What I Learned From Little House on the Prairie.

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So, I saw that Little House on the Prairie was on Amazon Prime and I decided to binge watch the entire series (yes, 9 seasons, 20+ episodes each season, and me bored as hell sitting at home).  I grew up with the show and like to think of myself as a ‘reincarnated’ Laura if you will, particularly since my family knows how great I am in the wilderness with no modern comforts 🙄).  Anyhoot, as I was bawling along with ‘pa’ who cries every episode (and takes off his shirt regardless of season, storyline, etc.) I realized just how many things I’ve learned from it through the years.  Let’s take a look-see:

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Well…hello…

Marriage is forever.  Well, hells bells, that’s pretty straight forward.  And it’s really that easy with them.  The marriages on this show experience fires, bankruptcy, diptheria, strokes, crop failures, the loss of babies, kids going blind (Lord, how much I wanted Mary’s blue eyes instead of my own, as well as her long blonde hair…ma had me and sissie’s mousy brown cut into ‘shags’ with crooked bangs.  No wonder we were so popular 😐), trips of hundreds of miles over rough terrain in a prairie wagon that looked as sturdy as my 20 year old lawn chair, and the list goes on.  And guess what?  These people stayed married.  Maybe it was as easy as this:  they married who they loved, they worked to make it the best they could, and they took their vow – ‘Til Death do us Part’ – seriously.  Hmmmmm.

Kids are disciplined.  OMG!  What the fuck?!!!  Kids are held accountable for their actions?  Disciplined?  Punished?  Taught right from wrong?  How can that be??  Our society thinks kids should be coddled and their behavior excused, and if we do try to teach them a lesson?  Their self-esteem will plummet and by golly, we’ll be vilified.  Okey dokey.  Tell me how that’s working out.  I’m not advocating using a ‘strap’ for piss sakes, but believe you me, kids can be corrected quite nicely without physical punishment.  And trust me on this too:  kids need correction and want to know the rules and boundaries they live in.  Without them, they’re lost.

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Here’s another shocker:  kids are taught manners!  Well, who woulda thunk this was good?!  Kids say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no, sir’.  They shake hands when meeting someone.  Look adults in the eye, speak politely to them, and don’t use first names (which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  If you’re 5, I’m not Kristi, I’m Ms. Palmer).  Don’t interrupt.  Do their chores when asked (another lesson, if you will…kids actually help out the family and take care of their home 😲).  My goodness, it sure is marvelous we stopped teaching these things.  I just love walking through Wal-Mart and hearing a 9 year old call his mom a bitch.  Much better.

Family comes first.  Let me repeat that because I know it’s a hard concept in our society today.  FAMILY comes first.  Not being on our phones while posting to social media showing everyone how amazingly awesome our lives are (instead of just living them).  Not spending more and more time at work to earn for that new car the family just has to have so they can spend a week together on a vacation which won’t be that great anyway since ma and pa are yelling at the kids to not mess up the brand new car.  Not sitting in front of the boob tube, drool dripping from the chin, and the only interaction among the family is the fight the kids are having over what to watch among the 1000’s of choices that are available.  Instead, family helps each other daily, works together for the good of the family, comes even closer together in crisis, eats dinner together (only about 30% of families eat their evening meal together consistently throughout the entire week), and makes their own fun including camping trips, listening to pa play the fiddle, and listening to ma read a book aloud.  (The lesson of this?  Pop…you need to learn to play the fiddle).

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Still my favorite book.

Education is important.  Heh??  This is another ‘old fashioned idea’ where kids spend 8 hours in school, are quiet and respectful in class, do their work to their best ability, turn it in on time, and are excited when learning something new.  There are no screens…no software…no ‘gadgets’ to help.  Only slates, books, maps and a chalkboard.  Yet, when you look at past tests kids were expected to conquer before graduating, they are a hell lot more demanding than what I’ve seen:  high school graduates with screens and software and gadgets who cannot write a complete sentence.  Seriously.  Take a look-see at this test and see if you can pass it;  bear in mind it’s for 8th grade graduation (kids often didn’t go on to high school…mostly because the majority of them didn’t need too after learning all of this!).  And no, do NOT use google.  (Ma…this is one time you’re really going to shine since the test is from 1895 when you were in 4th grade.  I posted a daguerreotype to show my sweet peeps just how hard you worked for Miss Beadle).

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Ma in trouble…nothing new.

Neighbors help neighbors.  Really?  You mean, even though the families often lived hundreds of acres or a handful of miles apart, there was still a camaraderie, concern, and assistance to one another.  Need help harvesting?  Your cow is delivering?  Your barn burned and you need a new one by winter?  Don’t fret…your neighbors will help.  Now, I actually had a neighbor years and years ago…in the ‘nice, good address, more ritzy’ neighborhood Hubby 2 and I lived in (as compared to my little granny house now)…and my next door grouch would come out when I mowed to make sure I didn’t step on his grass when I turned at the end of a mown row.  Not kidding.  Once, when I did step on his property (by about 4″), the cops were called.  It was a freaking nightmare, but the cops looked at him as if he were senile (which he wasn’t, just nasty) and told him to never call again about me. He did.  Often.  😠

Trouble intensifies faith.  No matter what the crisis or loss was, God was looked to for strength and hope.  He wasn’t blamed or denounced, and the people didn’t question what was happening.  They leaned on him, prayed to him, and understood that although they might not understand the ‘why’ behind what was going on, they trusted it was going to be OK.  Peeps, that’s faith.

Dying isn’t to be feared.  Instead, it’s a part of life and because there was so much faith, the people knew the place they were going was going to be a perfect eternity where they would be reunited with their loved ones someday.  It was simply another phase of life and memories would sustain those on earth until it was their turn to go.

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Nellie Olson rocked.

Ok…before you fill up my inbox, I know things weren’t perfect then!  Duh.  I can’t imagine living with such primitive medical care (Mary gets an operation and the doctor has his hands in his pockets before grabbing the scalpel without any gloves or washing, and begins the cut, not knowing if Mary is really under yet 😳), no air-conditioning (while wearing petticoats:  note to ma, can I borrow some of yours to see what it was like?), the physical punishment that was often meted out, the living from hand to mouth,  and the societal issues of the day:  lack of rights for blacks and women, so much prejudice and discrimination, so much alienation from the rest of the world, and so much ignorance of mental illness.  It wasn’t nirvana, but I will say this:  the medicine was often alcohol (something that cures a lot of my ails today) heroin, cocaine, and morphine, (so wonder they were so happy).  😜

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And my cough is gone.

Regardless, a big part of me wishes we could go back to some of these values.  To me, progress isn’t always ‘progress.’  Look at the divorce rates…the kids growing up without dads or never knowing what it’s like to have an intact family…the children who are denied attention and discipline and act out accordingly…the families that don’t push education and take an interest in schoolwork…the parents that put work and technology over time with the family…the parents that work for things not needed but wanted for status.  Why is it we can’t learn from our past, and embrace the principles that are so important while still moving forward in technology that brings us all closer together as opposed to splitting us apart?  Why can’t the old and the new be combined into a ‘normal’?

And, most importantly (at least to me 😳)?  Why thy hell can’t I find a man like Pa who looks damn yummy half naked, works his ass off, knows how to show emotion, will actually converse and listen (gasp), and has a sense of humor that’s just as adorable as his smile and wavy hair?  It just ain’t right that guy hasn’t plopped in my lap. 😏  Maybe I should road-trip to Walnut Grove and see who’s out there.

Kristi xoxo

P.S.  Hey Peeps…show me some love and click on the “Follow” button?  Much thanks, sweeties! ❤

“We Don’t Need No Education” ~ Pink Floyd

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National Alliance on Mental Illness

So, I’ve been teaching since I was 24 years old:  2 years olds (who scared the crap out of me), 5th and 6th graders, high schoolers, and of course, college, and through these experiences, I’ve learned there are 2 types of students – those who memorize and learn what they need to know for the subject, and those who take what they are learning and apply it to their lives in ways that allow for change and more insight to come about.  I think a lot of us are actually both.  There were classes I took where my main objective was to do all I could to get my grade and then scoot the hell on.  Ask me what I ‘learned’ in College Trigonometry.  The answer?  Not much.  I got my A and was very proud of that, but I never applied the info after my final exam; it wasn’t ‘important’ enough to my life and what I wanted to do, so the info has fallen by the wayside (Note to Dr. S:  you were an AWESOME professor to teach me something that was so hard for me to pick up…bless your heart in heaven!).

I guess I’m feeling this way about what I’m trying to do with blogging: to educate others and help people see the inside perspective and challenges of mental illness, and then to take that info and run with it.  But I also understand this is very hard to do, particularly for those who have no experience with these issues themselves.

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Besides my brain (🙄), I’m really quite healthy, and so it’s difficult for me to understand what it’s like to have diseases and physical illnesses.  For example, diabetes.  I have a friend with this, and he is struggling with a bit of a weight problem .  At times, I nag (yes, I said nag…I’m quite good at it actually) him to walk more, ride his indoor bike more, and eat better because I’ve read that losing weight and exercise is a great help for a diabetic.  And for me, this would be easy.  But I’m me…not him.  I don’t have any idea what it is to struggle with low blood sugar, to have to wear a monitor that’s showing insulin levels which must be checked dozens of times a day, to have diabetic neuropathy which makes balance and walking difficult.  I simply haven’t had this so I have no clue what it’s like to walk in his shoes, and the ‘advice’ I give to him is much more demanding to do than I can ever imagine.

But by the same token, it’s the same with mental illness.  You can read all you want on it…show greater acceptance of people who suffer from it…vow to be kinder to those who have it, but actually doing these things is tough if there’s no personal experience to draw from.

I’ve written a lot about how bipolars have heightened sensitivity and stronger emotional reactions, and research shows that even during our ‘middle’ states (called euthymia – where we aren’t too high or too low but experiencing more stable moods), we are still ‘hypersensitive to emotional stimuli and higher arousability.’  In other words, I’m a  potentially hot emotional mess, regardless of my cycle (that word always makes me think of my old menstrual cycles which I’m happy to say menopause has taken care of, thank the Lord).  I’ve also written about Rejection Syndrome which once again (if one has this particular symptom which I’m lucky to be blessed with myself 🙄) is always a part of a bipolars life regardless of cycle (but more pronounced when depressed ).

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So, people have learned this from me and understand I have a brain disease that doesn’t affect my liver or my heart or my bones.  But, how can someone understand what it’s like to have a brain that is so ‘much’ unless they’ve experienced it themselves?

Instead, those of us with bipolar might hear:  “OMG, don’t be so sensitive.”  OK…”OMG, don’t be so diabetic.”  Or, “OMG…you are so emotional and moody…you need to have better control of these things.”  OK…”OMG…you are so low on insulin and have nerve pain in your legs and feet that you need to have better control over those sugar levels.”  When it’s put this way, how silly and indifferent it sounds.  But to us with mental illness, the comparison is real.  (P.S.  If you grew up in the 80’s, feel free to say OMG like a Valley Girl).

Look, I can’t control my moods…my emotions…my sensitivity anymore than someone can control what their pancreas is doing right now.  And yelling at us, or accusing us of using our disorder (yes, it’s very fucking fun to be on an emotional roller coaster all of the time) or ridiculing us for having ‘something in our heads’ compounds our symptoms even more.  The above is hard enough:  add guilt and shame to the mix and it can be deadly.  Literally.

No one asks for a mental illness (and if they do…well…they’re nuts).  Whether it’s major depression, generalized anxiety, a personality disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc., we were just lucky enough to have been dealt that card (or often times, cards).  So, why are we blamed even though we’re the victim of the disorder?

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I had a really sweet person talk to me on Facebook not long ago and they said this (with truly the best intentions):  “But you seem so normal.  I thought bipolars were like, more crazy, than you are.”  Hmmmmm.  Do you know what ‘crazy’ actually means?  Deranged.  Insane.  Mad.  Unless we’re channeling Ted Bundy, that’s not what mental illness is.  We are ‘normal’ people in that we love, work, read, garden, run, raise kids, clean our houses, mow our yards, ride our bikes.  Bipolar and all mental illnesses/disorders are always with us and these things can be a huge struggle at times; but we’re not ‘always’ the disease.  Major depression is always with my sissy, but she’s not always at the mercy of it.  Schizophrenia is always with my nephew, but he has stable times when you wouldn’t ever suspect he could be psychotic.

Look, I love love love that y’all who don’t have a mental illness are reading this blog.  It shows you have a desire to learn more about these issues, as well as enjoying my incredible wit 🙄.  But may I ask you a huge favor?  Will you please do more for me?  For all of us who have these illnesses and disorders?  Try to use the info for more understanding.  More compassion.  More accurate perceptions that being mentally ill doesn’t mean being crazy.  Help others understand that too by correcting them when you hear stereotypes or misinformation.

My goal here is to stop the stigma of mental illness.  I guess it started with me on these pages…but it ends with all of us.

Kristi xoxo