“And she’s dancing like she’s never danced before.” ~ Flashdance

So, I’ve talked a lot in this blawg about depression but not much about mania. I actually think this is harder to understand because not as many people have experienced it. The National Institute of Health found estimates to range from .08% to 1.6% for people who experience a manic episode in their lives. That’s not many, peeps. So why am I talking about this now? Well…because that’s what I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of weeks and I gotta say that it sucks. Big time.

See, about a month or so ago, my doc helped me taper off of lamotrigine because the side effects were really bothering me. One was muscle weakness and everyday felt like the day after a bad flu. You know, that weakish, blech feeling where trudging around your living room is tiring. And as someone who likes to run and workout (because it helps me so much with the depression 😐), this was horrible! Prior to starting lamotrigine, I was running 4-5 miles a day…after I got on it, I could barely do a half mile.

Then there were also a couple other effects that I just can’t abide because of what I do: professoring (and no, before you ask I was not an English major 🙄). I was espeically struggling with some memory issues and I was having trouble finding the right words and them getting them out…speaking problems are a side effect and it was scary to me that I couldn’t ‘talk right’. Finally, my concentration was being affected. Soooooo…bye bye, lamotrigine.

I also tapered off of my anti-depressant (which really wasn’t the best one for bipolar) and am now on prozac which I would marry if I could. (SIDE NOTE: the other day, ma and I were yacking to a man who was at least 1000 years old. After he left, ma actually said this sentence to me: “Kristi…I wonder if he’s single for you?” What the fuck (really, ma…you kinda deserve this one)? I said: “Ma. For piss sakes. That man was born during the Civil War (bless his heart, he was a doll…but…), can barely walk, talk or eat without assistance, and the chance of him being able to be naughty is a billion to one. So….no.” God I love that woman for trying though😍).

Anyhoot, getting off a mood stabilizer and then stopping one anti-depressant and beginning another triggered a manic episode. Yea.

So many people have said to me that they wished they could be manic so they could get stuff done. But you know, let’s be honest here…that’s like saying “I wish I could be depressed so I could get some rest.” It’s just the other end of the spectrum and even though it’s a ‘high’, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

I haven’t slept more than 4-5 hours a night for these past 3 weeks or so and it’s not that I’m not tired because I’m actually pretty freaking exhausted (after you hear all that is buzzing around in my head, you’ll understand this 😳). But, when you’re manic, nothing turns off so I lay in bed with my mind literally going so fast I can’t even keep track of my thoughts. Even now, typing this, I’m thinking of a 100 different things…here goes my head at this very moment: making some lists by scribbling keywords in my notebook, worrying about getting some work done, wanting to deliver something to ma’s, wanting to create some interactive homepages for my classes (one of them is up for my Theories of Personality class and it rocks!), looking at Eddie and wanting to walk him since it’s not quite as hot today as it has been, seeing that my backyard needs weed-n-feed, remembering I have someone coming over to buy a bike and I want to get it looking good for them, knowing I just re-potted 2 new monstera deliciosas I bought (AAAAGGGGGHHHHH…these made me sosososososo happy to get!) and I need to get them in place with the right amount of light, having to put together a piece of furniture that I got and then having to call FedEx because they lost another one (my desk I really need), wanting to start 2 other posts with ideas I just came up with typing this, getting my dishes done, needing to sand a wall I puttied because I borrowed my neighbors sander and don’t want to keep it too long, knowing I have some stinky towels hanging up outside that need laundered, wanting to vacuum, needing to pack up some books to take to the Salvation Army, now wanting to go out and buy my own sander, and wanting to run back to Lowe’s (where I’ve already been) and get a plant for my daughter. That’s it. All that’s in my head now. And in bed? Just multiply these thoughts by 100. Peeps, it’s fucking overwhelming.

My notebook…this is how I write when I’m manic!

How would I illustrate this? Hmmm. You know when cars accelerate and you can see the wheels start to turn…then after they get going fast, it almost doesn’t look like they are spinning at all? That’s close.

Yes, it’s ‘nice’ to have the energy to get things done as opposed to not wanting to do anything at all but it’s a ‘frenetic’ energy where you are so frazzled, you are moving from one thing to the other to the other and thinking more and more as you do this. I can’t even take the time to write everything down…that takes too long!

But here’s the thing. People try to help me navigate through all of this when I’m manic, but nothing ‘helps’. When you’re depressed, people might say “You need to get up and get moving around…that will help.” Or, “Remember how lucky you are compared to others!” Or, “Everyone feels down…you just have to snap out of it and stop moping.” Now, for my peeps with depression or who have experienced a depressive episode, did any of these statements,or others you might have heard, help? Nope.

Ditto with mania. My sweet ole ma is worried about me and last night told me that I just had to calm down and call the doc and have him do something. But he can’t. There’s nothing to do. This is part of the freaking mental illness I have and it’s going to happen. I can’t calm down…but the thing is, I wish to hell I could. I can’t just take a deep breath…slow down…take a nap…etc. Just like when I’m depressed, I can’t force myself to ‘cheer up.’

I think my depression is a little easier for ma to handle. She hates when I’m down, but I’m not as much “out there” in terms of the bipolar. But with mania? You KNOW there’s something going on. My sweetie past student and I were yapping on the phone today and she was so so so confused because I was trying to tell her so much so fast! With mania, I’m so much more talkative, loud, emotionally demonstrative, ‘fast’ in everything I do (I’m like a kid when I’m manic in that I don’t want to take the time to pee…it’s too much of a break from what I’m doing 😲), so wired up and anxious, so distractible (this is coming up as misspelled but isn’t distractible a word?? 😳).

The upside? My house has never looked better because I’ve done so much to it. I also have so so so many ideas for art projects I want to do, as well as ideas for how I want to paint my living room! I’ve organized and organized and you could eat off my floors (why do people say that? I’ve never eaten off a floor and hope to heaven I never do 😐). I also am doing more and more things in my classes and from the feedback I’m getting, my sweetie pie students are liking it! (I’m so so so blessed to have these sweeties in my life…I miss them so much since we aren’t on-campus 😥). In fact, being manic and living alone while socially distancing from people is hard!

Anyhoot, that’s mania for you and understanding it is just as important as understanding depression. It’s also important for people to realize that mania is no different from depression in that you can’t help it. I know how hard that is to get for those that have never experienced it. But please don’t tell us to ‘calm it down’ or ‘just stop it’. Those of us who experience mania would give most anything to be able to do that. Just let us talk and do and plan, but keep an eye on us…that’s what we really need. We might want to spend too much or do something that’s not a great idea, so help us out with that if you can.

I know my mania cycle is probably going to be here for a time but I’m handling it fairly well. Ma, sis, and son are letting me yack at them and vent to them and let me tell me all the stuff I’ve done. That’s what I need. Just people there for me as I experience the other end of the spectrum that bipolar is all about. Maybe that’s the key for all of us with mental illnesses or disorders: having people there to support us and hold our hand through whatever pitfalls we have to traverse. And I’m lucky I have that…not just with my fam, but with all of you who support me every time you read this. Thank you.

And by the way, if you have any roofing, painting, sanding, building, arting, crafting, plant buying, potting, hugging, or anything else you need, holler at me. Lord knows I have the energy to ‘git er done’ for you. 😉

Kristi xoxo

“We don’t want no devils in the house, God…” ~ Kanye West

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Dear Kim,

So, I’m going to be honest right from the start and I hope you understand but I’m not a big fan of yours.  I’m sorry, it’s just that I try so hard to teach  my sweetie students that their beauty and worth comes from within, and then for them to see you on Instagram wearing corsets, in make-up that looks to be as thick as a steak, and then photoshopped to where you have no hair follicles kind of confuses them.  But anyhoot, I digress (which is very common for me to do 🙄).

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Look, your husband needs help.  And he needs it now.  It’s true Kanye and I have very little in common.  I’m white and he’s black.  I’m a woman and he’s a man, I’m a middle-class professor in a smallish city in IL and he’s a star that jet sets across the world, and I’m not running for president (yet…but a gal at Hobby Lobby told me I should…what do you think 😳?).  However, we both have bipolar disease and that connects us more than anything else could.

I know you are well aware of his mental illness, but I don’t understand why you haven’t helped him get the long-term treatment that could benefit him tremendously.  Yes, he was in a mental health facility for a short while in 2016 which led to his diagnosis, but that was only a band-aid on what he really needs.  I know he doesn’t want to take medications in case it ‘stifles his creativity’ (I like to macrame 🤨) and in his line of work I get that.  But you need to realize that Kanye suffers from something called anosognosia which is an inability for him to realize he sick.  You have to be his ‘eye’s for him right now.

And Kim, he is very sick.  Look, if your hubby was suffering from appendicitis and needed to go to the ER, you’d take him in a flash (or your chauffeur would…I have one too I can call on: I call her ‘ma’ 🙄) even if he said it was just gas.  By the same token, people with mental illness often don’t ‘see’ what’s happening to them and if they do, they’ll deny the fuck out of it (BTW, does your ma get pissed when you say ‘fuck’…I know mine does.  Maybe they could chat sometime about that.  Also, I’d like to ask Kris to show my ma how to style her short hair in different ways…I think she’d like that 🤔).  I know this because I’ve done the exact same thing.

A lot of people don’t realize that some of us with untreated bipolar can become psychotic, and in my humble opinion (it’s actually not humble…I’m kinda smart about stuff like this since I’m a psychology professor…just sayin’) your hubby is experiencing pretty severe delusions which puts him in this category of symptoms.

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Look, he’s compared himself to Picasso, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson (I wouldn’t be too proud of that one…just sayin’) and Shakespeare.  The most egregious one though?  Jesus Christ.  Honey, these are humongous signs that Kanye NEEDS meds in order for him to have a better grasp on reality.  He’s also admitted to being ‘hyper-paranoid’ which shows even more psychosis.

This all has to be hard on you and your adorable kids and having a daddy that’s mentally ill is something that all the clothes and toys in the world won’t fix (BTW, I wear a size 6 and would love any hand-me-downs 🤩).   Kids need their daddy to be ‘there’ for them and not just physically, but mentally too.  Your cutie boys, Saint and Psalm (I named my little guy – he’s 26 – Oliver and I thought that was a bit edgy) need a strong and stable male role model.

We all know how people laugh at your husband.  They call him crazy.  Ignorant.  Stupid.  Insane.  Psycho.  I don’t think he’s aware of this and if he is, doesn’t take it seriously.  But  I do know this has to hurt you because it’s hurt me and my ma when I’m called bad things too (another question, do you ever call Kris ‘ma’?  I just can’t picture that for some reason 😵).  Over the years I’ve been called crazy, psycho, a liar, and an attention seeking bitch just to name a few.  And every time I hear words like this, it’s like my heart is being pierced again and again.  The hurt is unfathomable.

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It’s funny how most of us use the correct rhetoric in TALKING about mental illness, but so many people don’t try to UNDERSTAND it when it shows itself.  If I have a very high fever and start babbling incoherently (which I do most nights after 9:00 p.m. which is my bedtime…I’m a real party animal like yourself 😎), no one will take the words seriously (which is very true right now since I’m single.  BTW, do you know Taron Egerton?  Just askin’).  Right?  By the same token, I wish people accepted the fact the mentally ill will say and do things their disease/disorder is directing.

Kimmy (can I call you that?), getting your hubby help can do more than stabilize him…it could save his life.  MentalIllnessPolicy.org  reports that at least the 5,000 suicides per year that are committed by people who have schizophrenia or bipolar could be prevented if the people get adequate psychiatric treatment.  And Dr. Ken Duckworth (NAMI) states that at least 90% of all suicides are by people who have an untreated or under-treated mood disorder.  See, we aren’t just talking about his mental well being here, we are talking about his survival.

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I can tell you this, Kim:  having bipolar sucks balls.  Bad.  Having so much swirling around in your head and going between being so happy and so depressed is like riding a roller coaster that never ends.  I actually don’t know what it’s like to have a ‘normal’ functioning brain and if I contemplate it too much, I get over-whelmed.  I really do.  You know, not much scares me in the world.  Yes, I have concerns and live my life with some caution, but my fucking brain and emotions are the most scary thing I have to encounter.  And I get to face it everyday.  Every single day.  As I’m writing this paragraph, my stomach is turning and my eyes are tearing.  It’s like a boulder sitting on my shoulders and some days it’s a bit lighter and on others it’s heavier.  But the damn thing is always there.  Always.  This boulder has made people back away from me…dump me…treat me differently…and affect how my co-workers see me and my contributions even though I’m a fucking amazing professor (yes, that’s bragging, but why can’t we toot our own horns sometimes?  That’s going to be another post so stay tuned! ✎).

Kimmy, get your hubby help. Silence his freaking YES MEN and screw what others say.  Please.  I know this is a monumental task and that you can’t force him to take the help that’s out there. But you can put consequences in place if he won’t…like distancing your little sweeties from his instability.   Please don’t make him suffer anymore.  He needs you right now to forcibly guide him in the way you know he needs to go.  Now.

Kristi xoxo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

The Importance of being Honest.

So, I’m cycling through a pretty bad depression right now.  It started in the Fall, and it’s been hanging on a long while.  Hopefully, I’ll start to be back up again soon, but with bipolar, you can never tell.  And depression is a hard fight, because so much of it is out of our control.

Depression (and mania) aren’t ‘moods’…they are states.  And there’s a big difference there, one I wish was recognized more because calling ‘depression’ a MOOD disorder isn’t technically correct.

Moods are temporary feelings of whatever emotion is there:  happiness, sadness, grieving, gloomy, cheerful, energetic, and the list goes on.  And we all experience a huge range of moods!  We have happy days and sad days, but those days don’t last.  The SITUATION underlying the emotion (which causes the feelings that are ‘saturated’) doesn’t last, because for the most part, that’s what they are based on.  Getting a raise makes me feel happy.  Getting rejected makes me feel sad.  But, these moods pass as others take their place.  That’s why people will say to those who are sad:  “Cheer up…this will pass.”  And they are right!  It will pass.  Although I think saying “Cheer up” nullifies the person’s emotional mood and makes it appear to be insignificant, I get what they are saying.

But states are different creatures.  They aren’t place dependent.  People dependent.  Money dependent.  They are simply there.  And they are more than just the feeling that’s being projected.  For example, people who might be sad for a while may not experience anything else but that sadness.  Whereas people who are depressed also have trouble sleeping, have changes in eating, are restlessness or lethargic, have slowed thinking and memory issues, experience trouble making decisions, entertain thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and the list goes on.

The causes of depression are different too.  A major life event can trigger depression in someone, but there are underlying issues at work as well that go along with that stressor:  According to Harvard Medical “Certain areas of the brain help regulate mood.  Researchers believe that, more important then levels of specific brain chemicals, nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits have a major impact on depression”.

So once again, like we see with so many mental illnesses, depression is in the brain.  Not in the situation.  That’s why for depression, meds are needed to regulate this brain chemistry and function, as well as counseling in order to learn better ways to cope with what is happening.

Last night, I was feeling extra down, and put on Facebook that I was really struggling with depression.  So many people reached out to me, and just knowing there is so much support and care out there really helps.  It doesn’t make me ‘less depressed’, but it does make me feel important and loved.  Anyone can use that anytime!

A couple years ago, I never would have posted anything like that because I was still trying to pretend my way through life, and hide the pain I often experience with bipolar.  But like I’ve said before, how can I expect to work against mental health stigma if I’m not genuine myself?  How hypocritical that would be!  When I was in Florida, I posted about how people on the beach were looking at the scars on my legs from when I cut myself.  Once again, if I can’t put issues out there that are related to mental illness, what am I preaching ‘lessen the stigma’ for?

I bought this artwork, created by the Chariho Youth Task Force for their Mental Health Awareness Campaign.  Digital copies of this art can be purchased here for $5 and all proceeds go to mental health programs and information.

BUT, maybe there are people who think it’s OK to talk about depression.  That’s not ‘ugly’.  However, how can you even mention that you’ve cut?  That’s bloody and gross and scary.  Here’s the thing though, cutting does go along with my illness.  It just does.  I hate that I’ve done it.  I hate my scars.  I hate how people look at me when I’m at a pool or my shorts ride up a bit.  Even more though, I hate having an illness that has made my brain so confused at times, that cutting is the only outlet given for any type of psychological relief.  I know how hard that is to understand.  I don’t understand it.  But I know it’s a demon to fight when it rears it’s ugly head, and that at times, I’ve lost the battle.

This reminds me of my Human Sexuality class and what we were discussing the other day.  I was lecturing about development from pregnancy through birth, and when I got the part about what pregnant women often suffer, everyone was OK until I said the word “hemorrhoid!”  EVERYTHING  else was met with nods…but this??  Shouts of UGH and looks of horror!  WHY?  Because hemorrhoids are ‘icky’…nothing we really want to think about!

There are a lot of things about mental illness that are ‘icky’ too.  But we need to hear it all.  The way it really is.  That’s the only thing that will help people speak up and out about mental illness, and then get the support and help they need.

The mentally ill should not be living in a society where there is shame in having a disease/disorder/illness that’s out of their control.  We have the control to get help for it (if it’s available and affordable…2 BIG ifs), and learn better ways of coping with it.  But it’s always there.  Always.  Just like diabetics can be medicated appropriately and watch their diet.  Even if the diabetes is controlled though, it’s still there.  It’s a lifelong disease.  It’s not going to disappear.

The mentally ill don’t have diseases that will just disappear either.  And, the mentally ill won’t disappear, no matter how much we try to NOT talk about the issues that aren’t easy to face.  Don’t we all have the right for care, support, and understanding, regardless of where our disease or illness originates?  Don’t we all have the right to talk about our illnesses?  Our struggles?  Without stigma or shame? I believe we do.  And I’m going to keep doing it until everyone can do the same.

Kristi xoxo