“Number 47 said to number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.” ~ Elvis Presley

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So, my sissie and I were yapping the other day and during our conversation about her new LPN position, she said her boss had told her something she’d been thinking about a lot regarding love.  Basically, it was how we are all given only 3 true-love relationship coins in our life, and because of that, they need to be used wisely and sparingly…with great care.

Wow.  My first reaction was why the hell didn’t I hear this 40 freaking years ago, and my second (which I know you are all thinking so I’ll just put it out there 🙄) was “Son of a bitch…mine are definitely spent.”  😳

Hmmmmm.  Is this true?  Do we really have a finite number of times we can experience true, fulfilling, ‘real’ love with another, or can we actually have that time and time again in our lives?  I think back to my past relationships and question how deep and meaningful that love really was, and whether or not I had experienced it with everyone I’d been with.  I adore Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love which states there are 3 aspects (sides) to love:  passion (the sexual chemistry), intimacy (the emotional connection), and commitment (the cognitive decision to stay with the person long-term, through thick and thin).  If you have all 3 of these components in your relationship, Sternberg says you are experiencing ‘consummate love’ which is what we all (well…most of us) strive for with our partners.  Just having a couple of the sides represent different types of love…for example, passion plus intimacy is a romantic love without any commitment to weather the storms that might come along.

So, have I experienced this ‘true’ love in every relationship I’ve had?  Is this idea of consummate love something like that of Maslow’s idea of self-actualization where it’s the ‘goal’ of life, but not necessarily something that everyone can achieve?  Is having ‘just’ 2 sides of the triangle mean you haven’t had ‘true’ love?  Can you feel ‘true love’ without having a solid 3?  Can you be satisfied with having less than the 3?  If you start out with just a couple of the ‘sides’, can you build the other with conscious work and determination?  What if you feel the 3 sides, but your partner doesn’t?  Does that negate the ‘true love’ in your own heart?  Hmmmmm…

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror. 🙄

OK, so let’s take a look-see at my relationships (yes, this is going to take a while since Elizabeth Taylor and I are twins… 🙄).  My first one was in high school when I didn’t know beans about what love really entailed.  I ‘loved’ my boyfriend, but didn’t have any idea how to create something meaningful outside of high school ‘love’…writing my first name with his last name in my notebook and making out with him in my basement on ma’s nubby green 70’s love seat, praying she wouldn’t traipse down the stairs with a basket of laundry to start (by the way, she did do that at a very awkward time…cough cough…and if that doesn’t kill the mood, I don’t know what does.  Thanks for that one, ma.).  Does anybody in high school really have the experience and cognitive ability to love fully?  I don’t think so.  YES…I know high school sweethearts who have married and are still together, but I have a feeling their love matured a great deal from what it was solely in high school.

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How about Hubby 1?  I was besotted with him and was definitely in love with him, but still, at 21, pretty darn immature regarding the significance of marriage.  We were WAY too young and had some really stupid beliefs like we could live on love, and not money.  Obviously, that worked out well.  With Hubby 2 though, I had all 3 sides of love.  I actually consider him my first ‘real’ marriage.  We had our son, raised him together for 13 years, built a couple of houses together, moved out of state together, and really got close to each other’s families.  It was a much more mature love in which both of us had divorced and wanted to work to make this marriage the one that lasted.  And #3?  Another true love…and one that was different than that with my son’s pa, but still all encompassing.

So, the question you are probably shouting is “Then why the hell did they fail, dumbass?”  (You don’t need to cuss at me, grasshoppers…you know ma doesn’t like that 🙄).  The answer?  Beats the fuck out of me.  More on this later.

Now, with J?  I had all 3 sides…bad.  I definitely had the passion and intimacy going into the relationship, and the commitment grew quickly for me.  In fact, my commitment was almost too much since it held on to him during situations when I should have let go (e.g. cheating).   But, to be honest, that’s what commitment is, isn’t it?  Holding on?  Getting through the bad?  Learning from it?  OK…sounds good…but does that mean abusive behavior should be ignored because of commitment?  Nope.  Of course not.  So with J?  The biggest issue I think that was inherent in our partnership was his own ‘triangle’.  I know he had intimacy with me because he shared so much of his childhood trauma and war experiences with me.  But passion?  Obviously not.  And commitment?  Uh huh.  Unfortunately, as I readily found out, a relationship is only as strong as it’s perceived by the lesser invested member.

Now, why did the ‘real’ ones fail?  Why did they end in divorces?  Why didn’t the commitment we apparently had not win out?  I think a lot of it had to do with me being bipolar.  Let me rephrase that…me being a not yet diagnosed, untreated bipolar.

When I was in manic phases, I was high with so much impulsivity, poor decision making, and feeling so freaking good, I didn’t think anything bad could ever touch me.  So why work on negative things in a relationship when I’m having just too much fun being up?  Screw that.  The result?  I did things and said things during these times that contributed greatly to the erosion of the marriages, and at those times, could not even begin to see what the consequences of that were.  Not real proud of that.  And then when I was cycling through a depression?  I didn’t have the energy, desire, or even the capability of knowing what was happening in the marriage…I was too deep down into my tunnel to see anything but that terrifying darkness those of you with depression can readily relate too.

So, what if I would have had more insight (or acceptance, since I knew something was very wrong) about being mentally ill?  What if I had been treated at that time with meds and counseling (as I am today)?  Would that have saved these marriages?  Could I ‘blame’ being bipolar for being a pretty shitty wife at times?  Is that fair?

Well yes…in a way it is.  I literally can’t help what my brain is like…how it operates differently from others.  I can’t control the cycles on my own.  I can’t prevent myself from the emotional states and related behavior of being bipolar without meds (and meds don’t prevent the states…it just works to lessen them).  Or can I?  Do I sometimes use my ‘brain’ disease as an excuse?  Or do I have more control than I might think?  And, does anyone who is mentally ill know the answers to these questions in terms of their own experiences?

What if I had gotten help when I should have growing up (wait…let me rephrase that:  what if I would have gotten the right help from a professional that wasn’t sexually abusive)?  Would I have had more insight into my behavior, emotionality, and sensitivity?  Would my spouses have (I sound like a freaking polygamist)?  Would they have understood these issues better, and worked with me to handle being bipolar in the context of our marriages?

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So, back to the 3 coins.  Let’s say this is right and we have only these 3 coins to spend on love  relationships.  We’re given these coins at the start of pubes, and are told that’s it…you can’t have more.  Would we be more careful in jumping into relationships?  More understanding of what we are truly looking for instead of just ‘trying’ things out?  Would we become more selective?  I wonder if I would have made different decisions based on this.  Even though everything was telling both of us that marriage #1 (sigh) was probably not a super idea, M and I did it anyway.  Maybe I would have saved that coin instead.  Using a coin on O’s dad was the best freaking coin I could have ever spent though.  And #3?  I think I would have spent that one too…we had 10 years that were definitely worth it and are still great friends to boot.

Now, what about J’s?  Oh wow.  This is a toughie.  I definitely spent my last coin on him, and this relationship hurt me the most emotionally than any other one ever did.  I know I was in ‘true’ love with him and thought he was my soul-mate (the only time I’ve ever said that about anyone).  So, was the coin I spent worth it?  Yep.  If not for anything else, just the fact I was in his kids’ lives for 3 years.

Well…the problem is obviously this and what I’ve been thinking about:  my 3 coins are spent.  Used up.  My piggy bank is empty.  Does this mean, if the 3 coin idea is true, that I’m out of ‘loves’?  Here’s what’s weird:  I think I kind of am.  Sometimes I think my heart has been broken and then glued together so many times that it’s just not up to the task of trying again.  And even if it is up to the task, is my head?  Will I ever invest the ‘commitment’ side into someone else again?  Trust to do that?  Or, can’t I help but invest that, no matter how bad of an investment it might be?  (Like me investing in bitcoin, lost on that one 🙄).  Maybe the banker in charge of the coins will have mercy on me…give me another one as a ‘tip’ so to speak.  Hmmmmm…if that happens, I’ll tell you one thing…it’s staying in my pocket until I’m damn sure the money is going to be well spent.

Kristi xoxo

“And it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” ~ Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) I

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So, I finished reading a book yesterday with a very disturbing theme about a father and grown daughter having a sexual relationship.  I bought the book on my Kindle after being intrigued by the subject matter, especially because I teach Psychology and Human Sexuality.  Katheryn Harrison published “The Kiss” in 1997 and after I had read the last page, I sat for a few minutes thinking about the characters and how they were portrayed.  The mother, father and daughter were not well developed and the incidents of incest were described only briefly.  I didn’t necessarily feel close to any one character, but still felt I knew them all.  It was a very different type of writing but appropriate, I feel, for the subject matter.

Anyhoot, after I had pondered it for a while, I noticed that I still had 12% unread and found an interview with the author after the last page; although I had assumed this book was a novel it was actually a memoir, with the daughters voice throughout the book being the author herself.

I was gobsmacked…and I think it was for a couple of reasons.  First, the bravery Kathryn had to write about a situation in which there was going to be a lot of judgement (particularly in 1997 when we were still hiding so much), and secondly, to put herself out there and make her secret known to other family, friends, students, and her older children.  She has never identified the dad, so outside of the close family circle he’s anonymous, and her intention was never ‘out’ him.  I also understand her ‘lesser than’ characters since the story wasn’t written for shock value or drama, but to purge a secret from her soul in the only way she had as an outlet to use, and to do it in the most honest, straightforward way she could.

After reading the authors interview about using writing to heal, I thought about this blog and my purpose behind it.  In Kathryn’s interview she says a lot of things I could relate too:

“I think human beings exist poised between two terrors:  being known, really known, for who they are, and never being known, and therefore never being loved for who they really are.”

“When I teach I tell my students there’s a paradox – an essential paradox – in writing memoir.  The process will bring them both closer to and further away from themselves, their histories.  To succeed they will have to examine material that is painful, see what they don’t want to see, especially about themselves.”

She goes on to say:

“The past is something they’ll have to admit, in the sense of both confessing and inviting in.  But they’ll be able to tolerate the discomfort of admission because writing about the past demands that they objectify it, shape and manipulate the same events or transactions that once overwhelmed them.”

Now, the other day someone messaged me and said that I was always going to be known as the bipolar (‘the bipolar’?  It sounds like I’m an alien and the only one out there 😳) and why would I want EVERYONE to know I was mentally ill anyway?

Well…the short answer is that I really don’t give a flying fuck how people see me (sorry ma, sis is the one who taught me all of these words…you need to speak with her and while I have your ear, ask her to help you with any issues you encounter with your new computer which I had to set up on that God awful day when I thought we were going to maim each other…just sayin’).

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Wanna know why?  Because I have bipolar (and an eating disorder 😐), know I’m mentally ill, and that’s finally OK with me.  Look, I hid it and hid it and hid it, until I couldn’t even see it myself for so many years.  I was ashamed to think there was something seriously wrong with me…that I wasn’t the ‘perfect’ mama, daughter, sis, professor, etc. I tried so hard to be.  Suppressing any thoughts I had that were telling me I needed serious help wasn’t easy, but was more acceptable.  I didn’t want to be ‘the bipolar’.  I wanted to be Kristi.  But I wasn’t being Kristi because I had buried myself deep down inside of my mind and then acted my way through life the best I could.  And when I simply couldn’t keep up my act, I’d blame whatever was convenient to blame.

I didn’t want people to know the real me…the really mentally ill me.  But here’s the thing:  like Kathryn said, have I ever really been loved for who I actually am?  To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer to that.  I do know so many people have stepped away from me.  I guess they liked me being on my personal stage and smiling and laughing my way through life, before I’d go home and collapse in tears.  They liked hearing about my relaxing weekend when I’d actually been cycling through a mania that I tried to hide at school, but which came out in droves on the weekend when I might stay up 16 hours straight doing whatever needed to be done, and other things that didn’t need to be done but I wanted to do anyway.  Phew.

The only relationship I’ve been in since being formally diagnosed and getting help was with J.  I don’t know if he got it though.  I think he liked the acting Kristi too.  It was almost like we reversed our dynamics in a way:  when he started being good to me (and there really was a lot of good) after our 1st year together, he’d say “This is me…the real J!”  And I had a hard time believing it because the only J I had known prior to this was the mentally ill J that hurt me.  It was the same with him though.  Once my masks fell off, I sensed that he didn’t like the authentic me.  And unlike I tried to do with him in terms of his mental illnesses, he didn’t really take my bipolar, and related effects, into consideration when we would have issues.  I think in the back of his mind, I was still the ‘perfect professor’ who was there TO help…not someone that sometimes NEEDED help.

A couple of the guys I’ve gone out with since then have used my diagnosis against me when it’s convenient.  They’d remind me that I’m mentally ill (thanks for that tidbit guys, I have a hard time remembering it myself 🙄) and that’s probably why I got angry at them.  Or sad.  Or excited.  Or whatever it was that could take the focus off of their part in the issue and put it solely on me.

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Also, like Kathryn states, it is so helpful for me to write out the things I need to say.  Whether it’s about problems I’m having with bipolar on a particular day or other issues in my life, writing helps me sort it out, it’s cathartic (by the way, I’ve finally cycled into my summer mania which isn’t off the charts because of my mood stabilizer, but I’m getting a hell of a lot of stuff done.  Need your gutters cleaned?).  Seeing what I’ve written about the psychologist that abused me has helped me put that to rest more than it’s ever been in my life.  Publishing that…getting it out there…and knowing I’m not alone because of the stories you sweet peeps have shared with me has helped tremendously.

Figuring out the relationships I’ve had, particularly J’s since that’s the one that haunts me the most, has helped me to see parts of it I haven’t recognized before.  It’s also helped me to understand his actions better and to see how I was also a part of our conflict.  I have come to understand I have to take ownership for the role I played and not just put the burden of blame solely on him.  That’s humbling.  But also right.  Without writing some of my posts and re-reading them a few times later on, I don’t know if I would have ever gotten to this point.

And Kathryn is so right when she says that by writing and publishing publicly, you aren’t just ‘confessing’ your trials and tribulations, but you are inviting others into that fold as well.  Yesterday, a student (she’s a doll) wrote me and told me how much she loved my blog and how many posts spoke to her to the point she has shared them with her mama who also benefits from them.  Yeppers…it’s hard to say some of what I say, but it’s worth it when I get a message like that.  It’s worth losing friendly colleagues, worth having people look at me differently, worth having some family step away from me at times when I need them the most (some have never mentioned my suicide attempt as if it was just another thing Kristi did for the hell of it…that, my grasshoppers, breaks my heart), worth being known as the ‘bipolar professor’ (I wonder if I could get a book out of that…hmmmm), worth having to examine myself under a microscope and look at what’s really there, instead of what I tricked myself into seeing for so many years.

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My son (almost 27, even though I’m still 40 🙄) doesn’t mention my blog much, and sometimes I’ll ask if he’s read any posts lately.  He’ll say he has but by the way he comments I know he hasn’t.  At times I think he’s ashamed of me…that he wants that perfect, step-fordy mama back where I continuously nod and say “everything’s perfect, sweetie.”  And then I feel guilty, because I think to myself that maybe I should go back to that.  To being fake and pretending my way through life.  To posting filtered pics on FB where I am in the right pose with the right background with the right smile with the right message.  But, as much as I love my son and would give my life for him in a second, I’m not going to go back to that because I simply can’t.  Once the words have been released, there’s no taking them back.  And as you know, peeps, I’ve released a heck of a lot of words.

I like that image of release though.  Like letting go of a balloon and watching it float into the sky until it simply disappears from your sight.  I can’t tell you how much better I feel by being Kristi, the gal who has bipolar.  I’m here to tell you peeps, pretending is freaking exhausting.  So now, I cry when I need to cry, I laugh too loud when I hear something funny, and if I’m having a really shitty day, I say to people:  “I’m having a really shitty day.”  I don’t use filters anymore on FB and pretend to have a picture perfect life; in fact, the last few pics I’ve posted are me after doing yard work where I’m dirty, sweaty, stinky, and have a stupid look on my face.  But, it’s me.  One take.  And I’m OK with that.

When I’m in the great craft area of heaven one day, I hope this:  that people will remember me as a good mom, good daughter, good sister, freaking amazing as hell professor (😁) who had a mental illness she made public so that others would also feel free to expose their own…get help for it…learn to manage it…and live with it in the best way they could.  And you know what?  If that’s all that’s said about me, that’s enough.  And this blog was totally worth it.

Kristi xoxo

 

If it Ain’t One Thing, it’s Another.

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

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

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

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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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Museums Victoria

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

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

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

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Whoever dates this winner is some lucky girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

    “Oh, It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night” ~ John Lennon & Paul McCartney

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    So, yesterday sucked balls (for some reason I really love this term).  I’m having a bit of a tough week, and yesterday I pretty much lost it.  I’m missing my son and his girlfriend since they are in their own apartment now…I’m working really hard to get my house in order and have a wrenched back and purple/numb finger to show for it…and this week marks the 3rd anniversary of seeing my nephew for the last time before his death.  Also, this is the exact time that J began making plans to see his ex which started his back and forth abandonments and cheating.

    In some ways, I’m really proud of how I’m handling things because not long ago, I would have been much worse.  It shows that I have grown and healed to some extent these past couple of years and that I really am stronger.  But it also brings me back to a place that I never wanted to visit again.

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    My sis and I were talking about this last week as we discussed things happening in our quarantined lives.  She’s always worried about me…she was my protector growing up and still plays that role today.  I know she’s proud of how far I’ve come since that fucking breakdown 3 years ago, but she also knows once you experience something like that, there’s always a chance of going back.  I have to agree.

    Anniversaries are tough, aren’t they?  The anniversary of someone’s death.  The anniversary of a divorce.  The anniversary of a marriage or relationship that failed. The anniversary of a tough time in your life.  As much as we like to put things behind us, they still have a tendency to haunt.

    For some reason, I find myself saying “I’m Sorry” an awful lot lately.  It’s almost like I’m going back to a somewhat ‘weaker’ me I thought I had all but buried.  Maybe since these anniversaries are here though,  I find myself going back to being a ‘people pleaser’, just  to ensure I don’t get hurt again.  Hmmm…I don’t know.

    One of my precious students messaged me last month and asked me something I’ve had other students deal with as well:  she had been sexually abused as a child and was worried about having a child someday herself.  How would she protect them?  Would she be able to recognize when something was wrong?  How could she open the road of communication early so her child would feel comfortable sharing things with her?  Other students who have been physically abused worry they might end up repeating the generational cycle they were in, that their own parents lived.  I’ve had female students tell me they will never marry or live with man because they are so scared they’ll be in a  domestically violent situation like their mom was.

    So, I tell them it’s understandable how these serious past issues are affecting their present.  I talk to them about being conscious of the damage these situations caused will help them in stopping these cycles.  After all, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge (Dr. Phil 🙄).   I also recommend they develop a support system of friends and family who are aware of the issues, see a counselor to learn how to put ‘safeguards’ in place, talk to their partners about their fears, and to make themselves understand they don’t have to be like those who hurt them.  They can make a cognizant decision to be the kind of parent or partner they want to be, and anyone, with enough ‘want’, truly can break this cycle of abuse.

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    We are all in cycles…patterns…dances…whatever terminology works best for you.  I know I am.  I fall for someone and immediately I’m so elated and excited since I love to love (that sounds like a great title for a song), and I want to share with them, be with them, and get to know all I can about them!  Falling in love excites me; it opens my heart and so much flows from it.  I think this can be attributed to the feeler inside of me…the empath.  This sensitive person I am who when I feel something, I feel it strong and want to share every single bit of myself with that person.  The problem?  It can be hard to keep up!  I know it can be overwhelming.  I know I’m very excitable.  Well…I know I’m bipolar.

    I also know that when I’m around others, I try very hard to be the person who never rocks the boat.  It’s almost like Everyone Loves Raymond…I want everyone to love me!  And I guess I’ve learned, through various life experiences, that to do that I need to acquiesce to the wants of others.  To make sure they’re happy. Satisfied.  “If I’m good enough and sweet enough and act happy enough, this person or these people, will have to like me!”  For some reason, I associate any criticism, hearty disagreement, or conflict with the idea the person has ceased to approve of me, and for those of us who are sensitive ruminators who tend to personalize things, this is terrible for us!  As a result, we do what we say we won’t do again:  push our own needs down, do all we can for the other person, envelop them with a love that’s very hard to return, and then take blame for when things go wrong.  I don’t like this dance and I’m trying so hard to change the steps.  But when this is the only way you’ve danced for 50 years, that’s easier said than done.

    This fucking bipolar.  I know so many people have it much much worse.  I truly understand that and I thank God every single night about how grateful I am for the blessings I have.  But I still hate this.  It’s so easy for people to say, “Of course I understand you’re bipolar”, but it’s not so easy to understand that if I am more emotional or sensitive to words and behavior than others are, it’s because of this brain illness.  Unless you’ve been there, how do you describe what it feels like to have your brain pushing you one way, when you really want to go the other.  Pushing you to have that emotional, hypersensitive reaction instead of letting you tone it down to what is more appropriate.  What’s more realistic.  You’re fighting an opponent that’s very very difficult to beat.

    Maybe I need to put some of those masks back on that I tore off a couple of years ago.  I am starting to understand masks can be a good thing too and we really do wear them more than we think.  Sometimes I say to myself, “OK, Kristi, who do you want to be today?”  When I get into another relationship, will I be able to put on a mask that says: “I’m a bit reserved because I don’t want to give so much that you have the power to destroy me.”  I wonder what that mask would look like?

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    There are so many ‘anniversaries’ for me in the spring and summer:  my grandparents dying, 2 husbands leaving, 2 weddings (and no, the weddings and leavings were not necessarily the same people…and yes, I understand this aspect of my life is a freaking soap opera), my nephew, J, my breakdown, etc.  It’s impossible not re-visit these.  To make yourself forget.  And so many of these bring me pain.  Remembering my sweet nephew who was killed on a Naval ship continues to bring tears to my eyes.  Looking back at my weddings and remembering the excitement of starting a new life with this person, and then trying to understand how the marriages fizzled out like they did.  I smile when I remember my grandparents, but get choked up too after all of these years since I wish they were here to hug and talk too.  Having to go back to all J did and trying to still build myself up from being torn down like I was.  And remembering that breakdown.  That fucking breakdown.  Actually, I’m reminded of it everyday since I have scars that mark the time.

    I’m going to try to put on a ‘strong’ mask for this summer.  I’m not going to be fake or go back to being someone I’m not.

    I just need to consciously remember I’m capable of handling anything that might come my way.  Old memories…new situations…new people.  I’m not going to have the mask completely cover my face though.  I’m going to have more air holes so I can breathe.   More flexibility in how it fits.  A better representation of who I am compared to masks I used to wear.

    So anniversaries…memories…do you worst.  I’ve got the ability to handle them now.  And to be honest with you, I’m pretty proud of that.

    Kristi xoxo

    “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” ~ Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes

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    Photo by Mouad Mabrouk on Pexels.com

    So, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Pinterest nut and am constantly scrolling through it (in fact, it’s my go to app when I’m on the toilet).  Anyhoot, because I’m always looking at mental health issues, quotes, etc. I get a lot of self-help stuff on my feed.  I’ve been noticing a lot lately about how we need to LIVE OUR LIVES LARGE!  How it’s so important to travel the world…make every single one of our dreams come true…do something spectacular and world changing every day.  And here’s my question:  Why?

    I’m the first to admit that I live a somewhat little life.  To be honest with you, I have no aspirations to climb Everest or hike for a year around Europe or write the great American novel.  Instead, I like my little life, and am tired of apologizing because I don’t want more.

    It’s not that I don’t have dreams and aspirations…of course I do.  But they are a bit more contained:  I want to get some books published, travel to each state in the U.S., become a motivational speaker.  And that’s pretty much it.

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    Photo by Mouad Mabrouk on Pexels.com

    You hear a lot about bucket lists and I know a few people who have them.  I’ve never made one, because first of all, there it is in the previous paragraph, and second, because I just don’t know what the hell else I’d put on it (besides kissing Taron Eggerton…I’d even  give up my dream to live in Antartica for a year if this ever came to fruition 😳 🙄).   A lot of bucket lists include things like:  riding horses on the beach, attending the Olympics, swimming in each of the 4 major oceans (are there minor ones…I never really thought about that), seeing the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and you get the point.  Actually, as I was researching a bit about this topic, another recommended item for a bucket list was to swim with wild pigs in Exuma, Bahamas. 😐

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    By the way, the pigs bite.  😲

    Here’s the problem with those:  first of all, I hate big crowds so the Olympics is out.  Second, the thought of a horse pooping on the beach takes the ‘romance’ out of that idea; I’ve swam in 2 of the ‘major Oceans’ already and to be brutally honest, they both looked the same to me.  The thought of hiking through the dessert to see something that has no gift shop attached just sounds freaking exhausting, and swimming with wild pigs is something I would only do if it was between that or hearing yet another one of ma’s stories about a friend of a friend of an uncle’s cousin’s neighbor who got splashed while walking down the street 6 months ago.  Get my drift?

    Is it bad not to want to do some of these things?  No.  Is it bad to DO some of these things?  Of course not!  I’ve actually done a few bucket listings that others might have written down:  run a few marathons, bungee jumped (which literally made me pee myself…it was the most horrifying 15 minutes of my entire life, including 16 hours of back labor), got an advanced degree, etc.  I did these because I just wanted to at the time…I wasn’t really thinking about how they might be part of a list.

    Nowadays, it’s almost shameful if you don’t have high aspirations:

    “I’m going to sail around the Galapogos Islands in Ecuador!”

    “Wow…so have you traveled to other countries before?”

    “No…never been out of the state.”

    All righty then, good luck with that.

    My pursuits are smaller and it’s little things that actually make me the most happy:

    • buying things for my house and fixing it up just so, knowing it’s all mine
    • smelling Dottie’s little head after I give her a bath
    • cuddling up next to Edward when we’re watching a scary film (every night)
    • hearing the cardinal sing outside my office window who has been around for the last few years
    • walking in my classroom on the first day of the semester and being so excited about having new students to teach and get to know
    • running hard until I’m a sweaty mess and then taking a cold shower and getting squeaky clean
    • walking around the pond near my house as I cool down after a run and watching the geese hatch their babies every year
    • seeing the green come back every spring and loving the smells of the fall
    • smelling lilacs when they bloom…my favorite scent in the world
    • warming up muffins ma makes and devouring them with tons of butter on top
    • buying new art supplies and organizing them
    • wandering around the dollar store and seeing what new books are on the shelves
    • the smell of a new car
    • the smell of ‘English Leather’ because it reminds me of my grandpa
    • laughing with my sis so hard that we can’t talk, while no one else even understands what’s so funny
    • playing cards with my ma and seeing her get a pissy look on her face when she’s losing (which by the way, is a lot…I have a ‘system’ for winning)
    • mowing my yard and admiring how nice it looks while the dogs play
    • running in the first snow of the year
    • walking in the rain
    • looking at my son’s photographs and being blown away each time by his talent
    • seeing my boy smile anytime and every time
    • flipping my pillow over in the middle of night to get to the cool side
    • cracking a window in the summer so I can listen to the crickets as I go to sleep
    • writing in this blog and typing Kristi xoxo at the end because I know I have another post done that I’m happy with
    • reading, sewing, painting
    • biting into a just picked tomato
    • fixing chicken and noodles on the coldest night of the year

    And my list goes on and on.  See, it’s obvious I’m not living a ‘large’ life.  In fact, it’s pretty darn small.  But it fits me.  I’m happy with it.  Sometimes I’ll be talking to someone who has just returned from a trip or done something big, and they’ll say ‘You gotta go’ or ‘You just have to do this.’  And when you say you really don’t want too, they look at you like you’re out of your mind…as if being happy with smaller things is wrong.  Why?  I think it’s great to plan and save and spend lots of money on bucket list items, but my stuff just requires me to walk out the door.  I don’t have to wait.  I don’t have to plan.  I just ‘do’.

    Maybe part of this is because of being bipolar.  Sometimes my life is enough to handle as is, I certainly don’t need anymore stimulation or anxiety or stress.  Like when I travel, I worry about what my moods will be like.  When I went to Florida in March, I was still in the midst of a depression and it wasn’t alleviated by being on the beach.  The beach was awesome and beautiful, but I was still down.  My environment doesn’t change my bipolar.  I can be sad at home for free…as opposed to on a boardwalk for a couple thousand bucks.

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    So, I’m thinking that instead of telling people they have to do something ‘awesome’ with their lives, or have bucket lists that include ‘running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain’, maybe we should just tell people to live their lives on their terms; in their own way without any judgement.  It’s true we only get 1 life (at least that’s what I believe), so why should I be forced to live it in the way others tell me too?  Why is it wrong to be content with what I already have?  Already do?  It makes me happy…and isn’t that the secret to living your best life ever anyway?  I think it just might be.

    Kristi xoxo

     

     

     

     

    I’m Gonna Love Me Again” ~ Bernie Taupin

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    Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

    So, any of you who know me even just a tiddle know how incredibly much I like the film “Rocketman”.  I think I’ve watched it at least 20 times, because the music, and the inspiration of the story is just so damn good.  My favorite song is the final one called “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” by Bernie Taupin, and here are my fave lyrics from it:

    Singing, I’m gonna love me again
    Check in on my very best friend
    Find the wind to fill my sails
    Rise above the broken rails
    Unbound by any ties that break or bend
    I’m free, and don’t you know?
    No clown to claim he used to know me then
    I’m free, and don’t you know?
    And oh-oh-oh, I’m gonna love me again.

    Here’s why I was thinking about these words today:  one of my sweetie students wrote me and asked me how you go about loving yourself.  She said she has always heard you can’t love others unless you love yourself which is something she struggles with, and she was scared she’d never be in a relationship  because of that.  So, I’ve been thinking a lot about loving yourself.  How can you learn to do it, and why isn’t that love already there?  Also, is it really true you can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself.

    I don’t know about you, but my love for myself fluctuates…it waxes and wanes based on what’s happening in my life.  I think it’s much more fragile than the love I have for others.  Much more conditional based on my standards.  Much more unforgiving based on my ideas.  I wonder why that is?  Why it’s such a challenge to love ourselves as openly and non-judgmentally as we do others?  Why is it I can quickly forgive another person and my love never wavers, but I just as quickly berate myself and lose self-love in the same situation?

    Maybe some of it, or all of it, has to do with being bipolar.  I’m a ruminator.  An overly sensitive person.  An empath.  But the last 2 of these wonderful qualities (🙄) seem to only be for others.

    I can hate myself so easily.  Years and years ago, I had a mutt named Scooter and he was 15 when I had to put him down.  For a few weeks prior to that, his kidneys were failing, he was deaf and going blind, and he had cancer.  Because of all of this, he had a lot of difficulty with bladder control and he was quick to snap at me since he couldn’t hear or see me approach before I touched him.  I had to crate him when I was gone and it was a horrible and stressful time.  One day, out of frustration, I got angry (and I’m not going to tell you specifically what I did…it wasn’t terrible but still wasn’t right) and scolded him too harshly.  It’s literally been 17 years since that time, and I still haven’t forgiven myself for it.  Seventeen years.  If someone else had done it, I would have forgiven them in a heartbeat.  Understood the frustration, the stress, the fear.  But not me.  After little Scooter was gone, I went over it and over it in my head and truly hated myself for making those couple seconds in his life crummy.

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    I can think of so many other things I’ve done in my life that I’ve hated myself for, that I would have accepted in others with no loss of love at all.  I’m the first person to say that love isn’t a ‘switch’, if it can be turned on and turned off easily (meaning I love you today, but don’t tomorrow) then that’s not love.  Love is supposed to sustain us through the bad times, not suddenly go away.  It’s supposed to grow during the ‘worse’ while celebrating the ‘better’.  If it doesn’t…if it disappears when there’s a bump in the road…how can that have actually been love?

    So, is it really love I have for myself if I do turn it on and off based on my behavior?  My words?  Even my thoughts?  I don’t think so.  When I’m in bad situations, that ‘love’ leaves me at a time I need it the most.  When J cheated on me, I continued to love him.  But I started to hate myself.  What was in ME that compelled him to cheat (I know this thinking is wrong NOW, but that’s what was going on inside my head at the time)?  Was I a bad person?  Ugly person?  When Hubby 3 left, I hated myself.  I would spend hours doing ‘reruns’ in my mind about fights we had and issues we should have worked on, and I criticized myself harshly and was convinced it was my fault he walked out the door (which I have since painted and it looks awesome).

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    It’s sad to me how hard we are on ourselves.  My sis is the curvy one in our family and I think she is beautiful…I truly do.  But, she’s so hard on herself when she gains a pound or two.  I guess I’m the same way too though.  We tell other women that no matter what, they have a unique beauty all their own and they are special just the way they are.  Then we look in our own mirrors, and catalog our flaws one by one and say things like “Oh Lord, I hate the way I look”  or “Dammit…if I didn’t have these thighs I’d love myself so much more.”

    So, if I’m hating on myself or at least not totally loving myself, can I not love others?  See, you may disagree, but I believe you can.  No matter how I’m feeling about myself, I still love others.  When I was married to Hubby 2 (keep up…I know how hard it is to remember all of these) I had periods of depression and didn’t like myself as a result of what I couldn’t do.  Hubby also disliked it when I would say how awful I felt…how down…how helpless I was.  It was hard for him to understand the organic basis of depression and in his family, when you aren’t feeling ‘right’, you hear “Get to work…it’ll help!” or “Ignore it…it’ll go away!”  But through it all, I loved him.  Very much.  How I feel about myself might affect my interactions, but I never stop loving.  Ever.

    Maybe talking about having to completely love ourselves is unrealistic.  Maybe it’s simply that we should be more LOVING towards ourselves.  Maybe the key is forgiving ourselves like we forgive others.  Letting go of things and consciously catching ourselves when ruminating on them.  Allowing ourselves to make mistakes, with the understanding this is something everyone else does as well.  Talking kindly to ourselves.  Looking at our bodies and saying, “Yes…I have a belly, and thank the Lord I do.  It carried my baby boy!”  Accepting our mental illnesses that cause so many of us to feel shame, self-doubt, less self-worth, more guilt, and feeling we are less than because of them.

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    In other words, being as loving to ourselves as we are to others;  I guess I’m just not there yet.  But I’m thinking that might be OK because I see this as a process.  A day by day challenge.  And no matter how ‘loving’ I feel towards myself at any particular time, I still accept me for who I am.  Someone who tries their hardest, does her best to make the world around her just a little bit better, and can’t help but to see only the positive in people.

    So, Bernie…I love what you wrote, and I’m working on what you ask.  I’m gonna love myself again.  And again and again and again.  But just understand, it’s a lot harder than we might think.

    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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    Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

     

    ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) ~ David Bowie

    So, one of the most short-sighted, but often quoted saying to me is this:  “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.”. Now, when Franklin D. Roosevelt said this in his inaugural speech in 1933 (didn’t know you were going to get a history lesson today, huh?), the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and he wanted to rally the people to not let their fear paralyze them or beat them down further than they already were.  OK.  I understand the circumstance and the need of FDR to challenge the people to be as pro-active as they could, but today I think this saying is used too freely.

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    We all have fears, don’t we?  Fear of falling, heights, snakes (ME ME ME), public speaking, being alone at night, being the victim of a crime, clowns (ME ME ME) and the list can go on and on.  And to say there’s nothing to fear but fear itself assumes that all fears are irrational.  Hey, if I’m confronted by a bunch of snakes slithering towards me, my fear is justified, peeps.  My cold sweats and elevated heart beat says it all.  If we don’t validate that people have ‘real’ fears and recognize that so many times they come from a very justifiable place, then we aren’t addressing how we can help the person deal with them more productively (damn…that is a very impressive sentence…textbook quality?).

    And fears aren’t always about actual, physical danger, are they?  I’m a believer that many of us have fears regarding ourselves, our relationships, our mental illnesses.  I also believe that these fears just don’t come about quickly, but develop over a period of time through, I could say situations here but it sounds too ‘light’ so I’m going to use the word shit.  The shit we go through that shapes us into fearful beings.

    Take me (ok…that’s not literal, but if you’re rich and single, give me a call):  I learned over the years that to be in a fairly stable place, I needed to make sure I was aquiescent to the people who could hurt me or the people I love.  When ma was married to her 2nd husband who was domestically violent, I learned very early in their marriage to give in or go along with whatever R was saying, no matter how irrational or wrong it was.  If I didn’t, he’d become enraged and the target of this anger would be ma.  In order to keep her safe, I bowed down to him.  Knowing ma could get hurt because of me was a tremendous fear in my life every time I was around him.

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    So, guess what?  That fear became a part of me.  It was so deeply ingrained that I still believe that ‘people pleasing’ is a necessary thing in relationships and that it’s important in order for that relationship to be ‘happy’ (whatever the hell that means).  I need to make sure I say what I’m supposed to say, or act the way I’m supposed to act, based on someone elses wants or needs.

    When that psychologist was sexually abusing me, I knew it was wrong and I felt dirty and shameful because of it.  But, he had saved my life…gotten me to open up about things I needed to face.  He helped me reign my eating disorder in, talked me down after my first suicide attempt, and the more I depended on him, the more I strove to please him as much as I could.  I didn’t know if I could live without him or his office and the sanctuary it had once given me.  When he began touching me, I didn’t say no.  In so many ways, I didn’t know how.  I didn’t want to upset him.  Reject him.  Give him reason to ‘hate’ me.  Abandon me.  Throw me away.  So, I said nothing.

    Hubby 2 has a GREAT mom…she truly is the best and can do most anything and everything.  She was “Supermom” and worked 24/7 in such a selfless way.  When we had been married for 6 years, we built a house on Hubby’s parents land and I lived next door to my in-laws for the next 7 years.  Because we were so close, I felt I was put into a competition with mom.  She washed her windows every season, planted a huge garden, took care of acres of property, hung her wash out to dry, cooked nice meals that I couldn’t emulate, and never sat down to read or rest.  After hearing for years how terrific she was (and I know she is), I began to feel I had to live up to the bar she set.  When I lived next door, I struggled to keep up.  If I laid down in the afternoon, I felt guilty (sometimes I still do) and not getting a chore done was unacceptable.

    So I did all of this with a smile on my face, wanting to please Hubby and let him know I was up to par with this woman he idolized.  And the entire time I plastered a smile on my face.  I was ‘person pleasing’ him and I feared the consequence of not doing this would be his disapproval and criticism (something I’m ill equipped to handle thanks to my ‘sensitive’ personality 🙄).

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    Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas on Pexels.com

    This pattern, based on the fear of retaliation, hurt and rejection, truly has followed me my entire adult life.  The most recent rendition of it was with J.  After he cheated on me the first time, I forgave him quickly and with very little effort of apology or him showing remorse.  If I voiced my anger, my sadness, or my distrust, he’s the one that became offended and annoyed.  You see, my nagging was what was dragging us down.  My feelings of distrust and needing to know where he was or who he was texting made him feel resentful, which once again, was the cause of our relationship not being ‘perfect’.  It didn’t matter what he did.  It mattered what my reactions were.  And since I’ve attended this shitty rodeo before, I tried, as hard as I could, to ‘person please’ him.  “No honey…it’s ok.  I’m sorry I was worried.”  “Babe…it’s my fault you’re upset.  I shouldn’t have brought her up.”

    Sometimes I wonder if so much of this people pleasing, which is founded in the fear of me being rejected, is a big part of the breakdown I had.  I had given in to so much over the years and lived my life based on other expectations while sucking up my own wants and needs, that it became too much.  Think about it.  I was a pleaser in all of my marriages (shutty the mouthy…I’m not Elizabeth Taylor yet 😳); I gave everything I knew the Hubby of the decade wanted, yet they still moved on to apparently greener pastures.  (They’re all greener until you start crapping in those too).  I gave in to so much of what J wanted throughout our relationship because I loved him so stinkin’ much and didn’t want to lose him, and look what I got for my effort.  Nada.

    I’m kinda starting this pattern again with my old friend I’ve been yacking too.  Trying to be what he wants me to be in order to please him.  Trying to say the right things.  Agree to the right things, but this time, I’m stopping myself.  I’m recognizing it.  I’m seeing that if I continue this pattern, it ain’t gonna work out.  I think I finally understand that I’ve never wanted someone to be a ‘yes’ man for me.  I want their genuine, muddied, real self.  By the same token, I can understand how me being a ‘yes’ woman can lessen respect someone might have for me.  I guess I’m just scared to put my real self out there.  When you have a mental illness, your genuine self isn’t always your best self.  Your intentions may not be what your moods are dictating that day.  Your responses and behavior may be a done deal before you reign in that fucking brain of yours and try your best to fight it.  Sometimes your real self can be very overwhelming to the other person.  Sometimes, it can even be a deal-breaker.

    So, I learned early on that you can’t rock the boat.  You can’t disagree.  You always have to nod, smile and say yes on the outside, while saying no to yourself on the inside, no matter how much it hurts or how much it might cost you.  But, as I have found, people pleasing isn’t the key.  Maybe trying to be whatever the other person wants you to be isn’t the strongest foundation for any relationship.  And maybe what I’ve been doing all of these years is backwards – that the key is simply pleasing me and them much more equally and hoping the other person can accept that as being enough.


    Kristi xoxo

    “The Greatest Loss is What Dies Inside Us While We Live.” ~ Norman Cousins

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    Death by Asphyxia

    So, here we are as a nation having to be isolated from one another and then knowing we are taking a chance at getting COVID when we go out to get what we need.  Today I was at the grocery store and to be honest with you, I was scared by what I was seeing.  There were people there with not only masks on, but with huge bandanas wrapped around their faces so only their eyes showed.  When I would reach for something and my arm wasn’t exactly 6′ away, I’d get a dirty look.  The instant we let go of something, it’s sanitized.  Now, I know the measures need to be taken.  I get that, and I would be devastated if someone in my family contracted this.  But here’s my point:  we are taking so many measures to fight this virus.  This crisis.  And that’s the right thing to do.  I guess I just want to see the same measures taken for a crisis that has no ending in sight.

    Now, hear me out.  In 2018 (the most recent data I can find), 48,344 Americans died of suicide, which is about 132 people every day.  Further, 1.4 million people attempt suicide every year (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).  What scares me the most is this:  between 2007-2017, the suicide rate for teenagers (15-19) went up 76%.  Read that sentence again, grasshoppers.  Seventy-six percent.  For KIDS ages 10-14, the suicide rate tripled during that same time frame.  For both age groups, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and takes more lives than anything except accidents which include motor vehicle deaths (Centers for Disease Control).  Finally, men over 65 are at the highest risk for suicide, and people 85 and over are the 2nd most likely age group to die (NPR).

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    Sawyer Sweeten (Everybody Loves Raymond) Gunshot wound – age 19

    Obviously, I could go on and on with other statistics, but I think I made my point:  suicide is a public health crisis in America ALL of the time, and I think attention needs to be paid to this; particularly when it’s taking the lives of so many of our kids and teens, as well as adults.  Do you realize we are twice as likely to die by suicide than homicide, while cancer, heart disease and stroke deaths are lessening?

    Think about this:  suicide is preventable.  Yes, I said preventable.  Suicide is not about death, it’s about ending pain in the person’s life.  No one truly wants to die, we have a huge survival instinct.  Think about the Jews in the Holocaust, or the POW’s in Japan during WWII or Vietnam.  When I think how so many willed themselves…forced themselves…to survive in spite of the abhorrent conditions they faced, it astounds me.

    I teach about the Donner party in my Sociology classes, and most people joke about this:  “Hey…what are the Donner’s going to have for supper?  Aunt Jane!”  Actually, it was tragic.  These poor people who had lost the great majority of their food and supplies because of the Great Salt Dessert crossing and Paiute Native Americans who attacked them, got stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountains for an entire winter where literally, scores of snow fell which made climbing these impossible.  They tried numerous times though, but failed.  The first person that was eaten was a man who had begged his daughters to do so.  If they lived, he said, so would the rest of their family.  But no one ended up eating their kin, and no one consumed meat unless everything else had been used:  bark, leather, fur, etc.  That’s survival, peeps.  That’s what life means.

    Go back to those stats.  For kids and teens to be in such pain they end their precious, young lives is unacceptable to me.  Overall, not only do we have a suicide epidemic (literally) that cuts across all ‘lines’, but we have a mental illness/mental health crisis that is behind these horrific losses.  It’s a 2 fold problem:  a society that’s in so much pain, people of all ages are killing themselves because of problems bigger than they are mentally capable of handling at that point, and a lack of resources.

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    Anthony Bourdain – Death by Hanging        (1956 – 2014)

    Look at this:  The National Institutes of Health are the largest funder for biomedical research in the entire world.  In 2016, they spent $68 million on suicide, but 5x more studying SLEEP (what the fuck?), and 10x more on breast cancer which actually killed less people than suicide.  Something has to give.  We are spending more money on killers that take fewer lives.  Isn’t there something very wrong with that?  Doesn’t that show the value we place on mental illness and mental health issues?

    And like I said, the kicker is that suicides are preventable, primarily with hotlines where the counselor establishes connection with the caller quickly, shows care and empathy, and let’s them know there are other ways to end the pain they are overwhelmed with in their lives.  Another prevention?  Breaking the stigma of mental illness by making is less ‘risky’ for people to say they are battling depression, or feel like they are outside their bodies looking in, or are experiencing so much anxiety, panic, or mania, they don’t think they can handle it another day.  Men are 4x more likely to commit suicide, and are also less likely to receive help for mental health issues.  Hmmmmm.  Plus, these approaches don’t require social distancing, masks, or staying at home in isolation:  it requires work in terms of funding and education.  In my mind, that’s doable.

    I know these things all too well from my own experiences at attempting suicide – when you are in such a fucking dark place where you look around and see only this black hole enveloping you more and more, you have no way of seeing anything else.  That monster has you, and it takes someone outside of yourself to start the journey of climbing up those walls.  It takes someone showing you that you matter.  That you can survive.  Saying: “Things will get better…we all go through stuff.” or “You just got to look on the bright side.” or even “Don’t be so dramatic” are just going to make the person feel guilty for what they are feeling.  But saying “Hey,  I care about you  I want to help you” can.

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    Kate Spade – Death by Hanging (1962 – 2018)

    Edwin Schneidman was the pioneer in the study of suicide, and stated there 10 commonalities of it:  seeking a solution, cessation of consciousness, intolerable psychological pain, frustrated psychological needs, feelings of helplessness-hoplessness, feeling ambivalent, a feeling of constriction, a want of escape, communication of intent, and the coping skills the person has.  (The Suicidal Mind – Oxford University Press)

    Look at some of these closer.  How can we help ease people’s psychological pain?  By maybe recognizing and helping those with it?  By reducing the stigma of expressing this?  What about feelings of helplessness & hopelessness?  By giving people, such as the homeless, lonely, and sick something that gives them meaning?  Something they feel some control over?  Something to feel they are needed?

    And communication of intent?  Maybe we can help by addressing it.  Believing it.  Showing empathy for the person.  Helping them while standing beside them all of the way.  That’s what my ma did for me, and it obviously worked.

    Lastly, the coping skills the person has.  Mine suck balls, like a lot of others with bipolar.  I haven’t been able to cope with much since I was a gangly little girl.  Normal things hit me hard.  Very hard.  Just having a friend pay attention to someone else would devastate me (and I don’t use the word devastate lightly).  Having my ma or dad express disappointment in me would crush me down to where I felt incapable of being loved.  Having a guy reject my feelings in HS would get me so emotionally distraught, I felt I was a ‘nothing, like an invisible girl no one really saw.  Is it no wonder the first time I attempted suicide was when my first love told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore?  And my second time when too many things piled up on me at once that I totally collapsed under the weight of it all?

    We need so much to understand what some people can handle, others can’t.  When my ma would say “Honey, you’ll get over J and move on with someone who loves you back” I know her intentions were very good, she simply hated seeing me in so much pain.  But I couldn’t  ‘just’ do that, no matter how much I tried.  Her coping skills are amazingly strong, while mine are amazingly weak.  When people would say “Kristi, your nephew is in a better place”, I knew that to be true.  But guess what?  Maybe understanding that does comfort some, but it didn’t do shit for me when mourning a boy who had barely grown up.

    Look, peeps…we are in the midst of a pandemic.  We all need to stay healthy and safe.  We all need to be diligent about washing our hands, wearing our masks, and staying away from others.  But let me tell you something and I want to make this very clear:  suicide will still be around.  Long after this fucking Covid has either ‘run it’s course’ or we develop a vaccine for it.  However, suicide will still be taking lives, young and old.  Every single day we’ll see another 129 people kill themselves, all preventable deaths.

    I don’t know about you, but I want this epidemic to be over too.  Badly.

    Kristi xoxo

    The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 – 1-800-273-8255