“Gold Digger” ~ Kanye West

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So, what is it about a million dollars? Isn’t that what so many of us wished for when we were little…or older? “Gee, if only I had a million dollars, I’d be set!” Then, we’d make a list of everything we wanted: a mansion with a pool…the best car out there…not ever having to work again…all the clothes we could ever want…and the list went on. You know, I still hear people say this (except in this economy, it’s more like “I wish I had a couple million dollars” 🙄) but I think about whether or not it’s really the thing to want…to desire…to dream about.

Yes, I do believe money can buy certain non-tangeable things like security, better safety, and the such, but what else can it REALLY buy? Happiness? Love? Fulfillment? Respect?

Hmmmmm…now that’s I’m a cough-cough…tad older…I’ve come to realize that what I truly want in life isn’t connected to me winning the lottery at all. Over the last few years I’ve come to see money very differently. Much more utilitarian…and not so much as what dreams are made of.

Let’s take happiness. Now, some might argue that money CAN buy happiness. “Look…it’ll get me a boat, a truck and a cabin in the woods…that’s happiness!” And that’s right. It will get you the stuff you want that can make you happy…but is it the moolah that’s actually causing the happiness? I’ve known people with these things and they still aren’t happy. Still aren’t content. Are actually, still wanting more.

I remember when Hubby #1 (shutty, peeps… 😬) and I moved from our orange and brown, 1 bedroom, teensy tiny kitchen, hideous bathroom apartment to our trailer! I was in heaven! My gosh…no more neighbors clomping around upstairs (although we did have the best neighbors possible 😀) and no more parties blaring downstairs. No more having our allotted parking place being taken over by some boob who had no idea what a ‘reserved’ sign meant and no more traipsing up rickety stairs juggling 3 bags of groceries and an armful of school books.

Now, we had our own driveway…only a couple of stairs…no more people surrounding us with only a piece of drywall separating us. It was heaven on earth. Even the avocado color scheme was a welcome change from the darkness of what we’d had. Could we ever be happier? Would we ever out-grow this nirvana? Well. Yes.

The trailer that was HUGE when we moved in suddenly became just as full and cluttered as our apartment had been thanks to my penchant for thrift shopping. Whenever I found something that I just knew we had the space for, I bought it…not realizing that each item actually did take up an area of finite space that was shrinking with each trip I took in the car. And the avocado color scheme I thought was so beautiful and fresh and nature-y? It started looking like someone puked up spinach all over the place. 🤢

SOOOOO…we bought our first house! YEA! Now this was IT! I would never want anything else than our own house. This is where we’d raise our family and have dinners for our grandkids and throw parties and do whatever it was we wanted. And, it was all well and good. Until 2 weeks after we moved in and Hubby said he wanted a divorce. Heh? We finally ‘made it’ to where we had dreamed and he wanted out? Hmmmm.

Why is it we still live in a society where having money means ‘you made it.’ Because someone else’s bank account is bigger than yours, they just have to be happier. I’ll share a secret with you. I believed this for a long time. Then, my world got shook up and I finally realized what I really needed…and what could actually be in my reach if I worked at it. It didn’t have to be a dream…it could be a reality.

Instead of dreaming about being a millionaire, I decided that I’d rather be loved, happy, and content with a feeling of purpose. Just 4 things…instead of a million bucks.

For so long in my life, I thought of myself as being unlovable. Face it, after 2 years of being sexually abused, 3 divorces (yes, you may roll your eyes 🙄) and a couple of break-ups, it’s pretty hard not to feel this way. After Hubby 3 and I divorced and then J and I had our tumultuous relationship, I felt more unlovable than I ever had in my entire life. Hubby and I still talk daily…and lately he’s told me how much he regrets leaving and that he still loves me. No. He doesn’t. At least not in the way he’s talking about. He loves what we HAD. He misses the life we had built. He’s found out that doesn’t happen often. BUT, he doesn’t love ‘me’. If he did…well…he wouldn’t have walked out that door.

Then I had J for 3 years. Manipulative, gaslighting, cheating, emotionally and physically abusive J. And, I loved him. A lot. (Doesn’t this just show how irrational our emotions are?) And, he said he loved me. A lot. It’s took quite a while to realize this, but no. He didn’t. You know, I’ve never laid a hand on my son…and yes, he was always well behaved. I’ve never laid a had on my poochies…and yes, they are cough-cough…’sorta’…well behaved. And why haven’t I done that? Because I love them. You do NOT hurt what you love. (PLEASE don’t give me a lecture on physical punishment for kids…that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open and discuss…but when every single medical association, psychiatric/psychological association, school organization, etc. ALL say that physical punishment is wrong, I’m in pretty good company. Let’s leave it at that.) NOW, I will admit this: there were times I was so angry or upset at my boy or dogs that I had an ‘urge’ to lash out…but my love for them stopped it.

Then I was alone for a year…during a pandemic where I had only myself to be with for the great majority of the time and I got to know me in a way I never had before. I started liking me. Even loving me. And that felt great! That I could give myself what I needed was something I never knew was in me. Then, Bill came ambling along and he loves me too. We love each other when we’re crabby and tired and stressed…and not just when it’s good. He’s never threatened me with anything…talked poorly about me to others…blamed me for things outside of my realm of power…and has always either asked for or accepted forgiveness. At the age of 54, I finally can see what love is from the inside and the out. That, my grasshoppers, is worth more than a million bucks.

Contentment. Now that’s an interesting word. Synonyms include being comfortable, satisfied, and fulfilled. I was really content when I was married to Oliver’s dad. I loved loved loved our life together because I was raising a family which had always been my dream. But I also worried that this could be taken away from me if I didn’t measure up to the standard of the his family. And believe me, this standard was high. So I worked my ass off for this ‘contentment’ and maybe that tainted it in a lot of ways. B’s family is a cutter-offer type of family. There’s a divorce? Cut the person out of every picture that ever existed of them even though they are the mother or father of your grandchildren. Piss one of them off…and you’ll need to beg for their attention once again. So, yes, I was content in raising my family and being a mommy…but I was also worried it was an illusion at times…something that could be taken away with any stumble on my part. That was a shit-load of pressure…particularly for someone who’s bipolar and stumbles her way through life anyway.

I’m content now. Finally now. It’s not because I’m with Bill or because my career rocks or because I have the best kid in the universe or because I live in a cute house or because I have family that loves me. It’s because I’m OK with me. Satisfied with me. If I had to be alone, I’d be OK. I’ve come to realize that. I don’t worry about stumbling anymore. Because, for the first time in my life, I’ve learned to pick my own self up and keep moving forward.

And purpose? I think we all have this question that’s been around since the beginning of time: “What am I here for? What’s my life all about?” I’m going to be honest here. I always saw myself as another Oprah…someone who asked the hard questions and dug deep into issues and looked great on TV. That was my dream. Still is actually. But, my purpose is 2 fold: to be a great mom and to be a great professor. Am I great? Depends on what day you ask my son or whether or not I let a student make-up an exam. But I feel like I’m doing what I was put on this earth for. Along with the purpose of teaching, I know I was meant to teach as much as I can about mental illness. I believe everything happens for a reason…I also don’t pretend to know what those reasons are. There’s so much I don’t understand. But, I finally understand why I have bipolar…because I can use my opportunities of teaching to help others understand mental illness and start to break the stigma of it themselves. Does this make up for what this fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar puts me through. Well….no. It does not. But, does it make it more tolerable…knowing I’m using it for others to learn from? Yes. It does.

And then there’s happiness. The word that’s so different for everyone but so widely sought after by us all. Let’s see…I’m loved, content, and have a purpose in life. Yes. I am happy. Happy with me. Happy with my life. Happy with what I have.

If I were to win a million dollars tonight, my world would change. I could go out and buy to my hearts content. But…would I alienate family? Would I suddenly quit my job and forget the purpose I have? Would I have to worry about how to spend it…who to spend it on…what charities to give it too? WOULD this windfall make me happy? Is this the end all/get all in life? I don’t think so. Not anymore. Because, my sweet peeps, I’ve got all I need right now.

Kristi xoxo

“But you are not alone…I am here with you…” ~ Michael Jackson

So, the beginning of this post is going to show you my ‘Professor K’ side and I hope you’ll bear with me…and maybe learn a new bit of info to boot. In the United States we have awareness months and here is a SHORT list of issues that I feel are particularly important…let’s take a look-see:

  • January:
  • February:
    • American Heart Month – leading cause of death in the U.S. and a person dies of this every 36 seconds.
    • March:
      • Colon Cancer – it’s estimated that around 150,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year and is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
    • April:
      • Autism – 1:54 kids diagnosed each year with boys representing the majority of cases.
      • Child Abuse Prevention – there are 3.6 million referrals to agencies every year which represent 6.6 million kids. Between 4-7 kids die each day due to abuse/neglect.
      • Sexual Assault – 1:6 women and 1:33 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
    • May:
      • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) – 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. 80% die within 2-5 years of their diagnosis.
      • Brain Tumor – 24,530 new cases are diagnosed each year.
      • Mental Heath Awareness – 1:5 adults (with 45% seeking treatment) have a mental illness and 1:20 have a serious mental illness (schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar) with 65.5% getting treatment. 16.5% of youth have a mental illness with 50% receiving help. And, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-34: 46% have a diagnosed mental health condition and 90% have symptoms of one.
    • June:
      • Alzheimer’s – 1:3 seniors die of this each year and 6 million are living with it currently.
    • September:
      • Childhood Cancer – 16,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and it’s the #1 cause of death by disease in children.
    • October:
      • Breast Cancer – 13% of women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over their lifetime as are 2620 men (who are most likely to die from the disease).
      • Domestic Violence – 1:4 women and 1:9 men experience SEVERE physical violence which figures to 20 victims per minute.
      • Bullying – 20% of student are bullied at school and 31% of people have experienced it as an adult. Bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide ideation/completion.
    • November:
      • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – 16 million adults and 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Whew. Now remember, this isn’t all of the awareness months we have…just a sampling of the major physical and mental diseases that are experienced by so many people.

What’s my point? Well…this: around 9% of people have had COVID with 1:6 experiencing severe symptoms; approximately 2% will die from the infection and as of today, there have been 561,052 deaths in the U.S. Yes, COVID is serious and we need to tackle it. (By the way…did you know that during the same time period, 24,000 – 62,000 Americans died from the flu and pneumonia and is the 9th leading cause of deaths yearly? I didn’t. 😳) But, 48,500 people (kids – elderly) die of suicide each year and we take 1 month to highlight it. There’s no vaccine…no daily advice…and very few PSA’s, etc.

Sssssooooo…why do we only take a month to tackle the huge issues we have consistently in the U.S.? One month to focus on mental health when 20% of us have a mental health issue or illness? And, thanks to COVID, this number is increasing. The loneliness and depression people have felt during the pandemic…the stress and anxiety of losing jobs…it’s worsening and I think this trend will continue.

Let me tell you what it’s like to have a severe mental illness, which for me is bipolar: it’s hell. Truly…it’s that simple of a description. Hell. Every single day I’m on this earth I struggle with what’s happening in my mind. I can’t remember ever not having this…it’s been with me for the vast majority of my life. Like I’ve shared before, it was evident something was wrong with me as early as 3rd grade and by the time I was 13, my grandma talked to my mom about her worries regarding my mental health. I attempted suicide in high school and was either so depressed I could barely slog through my days, or I was so manic I could hardly sit still in class and did some really stupid things after school that I’m not real proud of. It was hard for others to handle this, so I really had only 1 close friend, but she was amazing; I know it was sometimes hard on her to be there for me like she was (thank you, M…I love you🥰) .

My brain has a little demon bastard in it. This guy (I picture him as a guy…go figure 🙄) dictates when I’m up and when I’m down. When I can function around other people and when I can’t. When I can go out without either crying or having anxiety or when I have to stay home and try to deal with the panic/mania my brain is producing. It tells me to spend $1000’s of dollars at a time and when I get depressed, it shames me for that money spent so I eat noodles and salad every night to save a few bucks (and remember, my anorexia feeds off of these small menus). It dictates how much love I can give at any one time or compels me to push people away. In other words, this mother fucker (sorry, ma…but you feel the same way about him 😐) has control over me.

Think about that. Control. Other words for control are: Power. Command. Dominance. Pretty strong stuff. ‘Kristi’ is rarely in control…and even when I think I am, it’s only because this guy has loosened his hold for a while and is allowing me that privilege. Look, try to understand it this way: when ma had breast cancer (over 20 years ago and has been fine every since 🙏), she had good days and shitty days. But regardless of how she felt on any given day, she always had the cancer. It was there with her for a year.

In the same way, no matter how those of us with mental illnesses feel…we still have the mental illness. This is why you simply can’t tell someone suffering from depression to ‘cheer up!’ Or someone suffering from anxiety to ‘calm down!’ Or someone suffering from a personality disorder to ‘get right!’. It’s akin to telling someone suffering from ALS to just ‘get up and walk’. See my point?

To be honest, I never knew the strength of my demon-guy until I had a mental breakdown 3 years ago and I realized that he is one strong son-of-a- bitch. He took me from being a fairly confident, secure woman to someone who was absolutely nothing. Everything that had been good in my mind was tossed away and only a shell remained. He filled this shell with suicidal ideation until I attempted again. He told me to cut myself all over my body…and I did. He poured words into my head like ‘worthless’, ‘ugly’, ‘you deserve to die’, and I believed them. In other words? He tried to kill me, and he almost succeeded.

Long after COVID is under control with yearly vaccinations, etc. we will still have people suffering from everything I talked about above. There’s no vaccine for cancer…for sexual assault…for human trafficking…for domestic violence…for child abuse. None. And there never will be.

That’s why it’s so important that we don’t have special ‘months’ where these issues are highlighted; instead, they need to be talked about all year around and publicized continuously. If we can all come together as a society and fight COVID…why can’t we do that with mental illness? Come together and learn how to recognize it in ourselves and others…how to seek treatment…how to help a friend or family member…how to direct people to the resources they need…how to listen…how to help…just how to talk about it.

Yes, I know suicide and mental illness and domestic violence and rape and child abuse and all of these other things are ‘icky’ to talk about. Just like the ASPCA commercials that show abused and dying pets. It kills me to see those and I used to look away. I don’t anymore. I watch them when they come on. Why? Because animals are being abused and killed daily and the only way to stop these commercials is to stop this treatment. I donate to local pet shelters…I rescue dogs…I always tell new puppy owners to spay or neuter their pets…I try my best to do what I can.

From Beacon Health Options

We can’t turn away and say: “I don’t want to see a PSA commercial about suicide while I’m trying to watch Wheel of Fortune.” You know what I don’t want? Someone committing suicide while I’m watching Wheel of Fortune. Why can’t we have these months where we strongly highlight various illnesses/diseases, but still talk about them and learn about them always? Domestic violence awareness shouldn’t end on October 31st. Sexual assault awareness should continue past April. And mental health awareness shouldn’t only be in May. We can’t let these arbitrary ‘months’ and the media dictate what we pay attention too. People are dying every single day due to mental illness. We need more than a month.

The ‘theme’ of this month highlighting mental health is “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” But you know what? When those of us who suffer from mental illness only hear and feel this support for 31 days out of the year, it pretty much feels like we are.

Kristi xoxo

“Easy come…easy go.”

Happy New Year, my sweetie peeps!! I hope you had a great holiday season and wish you ALL the very happiest of 2021! ❤❤❤

So, I was reading yet another ‘inspirational saying’ on Pinterest the other day and it said this: “If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. If it’s worth it, it’s not going to be easy 🙄.” Yes, I know this sounds like a great philosophical musing but I have to disagree with it because I’ve had a lot of things come easy in my life that have been very much worth it.

My sonshine is one of them. I didn’t get preggers with Hubby #1 but immediately hit the jackpot with Hubby #2. Before this, people would tell me horror stories about their pregnancies: barfing every other minute…not being able to get out of bed…getting varicose veins that rival any climbing rope you’ve seen…getting stretch marks that look like a topographical map, etc. And for the women out there who experienced a difficult pregnancy, you truly have my sympathy. But for me, it was a breeze. I never got sick…ate to my heart’s content…reveled in seeing my belly grow…and don’t have a stretch mark in sight (you can hate me now…I’ll wait. HOWEVER, I rubbed baby oil lotion all over my belly from day 1…ma said no matter what I did I would get them, but even after gaining 65 pounds, I didn’t! This, you sweetie peeps, is my claim to fame 😳🙄).

Anyhoot, the delivery wasn’t a picnic but I was blessed with a perfect little baby boy who had, and still has, the best personality of anyone I know. Truly. It was easy being his mommy and I love being his ma now.

School is another thing that’s really easy for me. When I read a book or look at notes, etc. and then try to recall the info, I can see the pages in my mind with the words on them. I don’t know if I actually have a photographic memory (for fuck sakes, I have too many labels as is…and sorry, ma) but I can learn and remember things with very little effort. In my graduate classes, other students would say: “I pulled a few all-nighters and worked for hours and hours on this assignment.” I would nod and say that I did too. However, I was lying. Goodness…I had a 1 year old! I couldn’t work for hours on a paper! So, I’d write a draft during O’s nap, proof it after he was asleep for the night, and then get it turned in. Easy peasy.

NO…I’m not bragging (well….maybe just a tad… 😳). I can’t really do anything else wonderful besides poop out a great kid and read a book in my head…however, we all have to celebrate our victories when we can. Riiigggghhhhttt? 😁

And on the flip side of that quote, I’ve done things that have been really really hard and still didn’t achieve the goal I set or what I thought I earned! For example, after I started running marathons, I really really really wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon and to do so, you have to run a previous marathon under a certain time limit. I was never even close. I worked and worked and worked…and ‘failed’ if you will. I loved running my marathons anyway, but what I worked ssssooooo HARD for didn’t happen so what the hell? Hmmmm.

But, there’s always a kernel of truth in some sayings and I think what has been the hardest thing in my life has been worth it. Being open about having bipolar has been a toughie. It drastically changed my life for the better in that my family understands me better…I understand me better…and I’m getting the treatment I need to stay on track as best I can.

On the other hand (which doesn’t have a diamond on it…yet…cough cough…I’m talking to you, Bill 😊), it was hard to ‘come out’ and some of it wasn’t worth it at all. It changed a lot of my relationships and opened me up to criticism, ‘talk’ (i.e. gossip), people avoiding me, etc. Bipolar is considered the 2nd most serious mental illness (of course) around after schizophrenia and people think we’re cray-cray…always unstable…unable to have any semblance of a ‘normal’ life. For those untreated, yes…these things might be true; but the vast majority of us aren’t dangerous, criminal, out of control, or psychotic and are living our lives fully. 😎

You know, I loved Carrie Fisher so much (yes, we can call it a girl crush and not be lying 😳) and she once said this about having bipolar herself: “In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.” I adore this! I love knowing that no matter what happens in my life, I’m already very ‘ballsy’ and can handle about anything else that comes along. 😐

So, here’s my point: It’s OK if things come easy to you…if you didn’t have to work hard to get them. And it’s also OK if you worked your ass off and didn’t get the reward you were looking for…not everything can be achieved by everyone. So here’s what I’m doing as I begin this new year: thanking God for the blessings he gives me so easily…leaning on him when the struggle gets real…and then giving myself a break when I fall short despite my work. I’m not going to feel guilty for the easy pleasures…and I’m not going to beat myself up for not meeting a goal. I’m going to be thankful everyday I have and know that whatever does happen, happens for a reason.

Love you peeps. Happy New Year.

Kristi xoxo

“I gave you a vegetable last week…how dare you get sick.” ~ Anonymous

So, the following conversation happened a couple of days ago between me and ma…word for word (note: J, D, and T are mom’s ‘lady friends’):

Ma: “Kristi, I broke my ankle while you were driving home from Indiana.”

Me (in a screechier voice than normal): “What??? You BROKE your ankle??? Do you need me to take you to the ER???”

Ma: “No…I’ve already been and have a boot on…no worries.”

Me: “Tell me EXACTLY what happened.”

Ma: “I was walking down the stairs and missed the last one, fell, and hear a POPPING noise. So, I waited an hour then walked down to J’s house to see what she and D thought. Then, I walked home, got on my make-up, and drove to the ER. That’s about it.”

Me: “Ok…I need to get this straight in my mind before I have you committed. You hear a popping sound and see your ankle swell in front of your eyes so you walk down the block to J’s to see what she and another 80 year old woman think you should do since they were both teachers and apparently also have their MD’s. After they tell you ‘it’s bad’, you totter home, put on your make-up which takes you a half hour, and then you drive yourself to the ER.”

Ma: “That’s about it.”

Me: “I hate to ask this, but what did you do then?”

Ma: “Well…I had plans to eat with T and help her cut out a quilt so I just drove there and spent the afternoon.”

Me: “Oh! That makes total sense, ma.”

For fuck sakes…my mother is a mule. A stubborn mule. But you know, I really can’t think of a time when she was sick or hurt that she didn’t take care of herself or play it down. Even when she was battling breast cancer, she did all of the cooking for her and her bastard of an ex and cleaned up the house. And before you ask, YES! I was MORE than willing to do these things for her…begged to do these things for her…and went over there daily to do these things for her. And YES! EVERY time I got there, the house was already clean and she had supper all lined up for the evening. I’d say: “Ma! What the hell? Let me help you!” And she said: “I’m fine. I’m not an invalid.” (I’m just as stubborn…I don’t like help either 😐).

I come from a family where illness definitely isn’t coddled. “Toughen up! Walk it off!” It’s like a sign of status to see who can be the ‘sickest’ and still be the most productive. My pop is the same way so sis and I grew up thinking that being sick didn’t mean you stopped working so she and I do the same. I remember when O was 5 and had pneumonia (it took me 4 tries to spell that right 🙄) and we went back to the docs for another chest x-ray to see if he was getting better. When I was there, I was hacking around but told the doc it was just a cold. He listened to my lungs and ordered an x-ray for me too and come to find out, I also had pneumonia in both lungs. And, I was still teaching my classes and taking care of the house.

I’m not saying this is wrong…I think being strong is a great attribute to have and not ‘wallowing’ in your illness is probably a lot more healthy than doing so. I’m proud of my ma and pop, and the fact they are still working and being productive in their mid 70’s shows that working and staying active is the best way to go. I also a believer in having a positive attitude and know that at least for me, the more positive I am when sick, the less ‘sick’ I feel. (I used to love saying this to O when he was a little guy: “If you break your leg, don’t come running to me!” It always made him laugh!”)

So, I’ve been having problems since mid-September with peeing blood with pain every time I wee (I know, I know 🤢), being tired all the time, getting nauseous every time I eat, pain in my sides and back, etc. I’ve been on 3 different rounds of anti-biotics for 6 weeks total and had an ultrasound that shows 2 small kidney stones (I’m going to make a necklace out of them after they pass just to gross out ma). My doc sent me to a specialist yesterday and he was adorable. Anyhoot, we were yacking while he was examining and he said: “Kidney stones aren’t doing this. We need to figure this out.” So, he ordered me to get 3 CT scans this week as well as him doing a cystoscopy on Thursday. I asked him: “What are you looking for?” And he said: “It’s a good chance, with your symptoms, that it’s bladder cancer. I also want to rule out a tumor on your kidneys.” So I said: “What if it’s not one of those?” He said: “I’m not sure…we’ll just keep at it until we know.”

I’ve written before about ma telling me when she found a lump in her boob and I’ll never forget the feeling of being punched in my gut. I also remember when my son was being tested for leukemia and prayed so hard God got tired of hearing from me. The feeling of hearing ‘cancer’ and ‘son’ in the same sentence does something to you that’s truly indescribable.

So yesterday, when the doc said this, I started to get that punched in the gut feeling again. Not because of ‘me’, but because of how it would affect O, ma and Bill. O was with me at the appointment and he said: “Ma…don’t worry. You’re going to be fine.” Ma said: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” Bill said: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” But guess what? I’m worried.

And as Bill and I were chatting last night and I expressed this to him, I said: “Why it is wrong to be scared? Worried? Aren’t those valid feelings right now?” And he thought about it and said they were. But, he also said that until I knew something for sure, I should still be positive which I also am: if it’s cancer, we’ll fight it.

Sometimes I think the word ‘cancer’ is stigmatized like the words ‘mental illness’. Both are things people don’t want to really talk about or necessarily be around. In terms of being bipolar, I knew there was something very wrong with me when I was a teen (zits, braces and all 🙄), but as I got older I kept thinking: “Bipolar only affects around 1-2% of the population…I can’t have that!” Well, why not? By the same token, 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.S….why shouldn’t I be one of them? Why do we always think that these things ‘happen to other people’ and not ourselves? Why do we shy away from even contemplating it? Why do we feel guilty if we’re scared?

All of us are ‘someone else’ to ‘everyone else.’ Right? And by denying or ignoring or insisting that it can’t be cancer…or mental illness…or that someone is suicidal, etc. prohibits us from helping them or giving them the support they need. Why do we put our energy into pretending that something ‘can’t be true’?

I hope hope hope (and pray pray pray) that I don’t have bladder cancer. I hope hope hope (and pray pray pray) it’s something that can be cured/taken care of with a magic pill. But, I’m also being realistic and I’m scared. If I do have it, of course I’ll be tough! Of course I’ll be strong! Of course I’ll get through it like millions of other people do every year! Once something is ‘named’ it can be fought and I think it’s the not knowing that’s making me worry. After I finally got diagnosed with bipolar and started getting the help I needed, my life improved so much. Hiding it…denying it…just made me still stay ‘sick’. I’m not expecting to have cancer…but I’m not ruling it out either since doc is leaning that way. I’m not going to pretend I’m immune to cancer and become complacent about my health. Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is always power.

Thanks for listening, my sweet peeps. ❤❤❤

Kristi xoxo

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ~ Stephen King

So, a friend was talking to me about one of their family members who has been formally diagnosed with bipolar but refuses to get help with it even though they are having trouble functioning in their day-to-day life. When I asked my friend: “What all is family doing for him?” their response was this: “Most of them are fed up…they are stepping away since he won’t get help and it’s so much to handle.”

Clear as mud to me.

Hmmmmm. Now first of all, I know how difficult it is to deal with someone who has a mental illness. I’m not the only one in my family with a mental health issue and there is also a lot of alcoholism as well, so I know it’s tough to be there for the mentally ill day after day. Then, when you add your own mental health struggles into the equation (I actually got through College algebra and trig with A’s. How in the name of all that’s holy I did it, I’ll never know. 🙄) it can be exhausting.

I think one reason for this is the idea that ‘if they would only get help, they would be OK’. Hmmm. Not true. ‘Getting help’ doesn’t mean your struggles are over. It means you are taking the steps to get as much help as you can in ‘handling’ your struggles. For example, heart disease is the #1 chronic physical condition in the U.S. (The CDC) and although there are ways to slow it’s progression, there is no way to cure it. So yes, meds, exercise, and a healthier diet can all benefit the person, but they are still going to have heart disease with consequences despite the intervention/help they are getting.

By the same token, we don’t expect someone with diabetes to suddenly take a couple shots of insulin and be ‘cured’ to where they need no further treatment; and when you say it like this, you can hear how ridiculous that even sounds. And, if that is the case, why do we think getting on a med or 2 and talking to a counselor a couple times a month is going to make everything better? Hmmm.

Think about this: heart disease and diabetes greatly affect a person’s life, but don’t all mental illnesses do the same? Don’t all of them affect brain function and as a result, lives? One day my sis and I were yacking and we were talking about how hard it is to live with our respective mental illnesses and we both said this: “I wonder what it would feel like to be ‘normal’ for a day or two?’ It was hard for either one of us to imagine since we’ve both been experiencing our issues for decades.

I’m still dealing with my freaking kidney stones (I go to a specialist on Monday who is going to stick a catheter up my urethra to see ‘what’s going on down there’…charmed, I’m sure… 😐) and as a result have some pain periodically through the day, can’t pee without it being bloody (there is no way on God’s green earth I could be a nurse or doc…), can’t eat without feeling like I’m going to throw up for a couple hours after, am tired all of the time, and am so bloaty (ugh…🙄) that I look 5 months pregnant (no, ma…put the phone down…I’ve been through menopause). I was telling Bill this week that I just wanted to feel ‘good’ for a day or 2 since I’ve had this since September. In fact, I kinda forgot what it’s like to pee yellow. 😳

If my ‘stones’ are as cute as this one, I’m going to make a necklace.

But, no one is ‘fed up’ that I have this (well…almost no one…) and they know it’s not my fault (I’m thinking of you saying this right now, Susan 😘). I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing (drinking lots of water, resting when I get tired, etc.) but of course that’s not going to miraculously cure me, is it? It’s obvious something needs to be done and more time has to pass. And, I also know that talking about kidney stones and pee is easier than talking about bipolar, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. I wonder why that is? Urine is better to talk about than bipolar? “Hi boss…I can’t be there today…I have a kidney infection and stones and am having a really tough time with it.” OR…”Hi boss…I can’t be there today…I have bipolar and am currently cycling through a depression that people are pissed about because they say I should be happy because I’m in love and it’s the holidays without understanding that moods and emotions are 2 different things so I’m being blamed for something I have very very little control over because my brain is fucked up and theirs might be too but if they are experiencing issues it’s different.” Now, which one do you think would be ‘best’ to say? Riiiiigggggghhhhhtttttt. The kidney one.

Look, I know how frustrating it is to see people not get help, or not get better even with help, or being a different person based on the day, or blowing up at you because of their own anxieties, or not being able to function day to day because of their depression, etc. I get it. I get how hard it is to be around those of us who are unpredictable. Who can’t always explain ‘where it hurts.’ Who you can’t really understand. I can’t tell you how many times I heard this in my life: “I just don’t understand you.” Well get in line, baby…because I don’t understand me either.

I know what I have and I know what it makes my brain look like and do, but I still don’t ‘understand’ it. I still don’t get why it’s in my head and how it controls my moods and how it makes me feel, etc. It was like doing my trig theorems…I got ‘how’ to do the steps, I just didn’t understand what the hell it was all for.

Getting help for mental illness isn’t as easy as people think. It took me decades to get the real help I needed and I still struggle everyday. It’s better, but I still have a disease. Sometimes just battling our minds day after day saps our energy to the point we have nothing else to use outside of ourselves. Seeking help is scary: Where do I go that takes my insurance? Where do I find a counselor that specializes in bipolar or eating disorders or depression (just like we often need a specialist for physical issues, we also need the same for mental ones. Counselors are not ‘one size fits all’). What will meds to do me? What if I’m misdiagnosed and any meds prescribed hurt me more than help me? What if the doc feels I’m so depressed I need shock therapy? What if my meds cause side effects that stymie ‘me’ and who I really am? What will my colleagues say if I talk about it? How will my friends handle it? My family?

In some families, friendships, work relationships, people pull away from you when you need them the most…when you admit to what you are fighting. So ‘getting help’ may not be the cure all for relationships that have been affected by a mental illness. In fact, it just might make some people walk away from you: “Glad you finally got help but you should have done it a lot sooner before so many things happened and I gave up on you.” Hmmm: “Glad you finally went in to the cardiologist and found out you have heart disease and are now eating better and exercising. You should have done that earlier, before I got fed up, because I really don’t feel close to you anymore and it makes me angry when you talk about this because you waited too long to go in and I’m really actually questioning if you actually do have ‘heart disease’ since you’ve been pretty much OK up to this point. Why couldn’t you have just started eating better a little earlier in your life? And hey, we all have things wrong with us. Duh.”

So, what DO people with untreated mental illness need? An ear. A safe place. A chance to talk about what they are feeling, thinking, etc. A conversation about why they aren’t seeking help. A promise that when they do seek help, you’ll continue to be there for them. An understanding that so many people hope that whatever is happening to them in their head will just pass…that it’s just a transitory thing. A willingness to say that you’ll go to appointments with them until they are able to do it themselves. A realization that taking a Prozac today isn’t going to make them deliriously happy tomorrow. An awareness that what does work today may not work in a year. And finally, the tenacity to keep being close to the person as they navigate a very scary journey on the road to treatment.

When are we going to start treating mental illnesses as illnesses? When are we going to understand that those of us with them didn’t ask for them…didn’t do anything to cause them…didn’t get them to piss you off? Why can’t we have compassion for all illnesses…diseases? Why do we give up on those who need help the most but are having the hardest time getting it? Hmmmmm…I’m not sure I understand.

Kristi xoxo

“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

The Buck Stops Here

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So, I had someone leave a comment on my blog this past week and I felt it was a bit harsh. It was regarding all of my failed relationships and the writer said that since I was the common denominator, I needed to understand the failings were my fault (it wasn’t put quite this nicely). After thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized there is much truth in that and I have been remiss in focusing on hurt I’ve experienced and not enough on my own personal responsibility.

You know, every relationship is a dynamic entity or system that is more than just the 2 people involved. It’s what Family Systems Theory says: the whole is bigger than the sum of it’s parts. And, the theory also states that what happens to one part affects the others.

If I listed all of the mistakes I’ve made in relationships, we’d be here for a very long time. First and foremost, I know having un-managed bipolar greatly affected the hubbies and had I been brave enough to confront what I knew was wrong, I would probably still be with my son’s dad especially. That was my fault, and because of the lack of treatment, my highs and lows fed into our issues and magnified them. Greatly. I understand that when I would be experiencing a manic state I made decisions that weren’t good for the relationship, and when I was depressed it was hard for him to know how to handle it.

With hubby 3, we started just living in separate worlds. He was in the outlaw motorcycle club he’s a member of and was gone most of the summer and lots of weekends throughout the year while I was at home teaching and taking care of the house. Consequently, we just drifted apart more and more. We both decided that divorce would be best but like I’ve said, he’s probably my very best friend and we talk almost daily. I’ll never not be in his life and vice versa…when his mama was dying and I was visiting her one night, she asked me to always take care of him and I promised I would. I intend to keep that promise.

With J, I made a ton of mistakes. The first time he lied to me, I should have drawn a boundary very quickly with clear consequences should it be crossed again. When he cheated the first time, I took him back too quickly and once again, didn’t create any sort of consequence for him to not to it again. The second (and 3-4th times during that same time period) should have been it. Period. It was my fault for allowing the behavior to continue .

In terms of my son’s dad, we never really argued/fought much. In fact, I was so eager to make sure everything went so smoothly that I ignored issues that should have been addressed immediately. It was on me for that…hubby sometimes wanted to resolve something while I shied away from it. I guess I thought covering up issues would be better in the long run but when things started to get ‘bad’, ALL of these issues came out in a torrent and they were just too much to handle. Not addressing our conflict at all was worse on our marriage than addressing the issues with fights would have been.

I also know I have some issues as they pertain to being sexually abused for 2 years. According to The American Counseling Association: “…sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, and relationship problems.” Now, let’s see: check check check check.

Abused children become adults with no idea who we are or what we need. All we know is how to make other people happy, while we pretend to be perfect. Abuse turns us into ‘codependent caretakers’. We secretly resent this people-pleasing behavior pattern, but we don’t know how to escape it. According to Svava Brooks (expert on child sexual abuse and author/counselor), people that have been abused become ‘pretzels’ and take the shape of what they think the other person wants. They aren’t themselves…but who they perceive they need to be in a relationship. But even though they believe this to be necessary, they are also resentful of this ‘people pleasing pattern’ but don’t know how to break the cycle.

So, was I genuine in my relationships? Not always…by a long shot. Did I know I was turning myself into what I felt the person needed/wanted? Yep. Did I want to stop it? Yeppers. Did I? No. And, not being genuine and authentic in a relationship means you aren’t living a real relationship…and how can any ingenuine relationship ever survive?

For people that know me, I’m also a fixer. I just love to fix fix fix (hence my awesome toolbox). Hubby 3 and J both had a lot of problems stemming from childhood. Both were abused horribly and grew up not having the attention, love, appropriate discipline, etc. that every child deserves. I believe this led both to being insecurely attached to their parents and I know I was very very conscious of wanting to make this up to them. I wanted to show them all they didn’t have. I didn’t get together with them out of pity…but I did do things because of the sorrow I felt for their early circumstances. I obviously know a partner’s place is not for one person to ‘fix’ the other in situations like this, simply because it doesn’t work. For example, it didn’t matter how good I was to J…how much love I showered on him…how many times I gave him ‘2nd’ chances because I was cognizant of his early experiences…it didn’t fix him. Nothing can make up for lack like that…I know that now.

Being alone for the past year has given me more time to look objectively at these relationships and understand the dynamics and roles I played a bit better. I’m glad of that. I needed that. I also needed to learn that in order to have a ‘real’ relationship, I have to be ‘real’ in it.

Writing this blog opens me up to so much. I know the stigma of being bipolar is huge and just ‘admitting’ I suffer from this mental illness in front of friends, colleagues, and students in such a public way is risky. And scary. It’s also very hard to open up about the relationships I’ve had. It’s humbling to tell all and sundry about this history because of the ‘failures’, but it’s also honest.

I know I’m going to have ‘haters’…everyone online does. I also know I’m going to write things others don’t agree with…but, this is my blog based on my opinions, observations, experiences, etc. It’s not an objective news article. I know I need to let negative comments open my eyes to another perspective or take what is said in consideration.

But I also know that hateful comments hurt me a lot. Being bipolar, I ruminate, personalize, get overly emotional, am ‘extra’ sensitive, etc. so I can’t let things just ‘slide’. I wish to fuck I could.

It’s been a few days since I blogged…school is taking up so much of my time. But I also needed a bit of a break from it as well. I’m evaluating whether I want to continue this blog or not. I want this to be a safe place where I can share, educate, inform, or just maybe make people smile once in a while. It’s a little piece of me I put out there because for the first time in my life, I am being real. Authentic. Genuine. Those of us with mental illnesses often can’t do that, and to be able to is exhilarating. I don’t have his huge wall I’m hiding behind…I’m able to finally be me in this space.

I’m Kristi. I’m bipolar, struggle with anorexia, have lots of highs and lots of lows, mess up more times that I can count every day of my life, and work every minute of every hour of everyday handling this mental illness the best I can. I have good days. I have bad days. But now? At the very least, all of my days are ‘real days’.

Kristi xoxo

Just take a Chill Pill.

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So, yesterday when I wrote my blawg post, I was having a TERRIBLE day. It was ghastly. Dreadful. BUT, today I’m doing a ton better and I’m going to tell you why.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I’m transitioning from Effexor to Prozac for my bipolar depression and that the Prozac is working great (hallelujah 👼), so I was extremely disconcerted this week when everything started going to hell in a hand basket (is it sacrilegious to use hallelujah and hell in the same sentence? Ought oh… 😳). I didn’t know if my tummy troubles and sweatiness and clamminess were the flu, something I ate or what it was but then something else started happening last night that freaked me out.

In the early evening, I started having ‘shocks’…like little electrical ‘pricky’ (get your minds out of the gutters, peeps 😐) feelings all up and down my arms and legs and it was so freaking bizarre. So, I called my doc today (he really is marvelous…and married…🤨) and we figured out what it was: I had stopped my Effexor completely this week and bam…all of what happened these last couple of days were withdrawals from it. Even though I had tapered off according to plan, some people just can’t stop it even after a 75% reduction or so…and, since I’m just so gosh darned blessed (I really am…I’m being sarcastic here…) I’m one of them! Whoo hoo!

So, he had me take 37.5 mg this morning and I cannot believe the difference. I feel a 1000 times better now and doc and I are going to taper me little by little by little so this doesn’t happen again. It might take months but that’s OK because I don’t want a repeat of that reaction. 😳

And since Wednesday, while I was having all of the physical side effects, I was also very very very very emotional. Very. I bawled more in the past 2 days than I have in a couple of years. Ma and I were talking last night. Wait, let me rephrase this: Ma was talking while I was bawling last night and I knew she was scared. When I told her this morning about yacking to doc and having things figured out, she said this: “It was like you were starting another break-down…that’s how bad you sounded.” I thought that too…not necessarily a break-down, but I knew something was definitely not right. It scared me big time.

I’ve been thinking about psychotropic meds this morning and at first, I was telling ma how scary it is to be so dependent on them and to have your body so affected by them. I hate that. I really do. Knowing that a med is working in your brain is kind of frightening.

But then I thought that all meds for serious conditions can be scary. Diabetics who stop taking their insulin can go into shock. People on beta-blockers and high blood pressure meds can actually die from withdrawal, and those who are on opiods for pain can face serious withdrawal effects too.

There’s always been debate about whether or not psychotropic meds do more good than harm and vice versa. Expert Peter Gotzsche says this: “Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm – by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drug and demential drugs…and using only a fraction of the antipsychotics and benzodiazepines we currently use.”

Hmmmm. I do think these drugs are over prescribed. For example, according to a study in CHADD, 4.4% of adults in the U.S. have ADHD. But, I would conservatively estimate that at least 15-20% of my students any given year are on ADHD medications. In terms of antidepressants, about 8% of Americans have diagnosed depression but about 13% are taking antidepressants.

When people tell me things like: “I was given antidepressants once and they didn’t help” I think, “Were you depressed? Clinically depressed to the point you couldn’t function without some kind of intervention?” Hmmm. It’s kind of like antibiotics being prescribed for things other than actual bacterial infections, or too soon after a diagnosis to see if the bacterial infection will clear up on it’s own. But we do live in a culture where if we go to the doc…we want to walk out with something that will make us feel ‘treated’ even if the treatment isn’t necessary.

I believe there are too many people on psychotropic meds…I know so many who have said they went to their doc and talked about being stressed and worried and bam…they had a prescription with little to no follow up and no psychological counseling to complete the treatment. That’s just not right.

Yesterday showed me how powerful these drugs work in my mind and how easily ‘messing’ with them can have pretty shitty consequences. But I also know this: I have bipolar…of that there no doubt. I need the 2 meds I’m on because I’ve lived without them and believe me, that didn’t always go well. I know I have brain chemistry that differs from you ‘normal’ 😳 folks and my meds help to regulate that. I also know there will always be people that look down on those of us who do need to take these without understanding the ‘why’ behind them being prescribed. But, I also know this…I’m so freaking grateful to have meds available to me that allow me to live my life with very little of my illness holding me back. Truly.

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

“I think, I think too much” ~ Florence + the Machine

So, my gramma used to worry about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I used to say this about her: “If gramma didn’t have anything to worry about, she’d worry about not having anything to worry about.” Well, come to find out, I worry and stress a whole bunch too, and often about little things that I’m finally learning just don’t mean a whole lot in the long run.

Of course, I do have an excuse (in other words, I’m ‘entitled’ to worry 😲) because as a YOUNG woman (shutty the mouthies, peeps) with bipolar, I also deal with anxiety. And, according to a 2012 study, around 60% of people with bipolar will deal with an anxiety disorder in their life. BTW, here’s my new tagline: “Bipolar…the mental illness that keeps on giving.” Blech. Anyhoot, along with the rumination, personalization, and sensitivity of bipolar, is it no wonder that I’m a worrier?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working hard on my house and I love doing it! I have my own toolbox now and have fun rummaging around in it (yes, I have to put stickers on everything I own…a quirk from childhood when I was just a small sprig that has continued into my 40’s (once again, shutty 🙄). I’ve learned to putty, sand, paint (properly!), replace electrical outlets, install simple flooring, put together furniture, drill, hammer (correctly…using the shoulder and not the wrist), etc. I just finished my home office up this week and can’t wait for my new office furniture to be delivered so I can ‘git ‘er done.’

I’m ‘crazy’ (go figure) about this color!

My neighbor, M, has been a complete doll throughout this process. Bless his heart…he’s loaned me drill bits and his electric sander, helped me move furniture upteen times, and has given me permission to buy a bunch of new stuff because when I’m feeling guilty about spending money, I’ll call him and say: “M…should I buy this?” And he says: “Why not?!” Why not, indeed. 😃

So a couple of days ago, I bought some new shelves and proceeded to take out the old shelves on my living room wall (which left 12 holes where anchors and screws had been) and then drill 12 new holes for anchors and screws. I got the new shelves up, stepped back, and absolutely hated them. I took those down and now had 24 holes in my wall. 24. I looked at my holey wall and just started sobbing. All I could see was the work I had done trying to make that fucking wall (ooooops…sorry, ma 🙄) look good and now it looked like swiss cheese.

My wall of holes while I’m puttying them. Blech.

I called M and told him all of this between gasps, sobs, and gulps of air. I am a horrible crier: When I cry…I cry. No little tears streaming down my cheeks that make me look vulnerable and tragically beautiful. Nope…I get spigots turned on, a red blotchy face, nose gunk running down my lip, all while my mascara glops up making me look like a raccoon. Very attractive. Anyhoot, after M was able to decipher my sobbing ramble here’s what he said: “You can putty them. It doesn’t matter. This is fixable.”

And, he was right (please don’t tell him that…I don’t want him to think he set a precedent or anything). It was fixable. But at that moment, it was overwhelming. I stressed over those holes…worried about those holes…and wanted them perfect NOW. So, I worked until midnight and got the wall fixed up. And…well…that was it. It was a wall again. Whoopee. Now, when I walk by it, I think “Why did that bother me so much?”

I guess I do have a couple of valid reasons: bipolar making me blow things out of proportion no matter how hard I try to reign it in, and the fact that I’ve tried to be perfect and do perfect all of my life, probably to make up for the imperfectness that I have so much of.

But I’m ashamed at my reaction because when I think about all of the things actually worth worrying about, seeing a wall with holes in it is pretty small stuff.

Like, I remember the night my dad left our family home and how it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. I remember feeling like ma, T and I weren’t enough for him to stay with us and that his new life with my step-mom was going to be so much better than what we had to offer.

I remember being bullied and the first time I realized that losing weight lessened it to the point where I lost 30 pounds in about a month, and in the process developed anorexia.

I remember the panic and fear of seeing the psychologist that sexually abused me every week, but also remember the feeling that I had to see him because I needed him so badly and how utterly confusing this was to me.

I remember when my ma was being beaten by her 2nd husband (that fucking bastard…and ma doesn’t mind me saying it in regards to him…she even has. You go girl!) and my sis and I worried, often, that he would kill her. I remember seeing black eyes, bruised cheeks, bruises and scratches on her neck/legs/arms, and the time in the hospital where he had beaten her so badly she was throwing up blood and her back was completely black.

I remember the last time I saw my gramma who had ovarian cancer and seeing her looking so weak and small…understanding it might be the last time I’d ever be with her in this life.

I remember when O was a little fella in his crib and I went in one night to check on him because he hadn’t gotten me up yet for a drink or diaper change. When I picked him up, he was turning blue and I was petrified. Hubby and I raced him to the ER in about 4 minutes and he was having a severe bout of asthma (which we didn’t even know he had) and was in an oxygen tent for a couple of days.

I remember when ma asked me out to lunch one day in October of 1998 and as we were eating our chips and salsa said this: “I found a lump in my breast.”

I remember O’s dad telling me I needed to leave our home and feeling like I was punched in the gut all while having no place to go to and fearing that I was losing my little family forever.

I remember sitting in Perkins with J and him holding my hands and telling me he would never ever cheat on me ever again, and then having him be with her the next day.

I remember waking up to threatening messages from a student who said he wanted to rape me and make me into a lampshade. When I was blamed for this, I remember feeling the greatest loss of optimism I’ve ever experienced when I learned that bad things happen to good people and there’s nothing you can do.

And then? I also think about the actual worries/stresses/issue that others have: I can’t imagine not knowing if I was going to be able to stay in a home another month. Or how it feels to see your kids hungry and not be able to feed them. I can’t fathom the stress of having a sick child but no insurance to get them the care they need, or losing your job because you have to care for that child. I am blessed to never know what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where you have to fear for your safety or work in a factory where you could lose fingers, arms, or a leg with just one mishap. I’ve never known what “You have cancer” feels like personally or be told that I have a certain amount of time left on this earth.

I’m ashamed for worrying about holes in a wall when the homeless people in our country would give anything to have 4 walls and a roof. It humbles me to think there are people that can’t read this because they never were given the chance of an education.

But you know what this has taught me? That I need to consciously work on making sure I see things for what they are. Inconveniences. Chores. Eye sores. There’s a hole in my wall…so what? Big fucking deal (I had to get one more in, ma…just ’cause 😏). My family loves me. My paint got smudged on the ceiling? Big deal. I can choose to eat whatever I want from my own stocked kitchen. Edward had a poop accident on my rug? OK. I’ll clean it up and continue to be thankful I have my best friend by my side.

I think we all need to know what a bad day, issue, or problem really is and what it’s not. I think we all need to look at our perspectives. Look around at the bigger picture. I guess we just need to be thankful that so often, our problems are just holes that can be patched up and then forgotten…and spend our energy on the things that really do need our focus and care.

Kristi xoxo