“The things we fear the most have already happened to us.” ~ Robin Williams

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Dear Robin,

So I’m writing this to you smack between the day you were born and the day you died since I couldn’t decide which one was more appropriate.  Maybe neither of them are, but I always think about you around this time every year and wanted you to know it.

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Potsie and Fonzie

I remember the first time I saw you; my sis and I loved watching Happy Days together and while she was crazy about bad-boy Fonzie, I was a Potsie girl (I think I’m more of a Fonz gal now and sissy is definitely married to a  Potsie 😳 ).  One night someone new was on the screen, Mork from Ork, and I was suddenly besotted with an alien who had an adorbs face and a twinkle in his eye.  Sayonara, Potsie…I’m going another way.

Anyhoot, I became a fan immediately and loved loved loved following your career throughout my life.  When Mork and Mindy came on, I wanted to be Mindy so bad!  She had this great apartment, LONG shiny hair, and you.  That was the best part.  You made her laugh and love and cry and I thought that’s the kind of man I want.  Someone who can make me feel good no matter what else is going on (plus, I really loved your hairy arms 😉).

When you started showing up on the big screen, I didn’t miss any of your movies.  Seeing you portray Adrian Cronauer who made Vietnam soldiers laugh was amazing and there were so many times I held my breath while you worked to make catatonic patients feel alive again by playing Dr. Sayer.  As a fancy-schmancy professor, I really found myself drawn to Dead Poets Society and I watch it periodically to remind myself of the influence I can have in my sweetie student’s lives.

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Even though so many people loved your performance in Mrs. Doubtfire and think it’s your best, I don’t and here’s why:  I hated the entire premise of that movie.  I watched it once and cried after others had told me how funny it was.  So, I watched it again and cried again, and won’t even consider clicking on it when I’m perusing movies on amazon.  I thought it was tragic how a dad of your caliber who clearly loved his kids and made a fun, comfortable life for them had to resort to being someone else to see them.  It royally pissed me off and I thought it was a horrible premise for a comedy.  I know, I know…I’m a party pooper 💩.  No surprise there.

And even though I didn’t want to watch One Hour Photo since you were playing a sociopath, I finally did and came away with a much different view.  I didn’t see you as villainous at all.  I saw you as a mentally ill, lonely man who desired a family so badly you resorted to anything you could to feel that connection and believe you belonged.

Finally, here’s a confession about your movies:  I still can’t watch Patch Adams.  Still.  Seeing you so vulnerable after your love was murdered is something I can’t bring myself to watch because after what happened to you, it hits too close to home.  See, I think you were murdered too.  It wasn’t a psychopath or a serial killer (I guess that’s pretty much the same, huh 🙄), but a monster named depression and that son-of-a-bitch is relentless.

It’s common knowledge that you suffered from bouts of depression but many professionals believe you actually had bipolar disorder which many creative people have.  Those bouts of high energy and racing thoughts and fast thinking are evident in your stand-up comedy and whenever I have watched your performances, I feel an almost a frenetic vibe.  So much of your ‘acting’ was improvised and I can actually see in your eyes that you aren’t just trying to make people laugh…you are channeling this avalanche of energy into something you have an obsessive need to accomplish:  laughter, acceptance, applause.

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You never came out and said you were bipolar and I understand that because it’s so fucking stigmatized in our society…right up there with schizophreia (sorry, ma.  My ma hates that word and my guilt using it makes me apologize every time 🙄).  See, I have bipolar myself and it took me almost losing my life before I wanted to admit it.  Please don’t think I’m being cocky here, but I see a lot of me in you.  There were so many times growing up that I didn’t know how the hell (ma doesn’t mind that one…it’s in the Bible) to channel all that was in my head.  I’ve tried time and time again to explain to others what it feels like but I can’t.  How do you explain this tornado?  This storm?  This incredibly huge amount of ‘something’ that you have to direct or you feel like you’ll blow up?  It’s such a frantic feeling and when I have it (which is actually now…I’m in a manic state right now and work on my house 12 hours non-stop a day but can’t sleep), I’m almost delirious with the energy.  In so many of your performances, I see this delirium in you as well.  To be honest, it breaks my heart.

But underneath this, the fucking (I’m a rebel 😎) darkness remains.  How did you act so happy and make so many people laugh and feel good about themselves when depression was still dragging you down?  Most people believe that when someone is in a manic phase, their depression is buried.  Bullshit.  The depression is always seething under that intensity…it’s just biding it’s time until it shows itself fully again.  I think that’s why those of us with bipolar are always being asked if we’re OK.  See, our eyes give us away and as much as we think we hide it well, our eyes tell the full story.  As my mentor would have said:  the little bastards.

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That depressive fucker showed itself to you one last time, didn’t it?  And when I read that it had won, I was devastated.  After you committed suicide (I don’t believe in sugar-coating stuff by using euphemisms) you wife said you were killed by the ‘terrorist’ inside your brain.  What a perfect way to put it.  You didn’t commit suicide.  Your depression killed you.

I remember how quickly sentiment about your death turned from grief and sympathy to being judgmental with people saying things like ‘he was so selfish to do this.’  OK…that might be one way to look at it and if I ever experience a suicide in my family, I can only imagine how incredibly angry and lost and confused I’d be.  But I also know this:  when you are in the state where you want your pain to end because it’s finally too overwhelming to bear, you don’t see anything but the dark hole you’ve been bull-dozed into.  Nothing.  Robin, I know you weren’t being selfish because I understand how you were no longer able to fight the depression beast any longer.  I’m so sorry for that.

I love what you say to Matt Damon near the end of Good Will Hunting when he’s trying to come to terms with the abuse in his life: “It’s not your fault.”  What a powerful statement that is.  Four little words but an impact that can’t be measured.  How often I’ve wanted to hear those words myself and when you say them in the movie, I think there are a lot of people who respond to them like Matt does.  And Robin?  Just for the record, it was not your fault.

So thanks for the memories, Robin.  Nope, I didn’t know you personally but you impacted my life a great deal and I’m so grateful for the time we spent together.  You once said that if heaven exists, it would be nice to know there was laughter…to hear God say, “Two Jews walked into a bar…”.  You know what I think?  I think heaven is real and I also believe that because of you, there’s laughter there.

Kristi xoxo

 

“Positivity isn’t always so great.” ~ Prof K

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So, would it sound really bad if I said I hate toxic positivity?  Like, really hate it? I know the word toxic is in there and that’s never good, but positivity?  Can you hate positivity?  Uh…yeah…you can.  But do my sweet peeps know what ‘toxic positivity’ is?  In a nutshell, the term refers to being constantly told by society to ALWAYS BE HAPPY!  No. Matter. What.  Do you know what I say to that?  Blech.

61DJR04g9tLLook, I know we are living in hard times and I get that.  People want to be happy.  But why are we being ‘forced’ to be happy all of the time?  At all costs?  Why are negative emotions seen as so horrible?  “Don’t get mad!”  “Turn that frown upside down!”  “C’mon…smile…things aren’t so bad!”  Heh?  Why can’t we get mad?  If someone hurts us or we almost get in an accident or we get swindled by a deal on e-bay, why the hell can’t we be mad?  Isn’t it just common sense that we would feel that way?  If I get cut-off by some boob in a speeding car, I’m not going to smile and say everything is peachy.  I’m going to be pissed and I think that’s a-okay!  If I want to frown because of something I read or heard or saw, I’m going to do it.  I’m not going to ‘turn it upside down’ and pretend to be happy, especially when reading the ending of “A Prayer for Owen Meany” (Note:  love ya, B &#10084)  And for fuck sakes (dammit…sorry ma… 🙄), if I buy a plant from e-bay and the pic shows something from the Garden of Eden, but when I open the box I get a blade of grass, I’m going to probably say a lot of things ma would wash my mouth out with soap for.  And why not?  Sheesh.

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So why am I talking about this now?  Y’all know how much I love Pinterest.  If Pinterest was a guy, I’d kidnap him and force him to marry me because I know it would be heavenly and that the marriage would actually last (this time 😳).  Anyhoot, I am always seeing motivational quotes and I started thinking that they were actually pretty insincere and just…well…plain stupid.

“Life is too short to be anything but happy.”  Okey dokey.  🤨  C’mon.   We need to be happy for our entire life?  So…when my grandparents died, I should have smiled and been happy?  No!  I did not feel happy during these times…I felt like crap.  Yes, I know they went to heaven but that didn’t take away my sorrow at the time.  What about people who were living through the Holocaust?  The Great Depression?  WWI?  Were they supposed to be ‘happy’ because life is too short?  Doesn’t that sound like a crock of shit to you?  (And ma…don’t get mad at that one…you say it ALL of the time 💩).

“Hey Kristi…you know the quote isn’t quite as dramatic as you’re making it.”  It isn’t?  Uh…yeah it is.  It doesn’t have a disclaimer about times when you are allowed to be sad.  The sentence stands alone (like me 🧀).  Doesn’t it?

How about this:  “Make today AWESOME!”  Hmmmm…OK.  I personally think there are a lot of words being overused in our language these days, and awesome is one of them.  The word literally means ‘awe-inspiring’, ‘magnificent’,  ‘wondrous.’  Peeps, working on my classes, folding my laundry, picking up poop in the yard before Dottie and Eddie can have a nibble, and scrubbing my bathtub does not make for an awe-inspiring day by any stretch of the imagination.  Moses parting the Red Sea was awesome.  See the diff?  But if I don’t make my day the most majestic I’ve ever experienced that would awe the poop out of you, I’m falling short.  Right?

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Rachel Hollis is an author and motivational speaker (which is what I want to be! 🤓) and wrote the book “Girl, Wash your Face!”  (I tend to wash everything…just sayin’).  Anyhoot, she has come up with some goodies herself:  “If you’re unhappy, that’s on you.”  What the fuck?  If I’m depressed because I’m bipolar and cycling down, that’s on me?  ME?  She’s blaming me for that?  Well, spank me hard!  I didn’t know I could control my clinical depression from a disease that affects my brain chemistry and functioning.  So, to all of you grasshoppers out there who have depression, cheer the hell up!  It’s on you if you’re down.

Here’s another gem from Rachel:  “You are in charge of your own happiness.”  Look lady, if I was in ‘charge’ of my own happiness, I sure as shit wouldn’t be 3x divorced and living alone with 2 dogs and 30 plants who are my only company most days.  Hey…there’s only so much YOU can do to be happy because our circumstances dictate our moods as well!  If I would happen to get Covid (God forbid any of us do, but I’d much rather get it than my folks), I’m not going to be happy no matter how much I ‘charge’ myself to be.  Blech again.

Now, before you start thinking I’m a huge downer and am bullying Rachel, I’m not!  I just think that the toxic positivity she often spreads does more harm than good.  I cannot make everyday awesome.  I can’t always be in charge of my happiness.  I can’t always force myself out of a down mood.  NO ONE CAN!  But hearing these little nuggets can make people feel they SHOULD be able too!  And when we ‘fail’, we feel shittier than we did in the beginning.  Thanks for that, Rachel.

Here’s a quote I think we’ve all heard at one time or another:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Heh?  So, if I don’t DIE from the horrible-ness of something that could in fact be fatal (according to the quote…very inspiring), I’ll be stronger?  Dead or strong?  Talk about Russian roulette. 😲

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“Cupcakes are muffins that believed in miracles.”  Seriously?  Read that again peeps, and then tell me honestly you didn’t roll your eyes so far back in your head that you now need to take a Tylenol.  A muffin believed in miracles and changed itself into a cupcake.  OK.  I’m gonna let you in this:  if I ever…EVER…see my muffin start growing icing and sprinkles, I’m going to check myself into a facility.  Quickly.

And my all time favorite?  “Never give up.”  C’mon.  Sometimes you have to stop trying…you need to give up.  Like Kenny Rogers said:  “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…know when to walk away, know when to run…” (as I typed that, I was singing it at the top of my lungs and Dottie got up from my side and hobbled into the other room.  Huh.  😐).  Ssssoooo…J wanted to end our relationship.  I didn’t.  Therefore, I should have kept calling and calling and calling and not give up until the result I wanted was met even though there was a snowballs chance in hell it would be.  My dear grasshoppers, that’s called stalking.  It’s OK to give up on some things…it really is.  It does NOT make you a failure or a quitter.  Sometimes, things are just not feasible to do.  Take me:  I’d like to get my doctorate.  However, the cost and time is something out of my reach right now, so yes, I’m ‘giving up’ on that.  Not because I’m a big loser, but because I don’t have $45,000 to pay for it and 40 extra hours a week to work on it right now.

This toxic positivity has seeped into everyone’s life.  Every so often, I see someone posting a really sad situation on FB and their ‘friends’ will say things like:  ‘It’ll get better!”  “Focus on the good!”  “Don’t let it get you down!”  Maybe what they need to hear is: “I know this is hard for you, what can I do to help?”  or “I’m sorry you are feeling so bad.”  Forcing someone to be happy when they aren’t minimizes and belittles the true feelings they are experiencing.  Look, God gave us the capacity to experience a WIDE range of feeling.  Both good and bad.  Why do we suppress half of what we have inside of us?

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Why do we feel like we have to wear a happy mask in this world?  Why do people post only HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY on their social media, instead of posting REAL REAL REAL?  Why are we living such fake lives in this regard?  Why, in the name of all that is holy (note to my sweetie students:  you know how to say that 😉), do we have to wear a smiley face mask constantly?

Today, 1:5 people experience anxiety and diagnosis of  major depression has risen over 30%Our World in Data shows that from 2010-2013, Facebook saw a 126% increase in users and Twitter grew 417%.  In 3 years!  And the numbers continue to skyrocket:  from 2010 to NOW, FB has grown 359% and Twitter, 663%.  Hmmmm.  So the more people on social media, the more anxious and depressed we are.  Take a look-see at this:

“Natalie Hendry from RMIT University’s School of Media and Communication says social media is a breeding ground for toxic positivity, because the face-tuned picture-perfect lives can leave us feeling like we have to be happy – all the time.  ‘Struggle, pain, confusion, boredom, distress – all things that are just as human as happiness, joy or feeling fulfilled – are shut down by overly positive messages,” Dr. Hendry says.” Kelly Scott – ABC Life

Peeps…I’m not saying you shouldn’t post happy and positive experiences.  Not at all.  But what I am saying is this:  it’s OK not to be happy all of the time.  It’s OK to feel sad, mad, aggravated, exasperated, angry, fearful, bored, jealous and any other ‘negative’ emotion out there.  We’re only human and to have the expectation that we are made up of glitter and rainbows who poop out unicorns is unfeasible, to say the least.  We should NOT feel guilty for not being OUR VERY VERY BEST(!) all of the time, because in reality that’s never going to happen.  Reality can be pretty icky for all of us at times, and it’s ok to admit that.  It’s ok to feel that.  It’s ok to experience that.  Even Rachel is facing this right now:  she and her hubby of 18 years are divorcing (and how horrible for them and their beautiful kids 😟), and I know (all too well 🙄) how terribly devastating this is.  But when you’ve posted again and again about your wonderful, happy, super duper marriage AND scores of people paid big bucks to go to workshops where you and your ex-hubby touted your marriage as an example for others to live by (while you were struggling with it in ‘real’ life),  it shows how things aren’t always as they seem.  She once said this:  “We don’t want a good marriage, we don’t even want a great marriage.  We want an exceptional marriage.”  I’m wondering if by saying this, she kind of set herself up for failure by reaching for this unattainable star.  Phenomenal marriages aren’t out there, sweetie.  Two imperfect human beings cannot have a near perfect life together and to be honest, your readers would probably take comfort in knowing that.

Maybe this over-expectation was an issue.  Maybe it’s an issue so many of us face.  Hearing about how wonderful and exciting and happy and beautiful and…well…perfect our lives are supposed to be can often make us think we aren’t doing something right.  Here we are poking the remote while we should be reaching for a star instead.  Here we are being upset about our struggles right now but are told to ‘just be happy.’  People preach to always try harder…expect more…be more.  But you know what I think?  Maybe just doing the best you can is enough.

Kristi xoxo

“Don’t Ask me to Choose” ~ Fine Young Cannibals

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So, I’m going to be honest with my sweetie peeps:  I’m horrible at making choices and decisions.  HORRIBLE.  Even on little things I waver and ruminate and am wishy-washy over what I want to do (note to self:  start some laundry 🙄).

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I see a shirt at Kohl’s and I have my 30% coupon and $10 Kohl’s Cash and I grab the shirt I see and promise myself that’s all I’m going to get.  Along with the coupon, my ‘cash’ pays for it, and I don’t need anything else.  I’ve picked out what I want.  So, I totter over to the cashier (one of them tries to save my soul whenever I’m in and even though I tell her my soul is nice and saved, she doesn’t believe me.  Go figure 😳) with shirt in hand.  BUT, as I am crossing the store another display intrigues me…and then another…and then another.  And before you know it, the shirt I loved is buried in my arms under a dozen more.  Now, I could just get that initial shirt…easy…right?  OR…I could whip out my Kohl’s card, spend $60 above the ‘cash’ and not have to make a choice.  AND, since I get MORE Kohl’s cash, I’m actually ahead!

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I think my reasoning is like common core math.  If I scootch around the numbers enough in various columns, I’m actually spending less than I intended.  Yeah.  (Ma doesn’t understand why I wasn’t a math major even though I have to call her to figure out what 20% off of $25 is 🤪).  Hubby 3 never understood the concept of the more you spend, the more you save.  It makes total sense to me.  Sheesh.

See…I’m horrible at choices.  And we face choices everyday, don’t we?  You see people at McDonald’s (I’m an epicurian) stare at the menu for 10 minutes even though they were in there literally a day ago.  “Gee…should I get the quarter pounder or the Big Mac?”  It’s not like the choice you make is going to be life-changing, but still we hesitate.  By the way, if you choose a Big Mac everyday, that may not be a ‘good’ choice for your health.  Just sayin’.

Anyhoot, big choices and decisions are hard for me.  Very hard.  If you think I have trouble with shirts, you should see me with relationships (🙄).  I’ll be honest, I’ve made some bad choices in this area…and I’ve made choices I’m not proud of.  Haven’t we all?  But why?  Why can’t I ‘rationally’ look at the choices…list the pros and cons…and come to a decision in a logical way?  Well probably because I’m fucking bipolar (sorry ma).  That’s why.

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I was reading an article the other day and the author said that to make good choices, you have to get out your feelings and put them aside, and then allow your brain to be the one that talks to you.  Okey dokey.

How the hell do you “get your feelings out?”  I hate it when people say that!  It sounds like feelings are simply things you can put in a pitcher and pour down the toilet.  Like there’s a compartment in your heart away from the ‘feelings’ and you can lock them up there and hide them from your mind.  People will say things like “Go run off your anger.”  Well…I’ll do a 5 mile run but I still have the feeling.  I might feel less stressed, but the feeling of anger didn’t evaporate with my sweat.

I think some people can do this.  I know my son’s dad could.  He is a HUGE thinker and feelings rarely got in the way of his decisions.  In fact, I would get upset because I didn’t think he had enough feeling when making choices and decisions.  Me?  I cannot put my feelings aside.  And then there’s some extras that being bipolar brings:  impulsivity, racing thoughts, distractibility, decreased ability to think clearly, and here’s one from the Mayo Clinic:  poor decision making skills.  B-I-N-G-O!  There it is.  (Ma loves to play bingo but bless her heart, she never wins.  I don’t love to play but I often win.  It pisses her off royally 😆)

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Sometimes I’ll be making a choice about an issue in terms of a relationship and even though my ‘gut’ (which is getting bigger since I’m sitting on my ass all day getting ready for fall semester) and brain are trying to tell me something, it’s only a whisper.  However, my heart is screaming so that’s the voice I hear.

Guess what?  That voice often leads me down the wrong path.  OFTEN.  Remember, feelings aren’t rational.  And as much as I want too, I can’t silence it.  I have bipolar.  My feelings, moods, level of sensitivity are all heightened and that voice puts me in a trance.  Even on little things I’ll hear that voice saying (and say this to yourself in a eerily ghostly way):  “Go ahead and buy it Kristi…”  and so I do.  And then, a week later, I regret it.  👻

Actually I do more than regret it.  I ruminate over it.  REALLY ruminate.  Once the choice or decision has been made is when my brain finally speaks up.  But of course it’s too late.  I’ve made the choice and now have to live with the consequences.  And that’s hard to do.

It’s hard to have a brain that puts so many blockades up but then punishes you when you can’t get around them.  It’s hard to have a heart that’s so open you simply can’t close it, but then get in trouble for not knowing how to latch that door.  It’s hard to know that sometimes you repeat bad choices.  You make another bad decision when a previous one should have taught you the lesson.  Thanks bipolar.

I think it’s hard for people to understand any mental illness if they haven’t suffered one themselves.  How do you explain that your brain and heart aren’t like everyone elses?  How can you get people to understand that previous bad choices don’t matter…you’ll probably make them again.  How can you ever describe the obsessive ruminating you do when decisions and choices are bad?  How can people ever grasp the pain your heart feels when you know you’ve made a bad choice that has hurt someone?  How can you ever get them to comprehend how terribly sorry you are to the point you are sick about it?

So often when people talk about mental illness, they’ll use large generalizations. For example, people who have major depression are sad and have trouble functioning in their daily lives.  People who have an anxiety disorder are extremely nervous and fearful and worry.  People with bipolar are just cray-cray (yep…that’s the idea.  Kanye West is bipolar and EVERYTHING he does is put down to the disorder.  All that does is stigmatize it more for all of us and make things harder for him.  😥)

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You don’t hear so much about the more specific symptoms or characteristics.  Anxiety disorders may make the person too fearful to even leave their home.  They can’t go to work, the store, a friends house.  All this does is increase their anxiety because others are telling them to just get out.  How horrible that would be.  Those with depression often have somatic issues like back and shoulder pain, have memory issues, and have suicidal thoughts racing through their heads.

When you are mentally ill, everything is affected.  Everything.  Not just moods and temper, but everything the person faces in day to day life.  Making decisions and choices.  How we eat.  How we sleep.  What we unwittingly think about.  How our body feels.  How we feel about sex (don’t have to worry about that one 😐).  How we feel about ourselves.  Whether or not we can make it to work that day.  Or go get groceries.  Or even get out of bed.

I’m 53 years old and I’m still making stupid decisions like I did when I was younger.  Bipolar doesn’t go away.  Fade away.  Unfortunately, like we see with a lot of mental illnesses, it worsens as we age.  I know how lucky I am for all the blessings that I have…and I mean that.  I have so much to be thankful for.  Selfishly though, I would like to know how it feels to make a choice, know it’s the right one, and if it’s not, then learn from it and move on.  Just once.  That’d be great.

Kristi xoxo

“Walk Among Us” ~ Recorded by the Misfits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

“Because the Darkness Hides in the Light of the Day…” ~ ‘He’s Out There’

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To the 281 million people in America who don’t have a mental illness,

I’m writing this letter to you because there’s much that needs to be said on behalf of us who have a mental illness, and I’m taking it upon myself to do so.  I would have sent each one of these separately, but it would have taken me centuries longer than the time it’s been since Christ walked the earth, so here goes.

Did you know there are almost 48 million of us that suffer from mental illness in the United States alone?  And if you want to look globally, there’s over 450 million.  Those are huge numbers and ones I believe everyone should know.

Look, I know it’s how difficult it is to empathize with something you don’t have; there’s no way I can truly empathize with someone who suffers from heart disease since my ticker is in pretty good shape.  However, I do think it’s important for y’all to have a greater understanding of ‘us’.

See, often times mental illness is looked at as a weakness in people.  Something they should have either prevented in the first place, or pull themselves out of if they happen to ‘get it.’  It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  If you’re depressed, well for fuck sakes, count your blessings, get out there and do something, and for the love of all that is holy, don’t wallow.  That only makes things worse.

Isn’t wallow is a funny word?  It means to lie around…be immersed in something…to flounder.  And the connotation is that you can get out of a ‘wallow’ so to speak:  just get up out of that bed, jump out of the situation, and quit floundering.  Just stop it.

I think using that word is unfair though, something that’s easy to see when we switch around the context.  Have heart disease?  Quit wallowing in it and run a freaking marathon.  Have diabetes?  Quit wallowing in it and just eat a Twinkie.  Have asthma?  Just breathe harder for piss sakes.  Easy peasy.  I’ve just solved the worlds’ ills.

It’s silly to look at it that way, isn’t it?  But, as you may be saying, mental illness is ‘different.’  It’s not the same.  And you’re right…it’s not.  It’s not our heart or lungs…it’s our brain.  When you think about your brain being the thing that isn’t working right, that’s scary as hell.

Some great advice so many of us get is to ‘just take you meds!’  Okey dokey…that’s simple enough.  But let me tell you something about my meds:  one of them is a mood stabilizer which I desperately need so I can function as well as I’m capable of despite being bipolar (which is one of the more serious mental illnesses along with schizophrenia).  Guess what some of the side effects are for me?  After I take it every morning, I feel like I have the flu for a couple of hours since nausea and muscle weakness are common.  During the day, I have some dizziness so I have to be careful when I stand up and then my muscle coordination also suffers.  It can cause thoughts of self-harm and suicide, so even though I feel significantly better overall in terms of my mood, I still have thoughts of razor blades I can use and drugs to overdose on.  That’s scary as fuck, people.  My dreams are affected as well.  Last night I dreamed I was choking for what seemed like hours.  When I woke up, I was gasping for breath, sweaty to where my sheets are now in the washer, and crying because I thought I was going to die of asphyxiation.  If I’m lucky, I won’t get the actual serious side effects like a fatal rash that attacks your organs (which means I have to check my bod everyday for any red patches and if I see one, get to the ER as quickly as possible), aseptic meningitis,  and low blood cell count.  Everyday when I swallow just that one med, I’m literally taking a risk with my life.

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From ‘The Mighty’

And my other meds?  One can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart beat and tremors.  Do you know how scary it is to look at your leg and see it shake?  But, without this one I can be so depressed I literally can’t function.

So, when we are told to ‘just take our meds’, there’s a bit more to it than swallowing an aspirin…just sayin’.

I know you mean well when you say things like “I pity you” or “I’m so sorry you have this”.  Yeah…I’m sorry I have this too.  But look, we don’t want your pity or sorrow.  What we need is your support.  We need you to ask us how we feel that day.  Do we maybe need anything?  Check in on us once in a while.  And if we don’t feel good more than a couple of days in a row, it’s because for so many of us, our mental illness is chronic.  It’s going to be with us for life…and in my case, progressively gets worse which makes me cry whenever I think about it.  Did you know the life-span of people with bipolar is 9-20 years less than yours?  This is actually more than if I ‘just’ smoked heavily all my life (no ma, I’ve never smoked).  Facing the fact I may not be able to see my future grandbaby (son, ahem ahem) graduate from college or get married is a loss I can’t describe.

And please don’t stop asking about us because “I’m sick of hearing how down you are” or “We all have problems, you need to get over yourself” because it makes us feel like shit.  Do you think we like being down so much?  Being anxious so much?  Being manic so much?  Do you think we like waking up everyday and facing the fact our lives will never be as close to normal as possible?  As much as you may get tired of listening to us, we are tired of living it.  See the difference?

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Some of you are very condescending to us.  I see you look at homeless people and turn away in disgust and with a sense of superiority .  Did you know that so many of these guys and gals suffer from schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar (yipee), depression and anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders?  When you look at them with revulsion, you are making all of us feel dirty and ashamed.  And since I’m so open about being bipolar and yes, mentally ill (I’m no longer hesitant to put it out there), those of you I know do 1 of 2 things:  turn away from me because you fear me (why I don’t know…I won’t step on an ant when I run) or patronize me like I’m a basket case that needs to be treated like I’m 5 (I actually have an IQ of 128, so I’m not 5 in any way).  Either way makes me feel different from everyone else.  Walking into work and having colleagues ignore me in the hallways hurts like nothing else.  Having family members step away from me because it’s just too much is like a kick to the gut.

Being blamed…used…taken advantage of is also something we face.  When I was having a breakdown that almost ended my life, a student stalked me and then threatened to rape and kill me.  I had the messages.  The direct messages in writing.  And still I got blamed for the threats, like a woman gets blamed for a rape (naughty girl, you wore a dress).  But why not blame me?  I’m the crazy one.  I was the one who couldn’t stop crying when you questioned me…after all, I had attempted suicide just a couple of weeks prior.  And those of you who threw me under the bus for your own agenda…because you were mad at me?  I have a few scars on my leg that you are personally responsible for. 

And talk about being different.  I have no friends.  Literally.  I have my ma, my sonshine, my sissie, and my family, but I don’t have friends.  There is absolutely no one I can call and say, “Hey, wanna talk?”  Yes, I have acquaintances who will speak to me when I’m out and about, and my students are the best in the world who I love love love interacting with, but friends?  Nope.  I think I understand why.  For all of my life I was different.  Or, let’s use some other words to make it even more clear:  strange, peculiar, at odds with others.  My behavior can vary day by day…sometimes I don’t even know what I’m gonna be like when I awake.  I try to cover this up the best I can so people will want to be my friend; if you look in ALL of my Jr. High and High School yearbooks you’ll see this:  “To a crazy girl, blah blah blah”.  Being ‘out there’ was the only way I could be accepted in some circles.  But I was the one that would end up outside the radius…always on the edge.

Then, when someone new pops up in my life and I want to be their friend, I’m like a puppy.  Bouncing all over the place, giving giving giving, and basically overwhelming the poor sap to where they back away.

Relationships are the same.  Those of us who are mentally ill have such a tough time with these.  It takes a very special partner to navigate bipolar, and so far, I haven’t hit the jackpot.  I know it’s hard.  REALLY hard.  REALLY really hard.  But if you give me a chance, I’ll be the best partner you could have.  I’ll love you to death…I’ll be loyal and  caring and will work my ass off to make the relationship work.  And if it doesn’t?  Don’t take the blame yourself.  It’s all mine.  At least that’s what I’ll feel like and then I’ll punish myself for it.

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So I sit at home with my best buddies…my 4 legged sweeties who give me the comfort, companionship, and attention I so desperately need.  And guess what?  I thank God for them everyday.  When people tell me they are ‘just dogs’, I think to myself:  no…they are my lifelines.  Literally.

One more thing because I know I can ramble (I’m a professor…we yack for a living):  please don’t think you’ll never develop a mental illness and that it can’t happen to you.  You are not above it.  You are not immune to it.  A traumatic experience, the death of someone you cherished, an accident where there is head trauma, genetics that can show itself at anytime in your life, brain chemistry that goes awry for whatever reason…the list goes on.  You could someday be the one reading this letter from the “other side” and in fact, 25% of people will suffer a mental illness sometime in their life.  It may not be chronic, but it’s going to impact you more then you could ever have imagined.

But don’t worry.  I’ll be there for you.  I’ll lend you support…a listening ear…my own story to help you come to terms with your own, and I won’t throw back to you some of the negative you threw to me.  I promise you that.

Kristi xoxo

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

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Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

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

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

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Museums Victoria

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

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

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

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Whoever dates this winner is some lucky girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

    “Someday I Hope to Write Something That’s Worth Plagiarizing.” ~ Author Unknown

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    So, my son said something so adorable the other day (yes, I know he’s 26 but he’s still adorbs to me) regarding my blog:  “Ma, you are blogging so much you are going to run out of things to say.”  I looked at him dumbfounded for probably a solid minute and responded:  “O, in the name of all that is holy,  do you REALLY think I would run out of things to yap about?”

    C’mon.  I’m a talker.  The biggest complaint my teachers had about me in school was how much I talked to the other kids.  But the ironic thing is I really didn’t care if they were listening or not because it didn’t matter to me.  I wasn’t talking to get information or ask a question, I was talking because I’m the type of person that needs to talk.  My ma says I always talked in my sleep, and one of the hardest manners I had to learn was not talking with my mouth full.  And if I’m being honest, I still find that very hard to do.  I will swallow a glob of food without chewing if I can’t wait to say something I need to get out.

    Related to that, I love love love to write and I always have.  In early grade school we would copy things from the board to learn our letters and such, but I would always take my paper and write stories instead.  I didn’t want to copy, I wanted to create my own story; even at that young age, I wanted my voice to be heard.  Bless my ma and dad’s hearts because they saved all of sis’s and my report cards, papers, etc. and I have so many stories in my school box.

    Take a look at these:  I know the Spotted Apple was written in the 3rd grade and From Outer Space (my personal favorite because of the green yarn binding) was in 4th.  Why these 2 tomes didn’t win a Pulitzer is beyond me.

    But now, here’s a couple of huge issues:  “Sue Ann Gets Married” sounds very much like the hit movie “Peggy Sue Got Married” which was released in 1986, more than 10 years after my ‘book’, while the “Harry Potter” series sounds eerily like my “Harry and the Spider” novel. Now, I’m not saying these original ideas were stolen per se, but I do have a literary lawyer looking into the matter.  P.S.  If you are reading this J.K. Rowling, I can show you how to shave off a few hundred pages…Harry and the Spider is 4.

    As I got older, whenever I needed to vent something, I’d write it.  Not in journals (like I’ve said before I’m horrible at keeping those) but just on random sheets of paper, the back of ads, on scraps I’ve pulled out of the garbage can.  It’s like I have to get the words out and sometimes, for me, writing is the best way to do it.

    Maybe because I’m bipolar I feel the need to do this.  When I’m manic, there is absolutely no way I can keep up with the thoughts that are swirling around my brain (my new mood stabilizer is helping!).  Sometimes people have asked me what it’s like to be so ‘high’ and it’s kind of like the teacup ride at Disney.  You sit in these cups and there’s a wheel in the center that you grab and turn, and your cup goes around and around faster and faster until it feels like you’re almost flying.  That’s what it’s like (except you don’t puke in the end).  So because of that swirling, writing gets things down for me that I can’t keep up with otherwise.  I have notebooks all over the house and if you tried to read them…good luck!  But I can read every word I scribble down.

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    And when I’m depressed?  I need to get out things that choke me up to talk about and that I can’t face any other way.  Writing allows me to say my thoughts in a way that won’t put off or scare anyone else.  These often macabre thoughts are safe on my paper, and seeing them in writing releases them a bit from my brain.

    That’s why this blog is so great for me because it gives me an outlet where I can just talk.  When I used to sit down in front of a computer as an adult, I would think about perfect sentence structure, perfect grammar, etc. and would be so concerned with the mechanics of the writing and whether or not it sounded perfect, that it was constricting.  But now, I just write.  Just talk.  I don’t care what the sentences look like. I just care about getting down what I need to say that day.  That’s what writing should be.  Talking…telling stories…sharing ideas.  Who cares if it’s perfect?

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    I wrote a book a few years ago on marriage (go ahead and roll your eyes…but really, after 3 of them, at least I’m experienced in the subject) and I wanted it to be like other self-helpy type books out there.  Lots of chapters with cute tables or graphs, illustrations, references, etc.  So, that’s what I sat down to write, and I’d get about 5 sentences in it and give up.  It wasn’t ‘sciency’ enough and I’d get so nervous about making sure it was up to the standards of the ‘experts’ that I’d just quit trying.  Finally, I decided to talk, like I do in class.  Just say what I wanted to say and that’s what I did.  I talked about what I thought were important aspects of  marriage and instead of worrying about it being perfect, I simply let it flow.  When writing goes like that with the words coming easily, it feels so freaking good to me!

    I have a couple things in the works right now.  I’m starting to write a book about being diagnosed bipolar, etc, and I also have a lot of children’s books I’ve written over the years.  When my son was a little guy and we’d run out of library books to read, I’d make up stories for him and then write them down later.  I’d really like to get an agent to see if they think they’re good enough to submit to a publisher; it’s always been a dream of mine to be a children’s writer.  We’ll see!

    Anyhoot, I’m having such a great time writing, talking, getting things down I need too, expressing what I’m feeling, and the best part is that y’all are kind enough to take this ride with me.  You don’t judge it, or critique it, or try to tell me what I’m doing wrong.  You are a wonderfully accepting audience that motivates me to sit in front of my keyboard everyday.  Thank you so much for that.  I know this blog is light years away from being perfect, but you know what?  That’s just fine with me.

    Kristi xoxo

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

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    Death by Asphyxia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anthony Bourdain – Death by Hanging        (1956 – 2014)

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

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

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

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    Kate Spade – Death by Hanging (1962 – 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

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

    Shame on you.

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

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

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

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

    Hmmmmm.

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

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    Gemma Correll

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

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

    And of course, the list goes on.

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

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

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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?

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    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

     

     

    Invasion of the Monster.

    So, a friend and I were yacking yesterday, and we were talking about what being bipolar is like.  He truly wanted to know what went on in my head and how it felt to be me.  Very few people have ever asked me this, so it felt really good for someone to be so interested that they asked me for my personal experience with it, as opposed to textbook definitions.

    Here’s what I told him:  “When I’m manic, it’s like a blender with ice, fruit, and juice, on high, with no lid…just spraying around the kitchen.”  But really, in this scenario, the juice has an outlet…it’s escaping the blender.  I can’t escape my blender…the ingredients (thoughts & emotions) just keep coming back and getting spewed out again and again.

    Then I said this about depression:  “It’s like there’s a monster with heavy metal chains that grabs my mood, reels it in, and makes me sink so low during this process that I can’t escape.”

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    Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

    After listening to this, he said it helped him understand it more, but he had something to confess (Ought oh…I’ve heard that phrase before).  His ex-wife had depression and would spend days in their bed, refusing to even get up to eat dinner or walk around.  He said it would tick him off, that he just wanted her to GET UP and try.  He said he feels guilty now, that after learning more about depression, he was so hard on her when she was down.

    First, I can understand him feeling guilty.  As much as I want people to understand bipolar and take that into consideration, I don’t always reciprocate well.  Ex-partner has a personality disorder:  I thought for a long while it was Narcissistic Personality Disorder since his treatment of me mimicked narcissistic relationships in terms of idealize, devalue, and discard (he repeated this cycle multiple times).  A couple of months ago, he got formally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which actually does make more sense while considering other issues in his life.  Anyhoot, I knew he had a personality disorder along with the PTSD from his military tours.  But here’s the thing, I would get impatient with him.  I’d try to change what I was seeing by getting angry with him and telling him what he should be doing instead.  I’d respond to his irrational behavior by yelling at him and holding grudges.  (On the flip side, he’d do the same:  get mad at me when I was ‘too emotional’…get frustrated when I was bouncing off the walls).

    So why did I do this in response to his behavior?  Like my counselor has said to me before:  “He’s Borderline…what did you expect from him?”  Yikes.  She’s right.  Right as rain.  Just like I’m bipolar, what the hell do you expect from me?   I’m gonna be up and I’m gonna be down.  BUT the behavior that results from mental illness can be frustrating, hurtful, embarrassing, anger provoking, etc. to others in our lives.  It’s hard to deal with people like us!  It’s hard for others to understand us when we can’t always understand ourselves.  I get angry at me.  I get frustrated by me.

    Back let’s go back to my monster and depression.  I do believe my monster is very very strong.  However, I can’t lay down and always let him win;  it’s time I started fighting back.  You know, there’s not many times in my life where I’ve been a fighter against people who were hurting me.  When I was being bullied in grade school, my sister always protected me so I never had to fight back.  When the psychologist I was seeing at 16 sexually abused me for 2 years, I didn’t fight back out of fear and a misplaced sense of loyalty.  When I was bullied my Jr. and Senior years in high school, I just tried to look away and make myself as inconspicuous as possible.  When ex was cheating on me, I apologized for my role in it.

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    I never really fought.  But guess what?  No more.  Let’s all say it together:  “NO MORE!” I fight that fucking monster, my biggest adversary, with as much as I can muster.  When he’s dragging me down so far I can barely see any light, I grab that chain and pull up with all I have.  Link.  By link.  By link.  And then, magically, my feet the floor in the morning.  Then Edward comes running to me to let him and Dottie out; so I hug my pooches and let them out to pee in the backyard (and eat poop).  Then I have to let them back in and that propels me for a walk to the bathroom where I hop into the shower.  Get it?  I’m tugging back on that depression monster little by little.  And, those little tugs are making me function.  Making me ‘do’.  Making me feel not so much at the mercy of him showing me only darkness.   I have vowed that he will NOT keep me so down ever again that I stand in the middle of my floor for hours, not knowing what to do with all that’s in my mind.

    Look, bipolar is a brain issue.  My brain is different.  I can’t help the roller coaster this brain has set me on; just like someone with a migraine isn’t to blame.

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    It’s not that I’m going to suddenly ‘cheer’ up and be happy.  But yes, I can push myself little step by little step and show that monster Kristi is still here.  Me.  And that I’m going to take as much control as I possibly can; count my small victories and celebrate them.  Just knowing that I’m fighting  back makes me feel stronger,  which makes me feel ‘better’ in the midst of this depression.

    I’ve had enough ‘monsters’ in my life that I haven’t fought against and I’ve decided I’m not ever going to bow down to anyone (or anything) again.  I’m going to fight.  I’m going to do all I can with all I have to get wins in these battles.  And at the same time, I’m going to get a little piece of myself off of that fucking roller coaster.  That son-of-a-bitch monster has led me on this ride for too long.  It’s time for me to start taking over at least a few of the controls.

    Kristi xoxo