“Gold Digger” ~ Kanye West

Photo by John Guccione http://www.advergroup.com on Pexels.com

So, what is it about a million dollars? Isn’t that what so many of us wished for when we were little…or older? “Gee, if only I had a million dollars, I’d be set!” Then, we’d make a list of everything we wanted: a mansion with a pool…the best car out there…not ever having to work again…all the clothes we could ever want…and the list went on. You know, I still hear people say this (except in this economy, it’s more like “I wish I had a couple million dollars” 🙄) but I think about whether or not it’s really the thing to want…to desire…to dream about.

Yes, I do believe money can buy certain non-tangeable things like security, better safety, and the such, but what else can it REALLY buy? Happiness? Love? Fulfillment? Respect?

Hmmmmm…now that’s I’m a cough-cough…tad older…I’ve come to realize that what I truly want in life isn’t connected to me winning the lottery at all. Over the last few years I’ve come to see money very differently. Much more utilitarian…and not so much as what dreams are made of.

Let’s take happiness. Now, some might argue that money CAN buy happiness. “Look…it’ll get me a boat, a truck and a cabin in the woods…that’s happiness!” And that’s right. It will get you the stuff you want that can make you happy…but is it the moolah that’s actually causing the happiness? I’ve known people with these things and they still aren’t happy. Still aren’t content. Are actually, still wanting more.

I remember when Hubby #1 (shutty, peeps… 😬) and I moved from our orange and brown, 1 bedroom, teensy tiny kitchen, hideous bathroom apartment to our trailer! I was in heaven! My gosh…no more neighbors clomping around upstairs (although we did have the best neighbors possible 😀) and no more parties blaring downstairs. No more having our allotted parking place being taken over by some boob who had no idea what a ‘reserved’ sign meant and no more traipsing up rickety stairs juggling 3 bags of groceries and an armful of school books.

Now, we had our own driveway…only a couple of stairs…no more people surrounding us with only a piece of drywall separating us. It was heaven on earth. Even the avocado color scheme was a welcome change from the darkness of what we’d had. Could we ever be happier? Would we ever out-grow this nirvana? Well. Yes.

The trailer that was HUGE when we moved in suddenly became just as full and cluttered as our apartment had been thanks to my penchant for thrift shopping. Whenever I found something that I just knew we had the space for, I bought it…not realizing that each item actually did take up an area of finite space that was shrinking with each trip I took in the car. And the avocado color scheme I thought was so beautiful and fresh and nature-y? It started looking like someone puked up spinach all over the place. 🤢

SOOOOO…we bought our first house! YEA! Now this was IT! I would never want anything else than our own house. This is where we’d raise our family and have dinners for our grandkids and throw parties and do whatever it was we wanted. And, it was all well and good. Until 2 weeks after we moved in and Hubby said he wanted a divorce. Heh? We finally ‘made it’ to where we had dreamed and he wanted out? Hmmmm.

Why is it we still live in a society where having money means ‘you made it.’ Because someone else’s bank account is bigger than yours, they just have to be happier. I’ll share a secret with you. I believed this for a long time. Then, my world got shook up and I finally realized what I really needed…and what could actually be in my reach if I worked at it. It didn’t have to be a dream…it could be a reality.

Instead of dreaming about being a millionaire, I decided that I’d rather be loved, happy, and content with a feeling of purpose. Just 4 things…instead of a million bucks.

For so long in my life, I thought of myself as being unlovable. Face it, after 2 years of being sexually abused, 3 divorces (yes, you may roll your eyes 🙄) and a couple of break-ups, it’s pretty hard not to feel this way. After Hubby 3 and I divorced and then J and I had our tumultuous relationship, I felt more unlovable than I ever had in my entire life. Hubby and I still talk daily…and lately he’s told me how much he regrets leaving and that he still loves me. No. He doesn’t. At least not in the way he’s talking about. He loves what we HAD. He misses the life we had built. He’s found out that doesn’t happen often. BUT, he doesn’t love ‘me’. If he did…well…he wouldn’t have walked out that door.

Then I had J for 3 years. Manipulative, gaslighting, cheating, emotionally and physically abusive J. And, I loved him. A lot. (Doesn’t this just show how irrational our emotions are?) And, he said he loved me. A lot. It’s took quite a while to realize this, but no. He didn’t. You know, I’ve never laid a hand on my son…and yes, he was always well behaved. I’ve never laid a had on my poochies…and yes, they are cough-cough…’sorta’…well behaved. And why haven’t I done that? Because I love them. You do NOT hurt what you love. (PLEASE don’t give me a lecture on physical punishment for kids…that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open and discuss…but when every single medical association, psychiatric/psychological association, school organization, etc. ALL say that physical punishment is wrong, I’m in pretty good company. Let’s leave it at that.) NOW, I will admit this: there were times I was so angry or upset at my boy or dogs that I had an ‘urge’ to lash out…but my love for them stopped it.

Then I was alone for a year…during a pandemic where I had only myself to be with for the great majority of the time and I got to know me in a way I never had before. I started liking me. Even loving me. And that felt great! That I could give myself what I needed was something I never knew was in me. Then, Bill came ambling along and he loves me too. We love each other when we’re crabby and tired and stressed…and not just when it’s good. He’s never threatened me with anything…talked poorly about me to others…blamed me for things outside of my realm of power…and has always either asked for or accepted forgiveness. At the age of 54, I finally can see what love is from the inside and the out. That, my grasshoppers, is worth more than a million bucks.

Contentment. Now that’s an interesting word. Synonyms include being comfortable, satisfied, and fulfilled. I was really content when I was married to Oliver’s dad. I loved loved loved our life together because I was raising a family which had always been my dream. But I also worried that this could be taken away from me if I didn’t measure up to the standard of the his family. And believe me, this standard was high. So I worked my ass off for this ‘contentment’ and maybe that tainted it in a lot of ways. B’s family is a cutter-offer type of family. There’s a divorce? Cut the person out of every picture that ever existed of them even though they are the mother or father of your grandchildren. Piss one of them off…and you’ll need to beg for their attention once again. So, yes, I was content in raising my family and being a mommy…but I was also worried it was an illusion at times…something that could be taken away with any stumble on my part. That was a shit-load of pressure…particularly for someone who’s bipolar and stumbles her way through life anyway.

I’m content now. Finally now. It’s not because I’m with Bill or because my career rocks or because I have the best kid in the universe or because I live in a cute house or because I have family that loves me. It’s because I’m OK with me. Satisfied with me. If I had to be alone, I’d be OK. I’ve come to realize that. I don’t worry about stumbling anymore. Because, for the first time in my life, I’ve learned to pick my own self up and keep moving forward.

And purpose? I think we all have this question that’s been around since the beginning of time: “What am I here for? What’s my life all about?” I’m going to be honest here. I always saw myself as another Oprah…someone who asked the hard questions and dug deep into issues and looked great on TV. That was my dream. Still is actually. But, my purpose is 2 fold: to be a great mom and to be a great professor. Am I great? Depends on what day you ask my son or whether or not I let a student make-up an exam. But I feel like I’m doing what I was put on this earth for. Along with the purpose of teaching, I know I was meant to teach as much as I can about mental illness. I believe everything happens for a reason…I also don’t pretend to know what those reasons are. There’s so much I don’t understand. But, I finally understand why I have bipolar…because I can use my opportunities of teaching to help others understand mental illness and start to break the stigma of it themselves. Does this make up for what this fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar puts me through. Well….no. It does not. But, does it make it more tolerable…knowing I’m using it for others to learn from? Yes. It does.

And then there’s happiness. The word that’s so different for everyone but so widely sought after by us all. Let’s see…I’m loved, content, and have a purpose in life. Yes. I am happy. Happy with me. Happy with my life. Happy with what I have.

If I were to win a million dollars tonight, my world would change. I could go out and buy to my hearts content. But…would I alienate family? Would I suddenly quit my job and forget the purpose I have? Would I have to worry about how to spend it…who to spend it on…what charities to give it too? WOULD this windfall make me happy? Is this the end all/get all in life? I don’t think so. Not anymore. Because, my sweet peeps, I’ve got all I need right now.

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

“Somebody Get Me a Doctor!” ~ Van Halen

So, GOOOOOOOODNESS!! This has been a month from hell and I’ve missed my peeps! Believe you me (what does that even mean? 🤔), I would much rather have been blogging than what was going on. Actually, I would have much preferred a root canal everyday for a month than what was actually going on. In fact, I would have taken the option of walking on hot coals every hour for a month. Get my point?

Anyhoot, here’s the whole kit-n-kaboodle for your reading pleasure. If you’re eating right now, please stop. This gets ugly.

Y’all know I was scheduled for a full hysterectomy on April 12 and I was a bit apprehensive. Little did I know it would be the easiest thing to happen to me in the course of a week!

The prior Friday (the 9th – ma’s birthday…she’s 99 but looks 75 😁), I woke up with a shooting pain in my side. No, it wasn’t Bill kicking me in bed…it was an actual pain. (Note…Bill can be a pain, but that’s more of a pain in the ass…not the side 😆). The previous day, I had run 7 miles and started feeling bad a couple hours later but figured a good night sleep would cure all. I was wrong! So, I headed over to the ER (by myself…Bill doesn’t drive and I didn’t want to bother ma in case it was just gas). I toddle in and tell the ER triage nurse the pain and she puts me in a room…not looking too worried. An adorable doc finally comes in and asks if I have my appendix. I assure him I don’t. So, he decided to do some CAT scans to see what the hell was going on and lo and behold…

This is not mine…Doc wouldn’t let me see it!

I had 4 kidney stones that broke loose! Isn’t that the most beautiful thing to visualize? Anyhoot, he called in an urologist who looked young enough to be my son…I wanted to tell him not to slouch and to call his mother more…and he said I had a couple of these gems blocking my urethra…charmed I’m sure. He and the ER doc were quite impressed though…both had never seen 2 of the little boogers in a tube at once…I was a bit proud (one was 10mm and 5mm is considered large 🙄…as always, I’m an over-achiever).

I call Bill and he calls ma and she calls O (son) and he calls T (sissy) and she calls dad and the hotline had reached it’s peak while I was being prepped for surgery. Then, the following conversation ensued:

  • Doc: “What type of pain medication have you been using?”
  • Me: “None.”
  • Doc: “NONE?”
  • Me: “None.”
  • Doc: “But you have 4 kidney stones.”
  • Me: “OK.”
  • Doc: “I’ve had 250 pound men writhing on the floor in pain and moaning with 1.”
  • Me: “OK.”
  • Doc: “You’re a pretty tough gal.”
  • Me: “Doc…I have fucking bi-polar. This is nothing compared to that. Now, scrub up and let’s get this over with…90 Day Fiancé is on at 7.”
Courtesy of the
Persimmon Group

Bill was there when I wake up in recovery and I got home a couple of hours later. And…yes, in case you are wondering, I was in plenty of time for my show (to my 90 Day fans: isn’t Andrew a piece of crap??)

THEN, I call my gyno (who is an absolute doll..she’s just the best!) and she said I can still go through with the Big H on Monday if I want too…I did. Let’s just get everything over with at once. *NOTE to Dr. L: please re-read that sentence. And, on a separate note, you haven’t billed me yet.

I drove me and ma to the hospital 45 minutes away (I may be tough…but not tough enough to endure ma’s driving) and I hadn’t eaten or drank anything after midnight. My surgery was at 1…I was done at 3:30…I woke up a while later…and was in recovery for a couple hours. By the time I got to my room at 6, I was FAMISHED. So, I got 4 saltine crackers and water. BUT, I got some heavy duty pain meds and didn’t mind too much. However, when I awoke the next morning (after being awakened every hour all through the night 🙄), I noticed 2 things: I was peeing in a bag and I was beyond famished. WAY beyond. To make a long story longer shorter, I didn’t eat until after 11 and have never been more grouchy in my entire life. AND that my dear peeps, is saying a lot (hush up, O…don’t argue with your mother 🤨).

So, this should be where I say: I was discharged and healed happily ever after…right? I wish! The next morning, I couldn’t pee in my bag. My ‘leg’ bag that showed my pee to all my family and my lucky neighbors who happened to watch me either through my windows (we all have large ones and ‘keep our eyes on one another’) or while I was letting out Edward. Me, being the medical scholar that I am (I have the WebMD app), thought: “If I drink a whole lot of water, it will force my pee out.” Didn’t happen. All that did was make me feel like my bladder was bursting…because in actuality, my bladder was getting ready to burst.

From Sister Talk on Spotify

Now T and I have a special ‘sister code’ that we use for one another that no outsider can probably understand. I texted her these secret numbers: 911. That means to call me back because it’s an emergency: either I’m on the verge of death, Ulta is having a sale, or I want to gossip about ma 😳). T’s an LPN and she rushed over…calling the doc on the way. We boogied to Springfield (again), and I was in so much pain! We darted in the center and the receptionist held up a finger while she finished typing something that was apparently more urgent than my bladder. My sissy is the best though: she whoosked me in the office where Dr. L was ready and I stripped while fumbling down the hall…yes…everyone there has now seen my ass.

When I laid on the table, T gasped and said: “You look 9 months pregnant!” and I did! I was so full of pee! An hour and 3 assistants later, Dr. L had drained my bladder (now I only look 3 months pregnant) and I could breathe again. I was THISCLOSE to it tearing and had it done so, I probably would be talking to Freud in heaven and rubbing Dottie’s belly instead of writing my peeps.

Anyhoot, I have my last follow-up appointment today regarding my kidneys and then I’m done until my 6 week check-up at Dr. L’s. Three surgeries…5 days…and I have NOT received any flowers. Cough cough.

Yes, my fam has brought me groceries, presents, lunches, etc. but no flowers. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But…I could have been a goner…just saying’ (1-800-FLOWERS is a great number to call, Bill 🤨).

So anyhoot, hopefully I’m done for a while now. As of now, I have no gall bladder, appendix, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries or kidney stones. As ma said yesterday, there’s not much else that can go wrong. Well, as fate would have it, she was incorrect. I just cut my bangs and they look like crap. Go figure.

Kristi xoxo

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ~ Charles Schultz

So, y’all know that my Little Dottie has been gone for about a month and I can finally talk about her without crying (most of the time at least). A while ago, my son, his girlfriend and I picked out a puppy from a friend of my pop’s and the little fart will ready for us on April 1st. I’m having a lot of mixed emotions about the pup and just wonder if I’m ready, or even up to this.

My Little Dot

After Dottie was gone, Edward moped around the house horribly and has gotten to where he won’t leave my side. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating, pooping (😳), sleeping, cleaning, etc. he’s always there. Eddie is a very ‘needy’ and social creature and it breaks my heart how lonely he is. I know he needs another little friend and I also know he’ll mother the puppy because that’s just how he is. Bill and O are excited too and ma can’t wait to meet her newest fur grandbaby.

But me? I just don’t know.

A huge part of me feels like it’s too soon…like Bill having a date a couple of weeks after burying me (I’d haunt him forever if he did 🙄). I don’t want my Little Dot to think she’s being replaced…no other dog could replace my baby diva. And, I also wonder if my heart is ready to love another puppy and not compare her to who Dottie was.

But then I remember how I felt after Scooter, my first dog, died and how distraught I was then too. B, my hubby at the time (shutty the mouthies, peeps 😐) took me to see some puppies just about a week after Scooter was gone. I wasn’t thrilled. O and B picked out a pup and I held him and all, but felt nothing. No excitement. No love. No want. Since he wasn’t going to be completely weaned for a couple more weeks, I had 14 days to worry about everything…remember, those of us with bipolar are GREAT worriers and ruminators…it’s really at a champion level 🥇. On the Saturday when were getting ready to pick him up, I told B I wasn’t going. I didn’t want too…I wasn’t going too…and if he made me, I’d hate him forever.

Me and Squirty

So, we left shortly after. O had already named the pup Squirty (a nickname my grandpa called my grandma ♥) and he was excited. We got there, picked up Squirty and made it home. I set up his little crate and playpen, etc. and went about ‘mothering’ him with nothing in my heart. Nada. Zilch. He wasn’t my Scooter and never would be…therefore, I didn’t want him.

Now mind you, I wasn’t bad to him at all…I’m a great nurturer…I can nurture the hell out of any animal or person. But I was just going through the motions…doing what I ‘had’ to do. Finally, we were outside in the middle of the night for him to pee (while B slept peacefully I might add 🙄) and for some reason, he looked up at me and his eyes broke my heart. It’s like he was saying “What’s wrong…why don’t you love me?”

My heart did a quick defrost and Squirty was my buddy ever after. After B and I got divorced, it was decided by B (as was everything else…go figure… 🙄) that Squirty should stay with him in the country and with our German Shepherd who loved him to pieces. So, I ‘lost’ him after just a couple of years.

Then came Dottie and I adored her from the start. O and I were struggling with the divorce and Dottie was our comfort and fun and we could feel playful even with the heaviness our hearts experienced. Because of this, and how Squirty helped me move on from Scooter, my family (and I) thought it would be good for me to get another pup this spring. Hmmmm.

Millie Grace

When O, K and I went to pup’s home, there were 3 pups in the litter still not taken: 1 boy and 2 girls. O and K each held one of the girls and I held the little guy. They were adorable and only 4 weeks old…their eyes had just opened and their little faces couldn’t have been any cuter. As much as O and I were liking and cuddling the pups we were holding, we kept glancing at the one K had in her arms. Right as she said: “I feel a really good vibe from this one” O and I looked at each other and nodded. We had actually felt it too.

K handed her over to me and I looked in her little face…she was precious. So, I told Chuck that she was the one we’d take and he literally said this: “Oh! You chose the one with the white dot on her paw!”

Heh? White dot? I hadn’t even looked at her paws but there it was…in a sea of red poodle, there was a perfect white circle on her little paw and I started to cry.

You see, the night before we trekked to the pups a couple of town away, I had asked my Dottie in heaven to ‘give me a sign’ about this. Yes, you can call me crazy (as if that’s never happened before, for fuck sakes…😐) but I believe in the supernatural…the spiritual…the ability to ‘talk’ to my family who are already in heaven with my pets included. I said this: “Dottie, I need you to let me know if this is right…if you’re OK with this.” And I believe that the dot on the paw was sign enough. She was the only pup to have this. We named her Millie Grace (from the Andy Griffith show of which I’m a HUGE aficionado) and were told to be back in a month.

So I feel like I have Dottie’s blessing but am struggling with something else too: Millie Grace isn’t a rescue…she’s from a breeder who is NOT a puppy mill and has a stellar reputation for how he breeds and treats his dogs. I’ve rescued 3 dogs in my life, Edward included, and feel guilty going to a breeder. But I’ve always had a toy poodle in my life and love the breed so much, and there are NO toy poodles to be rescued around this area…I’ve looked and looked. But like my pop said when I voiced this concern, getting MG doesn’t mean I won’t rescue again…I’m sure I will many more times in my life; it does mean that I’m giving a pup a great home though and that’s a wonderful thing no matter what.

Anyhoot, I don’t know how this will all go. Will my heart open to little Millie? Will I compare her to Dottie and not let her be who she is? Will I have the capacity to nurture her like I did Dot? Am I ready for this at all? I hope so.

I’m the type of person who will literally run around a bug on the sidewalk so I don’t squish them…talk to my plants so they don’t feel unloved…dote on Edward like he’s next in the royal lineage. It’s hard for me to think of not being a good ma to Millie but I want it to be genuine. Real. I want to love her and I keep reminding myself that loving Millie doesn’t mean I love Dottie any less. I’ll love my Dot until we’re together again someday.

So here’s the thing Little Dottie: you, my sweetie, were the best dog I’ve ever ever had…the funniest, bitchiest, cutest, and orneriest of all. If I hadn’t loved you so much and miss you so much, I’d never want another. But you showed me the joy a pup gives…the wonder and blessing of having a dog for as long as I had you…the everyday happiness and comfort a dog can give…the sense of fulfillment in terms of being a ‘new’ mommy again. In other words, Millie will never take your place. It’s because of the awesome legacy you left that I want another in my life. I hope you understand and also hope you’ll look down on us from time to time and grin at the antics this one pulls. And Dottie…I’ll keep you in my heart forever. There’s just no where else I’d rather have you.

Kristi xoxo

“It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so right.” ~ Stephen King

So, I don’t know about you but February is a notoriously sucky month for me. Holidays are over…snow is coming down…there’s mud and slush everywhere…and you can go days to weeks without seeing the sun. Charmed, I’m sure. However, THIS February sucked balls even more…let me explain.

To start with, I had COVID during the first 2 weeks and was stuck at home in quarantine for 14 days feeling like Typhoid Mary. Bill and I did get along (he had it too and I don’t want to point the finger of blame at anyone for getting it but Bill gave it to me…probably… 😳) only because he has my basement fixed up like a little apartment and we didn’t have to really see each other unless we wanted too. After a few days, we didn’t want too. I know all of you women are nodding your heads right now…and believe you me, I got on my knees and thanked the good Lord above that I was insightful enough to buy a house with a finished freaking basement 15 years ago. Just sayin’.

We were lucky with our symptoms though: fatigue, loss of taste and smell, headaches, some congestion…and that was about it. As I’ve said before, I missed not having the senses but Bill, for some unknown reason, wasn’t as upset. When I asked him why he mumbled a couple of words that sounded like ‘kitchen’, ‘cooking’, and ‘God send.’ I’m really not sure what he meant.

Then, I had to put my sweet Little Dottie down. I’ve had to do this once before and I prepared myself since she was getting so old and I could see my baby failing. But when you actually do it, no amount of preparation can lessen the heartache and pain you feel. Not a minute goes by that I don’t think of my sweetie and I still look for her all of the time. Every night, for 15 years, she slept on my bed and I’m still putting her blankie out every night…I’m not ready to stop that yet.

Y’all might not agree with this but I once read that you might have a lot of dogs over the years, but 1 will always stand out as being ‘that dog’. The one that was just a bit more special to you. The one you connected with a bit more. For me, it was Little Dot. She was with me from the day I moved into my house with O and we were never apart. Her personality was something else: diva + sweetheart + ornery + sassy + adorable. It was quite a combination. I will miss her until the day I die and when I see her, I know she’ll bark her fool head off.

Then, I went in for a ‘procedure’ on Friday and to make a very long story short (but less dramatic 🙄), I need to have a full hysterectomy. Well, fuck me (sorry, ma 😬 ). This is major surgery and I’m scared! My awesome gyno is going to do it laparoscopically (it took me 4 tries to spell that correctly 😐) so the downtime won’t be too bad…just a couple of weeks. I’m going to schedule it, hopefully, on the first day of Spring Break so I can recover a few days before I go back to teaching.

The really fun part is going to be juggling 7 regular classes, a late-start class, healing, mourning, and taking care of my house. But as Hubby 3 used to say (shutty the mouthies 😳), I’m a ‘scrappy thing’ and I’m sure I’ll be OK. (Note to Bill, Ma, Pop, T, and O: I’ll still need a LOT of spoiling… 🤨).

So, ma went with me for my “procedure” (that sounds like such a weird word…old ladies say it with ‘quotation fingers’ because they don’t want to say the real reason because it’s usually gross, like hemmorroids or something; mine wasn’t that ‘gross’ but it’s still not table talk) and I got us lost. NOW HOLD ON A SEC…WE NEED TO WAIT UNTIL MA PICKS HER CHIN UP OFF THE FLOOR SINCE I DIDN’T BLAME HER LIKE I WANTED TOO.

Anyhoot, we had to go to Springfield to get ‘er done and I drove there so ma could drive back when I was groggy and possibly vomiting. Here’s how the conversation went and as you read it, be sure to make your voice very shrill (on ma’s parts), very sweet and patient (on my parts), with the volume increasing with every sentence:

Ma: “Kristi, do you know where we are going?”
Me: “Yes, ma…duh. In fact, you made us leave so early we’ll have plenty of time to kill. I know Springfield like the back of my hand.”

45 minutes later:

Me: “Ma, since we’re 40 minutes early, let’s pop into the General ($ General) and I’ll get a magazine to read.” We browsed for 20 minutes before I said, OK…let’s go!

I drove around various roads and kept taking wrong turns (there are too many one way streets there) and even though I had no idea where in hell I was, I DID not want to let ma know that. However, I finally found the building after driving by it countless times, and once I got going the correct way on the one way street, got the car parked, trotted into the building and…wait for it…didn’t see the surgery center listed by the elevators. I go up to a nice young gal and ask her where it is. She said: “It’s downtown…about 6 miles from here.”

Ma was still behind me…I rushed ahead ‘just in case’ something went awry, and when the gal asked me if I needed the address, I said “No! I know where it is!” before ma could hear this exchange. I didn’t know where it was.

When ma asked what was going on I actually said this (don’t judge…you don’t know ma when she’s pissed…right T?): “They moved the surgery center and now it’s downtown.” Ma: “Do you have the address?” Me: “Duh. Of course.” I didn’t.

So, off we go again with 5 minutes left to get back to the car and find this place that magically ‘moved’ overnight. I started down the street I thought was right and was fumbling with my google maps that was screwed up because it was trying to connect to ma’s fucking blue-tooth in her car. As I kept making more wrong turns, she kept getting more pissed off. I said a little prayer, found the place completely by accident, and didn’t have to read the magazine I had bought at the General.

BUT, here’s what’s weird: I had COVID, lost my baby girl, and have to have major surgery all within the span of a month, yet I’m in a manic phase. Bi-polar doesn’t give a hoot about what’s going on in your life. It’s going to do what it wants to do…period. How can you explain that you’re grieving or scared or achy or sad when you just can’t stop moving, doing, etc.? People with bipolar process emotions differently than others. I’m not saying I feel MORE than others, but I am saying what I feel is on a different ‘spectrum’ than others. It’s very very hard for me to process all of this: I’m ‘up’, yet I’m so so sad. I’m ‘up’, yet I’m so so scared. I’m ‘up’, yet I am worrying about how I’m going to do all I need to do while recovering. What a weird thing: it’s like my brain is experiencing this bit of mania (it’s not too bad, but Bill can’t believe all I do in a day) but my heart is experiencing so much else. And, since these 2 things aren’t matching, I feel confused. Kind of lost…even kind of guilty.

Anyways, I hope your February was better than mine and I already know March is going to suck balls. But, by April I’ll be ‘as good as new’ and hopefully have a great summer.

Take care of yourselves, peeps…stay healthy and safe. K?

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

“Easy come…easy go.”

Happy New Year, my sweetie peeps!! I hope you had a great holiday season and wish you ALL the very happiest of 2021! ❤❤❤

So, I was reading yet another ‘inspirational saying’ on Pinterest the other day and it said this: “If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. If it’s worth it, it’s not going to be easy 🙄.” Yes, I know this sounds like a great philosophical musing but I have to disagree with it because I’ve had a lot of things come easy in my life that have been very much worth it.

My sonshine is one of them. I didn’t get preggers with Hubby #1 but immediately hit the jackpot with Hubby #2. Before this, people would tell me horror stories about their pregnancies: barfing every other minute…not being able to get out of bed…getting varicose veins that rival any climbing rope you’ve seen…getting stretch marks that look like a topographical map, etc. And for the women out there who experienced a difficult pregnancy, you truly have my sympathy. But for me, it was a breeze. I never got sick…ate to my heart’s content…reveled in seeing my belly grow…and don’t have a stretch mark in sight (you can hate me now…I’ll wait. HOWEVER, I rubbed baby oil lotion all over my belly from day 1…ma said no matter what I did I would get them, but even after gaining 65 pounds, I didn’t! This, you sweetie peeps, is my claim to fame 😳🙄).

Anyhoot, the delivery wasn’t a picnic but I was blessed with a perfect little baby boy who had, and still has, the best personality of anyone I know. Truly. It was easy being his mommy and I love being his ma now.

School is another thing that’s really easy for me. When I read a book or look at notes, etc. and then try to recall the info, I can see the pages in my mind with the words on them. I don’t know if I actually have a photographic memory (for fuck sakes, I have too many labels as is…and sorry, ma) but I can learn and remember things with very little effort. In my graduate classes, other students would say: “I pulled a few all-nighters and worked for hours and hours on this assignment.” I would nod and say that I did too. However, I was lying. Goodness…I had a 1 year old! I couldn’t work for hours on a paper! So, I’d write a draft during O’s nap, proof it after he was asleep for the night, and then get it turned in. Easy peasy.

NO…I’m not bragging (well….maybe just a tad… 😳). I can’t really do anything else wonderful besides poop out a great kid and read a book in my head…however, we all have to celebrate our victories when we can. Riiigggghhhhttt? 😁

And on the flip side of that quote, I’ve done things that have been really really hard and still didn’t achieve the goal I set or what I thought I earned! For example, after I started running marathons, I really really really wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon and to do so, you have to run a previous marathon under a certain time limit. I was never even close. I worked and worked and worked…and ‘failed’ if you will. I loved running my marathons anyway, but what I worked ssssooooo HARD for didn’t happen so what the hell? Hmmmm.

But, there’s always a kernel of truth in some sayings and I think what has been the hardest thing in my life has been worth it. Being open about having bipolar has been a toughie. It drastically changed my life for the better in that my family understands me better…I understand me better…and I’m getting the treatment I need to stay on track as best I can.

On the other hand (which doesn’t have a diamond on it…yet…cough cough…I’m talking to you, Bill 😊), it was hard to ‘come out’ and some of it wasn’t worth it at all. It changed a lot of my relationships and opened me up to criticism, ‘talk’ (i.e. gossip), people avoiding me, etc. Bipolar is considered the 2nd most serious mental illness (of course) around after schizophrenia and people think we’re cray-cray…always unstable…unable to have any semblance of a ‘normal’ life. For those untreated, yes…these things might be true; but the vast majority of us aren’t dangerous, criminal, out of control, or psychotic and are living our lives fully. 😎

You know, I loved Carrie Fisher so much (yes, we can call it a girl crush and not be lying 😳) and she once said this about having bipolar herself: “In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.” I adore this! I love knowing that no matter what happens in my life, I’m already very ‘ballsy’ and can handle about anything else that comes along. 😐

So, here’s my point: It’s OK if things come easy to you…if you didn’t have to work hard to get them. And it’s also OK if you worked your ass off and didn’t get the reward you were looking for…not everything can be achieved by everyone. So here’s what I’m doing as I begin this new year: thanking God for the blessings he gives me so easily…leaning on him when the struggle gets real…and then giving myself a break when I fall short despite my work. I’m not going to feel guilty for the easy pleasures…and I’m not going to beat myself up for not meeting a goal. I’m going to be thankful everyday I have and know that whatever does happen, happens for a reason.

Love you peeps. Happy New Year.

Kristi xoxo

“I gave you a vegetable last week…how dare you get sick.” ~ Anonymous

So, the following conversation happened a couple of days ago between me and ma…word for word (note: J, D, and T are mom’s ‘lady friends’):

Ma: “Kristi, I broke my ankle while you were driving home from Indiana.”

Me (in a screechier voice than normal): “What??? You BROKE your ankle??? Do you need me to take you to the ER???”

Ma: “No…I’ve already been and have a boot on…no worries.”

Me: “Tell me EXACTLY what happened.”

Ma: “I was walking down the stairs and missed the last one, fell, and hear a POPPING noise. So, I waited an hour then walked down to J’s house to see what she and D thought. Then, I walked home, got on my make-up, and drove to the ER. That’s about it.”

Me: “Ok…I need to get this straight in my mind before I have you committed. You hear a popping sound and see your ankle swell in front of your eyes so you walk down the block to J’s to see what she and another 80 year old woman think you should do since they were both teachers and apparently also have their MD’s. After they tell you ‘it’s bad’, you totter home, put on your make-up which takes you a half hour, and then you drive yourself to the ER.”

Ma: “That’s about it.”

Me: “I hate to ask this, but what did you do then?”

Ma: “Well…I had plans to eat with T and help her cut out a quilt so I just drove there and spent the afternoon.”

Me: “Oh! That makes total sense, ma.”

For fuck sakes…my mother is a mule. A stubborn mule. But you know, I really can’t think of a time when she was sick or hurt that she didn’t take care of herself or play it down. Even when she was battling breast cancer, she did all of the cooking for her and her bastard of an ex and cleaned up the house. And before you ask, YES! I was MORE than willing to do these things for her…begged to do these things for her…and went over there daily to do these things for her. And YES! EVERY time I got there, the house was already clean and she had supper all lined up for the evening. I’d say: “Ma! What the hell? Let me help you!” And she said: “I’m fine. I’m not an invalid.” (I’m just as stubborn…I don’t like help either 😐).

I come from a family where illness definitely isn’t coddled. “Toughen up! Walk it off!” It’s like a sign of status to see who can be the ‘sickest’ and still be the most productive. My pop is the same way so sis and I grew up thinking that being sick didn’t mean you stopped working so she and I do the same. I remember when O was 5 and had pneumonia (it took me 4 tries to spell that right 🙄) and we went back to the docs for another chest x-ray to see if he was getting better. When I was there, I was hacking around but told the doc it was just a cold. He listened to my lungs and ordered an x-ray for me too and come to find out, I also had pneumonia in both lungs. And, I was still teaching my classes and taking care of the house.

I’m not saying this is wrong…I think being strong is a great attribute to have and not ‘wallowing’ in your illness is probably a lot more healthy than doing so. I’m proud of my ma and pop, and the fact they are still working and being productive in their mid 70’s shows that working and staying active is the best way to go. I also a believer in having a positive attitude and know that at least for me, the more positive I am when sick, the less ‘sick’ I feel. (I used to love saying this to O when he was a little guy: “If you break your leg, don’t come running to me!” It always made him laugh!”)

So, I’ve been having problems since mid-September with peeing blood with pain every time I wee (I know, I know 🤢), being tired all the time, getting nauseous every time I eat, pain in my sides and back, etc. I’ve been on 3 different rounds of anti-biotics for 6 weeks total and had an ultrasound that shows 2 small kidney stones (I’m going to make a necklace out of them after they pass just to gross out ma). My doc sent me to a specialist yesterday and he was adorable. Anyhoot, we were yacking while he was examining and he said: “Kidney stones aren’t doing this. We need to figure this out.” So, he ordered me to get 3 CT scans this week as well as him doing a cystoscopy on Thursday. I asked him: “What are you looking for?” And he said: “It’s a good chance, with your symptoms, that it’s bladder cancer. I also want to rule out a tumor on your kidneys.” So I said: “What if it’s not one of those?” He said: “I’m not sure…we’ll just keep at it until we know.”

I’ve written before about ma telling me when she found a lump in her boob and I’ll never forget the feeling of being punched in my gut. I also remember when my son was being tested for leukemia and prayed so hard God got tired of hearing from me. The feeling of hearing ‘cancer’ and ‘son’ in the same sentence does something to you that’s truly indescribable.

So yesterday, when the doc said this, I started to get that punched in the gut feeling again. Not because of ‘me’, but because of how it would affect O, ma and Bill. O was with me at the appointment and he said: “Ma…don’t worry. You’re going to be fine.” Ma said: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” Bill said: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” But guess what? I’m worried.

And as Bill and I were chatting last night and I expressed this to him, I said: “Why it is wrong to be scared? Worried? Aren’t those valid feelings right now?” And he thought about it and said they were. But, he also said that until I knew something for sure, I should still be positive which I also am: if it’s cancer, we’ll fight it.

Sometimes I think the word ‘cancer’ is stigmatized like the words ‘mental illness’. Both are things people don’t want to really talk about or necessarily be around. In terms of being bipolar, I knew there was something very wrong with me when I was a teen (zits, braces and all 🙄), but as I got older I kept thinking: “Bipolar only affects around 1-2% of the population…I can’t have that!” Well, why not? By the same token, 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.S….why shouldn’t I be one of them? Why do we always think that these things ‘happen to other people’ and not ourselves? Why do we shy away from even contemplating it? Why do we feel guilty if we’re scared?

All of us are ‘someone else’ to ‘everyone else.’ Right? And by denying or ignoring or insisting that it can’t be cancer…or mental illness…or that someone is suicidal, etc. prohibits us from helping them or giving them the support they need. Why do we put our energy into pretending that something ‘can’t be true’?

I hope hope hope (and pray pray pray) that I don’t have bladder cancer. I hope hope hope (and pray pray pray) it’s something that can be cured/taken care of with a magic pill. But, I’m also being realistic and I’m scared. If I do have it, of course I’ll be tough! Of course I’ll be strong! Of course I’ll get through it like millions of other people do every year! Once something is ‘named’ it can be fought and I think it’s the not knowing that’s making me worry. After I finally got diagnosed with bipolar and started getting the help I needed, my life improved so much. Hiding it…denying it…just made me still stay ‘sick’. I’m not expecting to have cancer…but I’m not ruling it out either since doc is leaning that way. I’m not going to pretend I’m immune to cancer and become complacent about my health. Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is always power.

Thanks for listening, my sweet peeps. ❤❤❤

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

“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