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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Beacon Health Options

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

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

Kristi xoxo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scenic Railway – Luna Park (Melbourne)

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

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

Kristi xoxo

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

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

Clear as mud to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

Romancing the Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

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

robinwilliams1-2x

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.

hd4-10
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