“Let it all hang out.” ~ Weezer

So, sometimes it’s hard to come up with things to blawg about. I think about whether I want to be serious, funny (yes, some of the posts are meant to be funny…at least ma and sis gets them 🙄), educational, etc. But then someone messages me and let’s me know exactly what I need to say. Bless their hearts…they are doing half my work for me!

Anyhoot, yesterday I posted about body image struggles and one of my past sweetie students and I talked a bit and she said this today:

“I always thought you were so badass because you are so fit, you held down a full time job, and were a mom and you in my eyes were your own woman but it just shows everyone struggles with voices in their head. I always looked up to you while I was in your classes as someone I wanted to be like one day and I want you to know you are loved by so many people.”

Now Pinky Tuscadero was a BADASS!

First, this choked me up and I had to use my hankie. Second, this gal is a beautiful woman, excellent wife, and amazing mama. To have her say these words means so much. Third, am I a badass? That sounds so freaking cool to me. “Hello everyone. My name is Kristi and I’m a badass!” 😎

But here’s what made me think: we all have personal struggles…voices in our heads telling us things about ourselves that no one else sees…obstacles we are personally trying to overcome day after day. Isn’t it amazing though how we are so good at hiding these? How we feel like we need to keep these to ourselves? I wonder why we do that? Why we don’t allow others to see our struggles so they can learn from them…help with them? Know they aren’t alone.

I think there’s still such a huge misconception regarding mental health and mental illness. None of us have ‘perfect’ mental health…and when someone talks about another person acting so ‘normal’ I wonder what that means. Is there a ‘normal’? Or…is there a ‘normal’ for each of us? I tend to think the latter is true. But we’re so hard on ourselves when we don’t feel that mental health ‘perfection’…probably because there are so many books, quotes, mantras, meditations, etc. that tell us we can have it if we follow their advice. Uh uh. Not true.

I love that my student saw me so positively and sees that you can be strong and smart and funny…yet still have struggles. Having a mental illness or mental health issues doesn’t take away from the ‘soul’ of who you are. It just puts up hurdles we have to learn to jump.

Hmmm…isn’t that a great analogy? Sometimes I can jump over my hurdles really well…they’re sitting ‘low’ that day, and other days I struggle to get over even one of them.

We need to be more vocal about our struggles. Our battles. Our obstacles. I hate that people think they’re alone and that everyone else has it figured out. We need to teach more about mental health and mental illness. We need to stop pretending to be ‘perfect’ and wearing the masks we feel we need to don everyday. We need to be honest when someone asks about how we are. Instead of saying “I’m fine” why can’t we say: “You know, I’m struggling today…can you talk a bit?” Or, when we see someone who looks down or anxious or stressed…why can’t we say: “Hey…you OK today? You need anything?”

Why is it so fucking (sorry ma 🙄) easy to blab to all and sundry about our physical issues? After all, there’s nothing more I like than to hear about people having trouble with constipation and the many laxatives they’ve tried. 💩

Charming.

But we can’t talk about our mental issues? We can talk about pooping, peeing, bleeding, leaking, erecting, etc. but we can’t say, “I’m depressed and I need help.” Or, “I’m thinking these things about myself and need someone to talk too.”? Sheesh.

Why is it still so taboo? Why do we picture people that do struggle as ‘less than’? (Why am I using so many ‘quotation marks’ today?🤔 ) Why can’t we admit that although what you see on the outside looks pretty good, the inside is needing some help. Some attention.

I love that my sweetie-pie student sees that inner struggles are something we all have. I love that she told me she’s going to be talking to someone about hers. I love that she understood she can reach out to me and I’ll listen.

Most of all I love being able to open up to my peeps about all of my struggles…body image, being bipolar, anxiety, relationship issues (shutty 😐) etc. I love that you listen and support and care. But, I’d really love it if this was the norm. If all of us felt comfortable talking about our mental health. Opening up about our struggles. Getting the help and support we need.

That, my sweet peeps, would be awesome.

Kristi xoxo

“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

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

If it Ain’t One Thing, it’s Another.

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So, no matter how much I learn and experience with bipolar, there’s always something else waiting to catch me off guard; it makes me realize how much this mental illness affects so many areas of my life besides ‘just’ mood.

I’m reading a classic book called:  “An Unquiet Mind”  by Kay Redfield Jamison and this is my 2nd time through it.  The first time I read it I was so moved by the story of Kay and the development and her life with bipolar, but this time I’m really slowing down and taking it in.  I started dog-earing pages (it’s OK…I own the book) that were pertinent to my own experiences but after a while, the book got so thick with these bent corners, I stopped doing it because every page spoke to me on such a personal level.

We all know the classic symptoms of bipolar, right?  Manic highs, depressive lows, and all of the goodies that go along with these (please take a look-see at this…it took me 20 minutes to get it right 🙄):

bipolar symptoms

Anyhoot, there are so many other issues that go along with having bipolar as well and most people don’t realize how severe they can be.  Reading memoirs and other material helps me remember I’m not alone in experiencing these problems and that’s a comfort to me.

Memory is a biggie.  When I’m manic, I don’t have time to remember.  Hello!  I’m so freaking busy painting, sewing, mowing, running, hiking, shopping (!), cleaning, yacking and yacking and yacking, and moving around from task to task with my mind speeding along so fast, how in the world is my brain supposed to retain anything?  When I was manic last summer, I painted almost every single piece of furniture I own along with 3 rooms, but I barely remember doing it!  Seriously!  When I’m manic, I lose chunks of time.  Everyday last summer I walked a minimum of 8-10 miles and have no memory of the majority of these jaunts and the routes I took.  You know, it’s scary when your mind loses time like this.  It’s like it’s going on auto-pilot and you are caught up in the vortex.  I’ve done crafts/art when I’m manic, and after I cycle back down, I have no idea how to do what I’ve already created.  It’s spooky.

I have a lot of trouble talking as well (I know, I know…that’s extremely hard to imagine and ma, I know you’re rolling your eyes right now) when I’m manic, I talk so loud and fast that it’s overwhelming for people to listen, but frustrating for me.  I’ll hear “slow down” or “hold on…I can’t keep up” but I am simply unable to do that.  I have so much to say with my mouth already not keeping up with my brain that telling me to slow down is like telling a wild horse ‘whoa’ before he’s been ‘broken.’ (Actually there is a term for manic speech called pressured speech).

18+ Famous Bipolar Quotes

Sometimes I’ll even lose words. I have so much to get out but my mind is racing forward so fast that I can’t find the words I want to use.  I’ve even made up some to compensate.  And my ideas?  Well hells bells, I can basically invent anything…figure out the mysteries of the universe…and brainstorm solutions to any of the world’s ills.  If there’s no one to listen to this grandiosity?  That’s OK…I’ll just talk out loud to myself (or Eddie and Dottie who think I’m absolutely brilliant).

Now, the flip side is this:  when I’m in a depression (and by the way, women with bipolar have more depression than men) I don’t want to talk, and actually having a conversation can be exhausting.  I think this can be explained two-fold…my mind is slowed down so much there’s not much in there but feelings of darkness, and I’m so fatigued mentally (and physically), it’s just too much effort to express much of anything.

This is tough.  I know when I’m cycling through a depression, ‘keeping busy’ and doing stuff I normally like would be a good idea.  But the kicker is this:  I don’t like to do anything when I’m down.  What I normally love is pushed aside.  Running is known to help mood (any cardiovascular exercise) but I’ll get my shoes laced up and my tights on, but will either balk at going outside to start, or will stop after a block and walk home, panicky, until I get through the safety of my door again.  Even reading isn’t pleasurable to me during these times.  I might start 5 books, read a few pages, and then just put it down with no interest whatsoever.  And art?  Nope.  No original ideas out all…or strength to even get supplies out and ready to use.

So then guilt takes over, and those of us with bipolar have tons of it.  People will say:  “Take a walk!”  “Get out and about!”  “Paint!”  but I can’t.  Literally, physically, mentally I can’t.  And then I feel guilty that the advice I’m given is impossible to do, or because I don’t have the ability to will myself back up to a better mood again.

Self-esteem is an issue too.  When I’m manic, oh my gosh…I can conquer the world!  I have so much confidence in everything I do and I know I’m the most interesting, engaging, wonderful, awesome person ever, doing stuff no one else is doing (right…no one else walks or runs everyday… 🙄)!  I can do anything and when someone asks me for something?  The answer is YES before they can even finish their sentence.  And by golly, I get it done everytime…usually right away.

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Then the darkness comes in and I feel like shit about myself.  No confidence, hating what I see in the mirror, shying away from any requests because I feel like I’ll fuck them up if I even have the energy to do them (sorry ma, but that’s the only way I can describe it.)  If I’ve made a commitment during a manic phase and then am depressed when I need to follow through, I feel tons of guilt if I can’t and I know it’s hard for others to understand this.  “Hey, you promised a couple of months ago you’d do this.”  Yes, I realize that (well not really, because who the hell remembers), but I can’t even wash my hair today, so…there you go.  And then?  I feel even more horrible about myself than ever.

Fear is another big concern.  I have fairly ‘normal times’ (which aren’t really ‘normal’ per se…just not full hypomania or full depression) but know another cycle will eventually rear it’s ugly head.  I’m ecstatic when it’s mania…actually, it’s fun in a way.  To have that much energy is intoxicating, but will I be able to reign it in when I teach…interact with students…interact with my colleagues?  Or, maybe depression is what I’ll cycle into.  Will I have the ability to teach…to not cry at school…to even get up to start my day?  It’s despairing to have this fear and dread be a part of your everyday existence.

These doubts and the inability to handle things ‘normally’ when I’m cycling forces me to wear masks.  As much as I’m trying to be genuine and authentic, my life compels me to put some of those masks back on so I can function as expected.  As we all now know from wearing real face masks for the last 6 months, these proverbial masks are just as constricting and uncomfortable, but we can’t necessarily rip them off when they become too much.

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Another fear is what the mania and depression do to me physically.  Regardless of what mood I’ve cycled into, I often have stomach issues (I do have a pesky ulcer that tends to  come back periodically) and diarrhea (so much fun 😐) is common for me as is a constant feeling of ‘ick’ in my belly (I think the medical term nausea is more often used, but ‘ick’ describes it better for me).  Whether I’m manic or depressed, I get a racing heart at times (which is scary as hell) and hyperventilate, or I’ll break out in a sweat that soaks my entire bod.  Headaches are common and muscles aches happen too.  The physical side of bipolar is the least talked about (at least in my experience) but these can be just as scary as the moods.  Sometimes even more so.

I also find myself having a lack of affect (emotional expression) or inappropriate affect (to say the least).  When I’m manic, it’s almost impossible for me to cry or show any negative feelings, so I’ll hear something tragic, but can’t react with the right empathy.  I know it’s sad and I feel bad about it…but my brain is ‘on fire’ (to borrow that term from Susannah Cahalan’s memoir) and it can’t slow down to really process the situation.  On the flip side?  When I’m down, everything gets to me.  Ma will tell me something ‘good’ and I’ll start to bawl.  I mean really sob like it’s the end of the world.  Watching a movie during this time is hellish at best, because even my normally fave comedies like “What About Bob?” make me weep because I read so much angst in the characters.  Poor Bob, he’s so freaking lonely and misunderstood.

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Then, there’s a constant feeling of disappointment.  Last summer I was manic and happy and energetic and the world was a wonderful place with rainbows and sunshine.  I’m not there right now.  I’m still cycling through a depression that’s lifting somewhat, but still hanging on (like a sloth on a freaking tree).  I want to be up again…I’m so so sick of being down still.  This depression has held of for over 7 months now, and I want it over.  I want to feel better.  I want to be happy again.  I was hoping and praying and wishing spring would magically take this away, and it’s chipping at it piece by piece, but I’m not there yet.  I don’t want a full-blown manic phase, but getting rid of this dark tunnel would be just ducky.

Medications help these moods, but only to an extent.  Mood stabilizers can lessen the severity of the cycles, but doesn’t ‘treat’ them to where they disappear.  It’s like using Tylenol for a migraine.  It might lessen the pain so it’s a bit more bearable, but some (often a lot) pain still exists.  In fact, that’s another disappointment I think all people with mental illness experience:  we want our meds to be the fairy godmother that waves her magic wand and rids of us of our sickness.  But as we all know, there ain’t too many of those around.  And then when people say:  “Are you taking your meds?” when you’re experiencing these ups and downs, we feel guilt again when they aren’t working perfectly.

Another thing I have to deal with is anger and whether I’ll be able to reign it in or not.  Whether I’m up or down, there’s an anger boiling inside of me all of the time and it’s such an unwelcome ‘guest’ and I want to kick it out the door and turn the key.  Little things can set me off, and this anger can be so so disproportionate to the trigger.  It’s horrifying when this explodes.  I can hear myself saying terrible things or acting hatefully and it’s like I’m watching someone else doing it.  I want it to stop…but once again, the control is in the part of the bipolar brain I don’t have much access too.

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Probably the most terrifying aspect is the recurring thoughts of suicide.  Yes, when you are in a depression, suicidal thoughts often abound for so many.  But I have them during manic stages too when my impulsivity and inability to really think about the consequences of my actions take over.  If I’m upset during mania, my bipolar brain will think: “Oh…you’d be sorry if I killed myself and everyone will be at my funeral!”  Maybe that’s why 20-60% of people with bipolar will attempt suicide and up to 19% will succeed.  It’s never fully out of our minds.

And talk about understanding…how in the hell do you tell people about these reactions and moods and guilt and self-esteem and physical issues when you really can’t grasp them yourself?  How do you apologize for things you blurted out when manic?  Promises not kept?  Emotional reactions that were often flippant?  Explosions of fury?  Look, it’s harder than fuck when your mind takes you over as opposed to you being able to control it yourself and I think that’s the hardest thing for others to understand who don’t have a mood disorder.  It’s like we’re just the train car following where ever the engine want to take us.  We don’t have the brakes.  The ability to take another route.  The wherewithal to slow down or speed up.  And when we try to apologize, how can it ever be enough?  And then BINGO, here’s comes the guilt and the tummy aches and the lowered self-esteem, and life continues in this bipolar way.

You know, having insight into this disorder is difficult enough, and just when you think you have a handle on it, BAM! …something else pops up.  It really helps to read books and articles about other peoples struggles, because it’s normalizes this abnormal world for me.  It’s lets me know I’m not alone. and others are in the same boat.  And peeps, that’s what I hope I do for you.  Let you know you aren’t alone in any struggles you have, and that you’re in good company always.  ❤

Kristi xoxo

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” ~ Meatloaf

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Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

So, first of all I used the title of one of my all time favorite songs; in fact, this was my go to song in High School for making out at parties (sorry, ma).😳 For some reason, just thought you’d like to know that.🙄

Anyhoot, I was visiting with a couple of neighbors down the street last evening and we were yacking about lawn mowers (yes, grasshoppers…single life is exciting) and then progressed into other things.  The wife was talking about her physical ailments and I said a few things about being bipolar.  THEN she said this (and I’m quoting her word for word):  “Yes…I know exactly what that is.  My cousin has it and she’s crazy crazy crazy too.”  She continued telling me how nuts this gal was and used the word loony as well.  Granted she’s 63 (which I only say because not much was known about some of these things when she was younger and that might account for her bad choice of words) but I was gobsmacked by her indifference and view of what I happen to have.

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Museums Victoria

Why the fuck is it OK to use such degrading words when it comes to describing mental illness?  And believe me peeps…she ain’t the only one.  Take a look at these:  deranged, psycho, cray-cray, mental, delusional, wacko, mad, insane, schizo, freak, needs a straitjacket, screw loose, etc.  How many of us who have a mental illness have heard at least a handful of these in our lives?  I have a feeling all of you are raising your hands.  Or, how many of us have used these?  I’m sorry to say that number is pretty high too.

In this time of political correctness when using one word or posting one tweet can literally destroy a decades old career, why is it OK to use damaging words against people like me?  I understand that using the ‘n-word’ is abhorrent and there’s no excuse for it. Likewise, I know that the ‘f-word’ (an epithet for a gay man) is also extremely derogatory.  I also know that both of these populations are born with inherent biological  characteristics be it race or homosexuality.

But so was I.  I didn’t bring this bipolar crap on myself.  I didn’t ask for it…didn’t want it.  Certainly didn’t create it out of a need for attention (as some people think those of us with mental illness do.  Yes, it’s fun to ‘pretend’ to be someone perceived by others as deranged 🙄).

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Whoever dates this winner is some lucky girl.

I have a feeling normal people (what ever the hell that is…I don’t know if I’ve ever met one) just don’t know what hurt these words do to us ‘crazies’, and I’d be happy to tell you.  They make us feel even worse about ourselves than we already do.  They can deepen our depression by making us believe we are less than.  They make us feel guilty about having an illness that’s obviously perceived as defective.  They often make us less likely to see help since many of us don’t want to admit we are part of a stigmatized group (me…for a lot of years peeps).  These words make us feel shame.  Feel inferior…bad…inadequate.

Go to Pinterest and look up ‘funny’ mental illness memes…a vast majority of these are derogatory to sufferers.  And then twitter?  Take a look at some of these gems:

  • Andrew Tate @ Cobratate:  Then they pretend they caught some disease to absolve all responsibility.  ITS (sic) NOT MY FAULT IM (sic again 🙄) SAD.  Yes it is. {Note to Andrew…revisit your grammar texts from grade school and learn about apostrophes once again.}
  • Andrew Tate again (unfortunately): “Feeling temporarily depressed is real.  Being uncontrollably depressed without reason and requiring anything other than a new mindset is BS {Another suggestion…use punctuation.}
  • Jake Paul @jakepaul:  remember anxiety is created by you sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy and the answers will come chill your mind out go for a walk talk to a friend {Seriously?  Are we not teaching writing skills in schools?}
  • Katie Hopkins @KTHopkins: People with depression do not need a doctor and a bottle of pills that rattles.  They need a pair of running shoes and fresh air.  {Super…why didn’t I think of that?}
  • Katie Hopkins again:  Sympathy for the co-pilot is making me angry.  If you are suicidal, for goodness sake top yourself in private.  Attention seeking b✷stards.
  • So, I think you get my point.  Reading these actually made me choke up and the biggest lesson I learned from these is if I attempt suicide again, I’ll be sure to do it alone.  Thanks for that advice, Katie.

    OK…now do me a favor:  imagine similar tweets with race being the focal point of the negative tirade.  Nope.  Not going to happen (and I very obviously don’t want it too…I’m just trying to show an analogy) and if it does, bye bye career, account, and any respect you might have once had.

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    I believe in God and those of you with diabetes or heart disease, please heed these suggestions too.  Right?

    Even friends of mine will resort to using inappropriate words at times, without even realizing the impact on me.  The other day someone was yapping to me about ‘Rocketman’ (and for the love of all that is holy, watch it if you haven’t) and said:  “I never knew Elton was so troubled…I just thought he was crazy.”  Hmmmm.  OK.  Gee…imagine a neglectful upbringing, being introduced to drugs early on his career, and having an eating disorder.  Who would’ve thought there were ‘real issues’ behind his ‘craziness’?

    And yes, I’ve been guilty too.  I used to really like the phrase ‘Bitches be Trippin’ (until literally a couple of days ago when I started researching all of this…I just thought it was funny) until I read what the meaning is (from Slang Define):

    Used primarily by heterosexual males to justify the irrational behaviors of women.

    Paul:  I can’t understand why my girlfriend cried just because I forgot our nine week anniversary.

    Jason:  Don’t worry about it, dude.  What can you do?  Bitches be trippin’!

    In other words, crying because of something important to you (CRYING) which is probably the culmination of other things going on in the relationship means the woman is irrational (synonyms – crazy, insane, etc.).  Okey Dokey.  No more tears, ladies.

    Having bipolar is fucking hard enough, grasshoppers.  And when insult is added to injury and then used as the basis for jokes and laughter, the pain is worse.  When I’m around people that don’t know I’m mentally ill and they use such words, it cuts me to the core because words are weapons.  I feel my face flush…I get self-conscious…I feel shame.  Look, when bombs are used against you, it means you’re in a war.  And how well can we fight back when we’re the ones who are already beaten down by stigmatization?  By misinformation?  By myths?  By our mental illnesses?  Our anxiety…depression…personality disorders…addictions?  Simply stated:  we can’t without help.  But in this culture, which still allows mental illness to be an acceptable prejudice, that help is pretty hard to find.  How sad that is.

    Kristi xoxo

    “You Should Have Seen His Face When I Started Taking My Clothes Off. Priceless.” ~ Stephenie Meyer (Breaking Dawn)

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    So, one of my Facebook buddies I’ve known since the 7th grade sent me a message the other day and said this:

    “And you are so easy to support.  You just put it out there!!  You never ask or demand, and you have this thing with honest reflection of the places and moments that make you whole.  I thought I was the only one with questions attached to things like joys and regrets.”

    I loved getting this and it showed me that opening up on this blog really is helpful to others.  We all have our challenges…our burdens…and to write about them and share them maybe helps to distribute that weight a little more easily, or eases the heaviness on some on our shoulders.

    When you hear the phrase ‘coming out’, you think of those who have revealed to their family, friends and colleagues about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  And that’s a wonderful thing!  For so long, members of the LGBTQ community were forced into ‘hiding’ so to speak.  To talk about their orientation was societal suicide and often still is.  They can lose family and  friends, be fired from jobs or denied promotions, be denied housing or custody of their children, be a victim of a hate crime, be an outcast in a neighborhood or community and the list goes on.

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    What’s so sad to me is that even though things have ‘gotten better’ more than 50% of LGBTQ have faced discrimination in just the last year, and even more frightening is there’s no federal law against this (Center for American Progress, May 2nd, 2017).  What the hell?

    The term ‘coming out’ regarding the mentally ill is similar.  Like the LGBTQ community, there’s a lot to lose and a lot of discrimination tied to having a mental illness:  housing, health care costs, work issues (yeppers), criminal justice issues (receiving longer sentences, etc.), loss of friends and difference in treatment among colleagues (been to that freaking rodeo) to name a few (National Alliance on Mental Illness, March 11th, 2020).

    So why did I do it?  Why do any of us do it, regardless of the issue we’re coming out for?  Because it’s not only hard to fake your way through life, it’s simply not fair.  Pushing down who you are to pretend to be who you’re not is exhausting, and shameful to the person.  You aren’t ‘good’ enough…’normal’ enough…’right’ enough to be fully accepted in our society, and feeling that way leads to self-stigmatization as well.  It also impedes seeking help/recovery and following through with it, as well as asking for support from others which leads to more feelings of low self-worth.  In other words, your ‘person’ is thwarted and you feel less than.

    Of course my family knew about me being bipolar and so many of them were supportive and accepting of the mentally ill ‘me’ which was such a relief and validated my worth.  I also share with my students, when it’s appropriate and in the context of what we are studying.  When I teach about mental illness, if I can’t talk about something I have openly, how can my students believe my lecture in which I state there needs to be acceptance of those with mental illness, education about the various illnesses, and a real effort to end the stigmatization of this population (which is quite large, by the way).  If I can’t talk about being bipolar without shame and share my experiences, everything I teach them is a lie.

    But there have been consequences for ‘coming out’ too.  Colleagues look at me differently.  Some are so supportive and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  Others have told me that it’s all in my head (hence the title of this blog!) and if I just got off those meds and kept a positive attitude, I’d be fine (oooookkkkkaaaayyyyy).  A couple told me to ‘pray it away’ (what the fuck?  I believe I was given this for a reason, peeps…and I would prefer these particular people pray away their ignorance instead).  I think the worst I’ve experienced at work was when I was having a very serious issue with a student at the same time of my mental breakdown and when I was at the bottom of the most serious depression I’ve ever had.  I was treated horribly (after 23 years of perfect service) and my mental state was obvious.  This was used against me as proof I was the cause of the stalking and direct, written threats I received.  I couldn’t fight it.  My illness was too strong right then.

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    How transparent should I be though?  Should I share everything?  My sissy and I were yacking about it last night (after I admired her highlights…they freaking rock), and she said I wasn’t being honest when I didn’t share everything going on in my life.  And she’s right.  I promised candor, but I realized there are some things I just can’t do that with.  I have my secrets…and I think we all do.  If I share every piece of me, what’s left that’s just mine?  It’s kinda like when sis and I would go trick-or-treating and take a look-see at our candy after.  I’d keep some of my treats hidden from her (I’m sorry T…I’ll buy you some Reeses peanut butter cups to make up for it) because I wanted those all for myself.  Likewise, it’s not always easy to be completely transparent.  Accountable.  And like all of us, it’s just too hard to be ‘out there’ all of the time.  I guess I just need to keep some of my ‘me’ inside too.

    I know my ‘coming out’ has helped people, and that quote at the beginning is only one of scores I’ve received.  Every time I hear that I’ve encouraged others to lessen their shame of having a mental illness and assured them it’s absolutely no fault of their own, I feel justified in this openness.  Is it worth the negatives?  You betcha.

    Like I’ve said in previous posts, ‘coming out’ has freed me.  Removed so many of the masks I was hiding behind.  Helped me to live more authentically which has bolstered my self-confidence and worth.  It ain’t always easy doing this, and it ain’t always everything in my life that I put out there.  But it’s real.  Something I wish we could all be, no matter what it is we’re struggling with.

    Kristi 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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    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

     

    Definitely Underwear. From K-Mart. (The Rainman)

    So, I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately and what all can we change in ourselves, if anything.  There is a lot of change we control: we change our underwear, our taste in clothes, our skin with tattoos, our body with piercings, our brand of deodorant, our hair style or color or both, and the list goes on and on!  (P.S.  If you don’t change your underwear, we need to have a natter.)

    But, can we change who we are?  Parts of our personality?  Our ‘core’ to where the changes are actually set, and the old ones washed away?  Hmmmm.  Here’s what I think:  change is a possibility, but not a likelihood for a lot of things.

    I believe our personalities are developed during early childhood and are very much influenced by our parents and early experiences.  Yes, we are born with a temperament and have hereditary traits which can impact this development, but I am convinced that nurture outweighs nature by a significant amount.

    I also have to think about the impact of mental illness.  Can we change parts of us, or do our mental illnesses dominate so much of who we are it’s just not possible.  Take my impulsivity (I mean actually take it away from me and toss it in a bin).  I hate it because it makes me blurt things out without thinking or do things without taking into consideration the consequences.

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Money is a good example!  I see something…I get it!  Then later, I worry about the spending and feel guilty.  So, how do I change this?  This impulsiveness is much much worse during manic cycles, and I often feel so ‘high’ I can’t see anything else but the minute I’m living in.  Last summer, I painted my big, wooden, expensive bed a God-awful color and glued glass stones from the Dollar Tree all over it.  After I came down, I thought: What the fuck did I do??

    I would really love love love to change how sensitive I am.  How I react to things so strongly, when others can simply brush them off.  Hearing a criticism is devastating to me.  I might have 20 students give me perfect reviews, while another writes a scathing one.  I cry over that one and can’t see the positives.  Mouthing off to someone makes me feel so bad, I ruminate over it for days and apologize to them again and again.  Relationships are the same way:  when I love, I love way too hard and am so sensitive to my partners moods, comments, and behavior.  As a result of this, I am very good at taking personal blame for things…even when logically I know I shouldn’t.

    77BAEDA3-3467-43E1-9A4FD8F0ED43AD83_source
    From scientificamerican.com

    Now, the question is this:  can I change my sensitivity?  Is this a genetic trait that’s pre-wired in me?  Or, is this a result of my bipolar (which also is centered in my brain)?  And if so, is change possible?  Can I just turn off that switch in my brain labeled “Kristi’s Emotion” and be done with this piece of me that causes so many of my tears to be shed?

    And let’s say I find that switch and turn the damn thing off.  Is it REALLY off?  Will it come back in times of stress?  Is the ‘shut off’ permanent, or can it be flicked on again easily?

    What else do I want to change in me?  I think it would be my ineptness (thank the lord for the online thesaurus I use) in forming friendships.  I can’t do it.  I’ve said it before: I’ve always been different from other people.  I felt it in Kindergarten…truly.  I’d see the girls playing with the kitchen set and I’d go join in, but I felt like an outsider.  Like I was looking through a window at what everyone else was doing and then would try to imitate their behavior.  I’d be invited to slumber parties throughout elementary and Jr. High and all of the girls would have their besties there.  I never had one.  It would be just me; so to be noticed, I created this HUGE personality!  I’d be the loud one who would do any dare.  The funny one.  The weird one.

    I had a couple of good friends in High School, but I wasn’t their bestie.  As an adult, I can honestly say I had 1 really good friend for about 7 years.  We did so much together but her bestie lived about 60 miles away, and when she would visit my friend, I was put aside.  Ouch.

    So how can I change this?  Am I truly different inside, but could change it with enough work?  Is this feeling of being different a part of my bipolar and anorexia?  Obviously, both of these make me very different!  Or is this difference just something I feel, but isn’t true in the eyes of others?  If I take off the mask I see in the mirror, would it change my awkwardness?

    oval brown wooden framed hanging mirror
    Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer on Pexels.com

    But I also wonder this:  do we really need to worry about if or how we can change, or instead just learn to live with who we are?  Be happy in our own skin?  Accept our challenges?

    I feel like we live in a society where being different is bad.  Right?  It’s almost like there’s an expectation to look a certain way, emote a certain way, act a certain way.  And anything that deviates from that is ‘WRONG’.  But, what if those of us that are different are the ones that are RIGHT?  What a kick in the ass that would be!  What if I’m just brave enough to show my sensitivity?  Isn’t it a good thing to be sensitive (maybe not to the degree I am, but still…)?  And my impulsiveness?  That’s helped me accomplish a lot of things in my life I might never have done. And being different from the other girls and people in my life as an adult might mean I’m not a sheep following the herd.  Maybe I’m the sheep that’s taking my own path through the meadow and sees flowers the others have trampled on.

    So, maybe instead of asking about whether we can fundamentally change, we should be asking:  how do I celebrate these things in me and just try to have a bit more control over them.  Doesn’t that make more sense?  Wouldn’t it be great if all of us with mental illnesses could look in the mirror and say ‘Hey, I am what I am.’  Use our differences to educate others?  Let people see we accept ourselves, illnesses and all? Isn’t that a HUGE step in them accepting us too?

    I’m 53 fucking years old.  I don’t think I’m going to be able to radically change this Kristi that I am.  However, I think I could change the way I accept this Kristi who’s been with me on my journey in this life…through the good and the bad.  When I think about it, she’s taken care of me pretty well.  Maybe I’ll take her shopping for new fancy underwear today; I think she deserves it.

    Kristi xoxo

     

     

     

    World Bipolar Awareness Day!

    world dayu

    So, it’s not as exciting as Christmas or as fun as Halloween, but today is World Bipolar Awareness Day, and it’s something important to recognize!

    You know, there are so many misconceptions out there in terms of what bipolar is, or is not, so let’s learn more about this brain disease with my infographic below!

    Untitled-Project

    In terms of the mania, here’s what those of us who have bipolar can experience (Mayo Clinic) with my comments in the parenthesis:

    • ABNORMALLY upbeat, jumpy and wired (I can barely sit down when I’m manic)
    • Increased activity, energy, or agitation (last summer, I walked 8 miles every single morning and then more in the evening, painted the interior of my house in days, created dozens of pieces of artwork, painted all of my wood furniture, kept up with 3 online classes, did tons of yard work and the list goes on!)
    • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (when I’m manic, I feel like I could rule the world!  Literally!)
    • Decreased need for sleep (I have to take OTC meds to induce sleep)
    • Unusual talkativeness (my mom knows I’m getting depressed when I stop talking non-stop)
    • Racing thoughts (sometimes I cry because all of the thoughts are so ‘busy’ in my brain it scares me)
    • Being easily distracted (my mom will tell me something and I’ll be looking her in the eye, and then I say “What?” and she has to start all over.  I’m distracted by my thoughts, sounds, what I’m seeing around me…all the while thinking how I could incorporate this into some kind of art)
    • Poor decision making (whooo-weeee…where the hell do I start with this one?  How about spending $20,000 on motorcycles in one weekend?  Or, allowing my ex to move back in with me days after he cheated on me?)

    In terms of depression, we can experience these things:

      • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness with lots of tears (I will cry over anything, everything or nothing.  I literally feel like there’s a whole inside of me that will never get filled or healed again)
      • Marked loss of interest in activities (I can’t even think about painting or even coloring a page…I just don’t have the ‘will’ to create at all)
      • Significant weight loss or weight gain, or changes in eating habits (when I’m manic, I’m too busy to eat, and when I’m depressed, I’m too sad to eat.  Also, eating disorders often go along with bipolar, and since I’m a recovering anorexic, this isn’t good for me at all)
      • Insomnia or sleeping too much (depression makes me want to nap during the day and it’s harder than hell to get myself up and face the night)
      • Restlessness or slowed behavior (everything feels like I’m doing it in slow motion)
      • Fatigue or loss of energy (oh yeah)
      • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt (when I’m experiencing a depression, I apologize for things I did decades ago.  I feel guilt over every wrong I’ve ever committed and feel I should be punished for them.  When something bad happens to me, I feel like I deserve it as a payment for sins (even though I believe in Jesus).  I also feel so worthless that the world would be better off without me.)
      • Decreased ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness (I know I stumble over words, don’t remember lectures like I should, and really have to think harder at school when I’m depressed…I hate how it affects my teaching.  This is the worst thing for me…knowing that I’m not able to give 100% to my students each and everyday.)
    • Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide (yep.  Been there, done that.  Nuff said.)

    Now that you know about bipolar, maybe better than you did, this final question remains:  What can YOU do with this info?  Let’s see:

    • Try not to use the term bipolar as an adjective…it’s not!  It’s not a substitute for crazy or nuts or someone acting out!  It’s the diagnosis of a mental illness!
    • If you know someone you love or know is bipolar, try to remember the above!  If they cancel plans on you at the last minute, refuse to join you in eating out, won’t speak to you except in short phrases, they are probably cycling through a depression and it’s not their fault!  Also, if they are talking so fast that you can’t get a word in edgewise, won’t sit down and watch a movie with you, want to try everything out there right NOW, they are cycling through mania.  Just try to be understanding that these things aren’t their fault.
    • Having said that, if you see signs that you feel are much exaggerated and/or dangerous, talk to their partner, parents, or trusted friend of theirs.  They might need help!
    • Never ever be afraid to ask a bipolar (or anyone!) if they are considering suicide if you see signs of it (talking about it, giving away things, saying ‘goodbyes’, seeing helpless and despair in them, etc.  For a full list of warning signs and more info, visit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.)  Talking, directing them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifetline at 1-800-273-8255, discussing what you see with their parents/partner/friends, or taking them to your local Emergency Room can help save their life.
    • When you hear someone talking about bipolar in an inappropriate way, or you see something in the media that minimizes or portrays bipolar wrongly, speak up!  Use it as a teaching moment for others to learn from!

    There are so many other mental illnesses out there as well, and learning about them, talking about them, and understanding them can help reduce the stigma that the mentally ill face.  The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on Oct. 10th every year, and the Mental Health Awareness Week is the first full week of October.  Be vocal these days on social media and show your support for all that suffer from mental illness.  We need you!

    Finally, thank you all for supporting me.  There are so many of you that read my blog who e-mail me with support while sharing your own stories.  I love the connection with all of you!

    I know it’s not easy to be my parent, son, sister, and friend.  I know that it really sucks balls sometimes, and I’m so so sorry for what I’ve put my mom and son through especially.  If I hadn’t had, or didn’t have, their support, I know I wouldn’t be typing this right now.  The support you give someone who is suffering from a mental illness is truly life changing or life saving.  We need you…and we know how special you are to be there for us.

    Kristi xoxo