
    • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt (when I’m experiencing a depression, I apologize for things I did decades ago.  I feel guilt over every wrong I’ve ever committed and feel I should be punished for them.  When something bad happens to me, I feel like I deserve it as a payment for sins (even though I believe in Jesus).  I also feel so worthless that the world would be better off without me.)
    • Decreased ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness (I know I stumble over words, don’t remember lectures like I should, and really have to think harder at school when I’m depressed…I hate how it affects my teaching.  This is the worst thing for me…knowing that I’m not able to give 100% to my students each and everyday.)
  • Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide (yep.  Been there, done that.  Nuff said.)

Now that you know about bipolar, maybe better than you did, this final question remains:  What can YOU do with this info?  Let’s see:

  • Try not to use the term bipolar as an adjective…it’s not!  It’s not a substitute for crazy or nuts or someone acting out!  It’s the diagnosis of a mental illness!
  • If you know someone you love or know is bipolar, try to remember the above!  If they cancel plans on you at the last minute, refuse to join you in eating out, won’t speak to you except in short phrases, they are probably cycling through a depression and it’s not their fault!  Also, if they are talking so fast that you can’t get a word in edgewise, won’t sit down and watch a movie with you, want to try everything out there right NOW, they are cycling through mania.  Just try to be understanding that these things aren’t their fault.
  • Having said that, if you see signs that you feel are much exaggerated and/or dangerous, talk to their partner, parents, or trusted friend of theirs.  They might need help!
  • Never ever be afraid to ask a bipolar (or anyone!) if they are considering suicide if you see signs of it (talking about it, giving away things, saying ‘goodbyes’, seeing helpless and despair in them, etc.  For a full list of warning signs and more info, visit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.)  Talking, directing them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifetline at 1-800-273-8255, discussing what you see with their parents/partner/friends, or taking them to your local Emergency Room can help save their life.
  • When you hear someone talking about bipolar in an inappropriate way, or you see something in the media that minimizes or portrays bipolar wrongly, speak up!  Use it as a teaching moment for others to learn from!

There are so many other mental illnesses out there as well, and learning about them, talking about them, and understanding them can help reduce the stigma that the mentally ill face.  The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on Oct. 10th every year, and the Mental Health Awareness Week is the first full week of October.  Be vocal these days on social media and show your support for all that suffer from mental illness.  We need you!

Finally, thank you all for supporting me.  There are so many of you that read my blog who e-mail me with support while sharing your own stories.  I love the connection with all of you!

I know it’s not easy to be my parent, son, sister, and friend.  I know that it really sucks balls sometimes, and I’m so so sorry for what I’ve put my mom and son through especially.  If I hadn’t had, or didn’t have, their support, I know I wouldn’t be typing this right now.  The support you give someone who is suffering from a mental illness is truly life changing or life saving.  We need you…and we know how special you are to be there for us.

Kristi xoxo