Romancing the Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

A Good Mom can say Bad Words.

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Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

Dear Son,

So, I don’t know what it is with letters right now.  I’ve written to Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian ( 🙄 ) and Robin Williams lately, but now I’m writing to the most important person ever…you.

Anyhoot, I know I could have sent this to you directly but you know how important education is to me (even though you didn’t complete the 2 classes you need to get your degree…we’re still not done discussing that, SWEETIE 😒) and I wanted other mentally ill mothers to read what I’m going to say too.  I know you won’t mind since you got such a rockin’ birthday present this year…just sayin’ 😬.

Baby, I know it wasn’t easy having a mentally ill mom.  You can deny that all you want and say it never affected you but I’m not stupid (even though from 13-20 you thought I was) and I know it did.  You always tell me what a great ma I am and I think I remember every time you’ve ever said it because that’s how much it means to me.  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I don’t believe you.  (I also don’t believe you didn’t drink before you were 21…and I’m pretty sure I’m right 😳).

I think I was a good mom…better than some but worse than others.  I do know I was the kind of mom that was a go-getter and worked hard to give you the life I wanted you to have.  I didn’t always succeed though…not by a long shot.

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You know how freaking happy (I won’t cuss in this…gramma would yell at me for a week and you know how screechy her voice is 😐) I was when you were born, but I was scared as hell too.  There were so many times in my life that I didn’t understand myself…didn’t understand what I was feeling, or why I was doing the impulsive things I did so often, or why my head was filled with so much noise it was sometimes hard to hear anything over the din, or why I’d run like a motor one day and then crash the next.  My Lord (yes, I know you don’t believe in God but I’m going to change that come hell or freaking high water 😈), how was I ever going to know what you needed and felt when I was so lost myself?  I was petrified.  *And a little secret?  So was your dad…but he’ll never admit it.

Anyhoot, there were times in my life when I didn’t know if I could take care of myself… times when if grandma and your great grandparents (who would have totally adored you) hadn’t of, I don’t know where I’d be right now.  Then when I was preggy, I started to wonder if I’d be able to cope with everything a ma has to do and I was so scared I might not be able to take care of you.  But I did.  And I loved it (even changing your little diapers…except when your dad would feed you spinach and then I would have paid anyone a thousand bucks to take that over for an hour or so 😲.  And yes, I know it’s not ladylike to say ‘bucks’).

You were so patient with me and even when I did mess up, like when I would try to shove rice cereal down your gullet when you were crying, you didn’t care.  You were such an easy going baby (until you got colic and I thought your dad was going to go as nutsy as I already was, but luckily you out-grew that in 4 of the longest months I’ve ever experienced in my life 🤨) and exactly what I needed.  It’s funny how you spend 9 months wondering ‘who’ you are going to get, and then no matter what, you get exactly who you wanted.  Period.

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I don’t think people realize how those of us with mental illness struggle so much with parenting.  Obviously, you know how sensitive I am.  How impulsive.  How much I ruminate.  How much I question myself.  How deeply I feel guilt.  How quickly I assume blame.  How I feel so much empathy for others that it can be overwhelming.  How I feel like I have to ‘do’ and ‘give’ for anyone to love me.  How I’m either busy busy busy or so down I’m pretty much camped out on the couch for a period of time.  Of course you know all of this now, but didn’t for all your growing up years.  Remember when you came home that one day after being bullied in the 2nd grade?  I was distraught.  Your pain was my pain and I wanted to wrap you in a blankie, tuck Barney under your arm, and put you in a plastic bubble with me.  Seeing you hurt was the worst thing imaginable.  Your pain always became my pain and that’s why I often over-reacted to things you experienced, which is pretty ‘normal’ for those of us with bipolar.

When I made wrong decisions, I’d beat myself up for days and days even though you forgot about it within hours.  When you brought home a bad grade (sigh…) or did something you knew you shouldn’t have, I blamed myself.  It was because of me that these things happened.  I was to blame.  Yes, I know you would tell me that it was YOUR fault…your decisions…your choices.  But I still felt the culpability began and ended right here.  That’s why I never had the heart to really punish you (actually, I can think of VERY little you ever did to warrant punishment…you really were, and are, a great kid 😀).

I think one of the hardest things I had to overcome as a mom was dealing with school things.  The education stuff was a cinch, but the ‘mommy one-upping’ stuff stung.  You know I don’t have real friends.  That I have a pissy (sorry, ma) track record for relationships.  That I just don’t feel like I fit in because I truly am different from most everyone else.  It was so tough seeing the other moms cluster together at Scout meetings or during PTA nights while I felt like I was on the fringe.  I wanted to be more comfortable in being a part of all of this.  I wanted you to have just a regular ole mom.  Instead, you got me.  *BTW:  no exchanges.

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My biggest failures with you was this:  I didn’t try hard enough to be ‘normal’ and I didn’t summon up enough courage to eventually say I wasn’t.   I didn’t want to admit that something was very wrong with me.  I couldn’t face it.  I wanted to be like the mama’s I saw on TV growing up like Carol Brady and Shirley Partridge (both can singe really well so we do have that in common 🙄).  I think I pretended adequately for quite a long time though; I certainly had your dad fooled (not too hard to do…) and even though I’d always say I’m FINE (!) when gramma would ask me, she knew I was lying.  But, she wanted me to be fine so badly that she forced herself to believe I was telling the truth.  I can understand that since I was doing the same.

So I wrote off my depression as just ‘too much stress’ and my manic phases were channeled into making sure the house and the yard were perfect.  It was just “Kristi” being “Kristi”…no big deal.  “She’s just that way.”   But, it’s why I push you to talk to me when I see you aren’t feeling OK…I just need to know what’s bothering you in case it’s something serious we need to deal with.  I don’t want you to pretend or put on a mask like I did for so long.  I want you to be real with me, and I’ll support you…no matter what.  One of my biggest fears is that I might have passed something down to you and I pray every night I didn’t.   However, if God Forbid you should ever develop a mental health issue, it’s your dad’s fault.  K?  😏

Leaving your dad and agreeing to a divorce was the stupidest, most impulsive thing I’ve ever ever done in my entire life.  It went against everything I had tried to do for 13 years:  give you a solid family foundation.  Your dad and I were having issues…I know you’re aware of that.  But the manic phase I was in for quite a time took over and my decision making sucked big time.  I know it’s so hard for you to understand what it’s like to ruminate like I do, but I will never…ever…forgive myself for putting you through a divorce.  I always swore I wouldn’t.  I feel like I took away something of your teenage years by making you live between 2 houses.  That isn’t easy…I know that from my own experience.

I think I want to be perfect for you because that’s actually how I see you.  Yes, us mamas have rose-colored glasses and it’s very hard to see you any other way.  So, I want to take on any dragons that threaten you and give you all I possibly can to make your life better.  It’s so hard to do that though.  My own monsters take a lot of work themselves and because of bad financial decisions, I can’t give you what I wish I could.  I just feel so less than as a ma.  Like you were gypped.  Like I was the clearance ma no other angel in heaven wanted until you felt sorry for me and plopped yourself into my lap (it was an excruciating ‘plop’ by the way…16 hours worth…just sayin’ 🙃).

I get so scared when I think about how bipolar worsens as a person ages.  Depression increases…dementia is common…self-harm can be an issue…and suicide is something that is never fully out of the mind of someone with bipolar.  When I think about these things, I can’t help but cry.  I’m YOUR ma.  My job is to take care of you whether you’re 10 or 30.  I never want you to have to take care of me.  It shames me to think that could happen one day.

Actually, just being mentally ill shames me.  I know it sounds crazy (go figure 🙄) but there are so many times in my life I feel like I had to have done something horrible to be given this particular disease.  And, had I not done what ever ‘thing’ that was, you would have gotten the healthy ma you deserve.  It pains me to think of that.

I know your attention span is waning because you’re impatient like me, but I just want you to know this:  I’m so very sorry for how my illness has affected you all of these years.  I know I’ve embarrassed you.  I know I’ve made mistakes with you.  I know I do things that are outside your realm of comprehension.  I know I cry too much and talk too much and worry too much and need too much.  And I’m so sorry for that.  Don’t say that an apology isn’t necessary.  I’m the ma…and I know best (except in the case of gramma where I know best there too…just sayin’ 🤨).

This fucking (OK, I said it…I’ll record what ma says to me so you can hear 🤯) disorder has guided me into some hellish places over the years.  Places I pray you will never ever see.  But for some reason, God gave me you.  You.  The light that’s always there…shining like the star you are.  Thanks for that, Porkchop.

Marmie xoxo

“Someone Call the Doctor. Got a Case of Love Bipolar.” ~ Katy Perry

 

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So, I’m reading a book about a school shooting, and during the trial of the shooter, a psychiatrist is testifying after interviewing the boy.  The defense attorney asks what the psychiatrist was looking for in terms of mental illness, and he states ‘bipolar and schizophrenia.’  Heh?  Bipolar (I’m going to focus on this one since I have it)?  Really?  It’s perceived as being that dangerous it needs to be ‘looked for’ in a school shooter?  I’ve had a LOT of ups and downs with this illness, and it hasn’t been a bed of roses, peeps, but I have never entertained the thought of hurting others.

After reading this I decided to peruse the web (you know, the one Al Gore invented) to see what is said about bipolar out there, because this particular illness really does have a lot of stigma attached to it.  So, I googled (that’s a search engine, ma…don’t monkey with it or you’ll get confused) ‘what are some questions people have about bipolar’ and I was gobsmacked (Lord, I love that word) about the way it’s perceived.  Let’s dig in, grasshoppers.

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

One question was:  “Can bipolar people love?”  (Skip over these next few words, ma) but what the fuck?  Really?  There’s the idea floating around that you can’t LOVE if you have bipolar?  No.  Not true.  Here’s where I think this came from:  when we’re in a manic state, everything looks wonderful and exciting, including potential partners.  We might feel that initial intoxication very quickly and be giddy in the romance.  Yes, some might become very promiscuous too.  However, what the person feels during the manic state may not be love; we are so emotionally bombarded with energy that’s overwhelming us, we might say it’s love when it’s really just sexual infatuation. 🤩

But, you gotta remember that us bipolars are not always manic and not always depressed.  There is a state in-between where we are ‘relatively’ stable called euthymia and this, at least in my case, is when I can really ‘fall in love’ (whatever the hell that means) and know that it is love.  When I love someone, I love ’em whether I’m manic or depressed, and I love them hard!

Another question was:  “Can people with bipolar be faithful?”  Short answer?  Yep.  Long answer…well, here goes:  when we’re manic we’re not making the best decisions and are usually very impulsive with no thought of consequences.  So, during those times, yes, it’s possible.  Sometimes the mania is so strong, there is no ‘you’ left inside to help mitigate what the mania is wanting you to do, but sometimes there is and that reigns you in.

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However, a medicated bipolar (me!) who is on a mood stabilizer (I love Lamotrigine…if I could marry it, I would 😳), then the ups and downs are so much more calm; it’s like the roller coaster becomes a bunch of small, rolling hills and your thought processes are much more clear.  You have to keep in mind though peeps that 40% of people cheat on their spouses and I can guarantee you they ain’t all bipolar!

How about this question:  “Are bipolar people violent and dangerous?”  Yes.  I keep a roll of duct tape and some tarps in my trunk. 🙄 There are so many mental illnesses that can can cause a person to be dangerous including psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, borderline, etc.  However, people with bipolar are either really really happily manic or we’re pretty down in the dumps, and neither one of these states has violence as a feature.  Of course, someone with bipolar ‘could’ be dangerous, but so could anyone.  Right?

Last one:  “Is it safe to live with a bipolar person?”  For piss sakes, yes.  Hello!  I raised my son very very lovingly…I adore each and everyone of my students…I’m the best dog ma around…and my house is comfy cozy with me sitting on the couch at 7:00 every night, in my jammies, watching Netflix.  YIKES!  Sounds horrible!  Now, people who live with someone bipolar need to understand there are going to be issues, but through education,  patience, and counseling, these can be handled well.

You know, when you see how stigmatized bipolar is and how it’s perceived by others, you might believe we’re just dangerous people who fool around and will bitch slap you at anytime.  Nope.  But, we do have some serious issues affect us that should garner some sympathy:  bipolar people have a reduction in life expectancy of 9-20 years (more than a heavy smoker) and this is scary as hell to me.  Particularly since I don’t have a grandbaby yet (did you read this sentence, son?).   We are also at greater risk for dementia as we age, as well as seeing an increase in the severity of our depressive episodes.  These things are disheartening to me and should show people that we have more fears about being bipolar than others might have regarding the myths about it.

Look, people with mental illnesses struggle.  Right?  So many of you reading this are battling everyday and we need support, understanding, love, patience, and encouragement from others to get through.  What we don’t need is misinformation circulating about that causes yet more problems in our lives.  We need to be seen as people.  Individuals.  Folks who are sometimes good.  Sometimes naughty.  Sometimes happy.  Sometimes sad.  We’re ma’s and pa’s and sisters and brothers and teachers and CEO’s and nurses and doctors and electricians and sales people and on and on and on.  In other words, in so many ways, we’re really just like everyone else.

Kristi xoxo

 

“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

The Tragedy of it All.

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Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

So, I’ve written a lot since I’ve started this blog, and it means so much to me.  When I began this, I told myself these posts were my chance to say some of what I need to say, some of what people need to hear, and sometimes, a little bit of both.  But this is the first post I’ve written while tears are streaming down my face.

I’ve talked about my ex-partner in posts before, and I think it’s because the wounds from the relationship are still fresh, and because I thought he was my forever (actually, I thought all of them were until him, but c’est la vie).  I also write about him because he’s mentally ill like me.  He’s been diagnosed with PTSD from his 3 tours overseas in the Army, and also with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I believe is caused by a genetic component (I believe his mom also has this disorder), and also because of the abuse he endured as a child: serious physical and psychological abuse with periods of forced isolation where he literally couldn’t move from his bed for weeks at a time.  I was attracted to him before I knew all of this, and after he told me his story, it made me love him even more; I felt so much empathy and compassion for this man who had been through so much.  

For the last couple of days, he’s been messaging me.  The messages are horrifying.  Ever since his unfaithfulness last October, he’s been on a downward trajectory.  He’s completely isolated himself from everyone, including his 2 kids, and has told his family members that he hates them and won’t have anything more to do with them ever.  I know some of this behavior is the BPD.  But I also know he’s taking all of the pain of his childhood and tours, and turning it outward as anger against the only targets he has.  The problem is that many of his targets don’t deserve to be his scapegoat, most especially his children.

When I first met them (one was in Kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade), I fell in love with them immediately and completely.  I love kids and these 2 are so smart, sweet, affectionate, and funny.  To be honest, I didn’t know I could love other kids as much as I do them, with the same unconditional love I feel for my own son, and my nieces and nephews.  The feelings blew me away.  Once, my sister said this: “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than both.”  She’s right.

These kids have been through a lot in their lives.  Not having their dad around because of his tours, moving around the country multiple times, and then experiencing a contentious divorce took their toll.  The little guy is extremely sensitive and like me is a huge feeler who is at a loss as how to deal with the emotions of what he’s been through, so he internalizes them.  He doesn’t eat well.  He doesn’t have friends. And he lives in his own world, not wanting others to intrude.  I’m lucky he let me in.   The little miss is also a sensitive child, but as opposed to internalizing, she externalizes her feelings.  She’s a clinger, and just wants to feel love from anybody and everybody.  In that regard, she’s like me.

When J told me he completely cut off everyone in this life (I think I’m the only one he can talk, or in this case text, to), I assumed he didn’t mean these sweeties.  You see, during our 3 years together, J learned so much more about being a parent than he previously knew.  He built a strong relationship with them, and we did so many fun things together as a family:  museums, zoos, hikes, eating out, birthday parties, swimming, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. and I could see the connection to their dad get stronger and stronger.  He also worked hard to provide a home for them.  He got a really nice apartment in a family oriented neighborhood, and the kids were thrilled at having this with their dad.  J and I had fun buying bunk beds, comforters, toys, books…anything that would create a positive environment for them.  He took them to the private school he got them into every morning, picked them up afterwards, started little miss in Taekwondo, made nice dinners for them, bought them birds so they could have pets, and hugged and cuddled them to their hearts desire.

Then, this BPD took over.  Actually, it had taken over before, something that I experienced first hand.  I was on the receiving end of rages, weeks of silence, damaging words and actions, but to be honest, I knew when it was the illness that was in charge, and not ‘him’.  People questioned me again and again why I kept loving this man…why I forgave him over and over.  The answer is simple:  because I’m mentally ill too.  When I’m in a depression or a period of mania, I’m not in control either.  I do things, say things, act out on things that I never would do when I’m in a more self-restrained time.  Sometimes…well maybe always…it takes someone mentally ill to truly understand another’s struggle.  Once I had a student say to me, “I like talking to you, Professor K.  When I tell you I’m depressed, I know you get it.”  And yes, I do.

But this time for J it’s different.  The BDP is in total control.  100%.  And it’s going to stay that way for however long he lives because he’s doing nothing to try to fight it at all.  He’s wallowing in it. Yes, I said wallow.  He’s feeding that monster we’ve talked about an awful lot of food.  He’s given up.  He’s become trapped in this disorder without grabbing onto the rope that’s there, and pulling himself up as much as he can.  He’s pulled up before…he just won’t even try to do it again.  He said he likes the wallowing.  The hating.  The anger.  The isolation.

And I think he’s a fucking liar.  He experienced so much as a kid that like his little guy, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings.  So, by killing his soul, I guess he’s killing those emotions too.

But the real tragedy?  These sweeties.  After having a dad for these past few years, how can they ever understand why he’s no longer in their lives?  Why ‘his’ home is no longer theirs?  How can they take another loss?  Another upheaval?  Another piece of their hearts destroyed?  He’s doing to them what was done to him (to a degree).  Isolating them.  Rejecting them.  Maybe he thinks that will heal him.  It won’t.  All it will do is continue this generational cycle of abuse that’s been in his family for decades, and then cause these 2 innocent angels to grow up with what J is battling himself.  He had been reversing this trend for years so well…the kids were flourishing and J seemed happy and content.  It’s like he got the diagnosis of BPD and decided to live down to that as much as he can.  It’s the excuse I guess he was finally looking for to hate.  He’s making this diagnosis a label to be absorbed, as opposed to a diagnosis to aid in understanding. Dammit, J, you fought fucking Akeida for 3 years in desert conditions on the front lines, how can you not fight against this too?  Your kids lives are worth the battles this is going to give you;  you are worth the battle.  I know J is still in there.  I’ve seen him.  I’ve loved him.  He’s a smart, funny, passionate guy that he’s allowed this beast to consume.

Mental illness is a bitch to live with.  Y’all know that.  But I also understand first hand, that it’s a bitch to deal with in others too.  I’ve put my mom, son, and sis through so much.  I know I have.  If I could take back what I’ve said and done, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  It’s agonizing to know how they have been victims of my bipolar.  I can’t think about it without feeling so fucking guilty and ashamed, and I know words can’t take away the pain I’ve caused them.

When I attempted suicide a couple of years ago, I laid on my bed, ready to go to sleep forever.  And then God spoke to me.  Yes, he spoke to me.  He showed me my son.  My mom.  My sister.  My family.  My students.  He showed me the pain they would experience.  How horrible it would be for my mom to bury her daughter.  For my son to bury his mom.  And that’s what turned me around.  This fucking bastard of a mental illness is not going to be who I am.  I’m going to always fight and fight and fight to stay me as much as I possibly can.  I’m gonna win some battles.  I’m gonna lose some battles.  But I tell you what, every one of those is worth the bloodshed.

Kristi xoxo

 

What the Hell?

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So, I teach Sociology at our local community college, and now that the nation is practicing social isolation, I am working hard to get all of my on-campus classes switched to online learning.  This isn’t necessarily a big deal for me, since I’ve taught online classes forever, but as I’m working on lectures and content for my Sociology of Deviance class, I am getting a bit angry…perplexed…wondering about what we consider to be deviant in our culture.

First, deviance is an act or behavior that goes against societal norms (rules) we have in place; and it isn’t always an easy thing to recognize since it’s dependent on so many variables like culture, context, place, etc.  Also, a behavior/act isn’t necessarily considered deviant even if it goes strictly against a societal norm; instead, we take into consideration the ‘label’ society has placed on it; for example, does this behavior cause anger in people?  Scorn?  Disgust?   And finally, sometimes you don’t even have to ‘do’ anything to be labeled a deviant.  You simply ‘are.’  People with physical or mental disabilities are often considered deviant.  Labeling people like this as deviant stigmatizes them.  It connects them to negative stereotypes which can cause them to be ostracized ; looked down on as outcasts.

Now, think about this.  SOCIETY can ‘say’ a person is deviant simply because the person is ‘different’.  Or simply because the person ‘is’.  Because they exist.  Because they are them.   “Holy crap, Batman…what the hell is this?”

“Let me tell you, Robin.”  This means that ANYONE can be labeled deviant…have a stigma put on their head…and be treated as such at anytime in their lives.  Right?  First, let’s take a look at age, simply because (God willing) we will all experience this eventually in our lives.

Oh, Lord…I hate talking about age.  As a woman who is (cough cough) 53 (I know…that’s a really BIG number!), I have seen the way I’ve been looked at over the last 10 years or so, and can’t believe the difference!  When I turned 40, it was a celebration!  “Girl…you are in the prime of your life!!  40 is the new 30!”  Actually, it isn’t.  40 is 40.  30 is 30.  And so on…you get my point.  But when I turned 50?  I was almost ashamed!  What do you say to a 50 year old?  “Ummm…you look great FOR 50!”  That’s about it!  And what a horrible sentence to hear!!  Let me translate it for you:  “Kristi…I don’t know what else to say, so I’m going to tell you that you look OK for being 50…but if you were 40, you’d look like hell!”  Hmmmm…what a compliment.

Look in ANY women’s magazine.  Know what you see?  Products that work from the ground up to make sure nothing on you looks old.  Nothing.  We’re talking younger looking feet (which I rarely show off)  to younger looking hair.  And face creams?  If I tried everyone that was advertised AND that promised to wipe away my years, I’d go broke.  Quickly.

Best-Anti-Aging-Products

But why would I want to ‘wipe away’ my years?  Why is it deviant to get old?  Why does society tell us our worth is less as we grow up more?  Why is a natural aging process a bad thing?  And why, because of these messages, should us older people (more so for women than men in our society…much more so) feel guilty if we have wrinkles?  I don’t get it.

Mental illness is considered deviant too.  Because face it, being mentally ill makes others feel uncomfortable.  We’ve all heard the words.  At least I have.  People use crazy or nuts as a synonym for bipolar all of the time.  Even Katy Perry, in her song Hot and Cold, says “…love bipolar” for a crazy type of unhealthy/game playing love.  So, I’m deviant because I’m mentally ill too?  Because I have a brain disease I did absolutely nothing to get?  Because I might cry?  Or be angry?  Or be depressed?  Or be manic?  These make people uncomfortable?  Scornful?  So I’m LABELED deviant.  LABELED.

Guess what labels do?  Labels make us see ourselves through that mirror.  Like sociologist Charles Cooley described in his “Looking Glass Self” theory, we see how we appear to others, and reflect back what we’ve perceived.  Don’t believe me?  Then why are so many people ‘ashamed’ to talk about their mental illness?  Reluctant to let their friends know how much they are suffering on the inside?  Hesitant to tell people they’ve dated for a while because they fear it will negatively affect their relationship?  Afraid they will be treated differently by colleagues?  Worried they might be passed over for promotions?  Embarrassed to say their Dr.’s appointment is with their psychologist?  Humiliated when words like ‘psycho’ are used to describe behavior tied to their own mental illness?

And for people who have cut…have attempted suicide (2 other groups I fall into)?  Wow.  The stigma is fierce!  How dare I have been in so much psychological pain, that I felt the only relief came from using a razor blade on my legs.  How could I have hurt myself, even though the physical hurt took away some of my mental hurt?  AND, what an awful person I am that I was in so much pain and so much anguish, that I truly felt, at that time, being with my grandma and grandpa in heaven was better than my life on earth.

These labels…this stigma…is something we have to endure.  Not because of what we have.  But because of how we’re seen through the attitudes people have.  Opinions.  Reactions.

signs-self-stigma-healthyplace

Dammit.  I don’t know about you and what you might endure in terms of stigmas, but I’m tired of feeling ‘less than’ over issues I can’t help.  Yes, I’m old.  Yes, I’m mentally ill.  And that’s just to name 2, or this blog post would be so long, I’d have carpal tunnel after all the writing (and probably be stigmatized for that as well).  And NO.  I will NOT be made to feel demeaned because of these things.  I refuse too.  I will continue to talk about being bipolar.  About why I used to cut.  About why I took a handful of pills.  About all of my struggles, and all of my successes.  I will do this again and again, because until we all speak out against stigmas (and in my case, mental illness stigmas), we will never see them gone.  Until we all learn to accept everyone for who they are…what they might have…how they might be ‘different’, we’ll never see the change I think we need to see most in this world.

Acceptance.

Kristi xoxo

Discussion on Domestic Violence Victims

In one of my classes, we are currently talking about Domestic Violence and a discussion ensued yesterday regarding whether or not victims love themselves prior to getting into a relationship with the abuser.

Some of my students said you can love yourself, but still fall for the abuser because of their manipulation, idolization, and mask they wear.  Others said that only someone who didn’t love themselves would fall for that…would be vulnerable to their attention.

But, here’s the thing:  abusers are smart.  They are predators.  They know how to bait their hooks and trap their prey.  NO ONE would stay with a person who beat them on the first date!  Of course not!  All of my students say they would never ever stay with an abuser, but the truth is that many of them might do just that because what they don’t realize is how insidious the abuse is.  Abusers start out by idolizing you.  Making you feel like you’re the most special person in the world who can share anything and everything with them.  They are your soul-mate and once that’s felt, the hook has been set.  The next step is chipping away at what confidence, esteem, and love they have for themselves; slowly these things are chiseled away and the abuser is getting you to a place where you aren’t who you used to be.  They are devaluing you…making you feel less than…and eventually, your emotional/psychological boundaries have been compromised.  Also, that stuff you felt you could share with them?  That’s being used against you now.  They know your ‘weak spots’ and will use them any way they can.  Then, physical boundaries start to be tested.  A grab here.  A push there.  All the while seeing what your reaction is.

Have you ever heard the myth of a frog in boiling water?  It goes like this:  put a frog into a pot of boiling water and he’ll squeal and do anything he can to hop out.  BUT, put him in tepid water and turn the heat up very low to where the boiling is a process.  Because it’s so slow, the frog never fights it.  It’s in an environment that slowly becomes natural to them.

Now, even though I truly believe that anyone can be a victim of abuse by an abuser, I do believe that vulnerability to abusers can be attributed to different things.

  • First, I do think situations we go through can make us more needful of attention.  Partnership.  Togetherness.  It can validate someone who’s been rejected.  Abandoned.  Although we all need our own internal sense of self and self-love, external experience of this is important to us too.  
  • I also believe certain emotional traits can be seen in victims.  In this article, by Dr. Toby Goldsmith, he says that women of DV often:
    • have a poor self image
    • have low self-esteem
    • believe, unrealistically, they can change their abuser
    • feel a sense of powerlessness
    • believe that jealousy is ‘proof’ of love
  • Along with this, I believe personality traits can be tied to victimization too.  For example, people who are highly empathic have more sensitivity…they can align themselves with people more and feel with everything they have inside of them.  It’s more than just their heart that feels…it’s all of them that feels.  They are capable of giving so much in a relationship, and might believe that their care and love will ‘fix’ an abuser.  A great book to read regarding this is: The Empaths Survival Guide by Judith Orloff.
  • I’m a huge believer in the MBTI (You can take a free, online test and learn more about this assessment tool here: Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and feel there are some aspects of personality as described by the MBTI that could be correlated to DV:
    • Extroverts – extroverts often have difficulty with boundaries and let people in more easily than others.
    • Introverts – are often more isolated which is something attractive to abusers.  Also, they are more prone to depression and may also take on more blame because of ruminating over the situation and seeing blame in themselves.
    • Intuitionists – although you would think people with strong intuition would be BETTER at determining someone could be abusive, I believe (based on my own experience) that the gut feelings instead say things like this:  “But, I know there’s a good person in there!”  “I can tell they are suffering too, and I just need to figure them out.”
    • Feelers – feelers tend to make decisions based more on a personal, emotional level (thinking with their hearts more than their heads) and tend to personalize situations which can lead them to feeling guilt or culpability in abusive situations.  
  • In terms of mental disorders/illnesses, I think the following can be tied into victimization:
    • Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Dependent Personality Disorder
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression 
    • Anxiety Disorders
  • I also study a lot about attachment.  The attachment babies make to their first caregiver, usually their mothers, makes the ‘framework’ for all other future attachments.  This attachment can be secure or insecure:
    • Secure attachment makes the baby, and then later adult feel that:  
      • They’re lovable as they are
      • They are important and valued
      • They are worth protection and understanding
      • They are safe
    • Insecure attachment makes people feel that:
      • They’re not good enough to protect and keep safe
      • They have little value and are unimportant
      • They are not worth soothing and understanding
      • Because of these, insecurely attached individuals feel unsure of themselves in relationships and live with feeling that they aren’t worth their partners love and effort.  
    • Obviously, my belief is those with insecure attachments (one being the avoidant type and the other being the ambivalent type) don’t see the value, worth, and loveableness they have and will stay with an abuser out of insecurity and perhaps the feeling that they don’t deserve any better.
    • Lastly, we can’t ignore the fact that people who grow up in abusive homes have a much higher chance of becoming abusers, or victims, themselves.  In the PBS documentary No Safe Place, it’s said: “We (also) know that women who come from a family in which they witnessed their mother being battered are more susceptible to developing what is called ‘battered women’s syndrome’.  Such women may come to believe there is nothing they can do to get out of an abusive relationship.”  

So, the answer to understanding the ‘whys’ behind women and abuse are complicated, and can be a combination of everything above, or circumstances unique to the victim themselves. 

The take away is this:  abused women and men should never be judged for being, or staying, in a domestically violent relationship.  The dynamics of power, control, physical/verbal/psychological/sexual abuse, isolation, financial issues, threats, using children as tools of manipulation, ownership of weapons, lack of family/social support, etc. can all make it difficult through impossible for the victim to leave safely, even if the abuse is severe.  No one deserves to be abused.  NO one.  But every victim deserves our compassion. 

    Kristi xoxo