“Ignorance is the enemy and it fills your head with lies.” ~ Rodney Crowell

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So, the Grand Poobah (my office buddy 😃) and I were yacking yesterday while he was working on an assignment that he didn’t know was appropriate or not. In the chapter he teaches on depression, he wanted to focus attention on suicide with the students reading various articles and watching a documentary about it before writing a paper. He wondered if this would be too triggering for some and we had a discussion about this.

Here’s the thing about triggers: we all have them. After my nephew died in the Navy, every time I heard anything about the military, my heart would pound and my stomach would get a hollow feeling. Before I was open about being bipolar, I’d get nervous talking about mental illness and the importance of awareness, yet I was living a lie which made me so anxious. After I engaged in self-harm, I would get horribly defensive if anyone mentioned cutting or accused me of doing it until I was able to share what I had done. And yes, after I attempted suicide myself, I was extremely sensitive to the topic.

But being a prof of Psychology and Sociology, I can’t back away from these issues because I talk about them in most of my classes. I’ll admit that the first time I taught about suicide after my attempt, I started crying…right in front of my class. I was so embarrassed because that has only happened a couple of times in my entire 3 decades of teaching, but the incident was still fresh in my mind. When I started crying, I quickly thought of lying to my students and telling them I wasn’t feeling well, etc. but then went back to how hypocritical I had been covering up being bipolar for most of my life. I lecture to my students how you have to live authentically and how there is no shame in having a mental illness or having attempted suicide. With that in mind and after a deep breath, I shared that I had attempted suicide myself and explained where I had been in my life at that time.

As I was talking, I couldn’t believe the reactions of the class…some shed tears and some nodded so genuinely that I knew they had had suicidal ideation themselves. After the lecture was over and resources perused, papers were turned in and this is some of what was written to me (with any identifying info taken out but all words of the students as they were written):

“I think the reason it was so hard for me to watch this film is because I have a history with depression. I will not lie and say I have never had a suicidal thought because I have. I used to be in a dark place with my mind and I am not ashamed of that because of how much I have grown. My chest started to get tight while watching the film because it took me back to that time in my life when I was really unhappy. I paused the film and took a break and it helped me. I thought this documentary was very sad and it shows a part of human life that is not shown that much. Suicide is not talked about as much as it should be. There should be more awareness and conversation.”

“This week was a very hard week for me when going over the material. I personally have battled with thoughts of suicide but never had the courage try anything. I grew up with a bipolar mother and struggled with my own anxiety and depression.”

“This topic is tough for me to discuss. I have lost multiple friends due to suicide. I was also almost a suicide victim myself. I struggled my entire life with depression and anxiety. To fully understand the impact of mental health and suicide, I will lay out my story. This is hard for me to do, but I feel it is essential to speak about it.”

“Lastly , I am a survivor of depression and attempting suicide as well. I chose article one because it really touches my life in the last year. My son was self harming by cutting himself on the legs and arms. The day I was told I stopped at nothing trying to find my son’s help. It went from that to last month I found out my son tried x-pills, 2 years of alcohol misuse, becoming withdrawn, rebellious, and just 2 months ago he attempted fighting my daughter and I , he would go from saying he wanted to kill himself, to nobody loving him, to breaking down crying. Glass shattered everywhere, holes in my wall that I’m still trying to get fixed, me trying to console him and my daughter, finally having to call for assistance and watching my son leave by the ambulance screaming he loves me.”

“I can relate to those who express suicidal thoughts, as its something I myself have struggled with. The best way to describe it, is a voice inside your head telling you that no one cares, and your life doesn’t really matter.”

The saddest thing about these comments is that I only picked out these 5 out of the 20 students I had; however, EVERY one of them wrote about their own personal struggles with suicide (the majority) or having a friend or sibling that has attempted or completed. That boggles my mind.

There is so much pain out there. So much loneliness. So much neediness in terms of connection. How horrible that for my students that this has already touched their lives. And from comments in other classes, I also know this class wasn’t an anomaly at all.

Now we talk about triggers which is something I hadn’t heard of or been cautioned about until a few years ago. Us professors are told to tell students when we’ll be studying a subject matter that could be triggering to them and to offer them alternatives. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. However, the research begs to differ.

Take a look at findings published in Clinical Psychology Article:

“The consensus, based on 17 studies using a range of media, including literature passages, photographs, and film clips: Trigger warnings do not alleviate emotional distress. They do not significantly reduce negative affect or minimize intrusive thoughts, two hallmarks of PTSD. Notably, these findings hold for individuals with and without a history of trauma.”

Also, Forbes magazine reported this:

“Across all the variations in the studies, trigger warnings had trivial effects. In the words of Mevagh Sanson, senior author of the study, “The results suggest a trigger warning is neither meaningfully helpful nor harmful.” “The format of the presumably upsetting content, whether in text or on video, did not matter. Neither did a personal history of trauma; participants who reported they had experienced actual trauma in their lives responded to the distressing material similarly, regardless of whether it was preceded by a trigger warning or not.”

Finally, the Chronicle of Higher Education says this:

“We are not aware of a single experimental study that has found significant benefits of using trigger warnings. Looking specifically at trauma survivors, including those with a diagnosis of PTSD, the Jones et al. study found that trigger warnings “were not helpful even when they warned about content that closely matched survivors’ traumas.””

What do psychologists think? Let’s take a look-see at an article in Psychological Science:

“Specifically, we found that trigger warnings did not help trauma survivors brace themselves to face potentially upsetting content,” said Payton Jones, a researcher at Harvard University and lead author on the study. “In some cases, they made things worse.” Worryingly, the researchers discovered that trigger warnings seem to increase the extent to which people see trauma as central to their identity, which can worsen the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the long run.”

So, this sheds all new light in terms of triggers. Not only do they don’t seem to work, but they can also increase the distress of a student.

Now, what are usually seen as triggers? Suicide, eating disorders, sexual assault, domestic violence, mental illness, sex, murder, death and anything else the professor deems might be triggering to a student.

There’s absolutely no doubt these are very difficult subjects to learn about, but they are very important to understand. Every 11 seconds, another American takes their own life while there’s also 14 people being hurt by their intimate partner. One in 5 Americans live with a mental illness (51+ million people) and someone is raped every 68 seconds.

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Look, these are serious numbers and obviously going to touch all of our lives in one way or another. I once had someone tell me, after a difficult lecture, that ignorance is bliss. Heh? IGNORANCE is bliss? NOT understanding and being oblivious and uninformed is better? For who exactly? You? Us? Me?

If we don’t address these issues…talk about these issues…and learn all we can about them, how in the hell are we going to work at turning these numbers around?

You know, I was really distressed over the sexual abuse I experienced from my psychologist and I’ll be honest: anytime I heard about sexual abuse or rape, I would break out in a sweat and feel like my stomach dropped 10 floors down an elevator. Worse, I started working on a psychology degree and guess what I had to learn all about? I was really nervous when the topic was being presented but the way the professor taught it, I was able to look at it academically and there was truly a comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone. That what I was going through was normal. I learned about sexual abuse and realized that if I always turned my head away from it, I would never be able to use what I’d been through to help others. And that’s what I try to do now.

So here’s the answer to the Grand Poobah who is going to be reading this: keep your assignment on suicide. Students can take breaks when reading articles or watching videos but the information is vital. Suicide (as well as so many other topics I mentioned) is an epidemic and NOT talking about it and teaching about it only keeps it hidden away. I want my students to understand why people want to kill themselves…what signs they can look for…how to talk to someone who is suicidal. I want them to know what early signs of domestic violence are and to understand the pathology of mental illnesses. I want them to be educated in the issues that Americans face every day of their lives.

Unfortunately, I’ve had students come to me days after being raped and I would never ever expect them to complete a unit on sexual assault so soon after the traumatic experience…so there’s obvious exceptions to this. But, ignorance is not bliss and the info we teach isn’t always easy, but it is necessary. Until we face things and help students to understand that their own experiences can be talked about and explored and validated, we are doing them an injustice. We’re simply keeping everyone in the dark.

Kristi xoxo

“They’ll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air…” ~ David Bowie – 1984

So, I saw a display in our college library that made me so so so so so so so upset, angry, frustrated, and gobsmacked that I had to get up an hour early today to blawg about it.

Now excuse me for asking, but is this 2021? Seriously. Are we living in 2021 or 1921? 1821? Are we living in the United States (or other wonderful countries…I have my peeps from around the globe!! 😍) or a communist state with total control over the media we consume? Does the American constitution not have a little something in it called ‘freedom of press’ which guarantees the right to report news or circulate opinion without censorship from the government? Hmmmm.

Anyhoot, I’m talking about banned books.

Let me say that again in case you thought you were having some episode while reading it and didn’t get it: I’m talking about banned books as well as ‘challenged’ or ‘restricted’ books. The difference? A ‘challenge’ is an attempt to remove or restrict books based on the objections of a person/group while ‘banning’ is actually removing the books. But no matter what nomenclature you use, the result is the same: people NOT being able to have access to books of their choice in the schools and libraries in the areas in which they live.

I was going to give you a list of all the banned books (that’s the term I’m going to stick with) but honestly, if I typed them all out, I would be getting carpal tunnel surgery within weeks and I’d prefer not to do that. So, here’s the link to the 156 books on the 2020 list. Grab yourself a cup of tea (or in my case, and nice wine cooler so I can remain as calm as possible 😳 ) and start perusing.

One reason given for banning Anne Frank was because it’s a ‘downer and depressing’. I kid you not. Also because of sexual scenes which is Anne experiencing puberty: making jokes about it and talking about her development.

Anyhoot, on this gem of a list, we have titles such as ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ (God forbid we learn about the holocaust from a teenage girl living in captivity), ‘I Know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (quite the rabble rouser whose autobiography talks about racism and her own experience being sexually assaulted as a child…2 things we should never talk or learn more about). ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini since it contains ‘offensive’ language, religious viewpoints, and…gasp…sexual situations. ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls because her autobiography has abuse and ‘sexual scenes’ in which an older man tries to undress Jeannette and a woman shows her freaking bra. And finally, ‘The Holy Bible’ for religious viewpoints. Well hells bells…who would read the bible (or for that matter, any religious tome like the Quran which is also banned) for a ‘religious’ viewpoint? I just like learning about all the begatting that went on.

Mind you, these books aren’t banned everywhere…but are banned in areas just the same: public libraries, schools and their libraries, and even in ACADEMIA. You know, the place where we are supposed to open our minds to everything. Right.

So…parents are the first to initiate the process of banning books. Nice. Why in the world would they want their little darlings exposed to things such as racism, diversity, disabilities, drug addiction, mental illness,and LGBTQ issues (all of which represent the vast majority of books banned)? Much better to keep them ignorant. OH WAIT! They are exposed to it…all over freaking social media which parents let their kids absorb like sponges. The ALA’s found this: “Books that talked about racism and racial justice — or told the stories of people of color or the LGBTQ community — were among the most challenged as inappropriate for students in 2020.” Charmed, I’m sure.

Now let me get this straight…parents initiate the process of banning books that are classics in terms of their writing, themes, etc. but allow their girls to twerk on Tik-Tok for views, dress in clothes I’ve seen as being too skimpy for call girls to wear, watch Kendall Jenner make an ass out of herself by solving racism with a fucking Pepsi, being introduced to porn at the average age of 11 because of all the unsupervised time kids have online, and seeing people have sex and get murdered in movie after movie. OK…that’s all well and good. But for the love of all that’s holy, ban the books. I understand now. 🙄

And schools? Look…as an educator for 30 years I’m here to tell you this: it’s NOT my job to tell my students WHAT they should believe. It’s my job to give my students the ability to DISCOVER what’s out there that will give them a view of the world much much bigger than what is said in a classroom. There’s a difference there…huh?

Another frightening thought? According to the ALA, surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media. So…more can be added to this extensive list anytime.

But at least children’s books are safe. What could be wrong with ‘Hop on Pop’ by Dr. Seuss or ‘A Light in the Attic’ by Shel Silverstein? Apparently, ‘Hop in Pop’ has been challenged because it could encourage kids to be violent against their dads and a poem in the Silverstein collection called “How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes” obviously encourages messiness and disobedience. Then, there’s ‘My Mom is Having a Baby’ which shows where babies come from. The horror of that is more than I can stand. That’s why O still thinks it’s the stork that brought him to me. Peeps, you can’t make this shit up.

Why am I crying over this? Why did seeing the display of the banned books bring tears to my eyes? Because of this: we need other opinions. We need to hear voices that our different from ours. We need to walk in someone elses shoes. We need to understand that our perceptions aren’t the only perceptions out there. We need to live in a society where we can write and publish what we want to say. We need to be able to talk about race…mental illness…disabilities…LGBTQ issues…without barriers. We need all viewpoints. What we need is books.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? We need books. No one should be able to tell anyone what they can and can’t read. What they should or shouldn’t read. What is available or not available to them at public libraries. Even kids and young adults. Look, I know there are books out there that younger kids simply should not read and of course there needs to be guidance for what a child is ready or not ready for. But isn’t that a parents decision to make for their own child? If O wanted to read something above his understanding, we talked about it…had a conversation, and I made the judgment call myself. I do trust that most books written at certain levels are OK, but I don’t trust the same with what kids consume on social media and believe me, they consume a lot more on that platform than in the pages of a book. I truly don’t believe ‘Hop on Pop’ is going to scar kids forever and reading ‘Anne Frank’ is going to cause young girls to become depressed and sexually active. Look, books open doors for all of us…young and old. And, we can choose to walk through that door or not. But that choice should be ours…and ours alone.

Kristi xoxo

“You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors…” ~ Taylor Swift (Fifteen)

So, OH MY GOSH…it feels so so so so so so so good to be back in my classroom! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! 🥰

We’re in the 4th week of the semester now and I have 6 online and 3 on-campus classes. For the first couple of weeks in the classroom, the mood was a bit subdued. Not a lot of excitement about being back since it had been so long and a lot of students got used to the convenience and routine of online learning. But this week? It’s a 180! We have the spark back…the mojo…the groove (I’m a 70’s girl…what can I say 🙄)!

I don’t know how many times I’ve said that teaching is my passion (probably more than a million) but these past 18 months really made me see it anew. I like teaching online and have been doing it since 1999. I took a series of online classes myself in the early 2000’s and earned my Master Online Teaching Certificate from the U of I. Impressive…right (that should get me a date 😐)? So, not only am I educated in the pedagogy of this type of teaching, I’ve experienced it as a student too. This makes me look at my classes and ask myself: would I like this? If the answer is a NO (!), I re-vamp until I would.

Hubby 3 liked being my Guinea Pig; after I would get my classes created, I get him in a student view and tell him to click all around and tell me what he didn’t understand. Invariably he’d find something that wasn’t clear and I’d change it. It really helped me out and I think I have it down pat now.

I feel like I can still build relationships with students online…that’s part of what you need to learn to teach this way effectively. It’s little things like always using their name in every comment, etc. you make…offering a couple extra credit points where they have to e-mail you an answer to a question like “Where would you live if you could live anywhere and why?” They have to expand on their answer and then I always respond. It gives us a chance to talk more one on one about things we’re interested in. I make videos every week so they know a ‘real’ person is out there and I try to create discussions/activities that are meaningful.

BUT in my opinion, no matter how well online classes are structured to be interactive and worthwhile, they are just not the same as my face to face. Period. To me, nothing can take place of seeing faces…expressions…calling on students who I can tell are getting it…asking students what they don’t understand…and having students walk me to my office everyday after class. I love this ‘real’ interaction and it’s happening this semester in all 3 of my campus courses. It makes me feel like I am making connections and without those, you don’t give the student much motivation to listen and learn from you.

I also think the academics are different for both types of classes, and online learning can either be an easy way to ‘slide’ through a class, or a challenging way to get as much as you can out of the class; the amount of individual effort is crucial in terms of what students actually get out of the class. In fact, I truly believe that many of my online students learn more than the ones I have on-campus because they are so driven to get all they can from them.

Dedicated and eager students absorb everything and learn how to actively work with the material given and learn more than just the topics: they learn independent research, time management, computer literacy, how to express themselves only in writing (which I think is a GREAT skill to master), etc.

On the other hand, I’ve had students who simply slide by in them…that’s always going to happen for whatever reason (but to be fair, that happens on campus too). Not reading the info I provide…not watching the videos I make or upload…looking up answers for quizzes instead of studying all of the material first…putting the bare minimum into discussions where it’s obvious that a couple of things from the topic were googled and stitched together. I hate this! I don’t want students to walk out of (or in this case, log off of 💻) my classes without them knowing everything they possibly can about the material. And with psychology and sociology, it’s not just info to learn…it’s info to use! That’s important to me and why I teach what I teach.

Lord knows I am a pro at psychology even without a textbook. For fuck sakes (sorry, ma 🤨) I’ve had a fucking (I couldn’t resist) mental illness for as long as I can remember…literally. I’ve experienced a whole plethora of things that have gone into my psyche and I don’t think even Freud would want to dig around in there…it’s probably a gooey mess.

But learning all about psychology means learning all about why our minds work the way they work. Why we think like we do…dream like we do…remember like we do…perceive like we do. EVERYTHING we’ve ever experienced is stuck in that glob of cells somewhere and it affects us in one way or another.

And then sociology means learning about how our society affects us and what issues are important for all of us to understand. Hopefully, my students come out being much more aware and educated about racism, gender issues, ageism, the structure of society and how we all fit into it, class issues, cultural differences, etc. Right now we’re studying socialization in my Intro classes and my students are learning how their environment has affected them since the day they were born. We talk about how we develop our self image…our sense of self as it pertains to others…how our personalities were developed in the context of our environments…how the media affects us…the power our family had on our development, etc. This is stuff that’s important to know!

(By the way, just in case you can’t tell, I love to teach what I teach!)

Anyhoot, after being away from actual student ‘bodies’ for so long, just being back and being able to talk to them in person is awesome. The last few months of school being closed was really tough for me and the other teachers and profs I know. It was a long time to have to work from home, and a very long time not being in the actual environment that you were meant to be in. Like a fish out of water, so to speak! 🐟🐠🐡🦈🐬

So, my sweetie pie students…I’m so happy to be back to see half of your beautiful, and I assume smiling, faces again. I’ve missed you all so much and truly got lonely for you. If you’ve had me before, welcome back! Seeing you again was wonderful! If you’re new…YEA! I can’t wait to know you better and see you grow!

Have a great school year everyone!

Kristi xoxo

“But I do know one and one is two…” ~ Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

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So, a couple of things made me happy yesterday and I couldn’t wait to talk about them with you. Here goes.

First, I attended a virtual workshop on how to ‘Humanize the Online Experience’ in your college classes. The speaker was wonderful and talked about how students need connection, rapport, feelings that the instructor is genuine and real, etc. I totally agreed with this but after a while, I realized that the necessity for this workshop made me sad. You see, this to me is a no-brainer. Really.

I guess I was a ‘humanized’ professor before the ‘humanization of professors’ was ‘cool’…suddenly, what set me apart is now ‘vogue’ in academia. I have always believed that unless you see your prof as someone you can connect with, you won’t learn a freaking thing from them. I’ve had bosses who I had no connection for…no respect for…no investment in because they stifled any hope of that happening. “We must remain objective and somewhat cold in order to maintain order” seems to be a common mantra amongst some college personnel. But why?

I’ve been hugging students longer than most of you have been alive (shutty the mouthy, please 🙄) and I’ve gotten looks from it over the years. I also share with my students. I share my experience of being sexually abused. My experiences regarding my divorces (another shutty, peeps🤨 ). What it’s like to have a mental illness. What it’s like to self-harm and attempt suicide. What it was like having a batterer married to ma for so many years. And what it’s like to get yourself out of a very very dark place in order to see the light again. I answer any questions honestly, and there are times when I cry with my students. When we’re tackling the hard stuff in my psychology and sociology classes, I might stop the lecture, walk over to someone who is tearing up, hug them around the shoulders (I ask…I don’t want to invade space), and tell them we are all supporting them. I had a dean once tell me I was ‘being too nice’ to my students and my job wasn’t ‘comforting them or being their friend.’ Well, my retired dean, it was. And still is.

When you take a gander at the definition of ‘teacher’ you get this (courtesy of Merriam-Webster): ‘to impart knowledge’ and ‘to instruct by precept, example, or experience.’ How in the world are you going to be an effective professor if you show nothing of yourself? Don’t help students learn from your own experiences? Don’t show students how their own bad experiences don’t have to shape them forever? How do you expect students to learn when they are needing ‘more’ from you? A smile. A hug. An empathic ear that listens and validates and doesn’t just spout platitudes. Why in the hell would a student want to open themselves up in anything less than this type of environment?

You see, something I was reminded of yesterday was how thinking and emotion go hand in hand. They both originate from the mind and both need each other to survive. If a students feels lonely or like an outcast…has depression or is anxious…is fighting a battle that’s not readily apparent, how can they learn? Seriously. How effective are YOU when you are emotional? How well do you do your job? Remember what you read? Retain what you heard? I don’t know about you, but when I’m in an ’emotional state’ it pretty much supersedes anything else. Period. And, if you don’t address these issues by not inquiring how students are doing or noticing a student who is suddenly quiet and down without asking if they’d like to talk…they aren’t going to learn from you. And, if they see that you can’t be real in the class…how the hell do you expect them too?

I think teaching is more than imparting knowledge. I think it’s building connections with people where they learn the academics but also more about themselves. Where they come out of a class feelings stronger. Better. More supported and supporting. More understood and understanding. And this is a NEW concept? Well spank me hard. I was ahead of my freaking time.

Then yesterday, a student shared a video with me of a woman doing a talk about how a professor helped her deal with her rape by speaking up about her own sexual assault. My student wrote “You are this professor to me”.

I’ve had students say a lot of things to me over the years (some not so hot 😐) but these words hit me the hardest. It showed me that opening myself up…providing students with the atmosphere to do the same…means something. Can do something. Something more than memorizing who the Father of Sociology is (Auguste Comte…my sweetie students better have known this 😉).

Look, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Teaching isn’t fucking Rocket Science (sorry, ma 🙄) . And for those who think it is, you’re doing it wrong. Just like when Michael Keaton is “Mr. Mom” and he’s dropping off his kid incorrectly at their school and a room mom tells him: “You’re doing it wrong.” It should never be ‘hard’ for a prof to connect. Build. Encourage. Motivate. Validate. And if it is…you just might want to go into something else.

Professoring is a people ‘job’. It’s bringing a room full of strangers together for 16 weeks and creating a bit of a family out of them. A family where they feel comfortable sharing and voicing opinions and asking questions and opening themselves up to what you say. It’s creating a place where students can be expressive…vulnerable…willing to learn from everyone around them. It’s not the brain that’s hard to use when professoring…it’s the heart.

But, I’m here to tell you this: when you can use the heart as much as the head in a classroom then you have come to the point when real learning takes place.

Kristi xoxo

There’s none so blind as he who can’t see.

So, an article came up in a newsfeed the other day and I can honestly say I was more gobsmacked than I’ve ever been in my entire life on this earth (around 40 years or so… 🙄).

First of all, I want to assure you I have not, and will not, ever ever ever be a part of TikTok. I don’t really get the premise outside of people dancing and singing and making videos to share, and the only person I know who actually uses it watches young girls shake their boobs and behiners (he’s my age). I’m sorry…call me crazy (many have 🙄), but I think this is a bit creepy…to say the least.

Anyhoot, there’s something called ‘trauma porn’ and it’s where people either ‘pretend’ to be victims of something or they use their own story in a sensationalized way for attention.

I knew this existed (because I’m just so gosh darn smart) but when I saw this picture, I was speechless.

So in this case, we have these young women pretending to be holocaust victims.  Peeps…please read that sentence again.  These women are pretending to be concentration camp victims and my question is who, in the name of all that is holy, would ever…in a million years…think it’s OK to appropriate this tragedy and use it as a way to get viewers on fucking TikTok? Seriously? I’m speechless (which is quite unnatural for me to be 😳.

As I often do, I’m typing this outside on my laptop (while Eddie and Dottie frolic around…eating poop…and yapping at absolutely nothing) and my beautiful neighbor came out with her dog.  She asked what I was doing and when I told her about this trend and that I was trying to write about it, here’s what she said: “You know, people my generation have never really faced trauma or tragedy anywhere close to the holocaust and how can they even imagine what it would have been like?  How could they ever presume to know that pain?  They’ve been shielded from so much anyway.”

Continue reading “There’s none so blind as he who can’t see.”

“No student is bad. They only need a good teacher.” ~ Rahul Nair

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So, I was chatting with someone the other day and they said this:  “Those who can’t do, teach.”  OK.  I’m going to wait until you educators pull your jaws up off the floor and are able to blink again.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Ready?  I’m going to sum up what my first reaction was to this:  What the fuck (sorry, ma…but you helped put me through college…aren’t you a bit pissed too?)?!  Are you kidding me?  Really?

First of all, how totally ridiculous is that phrase?  I can’t even.  I’m mean seriously…I refuse to type it again since it pisses me off so much.  Let me get this straight:  if I CAN’T do something, I CAN teach it.  Hmmmmm…so…if I CAN’T speak German (which I’d like to be able to since it was the native language of my great-grandparents 😳), I CAN still jolly well teach it?  Okey dokey!  Well…let’s see…I can’t look at the periodic table and not think it should be re-arranged differently because it’s just not aesthetically pleasing, understand an electrical circuit (just ask my brother in law 😵), comprehend anything at all about astronomy, see algebraic equations and not want to poke myself in the eye with a hot stick since they simply look like gobbedly-gook to me and it stresses me out even more than I ususally am just peering at them, peruse biological concepts and wonder how I have kept myself alive this long since I understand nothing about bodily functions, read about a physics law and marvel at the fact I can ride a freaking bike when I have absolutely no clue in God’s world how I’m doing it, and the list goes on.  BUT, I can certainly TEACH about biology and electricity and algebra.  Right?  Good to know.  Blech.

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OK.  Maybe you’re rolling your eyes (don’t do that, grasshoppers…according to ma they’ll stick that way and you’ll be looking at ceilings for the rest of your lives 🙄) and saying to yourself:  “The quote doesn’t mean that!  It means that if you CAN’T be successful in the field, THEN you teach.”

OH!  Much better!  🙄  Heh??  Why can’t people understand that the great majority of educators WANTED to teach?  That it was our primary objective?  That teaching is a discipline?  That we studied the particular field we teach AND learned how to teach it?

Actually, this begs even more questions:  When did people lose so much respect for educators (I mean, hello?!!  Who the hell taught them how to read?)?  When did we start to demand so much more from teachers while losing appreciation for them at the same time?  When did teachers become the scapegoats for so many of society’s ills?  And, when we talk about educational issues in general, why is it that faculty are judged first, when in fact they are following the dictates of an administration who may never have taught themselves?  Does that really make sense, peeps?  Me don’t think so.  🤨

Anyhoot, besides providing fodder for a rambling intro, when that quote was said to me, it started me thinking of other ‘myths’ regarding teachers.  And believe you me, there’s a lot of ’em.  (Side note:  I’ve never really gotten the phrase ‘believe you me’.  It doesn’t make sense but I like using it anyway…it just sounds catchy to me).

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Photo Credit

So y’all know that us educators have it made; I mean look…we get our summers off!  Right?  If you believe that, I have some great ocean side property in Iowa to sell you for a buck an acre (put your checkbook away ma…I was just making a point 🙄).  Unlike for all the other people in the world that actually ‘work’ and not teach, this has been a very relaxing summer for me.  I taught 3 summer classes because I need the income and because I want students to have every opportunity possible to get their needed credit hours.  I shoved 16 weeks of work into 8 for each class and that made for hours and hours of grading every week; and since I taught them online (which is not my first choice but necessary this summer and also because summer students traditionally like online 😎), I was making tons of videos and helping students with not only their academic work but with some technology issues as well.

Then, I always use the summer to get ready for fall (us educators never live in the ‘semester’ we’re teaching…instead, we are always teaching one semester while preparing for the next).  That means I’m prepping 8 classes (so many because we have an open faculty position we can’t fill because of Covid and interviewing issues, etc.) to be online and for every single one of these develop 16 weeks of fresh, engaging, interactive material.  That’s 128 weeks of work to get ready with me researching every topic/issue/concept I teach in 2 different disciplines and then going through loads and loads of info so my students learn as much as they possibly can.  Being in front of the computer with scads of books, articles, sites, videos, etc. to wade through for 6-7 hours a day made for a relaxing summer ‘off’.  Huh?

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“But Kristi, you get paid the big bucks as a professor!”  No, my sweetie peeps, I don’t.  Yes, I make good money and am truly blessed by what I do.  And I mean that…I get paid for doing what I love and for being with my sweetie students who I absolutely adore.  But, I’m not going to get ‘rich’ (which doesn’t matter to me one iota since so many wealthy men are lining up to marry me anyway 🤓 ) and struggle with money at times.  I know so so so many people live paycheck to paycheck and that I’m very lucky I always have enough to pay what I need too with some left over.  However, I think people hear the word professor (or even teacher) and think RICH.  Nuh uh.  (So, if you’re a nice rich, single guy and you like teachers…just sayin’).  🤨  In fact, according to Visual Capitalist, out of 50 college degrees, education is ranked #49 in terms of salary.  49!

Another gem?  A good teacher can teach anyone.  Bullshit.  Any questions?

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C’mon now.  Students have to want to learn…be motivated to learn…put their own work into the process…and the list goes on.  Teachers aren’t the only part of the equation in the educational process.  Trust me.  And it’s getting harder.  Students have a repository of knowledge in the palm of their hand.  They don’t need to know how to look through indexes, read dozens of articles and books, take notes, type out papers multiple times on a typewriter until it’s just right, etc.  Now, they can just say:  “Hey Google…what are the 3 theoretical perspectives of Sociology?”  (VERY important to know, peeps…you might be on Jeopardy someday 🙄).  So, we are now trying to teach students how to learn…how to think for themselves outside of what ‘wikipedia’ says…how to analyze information…how to be media literate…how to show that the info we present is applicable in real life…and how to find a love of reading and learning simply for the sake of it.  That’s tough to do.  Trust me.

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Glasbergen Cartoon Service

“Well, you might say…at least teaching is ‘easy’.  I mean, you’re pretty much just talking to students and all.”  Hubby 3 (sigh…shutty the mouthy…), a maintenance technician, thought this for a time…bless his motorcycle lovin’ heart.  But then he was asked to teach a 6 hour class about crane inspection (I can’t think of anything I’d least like to sit through…except maybe ma telling one more story about a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who might have something but doesn’t know for sure 🙄).  I tried to give him some teaching tips (of course, what did I know…I’d only been doing it for a couple of decades 😳), but he said it would be a cinch…he knew his stuff.  Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy!

After his class, he plodded up the driveway and looked exhausted.  The first thing he did upon walking in the door was to grab me, hug me, and say “How the hell do you do this everyday?  It was a nightmare!”  (Actually his language was much more graphic then this…but it might shock the knickers off of ma).  I asked what happened and he said:  “People weren’t listening and were talking and were asking stupid questions I had already answered and whining for a break and mumbling about why was I the one teaching this crap and I’d say something 3 times and they still wouldn’t get it and my PowerPoints were illegible because I made them too wordy and then they’d want a bathroom break and then their phone would go off and I’d have to start my sentence over and then one fell asleep and started snoring and then a couple of the guys started laughing while a couple others were arguing about unions and I just wanted to get in a factory and be out of that God forsaken room.”  I didn’t use punctuation in that sentence because Hubby didn’t when he said it.  It was just one long complaint.  And after this little adventure in academia?  He never ever ever said I didn’t work hard.  Ever.

Out of all of these gems, this is my favorite quote about teachers:  “Most damaging to student achievement: teachers are interchangeable widgets.” ~ Joni Johnson

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror.

OK.  I don’t know who the hell this person is, and to be honest, I don’t want to know.  But to make a blanket statement about a group of people that you apply to every individual means you weren’t listening in sociology class when stereotyping and prejudice were being discussed.  Just sayin’.

Yes.  There are good professors and bad professors.  Good teachers and bad teachers.  But by the same token, there are good chefs and bad chefs…good docs and bad docs…good accountants and bad accountants…and the list goes on.  Why is it that educators are singled out as a group and if one is bad, the whole lot of them are?  I don’t get that at all.

Finally, us educators are told that we need to be flexible, accommodating, understanding, work to develop a one on one relationship with each student, not provide so much homework, lessen demands and expectations, challenge our students, apply every concept to real life, know everything there is to know about our subject matter, allow for more individuation in learning, have passion, be inspirational, keep things lighthearted so learning is fun, bring our own personal stories into the class, etc.  Whew.

Now, take a look-see at those expectations again.  And then tell me…honestly…how many people in ANY profession can do any of those things every single day?  Not only is it impossible, but so many are counter to one another!  It’s sorta tricky to challenge our students while lessening our demands on them.  In other words, profs…all educators…are held to a higher standard in terms of their ‘job’ and everything is supposed to be ‘wonderful’ in the classroom regardless of day, topic, etc.  I’m here to tell you, peeps…lecturing about domestic violence does not make for a lighthearted class.  Trust me.

When O was a medium sized guy, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the schools career day, and the PTA President (cough cough…shrew…cough cough) said I would only get a few minutes since kids know what teachers do anyway.  So…I made the following list to talk about that I called:  “What Does Professor K do all Day?” (I love rhymes…):

  • Prepare lectures, PowerPoints/videos/handouts
  • Prepare both master and working syllabi each semester
  • Prepare records/data for program reviews and course reviews
  • Develop online classes
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Prepare exams ensuring they are reliable and valid
  • Calculate midterm and final semester grades
  • Meet with students often for extra help and guidance
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Integrate new learning and technology into classes every semester
  • Be evaluated by dean and then prepare a self-evaluation every year
  • Advise students on majors and courses
  • Counsel students on careers and job opportunities in the field
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking scholarships
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking entrance into a university
  • Present community workshops as part of the colleges Speaker’s Bureau
  • Participate in college and departmental meetings
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Serve on college committees
  • Serve on search committees for new faculty members
  • Serve on tenure committees
  • Earn continuing education hours to maintain my professional designation
  • Grade Grade Grade

I think that pretty much covers it.  And, since my time on campus is spent being with my sweetiepie students, I spend hours and hours working at home as well.

Look, I’m not saying that teaching is the hardest job in the world.  It’s not.  Really.  However, teaching is a field that is losing respect and teachers are being scrutinized more and more as students’ work and test scores decline.  Educators have ‘bosses’ too and there is only so much ‘freedom’ we have to do what we think is right.  Professors have to do what our admin tells us to do.  Elementary – High School teachers have to follow the dictates of the district…teach so kids can pass the standardized tests…operate under whatever funding is available.  And we all have to keep our mouths shutty when we, as EDUCATORS, realize that what NON-EDUCATORS (who are often on school boards, etc.) direct is often wrong.  How frustrating that is.

Anyhoot, I love what I do.  And I’m good at what I do.  As are millions of educators out there.  Give us a break, guys.  Cut us some slack.  We are not at fault for the world’s ills and the ‘buck’ does not stop at the teacher in terms of education.  Parents, communities, and the students themselves have to be added to the equation (which is hard for me to do…remember, I suck balls at math 😳) for what makes successful education in any society.  And, if you see one of your old teachers out and about, say ‘howdy’ and give them a little hug (masked, of course 😷) and tell them how much you learned from them.  It will make their day.  Truly.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

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