“I allow myself to fail. I allow myself to break. I’m not afraid of my flaws.” ~ Lady Gaga

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Dear Lady Gaga,

I don’t know if you follow my blog or not, but I know much of the Hollywood elite does so hopefully they’ll direct you to this soon enough. 🤨

Anyhoot, I’m going to be honest with you since I’m trying to be as genuine as possible and I know you do the same.  When I first started noticing you due to your amazing talent (much like mine), I thought you were so bizarre and strange that I was a bit put off.  I’m embarrassed of that reaction now because I’m the first to preach to not judge a book by it’s cover and here I was doing the same.  Then I saw you in a “Star is Born” (is Bradley as good of a kisser as I imagine him to be?), and was blown away by your natural beauty, acting ability, and the vulnerability you showed in the role which, seemed to me, came from a real place within you.  Some things you just can’t ‘act’ (I’m somewhat of an actor myself…I was the ‘mama bell’ in my debut in the first grade).

As I started reading more and more about you, I realized what a genuine, brave, and influential woman you really are, and that’s when my girl crush began.

I’m so sorry you were a victim of rape when you were only 19.  To experience this is horrific and so many women are scared to speak out because of the stigma that’s still in existence today.  Why in the hell do we blame victims in our culture?  As far as we have come with things like the #metoomovement, we still have a long long way to go.  Your song “Til it Happens to You” is an inspiration and speaks for the millions of women who have suffered rape and sexual abuse in our society.  I was sexually abused for 2 years and it took me decades to talk about it publicly because of my own shame.  It’s still uncomfortable for me at times because I feel like people see me differently because of it.  Like I’m dirty or something.  Your lyrics helped me to get past some of that:

“Til is happens to you, you won’t know
It won’t be real
No it won’t be real
Won’t know how it feels…”

You are so right that although people can have empathy for victims (or actually I prefer the word ‘survivors’), they still can’t fully comprehend the effects rape and sexual abuse have on a person.  I’m so sorry you developed PTSD and psychosis because of it…how hard it must be to live with such consequences.

“I was raped repeatedly when I was 19 years old, and I also developed PTSD as a result of being raped and not processing that trauma.  I did not have a therapist, I did not have a psychiatrist, I did not have a doctor help me through it.  …All of a sudden I started to experience this incredible, intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked, actually, the illness that I felt after being raped.” (interview with Oprah Winfrey 2020)

It took a while to admit you had this though, didn’t it?  You stated you were lying to everyone about experiencing this mental disorder and ‘coming out’ freed you from that deceit.  I can’t imagine how painful it was to do so, but you helped so many people in understanding that mental disorders/illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of.  Thank you so much for that.  (I also love you came out as bi-sexual…your bravery humbles me).

You talk about how you received mental (and physical) help for PTSD and that’s another barrier you’ve broken for others.  Getting help is not weak…quite the contrary, it’s strong.  Until everyone can be taught that therapy and intervention is just as acceptable as getting treatment for any physical issue, there will still be people out there who won’t seek it because of that fucking stigma (my ma doesn’t like me to use that word, but I have a feeling you don’t mind).

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How horrible you were bullied about your appearance and kooky behavior when you were younger.  Those words stick with you, don’t they?  But, you ‘came out’ again and have talked extensively about the bullying culture we all live with in terms of body image and expectations.  Women are told we must be perfect, from head to toe, and since that’s simply impossible to live up too, most feel inadequate in terms of how they look.  I know you developed anorexia and bulimia because of weight issues and I can relate to the anorexia myself as well.  It’s a horrible one, isn’t it?  And, like I know you are all too aware of, something that never fully leaves you (like bulimia too).  It can be an everyday struggle.

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I happen to think you are absolutely gorgeous.  I’ve seen you a bit heavier (words you have used yourself, so please don’t think I’m being catty) and a bit thin.  It doesn’t matter, because your beauty transcends anything on the outside.  With your ‘Body Revolution’ movement you started in 2012 that allows women (particularly those with eating disorders) to share their real life bodies and put out there how beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, you’ve shown that being proud of yourself is the most important thing.  Bless you for that.  That’s something all girls and women need to do…see themselves for who they are and know they don’t have to be a cookie-cutter version of anyone else in this country.  I used to be so self-conscious about my belly, but now I’m not simply because it’s a part of me…and it’s real.  Thank you for that.

I also love the way you dress!  Once again, you don’t conform, but express yourself however you desire.  Who’s to say what’s ‘fashionable’ to wear anyway?  Who sets that stupid standard?  When you look back at 70’s fashion, it’s obvious that some of the trendsetters are idiots.  We should all be able to wear what we want to wear…not what the magazines tell us is ‘right’ to wear.  Face it, we look like sheep: the same jeans…the same shirt…the same shoes.  How boring it is to simply be another body clothed in what everyone else is wearing; it’s almost like we all have uniforms (actually it is like uniforms since uniformity seems to the be goal) and for you to stand out like you do shows we can have personal expression in our clothes.  Plus, I believe that if we all look like sheep we’ll start to act like sheep and mindlessly follow anyone without question.

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Finally, I can’t thank you enough for talking so openly about your love of God.  How refreshing to see an ‘unconventional’ woman speak about her beliefs and faith.  There’s this stereotype that Christians are uptight, hypocritical (“I don’t go to church…everyone’s a hypocrite.”  Really?  You are the one judging us, dumbass 🙄) with no love for anyone different than themselves.  Where the fuck did that come from?  Why are there so many stereotypes about Christians that people are more than happy to not only believe, but share?  I’ve been told by colleagues (literally) how ‘dumb’ I am to believe in God and that I should know better since I’m educated.  Okey Dokey.  Thanks for that info…I’ll file it away where I file away all the rest of the bullshit I hear. 🙄

Anyhoot…just wanted to tell you what an influence you are on me and how I appreciate all you’ve done in being so open about who you are and what you’ve gone through in your life.  You inspire so many, including myself.  I am going to try to continue working at doing the same the best I can and for that, I’m eternally grateful.  ❤

Kristi xoxo

“It’s coming for you. It’s got your scent.” (Stephen King)

So, for the last couple of weeks as more people have discovered this blog, I’ve been getting a lot of messages from readers about their own struggles with mental illness.  The last 5 I’ve received have had to do with eating disorders.

These disorders are so hard to understand, and although I know bulimia (binge-purge cycles) and binge eating (bingeing with no purging) are very serious disorders, I’m going to talk about my experience with anorexia since unfortunately, it’s what I know.

I’ve talked before about how it started after I decided to diet to get rid of some of the puberty (blech…I hate that word) weight I gained in the 8th grade.  It was just me wanting to lose a few pounds to look better in high school, where bodies were being scrutinized like never before.  Along with dieting, I also started running again, something I’d done in elementary school a lot.  To chart my progress on what I was losing, I would study myself in a full-length mirror everyday and weigh myself often as well.  Every time that needle went down, I was elated, and every time it went up a bit, I was crushed.  I was failing myself…or so I thought.

What was confounding to me was that even though the scale numbers were going down for the most part (except around the time Aunt Flow was visiting), I was more and more dissatisfied with what I was seeing in the mirror.  How could my belly be getting so much bigger instead of smaller?  Why were my thighs growing in direct proportion to what weight I was losing?  No matter how much lower that number on the scale was getting, I was still convinced my body was disgustingly fat.

So, I started limiting my food intake even more, and then running at least 4-5 miles a day.  For breakfast, I’d nibble on my usual pop-tart, but would throw the majority of it away while mom was curling her hair.  At lunch, I’d toss my sandwich in the trash and have a couple of chips or part of a fruit cup.  I ate very minimally at dinner, directing the conversation away from food, and moving stuff around my plate to make it look like I was eating much more than I was.  After showing off my bod more when this all started, I’d begun wearing baggier clothes since I realized how horrible I still looked in spite of these measures.

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This was after I started running again to lose my baby weight.  It’s hard to tell, but all of my back was just bone.

I think this distorted body image is the hardest thing to understand for those who have never experienced it.  When I’d look in the mirror at my -100 pound body, I wouldn’t just think I was still fat, I knew I was.  I could see it!  It was staring back at me as clear as day!  Having people tell me I was getting too skinny made no impression on me at all (it still doesn’t), they had to be lying just to make me happy.  We now know that a distorted body image actually has to do, at least partially, with an abnormality originating in the parietal cortex of the brain as well as issues with the serotonin system.  So what we see is what our brain is telling us to see.  It’s kind of like a visual hallucination someone with schizophrenia might have; those images they see are a result of their chronic brain disorder, and not something they can control unless meds are used to suppress these.

Running more and more, walking to school and back, doing aerobics, and fidgeting all of the time (to burn even more calories) was exhausting, but necessary if I was ever going to have a body I was happy with.  I knew the body ran on fuel, and I’ll never forget one night when I was in the basement watching TV and I had an Oreo in front of me.  One Oreo.  And even though my stomach was empty and I had ran that day so all of my energy was depleted, I simply could NOT eat that Oreo.  I’d put it up to my lips, get a ‘taste’ of it, and then put it back down, just looking at it.  I literally found myself unable to eat that damn Oreo no matter how much I tried.  The next day, with nothing in me, I started running my 4 mile route, and halfway through I didn’t think I could make it home since I was so weak.  I dragged myself those last couple of miles, and when I got into our large backyard, I actually crawled the rest of the way home.  That’s not an exaggeration; I actually crawled.  If anyone would have asked, I’d have said it was a special stretching method.  Anorexics are very good at deceiving others in terms of what they eat, how much they do, and weird behaviors they might engage in.

It was around this time that people started noticing how thin I was.  I reveled in their recognition, something that was positive for me after all I’d done to get that way, even though their comments were negative.  “Damn, Kristi, eat something!”  “Hey scarecrow!”  “Don’t blow away in this wind, Miss Anorexic!”  I had 1 friend my freshman year when this was going on;  if you look at my yearbook, there’s only 1 autograph and it’s from her.  It’s very difficult to make or maintain friends when you are concentrating only on food, weight, and dieting.

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Me running the Disney marathon.  My thighs are the same size as my calves.  All I could think about that day was how many calories I was burning.

Once, I was playing basketball at my grandma and grandpas house, and when I went in, all skinny, sweaty and smelly, my grandma told me that the neighbor had called her (this woman was a billion years old, could barely use a phone, and probably half blind to boot) and told her how beautiful her granddaughter was.  I knew this was a lie (see above description), but it was grandmas way of telling me to stop this nonsense, because I was fine.

I wasn’t though.  You are never ‘fine’ with anorexia.  You’re never satisfied with how you look, and when you see the perfect models in the mags (I read Seventeen all of the time, and my sis and I would sneak my moms Cosmos), it just reinforces how you need to measure up to these impossible standards.

When my mom could see what was happening and realized I needed some intervention before I got much worse, she made an appointment with a psychologist and we all know the story there (if you don’t, you can read it here.).

Yes, I got ‘better’ in that I was able to start eating more and got to a healthier weight, but I knew this made me look horrible.  I’d never been a ‘pretty’ child; I had buck teeth, acne, plain brown mousy hair, and you get the picture.  But now my body was ugly too.  Great self-esteem, huh?

I firmly believe that anorexia is a chronic disorder with periods of time where it’s ‘less active’ and then it’s reappearance again.  And I believe this return is often triggered by a stressful event, a depressive episode, an ‘innocent’ diet where you want to just lose a few pounds, or a time when you are questioning your worth in general.  At least that’s been true for me.  After all 3 of my divorces (shutty the mouthy), I’ve experienced an exacerbation of this disorder, finding myself becoming more and more unhappy with my body and the start of restrictive diets and extensive exercise again.  And, since anorexia has a biological basis (along with environmental beginnings that trigger this abnormal physiology – once again, my opinion), this resurgance of behaviors triggers the start of the brain feeding (no pun intended) into the full blown condition again.  (I only have pics of more recent times.  I don’t have pics from high school).

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Another pic where you can see no fat on my legs or arms.  My belly was concave.

Since my early high school years, there’s never, ever been a time where I haven’t been conscious of what food I eat.  I ALWAYS restrict myself.  Even with all of my education, I still have a brain leading me to believe that 1 candy bar will add a couple of pounds onto my frame.  If I’m ‘naughty’ and eat too many carbs, my belly pays for it in that it’s now HUGE and I need to hide it under un-tucked shirts.  Sometimes family members will comment on how much food I’m eating.  Little do they know that this makes me feel guilt over eating a good meal, while not accounting for the fact that’s the most likely the first meal I’ve eaten all day.

My most recent bout with anorexia showing itself seriously started when I was with my ex.  I was significantly older than him (hello…cougar, anyone?) and was already feeling inadequate in the looks department since I was comparing myself with women his age (who were actually the age of the women he cheated on me with).  Add to this his comments on my neck wrinkles and other body flaws, I started dieting again to at least have my body look good for him.

Here’s whats so freaking hard, Grasshoppers:  never being able to eat anything without scrutinizing myself afterwards and feeling guilty if I did overindulge (as defined by my own standards).  Maybe some of you reading this know what it’s like to see food as the enemy, and when you are surrounded by food ads every where you turn, and have to eat it everyday to keep going, how do you ever get these ideas out of your head?  It would be like a recovering alcoholic having to live in a bar.

I’ve been writing about what a fucking bitch bipolar is and how hard the battles are everyday to fight it.  I also have this other fucking bitch of a disorder that also makes me be in combat mode all of the time.  I don’t know why I had to have these, and even saying this makes me feel selfish and small since I realize other people are fighting MUCH larger demons than this.  But, just once, I’d like to wake up dictating my own mood and eating a brownie without feeling fat.  Just once, I’d like to look in a mirror and like what I see.  Just once, I’d like to put on a pair of leggings and not reprimand myself for having such a huge belly.  Just once I’d like a day off from all of this.  Just a day.  Just so I experience how more ‘normal’ people feel.  Just once.

Kristi xoxo

Shame on you.

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

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

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

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

Hmmmmm.

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

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Gemma Correll

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

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

And of course, the list goes on.

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

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

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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

 

 

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

One of my wonderful students from a couple of semesters ago messaged me about this condition and asked if I had ever heard of it.  I said I hadn’t and I started researching it.  I found so much interesting information!

First, this condition, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is, according to experts, tied to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder):  about 99% of people with ADHD have it and about a third state it’s the most difficult part living with ADHD.  In a nutshell, RSD is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain brought on by the thought that the person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. 

The specific symptoms of RSD are:

  • setting very high standards for yourself
  • STRONG emotion reactions
  • Shyness 
  • Depression
  • Fear of Failure
  • Rage towards the person/situation that was rejecting
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Seeking approval from family/friends/partners
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Being very self-critical

Now, I believe RSD can be tied to other disorders as well, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depression and bipolar) and even certain personality disorders (borderline, avoidant, and dependent). 

For example, in terms of bipolar, look at the symptoms of adult ADHD that I see are significantly tied into RSD:  impulsiveness, restlessness, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, hot temper, and trouble coping with stress.  And now some of the symptoms of bipolar:  mood swings (duh!), impulsiveness, restlessness, poor decision making, feelings of worthlessness, indecisive, and feelings of guilt.  Look how these match in so many ways! 

I found an article as I was digging around that actually shows RSD being related to bipolar in what looks to be a biological way (plus, this article cites another study to support this biological link as well).  The article also mentions how APPEARANCE based rejection can be related to eating disorders too, which are also being shown to have a biological basis.  SO…maybe RSD isn’t ONLY tied to ADHD, but is tied to many other disorders as well.  (I can even see it tied into children’s disorders such as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).

Here’s why I thought this was so interesting to look at further:  I’ve ALWAYS been very sensitive to rejection!  If I thought a teacher didn’t like me; if I thought my parents or sister were mad at me; if friends made plans without me; if I was ‘criticized’ in class; etc., I would be devastated.  And I’m not using that term lightly!

Actually, this came up at school just last week!  I’m on a special team where we evaluate one another and when I saw my scores as having ‘gaps’ in terms of my work, I IMMEDIATELY started crying!  I felt the evaluations were ‘rejecting’ or criticizing me as a professor.  My friend on the team talked to me about it, and showed me that the evaluations were meant for personal development and not necessarily valid in all areas since no one watches me in class and how I am with my students. 

Further, my last break-up was shattering to me. I literally felt as if I were falling apart (which I actually did).   Regardless of any circumstance, I saw MYSELF as so less than, and my emotional distress was more than I could, in effect, handle at times.  I know I’ve reacted similarly in the past:  for example, I’ve talked about how I ran my car into a tree after my High School boyfriend broke up with me.  I also remember being very angry when a friend I had ‘rejected’ me a few years ago.  That anger stayed with me much longer than it ever should have. 

Then, to top it off, you have people saying things like: “Quit being so sensitive!”  “Why do these things bother you so much?”  “There are other people out there!”   It’s so hard for people to understand this sensitivity unless they feel it themselves.  But that makes me feel even WORSE for having these strong emotions, as well as making me feel as if I’m being criticized for having them at all.  Yeesh!  It’s a huge self-defeating cycle I wish I had the power to stop.

So, what’s the take-away for me?  That Rejection Sensitivity exists.  That it’s more than likely tied to biological factors.  That it’s tied to more disorders than ADHD.  And, that it’s something that needs to be researched further for more understanding! 

Finally this:  it’s not my ‘fault’ or a failure on my part that I’m so very sensitive to rejection.  It might be a part of the mood disorder that already causes so much disruption in my life. 

Hmmm…I’m going to keep my eye on this topic! 

Kristi xoxo