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 🙄):

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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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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

     

    It’s in Their Head.

    So, I’ve been reading a lot about the stigma of mental illness, and the more I read and study, the more I’m shocked and disheartened by the attitude of people towards the likes of me:  a mentally ill woman with Bipolar and Anorexia (in ‘remission’ but still something I have to fight daily in terms of making myself eat enough and stay healthy).

    First, let’s talk about what stigmas are; if you look at the Oxford Dictionary for a definition, here’s what you find:

    “A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”

    Take a close look at this sentence, Peeps.  “A mark of DISGRACE.”  Really?  In this day and age, we are still considered ‘disgraceful?’  Or let’s use other synonyms to further understand this:  shameful, despicable, bad.  I should be ashamed to have a brain disease?  It makes me despicable?  It makes me bad?  Wow.

    languagematters

    Prejudice is pre-JUDGING.  PRE-judging.  Putting people in groups based on certain characteristics then lumping them all together under an umbrella of adjectives.  “The rich are all stingy.”  “The poor don’t want to work.”  “All teenagers all use drugs.”  Nope.  None of these are true.  There might be some individuals that have these characteristics, but not all!  Now, here’s the one we MI’s might hear:  “The mentally ill are just crazy.  They should be locked up!”  “Those homeless guys make me nervous…you know they’re just nuts.”  “I know that if someone is schizo, they’ll hurt you!”  And on and on and on.  Then, because of these prejudicial stereotypes, discrimination follows – these ideas are acted out by the people that have them, and suddenly, we’re treated differently.

    I read an excellent article entitled:  The Stigma of Mental Disorders by Wulf Rossler.  In this, he states the following:  “There is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without a mental illness.”  He also writes that people with mental illness internalize societal stigmas, and then experience diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy as a result.  Non wonder so many of us feel bad about simply being who we are.

    In another article entitled: Prejudice Towards People with Mental Illness, the authors say 4 factors have been identified that underlie prejudice towards people with mental illness (my explanations of these are in the parenthesis):  fear/avoidance (people being scared of the MI and then staying away because they’re considered dangerous), malevolence (highly negative thoughts against the MI and thinking they are bad), authoritarianism (the MI should be controlled by society), and unpredictability (who knows what they’ll do?).  So, in a nutshell:  people fear us…try to avoid us…think we’re bad or inferior…think we need to be controlled…think our behavior is always unpredictable.  Wow again.

    walnuts
    Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

    So.  I’m literally sitting here right now, trying to think of what to say, and I’m drawing a blank.  Not writer’s block.  But a blank of how us MI can been seen so freaking negatively for having disorders we can’t help.  But then, I think about racism, and how skin color changes a person’s opportunities and treatment in our culture drastically.  How our gender puts us in boxes with very clear expectations and assumptions.  How our social class determines the way people see us, treat us, and either look up to us or down to us, just based on what we might have in our bank account.  How can any of this be possible?  How can anybody be judged by others who could be judged themselves.  I just don’t get it.

    baf0edcc65a2307861c274cc659b92ae--mental-illness-quotes-mental-health-stigma
    What have YOU been told to do?

    And yes, I’ve definitely felt the consequences of these stigmas.  You know, in the 23 years I’ve taught at my school, I’ve only been asked to lunch twice.  Twice.  People get in groups and eat together all of the time, with me watching my colleagues in adjoining offices getting ready to go out while joking around.  But I’m not asked.  I think it’s because I can be loud…overly sensitive…overly eager.  When a student threatened to rape me and turn me into a lamp shade (his words), I was blamed.  After all, I’m the sicko.  Right?  The crazy and unpredictable one.  So, of course MY bipolar had to be the reason for HIS threat.  When I’m struggling with depression or having difficulty with suppressing my feelings, I’m simply ignored.  It’s just too uncomfortable for others to be around or address.  In fact, according to one colleague, mental illness isn’t real.  They say:  “Just cheer up!  Damn, others have it a lot worse than you do.”  Or here’s a good one that really makes me feel better:  “What the fuck!   Quit being so damn sensitive.”  (I’ve heard that more times than I can count).  Or how about this gem: “God, here goes Kristi AGAIN, just looking for more attention.”  Or my truly favorite one:  “What the fuck is the matter with you?”

    ZoeBlogTW
    I can so relate to this.

    It’s not my imagination; I know I’m treated differently than others since I’ve ‘come out’ and really started talking about my mental illness.  I’m not taken as seriously.  Sometimes I’ll be talking in a meeting at school, and someone talks over me and I just have to shut up and not contribute.  Or, I’ll be in a bad depression but try to hide it from family members because I don’t want them to think I’m not trying to be ‘better’.  In fact, I have family members that won’t even talk about it at all, while others have told me:  “You’re going to beat this!”  No, I’m not.  I’m going to fight it, but I’m not going to beat it; this is who I am, and who I have been for as long as I can remember. {Shout out here to my mom, son and sister:  they are awesomely supportive of me.  My rocks.}

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    I feel different than others.  I see things differently.  I think about things differently.  But when I try to express that to people, I’m shut down.  And to be a part of the conversation, I just have to nod and pretend that their ideas are mine too.  Sometimes I think I should just build a bubble around myself to protect people from having to be around me.  Uncomfortable around me.   Wary around me.

    But, there is a light.  You know the friend I talked about in my last post?  While we were talking about what having bipolar is like, I told him I did feel so different..so out of place…so at odds with others.  And after thinking for a minute, here’s what he said:  “Kristi, you are different.  You light up a room when you walk in.  Not many do that.”

    You know, like Elton says in ‘Rocketman’:  “I’m OK with different”.  Maybe someday, we can all share that sentiment.

    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.

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    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

    The Importance of being Honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo