“If the sky that we look upon, Should tumble and fall…” ~ Stand by Me

From: Family Resources and their Psychological Series

So, my new love and I are doing great and we are so freaking compatible. Meaning, I like to sing and he doesn’t cringe when listening, and I like to be busy and he’s more then capable of keeping up. He’s like a ‘saint’ almost to me…he listens, cares, asks about me, worries about me, etc. and even though you might be thinking “This is the way it should be”, I’m thinking “This is the way I haven’t experienced in a very long time.”

My last partner is formally diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder which is characterized by instability in mood, relationships, self-awareness, etc. and I saw all of these in our 3 years together. However, I also firmly believe he has characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder too (although I’m not ‘diagnosing’ him…only correlating his behavior with the disorders ‘symptoms’) which often co-occurs with BPD and is in the same ‘Cluster’ of personality disorders ( 😮)

Narcissus looking at his reflection.

Anyhoot, there has been so much writing about narcissism in the last few years and people with NPD have the following (per the DSM V):

  • Inflated sense of self-importance
  • Lack of empathy (when my nephew was killed, he said, while ‘hugging’ me: “I don’t give a fuck…I didn’t know him.”  Those words devastated me and this is the first time sissy and ma will know he said this.  Had they known while we were together, they would have hog-tied me and gotten me away.  And, he didn’t go to the visitation or funeral with me…I just had ma and my sonshine.)
  • Attention seeking behavior (we were at Kohl’s one day and he started spitting on the floor just to get my attention, make me mad, and give him an excuse for raging at me later.)
  • Takes advantage of others 
  • Has a feeling of entitlement
  • Are great liars (to be honest, I don’t think he ever told me a ‘truth’.  Ever.  Certainly not about loving me.)
  • Has no boundaries (zero…zippo…)

Now, partner had all of these and I’m not going to rehash our history…been there done that. However, the lack of empathy, lying, and taking advantage of others is something I experienced time and time again while we were together. The serial cheating he did after looking me in the eye and telling me there was no one else he was communicating with showed his lack of love and respect for me and taking advantage of me financially is something I’m still recovering from. I also saw his sense of entitlement in that he could cheat and still string me along…in other words, wanting his cake and eating it too. And self-importance? Uh. Yea. Thinking he’s God’s gift to women when in fact he’s…well…not 🙄

So, why am I bringing this up now? Because after being in this relationship for 3 years and experiencing the gaslighting, lying, cheating, etc. day after day after day, I still have effects from it. Bigtime.

There’s actually a condition that’s referred to as Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome and I’m struggling with it in my new relationship. People who have experienced loving a narcissist might have these things:

  • Question their sanity
  • Mistrust those who support them (every time ma and sis told me how horrible my situation was, I just thought they weren’t able to see the ‘great’ guy I thought he could be)
  • Feel worthless (yep…anyone who gets cheated on multiple times feels this way…)
  • Doubt their abilities to think or make decisions
  • Disconnect from their own wants and needs (what are those again?  According to narcs, we don’t have any 😯)
  • Give in to what the narc wants (New car?  Check.  New motorcycle?  Check.  New clothes?  Check. And on and on and on…)
  • Devalue their contributions (I never ever thought I was doing enough…because if I had been, he would have been better to me…right?)
  • Obsess on their faults and mistakes (I would ruminate over things I said and did again and again and again when he would rage at me, cheat on me, give me the silent treatment, etc. because there just HAD to be a ‘reason’ for this and it was undoubtedly my fault.)
  • Make excuses for the narcs actions (“But ma…he’s a vet with PTSD and had a shitty childhood…he can’t help it.”)
  • Spin their wheels trying to gain the narcs favor (I did ANYTHING I possibly could to make him see how important I was in his life and how much he ‘needed’ me.)
  • Obsess on how to the make the narc happy (they are never happy…ever.)
  • Idealize the narc (Ohhhhh…I definitely did this.)

Now, why in the name of all that’s holy did I ‘put up’ with this? Well…because narcs are ‘master manipulators.’ You see, they go through a pattern in relationships that involves 3 stages:

  • Idealize (when we first got together, he was EVERYTHING I needed and wanted him to be.  He made me feel like I was a ‘Queen’ and he held me on a pedestal that I thought would never tumble.  I truly believed he was my soul-mate and couldn’t imagine my life without him).
  • Devalue (as time wore on, he started to slowly pick at me…criticize me…hurt me…until I felt like ‘NOTHING’.  But see…he did idealize me so I had to have done something for him to devalue me…right? 🙄)
  • Discard (again and again and again…)

So why am I bringing this up now? Because this pattern and the Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome still lingers. There are actually ‘boot camps’ and classes and support groups and therapists who specialize in this type of abuse. Because it is abuse. It’s emotional manipulation, gaslighting (big time), and with me, some physical abuse. You just can’t ‘get over that’, and to have someone hurt you to the core where you question your own worth and sanity is devastating.

Here’s another secret ma and sissy don’t know: The first time I cut myself was in front of him…and he said this: “You can’t even do that right…it’s not deep enough.” So, later that week I made a 4″ cut that needed stitches (which I didn’t get since I didn’t want the docs to see it 😔) and the scar will never fade. He seemed pretty proud of that one.

How sick can you be to do that? I didn’t start the relationship out wanting to cut and commit suicide. But as I got deeper and deeper into thinking there was something very wrong with me because of his treatment, my self-worth and meaning vanished. Here’s what a lot of people say who were abused by narcs: ‘These people (and yes, women can be narcs too 😕) don’t just break your heart, they actually break your spirit.’ I believe this. The other day I was going through photos and came across a pic of me during the time of my breakdown (he was living with his other woman during this time and didn’t give a rat’s ass about the suicide attempt, etc.) and my eyes look vacant. Lost. Dead. Literally. It broke my heart to see how broken I really was.

I know Bill isn’t like this at all. He’s full of empathy and understanding and compassion and kindness and sweetness and he is open and genuine with me. I love this and feel like I’ve waited all of my life to get it. But here’s the thing: I don’t feel worthy of it. I really don’t. Partner did such a number on me I still feel ‘broken’ in a way…still feel if only I would have been good enough…still feel ‘bad’ about myself…am still struggling to understand why he targeted me. What is ‘in me’ that makes someone like him hurt me so bad? How he could do this to someone who loved him so fucking (sorry, ma…but you’ve said that word in reference to him too…just sayin’…😲) much. How in hell could he manipulate me so easily when I should have seen all of this coming?

In my heart I know Bill is different…I’ve even talked to 2 of his ex-wives and they have nothing but great things to say about him. He’s the real deal. But… and there’s always that BUT…how do I learn to trust again? Give myself totally when my heart has just healed from shattering? Believe his promises? His words? Feel worthy of having such a terrific man in my life? I wish I knew the answers to these.

Bill is aware of all of this…I’ve told him more about the partner than I’ve told anyone else and he has cried because of how I was treated. Even ma and sis don’t know the seriousness of things I experienced. Bill is giving me all of him. Everything inside of him. He’s putting it all out there.

I want to as well. And I’m trying my damndest. But I know it’s going to take time to fully trust and believe and understand that Bill won’t do what partner did. I hate that Bill has to almost ‘prove himself’ to me when he’s done absolutely nothing wrong, but it’s the baggage I carry after such a relationship. But you know what? If anyone can help me unpack that baggage and lay it out bare and get rid of it once and for all, I think he’s the guy. And I feel so fucking (sorry again, ma…this was just because…🙄) lucky because of that.

Kristi xoxo

Don’t Stop Believin’ ~ Journey

So, never in a million years (well, let’s not start out too dramatically…let’s say 50) did I think I would base a post on a Lifetime movie, but here goes:  I joined the Lifetime Movie Club the other day; it’s a pandemic and I’m desperate for entertainment outside of watching Edward lick himself.  So anyhoot, I watched a doozie today about a couple of contractors, one who is trying to off this gal (shocker) and the other one that ‘acts’ crazy but is really the good guy.  To make a long story short, the good guy never ever gave up on this woman he was trying to save, even when she was bad to him and told him to go away.  He just stayed true to what he felt was right.

Hmmmmm.  It got me thinking about giving up on people; when you should…when you shouldn’t.

J texted me again today, and I can tell he is in so much pain.  He’s angry, hateful, acting belligerent, all of which I know is covering up the pain he has inside himself.  No, he would never admit this.  No, he won’t allow himself to try to confront it because I don’t think he would know how to handle the feelings he’d be flooded with.  And no, he won’t seek out help because he needs this shield against a world he doesn’t want to be a part of anymore.

I have re-connected with an old friend from high school and we are really having some great talks, so I chatted with them about this today, and they said, “Just block him.”  Of course, I could do that.  Easily.  But I’m not going to and I’ll tell you why.  (Ma, if you are getting pissed at me, turn off the computer…the little button on the left.  The one that says ‘power’.  No…not that one.  The other…oh…for fuck sakes, just shut the lid and turn on the TV).

It all goes back to giving up on people.  Yes, he gave up on me.  And yes, how it happened was wrong.  And no, I didn’t do anything to deserve that sort of treatment (this is progress, peeps).  However, after 3 years, half of them living together, I know him very well.  I know his family and they are horrible to him (and to me, but I digress).  They gave him absolutely nothing in his life but the bare minimum to survive and that was it.  And yes, that included ‘love’ too.  It’s truly beyond my realm of comprehension, as a mom, how you can’t show love to your own child.  I just don’t get it.

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I could give up on J.  I could turn my back.  Walk away.  Cut myself off.  And that means I would be like everyone else in his life.  I’m not though, and I think this tenacity comes from a couple of things.

First, my ma has never done that to me.  I put her through hell and back a couple of summers ago, and she bore the burden and stayed by my side as long as I needed her too.  She still does.  I have dumped shit on her I should have taken out on myself, and she looks at me and tells me she loves me.  In other words, she has never given up on me.  Not when I was at the lowest place in my life…when I was telling her I wanted to die…when I was cutting myself and she had to see the bloody bandages…never.  And I wouldn’t be here if she had.

Second, what is in us as humans that we walk away so easily when people need us the most?  How many times have I said to someone “GO AWAY” when all I really wanted was for them to come closer?  When I was younger, I’d yell “I HATE YOU” to other kids who didn’t want to play with me (gee…I wonder why), and actually, all I wanted was to feel included.

When I was in the midst of that fucking breakdown, so many people gave up on me…backed away…ignored me.  People I had known for decades at school turned their backs on me.  When I would cry in my office over lunch, no one would ever ask me how I was.  People whispered about me (I know this because I heard them at times), would turn away when I’d walk by, would pretend they didn’t know me.  How can I even describe how much that hurt?  My nephew was dead, I was finalizing a divorce, J was treating me bad, I had cervical surgery, my mentor died, a student was giving me trouble, etc.  I needed people more than ever.  I needed just one person at work to say:  “Look, I know you’re hurting, what can I do?”  If just one wouldn’t have ‘given up on me’, I wonder how much faster I would have healed?

stars and clouds at nighttime
Photo by Arnie Chou on Pexels.com

So, how can I do that to J?  He’s reaching out for a reason.  Not because he wants me back, but because he doesn’t know any other way to connect with someone who understands.  How can I turn my back on him when he’s at, what I believe, to be the lowest point in his life?  How can I let him down…give up on him…like everyone else has?

Look, those of us with mental illnesses know we are going to have good times in our lives, and we are going to go through hell at times in our lives.  Walking with someone in the sunshine is nothing.  But helping them through the storm is.  By not giving up on J, I’m paying forward all the times people haven’t given up on me.  And that’s a debt I’m happy to be responsible for.

Kristi xoxo

99, 44, 100% Pure Love. (Eddie Rabbit)

So, my ma and I were yacking yesterday, and we got on the topic of men.  I was telling her how I was still missing my ex and how I didn’t know what I did to my 2 date wonder to make him run so fast.  She said: “How do you know it was something you did?”  Hmmm.

As my logical brain (not huge, just sayin’) tried to process this information, my emotional brain automatically blamed myself for the end of not only those, but all my relationships.  Now here me out:  3 divorces (shutty the mouthy), an ex partner (who I thought was my soulmate), and some fizzly dates that probably never should have happened.  And, my sweet grasshoppers, who was the common denominator in all of those?  Go ahead and shout it out, I can take it:  ME. Blech.

It’s been 6 months since ex and I broke up.  Wait.  Wrong choice of words.  It’s been 6 months since ex broke up with me.  And yes, he wasn’t the best to me during our 3 years together.  Y’all have heard that before.  Along with having had a really bad childhood, he has BPD and PTSD and I cut him a lot of slack because of all this.  The cheating, frequent abandonment, lying, gaslighting, rages, and you get the point.  I overlooked these or minimized them because of feeling sorry for him; because of how I was wanting so bad to make his life better than it had been.  Because I wanted to fix him.

black claw hammer on brown wooden plank
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Is that what we women do?  I know there are so many women out there that don’t feel this way, but I think those of us who are overly sensitive and/or strong empaths do.  It’s kind of what’s inside of us.  How can I say how ‘sensitive’ and ’empathic’ I am if I don’t show this to the men in my life?  To ex?  He served 3 grueling tours in the Middle East.  Didn’t he deserve to fuck up?  He has mental health issues with documented damage in his brain because of an explosion he was in during his time in Iraq.  Didn’t he deserve forgiveness from me for doing the things he did?  God knows I’ve made a LOT of mistakes because of issues with the mania or depression I’m cycling through.  Don’t I want the same treatment?

Well, maybe there’s a difference.  First, he was consciously aware of every single thing he was doing because he spent so much time covering it up, lying about it, or making me feel I was nuts for thinking anything was amiss.  If you are able to have that much insight into your actions, are they still the product of a mental illness you can’t necessarily control?  Hmmm.  That’s really one of the hallmarks of BPD, isn’t it?  The instability of the person in every area of their lives.  And with me, I know my impulsiveness has especially caused me to do and say things completely and totally wrong.  That’s part of bipolar.

So what gives?  I feel so much remorse after I’m in a better place, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself a fraction of what I’ve done.  I also take full responsibility.  I always blame myself, bipolar be damned.

rule-of-a-relationship-double-standards-dont-work-in-relationships-22325066

Is there another explanation for why I stayed then?  I think because of my drawers.  NO!  Not my knickers…but my brain compartments.  Like a lot of people, I’m very good at putting things in boxes.  You put the abuse, infidelity, horrible words in a drawer and try to forget about them, while allowing the drawer of good times to be open.  Remembered.  Looked at.

Ma asked me if I would ever go back to ex.  I truly, with all my heart, wanted to say no.  But to be brutally honest, I don’t know.  Not long ago, I really wanted another chance at our relationship and responded as such after he texted me.  He shot that down.  For him, it’s dead.  For me, some embers are still burning.

After J ‘broke’ up with me, I dated a lawyer for a couple of months.  Educated.  Suave.  Fun.  And I thought, OK…this could work.  And then, after a truly small issue that HE brought up, he got so mean with me (verbally…on the phone) that I couldn’t believe his venom.  But in retrospect, I know where it came from.  He and his ex have fought over their daughter for more than 10 years now.  They have been back and forth to court scores of times for such ridiculous things (and it’s the poor girl that’s in the middle of this mine field).  He talked about his ex-wife in such scathing, hateful, and cruel ways that it was always easy to see that anger about her in him.  I just hadn’t realized the anger was now a permanent part of him.

Then I had 2 dates with another boob.  We met for drinks one Saturday, and the conversation was good and he even hugged me goodbye.  When he did this, I ‘thought’ I felt a hand on my ass, but figured it was probably my imagination.  The next date was at his house.  When I got there, he hugged me and when I left, he hugged me, with his hand on my (guess!) ass both times.  OK, dude.  You are almost 60 years old, and it’s obvious (from other things he said…and let me tell you, that second date ended VERY early) you want a hook up.   Class act.

Then, my friend of 20 years that I asked out not long ago confounded me too.  I had so much fun on our couple dates together…I really did!  We had been such good friends and I thought building a relationship on that foundation would make for a great thing.  Obviously, it didn’t (shocker, huh?).  I  could see us together, and I was really surprised at how his rejection of me hurt so bad.

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Here’s what I’ve noticed that pisses me off.  In my life (and many other people have seconded this to me from their own experiences), men seem to have the upper hand in relationships.  In terms of me, why is it that when they wanted it to end, it ended?  Just because J (ex) was wanting to break up, why did we?  Why did HE get to make that decision?  I went to his apartment a couple of times to talk, and he literally would not let me in.  So, I looked desperate, needy.  But, if he came over here?  I would have the courtesy to listen to what he’d say, and others might see him making that step as being so humbling for him.  Men are pursuers, women are stalkers.  Men are ‘ready for an emotional attachment’, women are needy.  ‘Nuff said.

My friend decided he didn’t want a romantic relationship right now (better get off that dating site then, buddy), but I did.  Once again, his decision prevailed.  Ma asked me if I had talked to him about things, and I said no, not after that last text.  Why?  Because I would look too desperate.  Right?

But maybe this isn’t about gender (now don’t send me crappy messages about not liking men: for fuck sakes, I’ve married 3 of them and gave birth to one), but about those of us who are overly emotional vs. those who aren’t.  The over-emotionals  don’t handle rejection well.  We expect that others will treat us like we treat them, and understand relationships aren’t (or shouldn’t be) disposable.  We grasp the insight that relationships take work, time and effort.  Why is this so rare?  Shouldn’t this be the ‘rule’ instead of the exception to the ‘rule’?  Shouldn’t both people be part of the break-up like they were for the initial start?  Why can’t both sides have input without judgement?

If one more person tells me it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I never have a partner again (thanks for the optimism, peeps) I’m literally going to punch them in the face.  OK, not literally.  And not even a tap.  BUT, they will get one of my shitty looks…that’s for sure.

Look, I know it wouldn’t be the end of the fucking world.  I’m a bit smarter than that.  But I like having a partner.  Actually, I love it.  There are so many people that don’t admit that anymore.  Maybe they think it makes them look weak.  Or needy.  Or pathetic.  I’m not any of those.  How does wanting someone to love and have them love me back weak?  Needy?  Pathetic?  Isn’t that what life is all about?  Building those intimate connections that make us feel loved, secure, and content, with the knowledge that someone out there is crazy about us.  There’s even a phrase called “Poverty of Attachments”; according to this, I’m definitely poor.

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Maybe I am just asking for too much.  Maybe I will be alone.  But, maybe a guy will come into my life wanting me.  Not wanting what he can get from me, or take from me, or do to me.  But just wanting me.  With all that comes along with me being me.  Is my soulmate out there?  Does that even exist?  I don’t know the answer to that.  But I do know I’ll keep giving 100% in any relationship I’m in and work my ass off in it.  Maybe that’s good…maybe that’s bad.  But to be honest with you,  that’s all I know to do.

Kristi xoxo

 

The Tragedy of it All.

man walking on the empty street
Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

So, I’ve written a lot since I’ve started this blog, and it means so much to me.  When I began this, I told myself these posts were my chance to say some of what I need to say, some of what people need to hear, and sometimes, a little bit of both.  But this is the first post I’ve written while tears are streaming down my face.

I’ve talked about my ex-partner in posts before, and I think it’s because the wounds from the relationship are still fresh, and because I thought he was my forever (actually, I thought all of them were until him, but c’est la vie).  I also write about him because he’s mentally ill like me.  He’s been diagnosed with PTSD from his 3 tours overseas in the Army, and also with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I believe is caused by a genetic component (I believe his mom also has this disorder), and also because of the abuse he endured as a child: serious physical and psychological abuse with periods of forced isolation where he literally couldn’t move from his bed for weeks at a time.  I was attracted to him before I knew all of this, and after he told me his story, it made me love him even more; I felt so much empathy and compassion for this man who had been through so much.  

For the last couple of days, he’s been messaging me.  The messages are horrifying.  Ever since his unfaithfulness last October, he’s been on a downward trajectory.  He’s completely isolated himself from everyone, including his 2 kids, and has told his family members that he hates them and won’t have anything more to do with them ever.  I know some of this behavior is the BPD.  But I also know he’s taking all of the pain of his childhood and tours, and turning it outward as anger against the only targets he has.  The problem is that many of his targets don’t deserve to be his scapegoat, most especially his children.

When I first met them (one was in Kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade), I fell in love with them immediately and completely.  I love kids and these 2 are so smart, sweet, affectionate, and funny.  To be honest, I didn’t know I could love other kids as much as I do them, with the same unconditional love I feel for my own son, and my nieces and nephews.  The feelings blew me away.  Once, my sister said this: “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than both.”  She’s right.

These kids have been through a lot in their lives.  Not having their dad around because of his tours, moving around the country multiple times, and then experiencing a contentious divorce took their toll.  The little guy is extremely sensitive and like me is a huge feeler who is at a loss as how to deal with the emotions of what he’s been through, so he internalizes them.  He doesn’t eat well.  He doesn’t have friends. And he lives in his own world, not wanting others to intrude.  I’m lucky he let me in.   The little miss is also a sensitive child, but as opposed to internalizing, she externalizes her feelings.  She’s a clinger, and just wants to feel love from anybody and everybody.  In that regard, she’s like me.

When J told me he completely cut off everyone in this life (I think I’m the only one he can talk, or in this case text, to), I assumed he didn’t mean these sweeties.  You see, during our 3 years together, J learned so much more about being a parent than he previously knew.  He built a strong relationship with them, and we did so many fun things together as a family:  museums, zoos, hikes, eating out, birthday parties, swimming, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. and I could see the connection to their dad get stronger and stronger.  He also worked hard to provide a home for them.  He got a really nice apartment in a family oriented neighborhood, and the kids were thrilled at having this with their dad.  J and I had fun buying bunk beds, comforters, toys, books…anything that would create a positive environment for them.  He took them to the private school he got them into every morning, picked them up afterwards, started little miss in Taekwondo, made nice dinners for them, bought them birds so they could have pets, and hugged and cuddled them to their hearts desire.

Then, this BPD took over.  Actually, it had taken over before, something that I experienced first hand.  I was on the receiving end of rages, weeks of silence, damaging words and actions, but to be honest, I knew when it was the illness that was in charge, and not ‘him’.  People questioned me again and again why I kept loving this man…why I forgave him over and over.  The answer is simple:  because I’m mentally ill too.  When I’m in a depression or a period of mania, I’m not in control either.  I do things, say things, act out on things that I never would do when I’m in a more self-restrained time.  Sometimes…well maybe always…it takes someone mentally ill to truly understand another’s struggle.  Once I had a student say to me, “I like talking to you, Professor K.  When I tell you I’m depressed, I know you get it.”  And yes, I do.

But this time for J it’s different.  The BDP is in total control.  100%.  And it’s going to stay that way for however long he lives because he’s doing nothing to try to fight it at all.  He’s wallowing in it. Yes, I said wallow.  He’s feeding that monster we’ve talked about an awful lot of food.  He’s given up.  He’s become trapped in this disorder without grabbing onto the rope that’s there, and pulling himself up as much as he can.  He’s pulled up before…he just won’t even try to do it again.  He said he likes the wallowing.  The hating.  The anger.  The isolation.

And I think he’s a fucking liar.  He experienced so much as a kid that like his little guy, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings.  So, by killing his soul, I guess he’s killing those emotions too.

But the real tragedy?  These sweeties.  After having a dad for these past few years, how can they ever understand why he’s no longer in their lives?  Why ‘his’ home is no longer theirs?  How can they take another loss?  Another upheaval?  Another piece of their hearts destroyed?  He’s doing to them what was done to him (to a degree).  Isolating them.  Rejecting them.  Maybe he thinks that will heal him.  It won’t.  All it will do is continue this generational cycle of abuse that’s been in his family for decades, and then cause these 2 innocent angels to grow up with what J is battling himself.  He had been reversing this trend for years so well…the kids were flourishing and J seemed happy and content.  It’s like he got the diagnosis of BPD and decided to live down to that as much as he can.  It’s the excuse I guess he was finally looking for to hate.  He’s making this diagnosis a label to be absorbed, as opposed to a diagnosis to aid in understanding. Dammit, J, you fought fucking Akeida for 3 years in desert conditions on the front lines, how can you not fight against this too?  Your kids lives are worth the battles this is going to give you;  you are worth the battle.  I know J is still in there.  I’ve seen him.  I’ve loved him.  He’s a smart, funny, passionate guy that he’s allowed this beast to consume.

Mental illness is a bitch to live with.  Y’all know that.  But I also understand first hand, that it’s a bitch to deal with in others too.  I’ve put my mom, son, and sis through so much.  I know I have.  If I could take back what I’ve said and done, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  It’s agonizing to know how they have been victims of my bipolar.  I can’t think about it without feeling so fucking guilty and ashamed, and I know words can’t take away the pain I’ve caused them.

When I attempted suicide a couple of years ago, I laid on my bed, ready to go to sleep forever.  And then God spoke to me.  Yes, he spoke to me.  He showed me my son.  My mom.  My sister.  My family.  My students.  He showed me the pain they would experience.  How horrible it would be for my mom to bury her daughter.  For my son to bury his mom.  And that’s what turned me around.  This fucking bastard of a mental illness is not going to be who I am.  I’m going to always fight and fight and fight to stay me as much as I possibly can.  I’m gonna win some battles.  I’m gonna lose some battles.  But I tell you what, every one of those is worth the bloodshed.

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

 

 

Breathing Lessons.

I absolutely adore Anne Tyler.  She is my favorite author ever and if I could only read 1 author for the rest of my life, it would be her. 

For some reason, 1 of her books really resounds with me and as I listened to the audio this last week over vacation (for the umpteenth time) I started making notes on my phone as I walked to it.  I realized that so much of what I was hearing was ‘me’; that it expressed things I maybe didn’t see, or couldn’t put into words. 

In “Breathing Lessons” a man and his wife, Ira and Maggie, take a day trip to go to a funeral.  As the day progresses, you get a glimpse into their lives and histories, and meet others along the way.  The entire book takes place in a 10 hour period, and the insights that are revealed about this couples’ lives are so impactful.

Maggie reminds me of myself.  Awkward.  Wanting to always please.  Wanting to hold onto things that may need to be let go of.  Worried about her looks.  Not always confident in her worth. 

One of the biggest struggles Maggie has is saying goodbye to her daughter who will be leaving for college the next day (her son already lives on his own), and wanting to reconnect with her 7 year old granddaughter who she hasn’t seen for years.  She wants to start over; be needed by a child again.  Have the family she reveled in.  Not hear the silence when she walks in her door.  I feel for her.  I know how difficult it can be to want to take steps backwards and not forwards.  To be back in that time when Ollie was young and I was the most important thing on the earth to him.  I remember subbing in his Kindergarten classroom, and he couldn’t stop holding my hand throughout the afternoon and calling me “MOM” in a voice that told every other kid in there, that I was HIS mom and only their sub!  There was another time when he went to a sleep-away church camp (at which I cussed when I found out he forgot his Bible, then cussed again after I cussed…it was obvious the leaders felt Ollie really needed them, growing up with a mom like me!) to spend 4 nights.  This seemed like forever to me but like every mom, decided that having those days to myself would be heaven.  I got a call the morning after his first night…it was Ollie telling me he threw up and I needed to get him.  I raced to the camp with a bucket in tow, and he was really quiet during our drive home.  I plopped him in bed and told him I’d fix some Jello and check on him while he was napping.  About an hour later, he came into the kitchen, with tears streaming down his face.  He said “Mom…I LIED TO YOU!!!  I wasn’t sick!!!  I just wanted to be with you!!!”  I laughed and said he never had to lie about wanting to be home!  And we went to the pool and had a great day!

Ollie lives with me now after being on his own for 6 years, and we have fun together, but he’s not my boy anymore.  He’s his own person with so many centers in his world now.  And that’s the way it should be!  Of course!  But like Maggie, I wish I could rewind and do it all over again, and savor those moments even more.  Why does growing up happen so fast? 

In another part of the book, Maggie is trying desperately to get her son and his ex-wife back together so she can be with her grandchild.  The problem is, their relationship was horrible from the start, although Maggie can’t seem to accept that.  Or even see it.   Her son was just too immature and self-centered to be a good husband, and her daughter-in-law was too demanding and childish.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is Ira talking about Maggie to their son: 

“She believes it’s all right to alter peoples lives.  She thinks the people she loves are better than they really are, and so then she starts changing things around to suit her view of them”.  ~ Anne Tyler
I had to listen, and then finally read, that quote so many times because it resonated in me.  Is that what I do?  Particularly in relationships?  I’m thinking yes.  
I had my weekly counseling appointment today and I love my counselor.  She is someone I really click with and I’m surprised by how much I’m able to share and how vulnerable I allow myself to be with her.  We were talking about my last relationship, and I told her I was still reaching out to him because I wanted to save him.  From himself.  He’s the one with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who really hurt me so many times during our 3 years together.  He told me how he had given up on things; how he is just going to be alone and miserable for the rest of his life.  And I tell him how wasteful that would be.  You see, he’s living DOWN to his diagnosis of BPD, as if having this is a death sentence.  A slow death sentence.  I told him how a diagnosis needs to be used for understanding, and how you learn to recognize what the disorder or a mental illness is doing, and find constructive ways to cope.  It’s not a death sentence.  The diagnosis should be a map.  
My counselor asked me why I had such a need to show this to him, particularly since he really doesn’t listen to what I’m saying.  I told her because I felt guilty.  Ashamed.  Like I didn’t do enough to help him during our years together.  Didn’t have the right words to say.  Wasn’t enough for him to want to work on his issues.  Like I was to blame for when he lashed out, because I was the one that triggered it.  She looked at me and said this:  “But Kristi, he has Borderline.  That’s what they do when they don’t get help or try to learn how to cope.  That’s who they allow themselves to become.”  
I don’t know what it was, but I felt a relief after those words were spoken.  A weight dropped.  It wasn’t my fault that he kept abandoning me.  That he put his hands on me.  That he cheated on me.  That he told me he left this last time because of what I said.  It was the disorder.  The fucking disorder.  I tried for so long to not see him as having these issues…I wanted him to always be the great guy who put me on a pedestal and made me feel I was the center of his world.  But I wasn’t.  As much as I want to rearrange things and make them right…good…to suit how I want them to be…who I want him to be, I can’t.  And he didn’t do these things out of maliciousness.  Or because of something I did.  It was because of an un-diagnosed disorder.  I still want to help him .  But NOT out of guilt now.  But out of compassion and love.  My counselor said the words I guess I needed to hear about a lot of things:  “It’s not your fault.”
This is my favorite scene in Good Will Hunting.  
I think a lot of us need to hear the words: “It’s Not Your Fault”.  
And I think Robin Williams does it better than anyone.
And I realized something else.  I don’t need to be the center of someone’s life to be important.  Needed.  Worthy.  I’m a center already.  My center.  My Florida trip showed me this.  That I can be enough for me.  That I can have a life with me.  I don’t need to rearrange people to make them something they aren’t just to have them.  I don’t need to pretend they, or me, are something we’re not. 
It was a pretty cool thing to discover all of this.  That I’m not always to blame for things.  That I can’t make people take my help unless they want too.  That I don’t have to be driven by guilt anymore.  That I can make mistakes and I’m still a pretty OK person.  That I don’t have to have everyone’s acceptance.  That I can give myself the validation I need.  That I don’t need to take steps backwards; because moving forward is journey enough.
I’d say, all in all, that Florida was really good for me.  
Even despite being burnt. 😉
Kristi xoxo

When to Tell?

So, I have a bit of a ‘date’ today.  I’ve been chatting with this guy I met online and we’re meeting for a snack and drink at a downtown eatery this afternoon.  I’m not sure what I feel about it…this dating thing is still so new to me!

After my 3 divorces (!), I subsequently married each man I saw afterwards.  There was really no ‘dating’ around!  And, my life was different then.  Or at least it felt different.  I hadn’t been diagnosed bipolar yet, and was still very much pretending in my day to day life.  Obviously, the bipolar affected my relationships, but I think it was because I didn’t have that ‘label’ yet, I still had more confidence in what I brought to table with these men than I do now.  Hmmmm…I wonder if others feel like this?  Once that label is stuck on, all of a sudden you see yourself differently?  As a bit more less than?

I need to be better at doing this.  I’m adding this to my ‘goals’ of the year.

Anyhoo, after hubby 3 (Ron) and I divorced, I was involved with a man for 3 years.  VERY bad at the start with a lot of abusive behaviors, cheating and abandonment happening; better the 2nd year but still with issues; and much better the 3rd year.  Better enough I thought we were in a place that was strong enough, and moving ahead well enough, I could take some time for myself to get me back to where I needed me to be.  This didn’t set well with him though, and last Oct., I walked in on him (naked!) with another woman in what was supposed to be ‘our’ apartment, just like my house was ‘our’ house as well.  (I also think there was someone else there, but I guess that’s not the point.  THEY didn’t come out of his bedroom screaming at me to leave!  All while using the furniture I provided for US!  DRAMA!!!!).

We haven’t ‘talked’ since then…he refused (es) to speak to me on the phone and blocked me from everything except e-mail.  So, when I needed to communicate with him regarding my things and all, it was only through this means.  (Why is it that the person who has cheated, is the one who acts like the victim?  Am I the ‘bad’ guy?  For walking in?  For not realizing what he was feeling?  For not doing enough?  As an empath whose feelings run VERY deep, which is common in bipolar, I blame myself for most things anyway).

Not long ago, he e-mailed that he had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  I had always known there was something wrong.  We knew he had PTSD from his 3 deployments in the Middle East (and this is why I forgave him so much and took him back so many times…he was traumatized from his time in the Army.  I understood this).  During that first year, I thought he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but the BPD really does make more sense in terms of his patterns in relationships (not just ours).  He wanted me to know this to explain himself in terms of how he acted and what he did in our relationship.  And I did appreciate this.  It gives me much more understanding of everything that happened.  (And yes, I still have feelings for him.  Feelings run deep in me.  He’s the one who lost feelings for me.)

ANYHOO…here’s the thing:  I saw us as BOTH “damaged”.  BOTH mentally ill.  I didn’t have to pretend in front of him.  He understood, or I thought he understood, my illness as well as I tried to understand his.  It was kind of like we were ‘matched’ in terms of these ‘bad’ disorders.

I did date a lawyer for a month or so around Christmas, and at first it was going really well.  I thought this might be something lasting.  Then, we had our first argument and he was just mean!  Not mentally ill.  Just mean!!

So now I’m meeting this guy today.  And here’s what I struggle with and really think about:  what man would want to take on this woman with bipolar?  AND, when do you tell them you have this?  Obviously, not on a first date!  I’m not that open!!  BUT, not after a dozen either.  And, since I am really open about it…on Facebook, here, Tedx Talk, etc., someone could dig a bit on me and find out for themselves.  Then what?  Hmmmm…

That’s a fine line when you think about it.  You want to be candid in sharing who you are, but you also want them to get to know you as a person, before the issue of a mental illness is brought forth.

Why is it that if I had diabetes, this wouldn’t be an issue at all?  But with mental health, it’s like a shame you have to hide until the time is ‘just right’!  Like you have to figure out when to drop this ‘bombshell!’  Because that’s what it is:  a bombshell that could break anything you might have built to that point.

When this DOESN’T happen, that’s when we’ll know the stigma against mental health has been shattered.

I’m not ashamed to have this illness.  It’s just what I have.  But I guess I am ashamed of how others see it.  Crazy.  Unstable.  Nuts.  Bipolar has a bad rap.  And I understand why.  It’s a toughie.  One that is going to cause issues at times, but that doesn’t mean it has to define the relationship as a whole.

I’m going to tread lightly with this.  If I like this guy (and I don’t know…I’m really not that excited for this.  I’m more dreading it than anything but like my son says, if you don’t want to be alone forever, you have to get out there) I guess I’ll just have to use my own judgement on when to tell him.

And maybe, I need to think about how I see myself.  I use the word damaged.  But is that fair to me? Does that mean I see others with mental illness as being damaged?  (Actually, I don’t.  Just me!) It’s true that my brain is actually “damaged” in that it doesn’t work like other brains.  Hello?  Mental illness!  But am I less than because of that?  I FEEL like that.  But is it actually TRUE?  I don’t know.

Kristi xoxo