“Embarrassment and awkward situations are not foreign things to me.” ~ Paul Rudd

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So, yesterday I was in ACE Hardware which is close to my house and where I go all of the time.  Since I’m in a bit of a manic phase, I’ve been traipsing over there even more to get my painting supplies and other what-nots.  Anyhoot, I know the store like the back of my hand but for some reason, I could not find the lightbulbs yesterday.  This store is locally owned and the people who walk the floor to give you that old-fashioned service are mostly older, retired men (who are simply adorbs with their pants up to their nipples 😉).  After wandering through the dozen or so aisles, I was asked if I needed help and I said: “Sure, I just can’t find the lightbulbs…I guess they must have been moved.”  His deadpan reply was:  “No ma’am…they are right here where they’ve always been…turn around.”  And yes, there they were, 4″ from my face.

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THEN, I had to buy a couple of screws  and was filling out the little paper sack with the screw price (shutty…I know I could have worded this better 🙄) and trying to calculate the total (very difficult:  price x quantity).  I was secretly using my fingers and must have looked perplexed because grandpa came up to me again and asked, AGAIN, if I needed help.  I said I was just having a little problem with my calculation and he looked at my sack and said, “Well, ma’am, you have 6 screws at $.09 each.  That would be $.54.  6 x 9 = 54.”  I tittered and said:  “Would you believe I’m a college professor?”  And this old geezer (who was married…I checked…🙄), said:  “No.”  Then, he walked away shaking his head.

OK.  Gotta admit this was pretty embarrassing.  I looked like a complete twit and wondered how I’ve managed to get along so well in life thus far since I’m obviously incapable of seeing objects and multiplying single digit numbers.  Then, it got me to thinking about other embarrassing times in my life, and unfortunately, there are a lot of ’em.

So, I play the flute and am mediocre at best.  Or, to be honest, I’m probably a few steps down from that.  But my best friend in high school played the flute VERY well (she’s actually freaking amazing on it 😀) and I wanted to sit by her in band and be 2nd chair so I decided to take lessons with the same guy she studied with.  His name was Mr. P and I had a HUGE crush on him.  He had traveled all around the world and was very cosmopolitan.  He’d play the piano along with my fluting and tell jokes I loved hearing.  I’d spend hours in front of the mirror before I rode my 10 speed to his house, just to make sure my hair was ‘feathered’ right and I had my strawberry Bonne Bell lip gloss on just so.  One afternoon, he was trying to broaden my range and had me play really high notes.  I worked and worked at playing a high C and when it finally happened, something else happened too.  I farted.  Or pooted.  Or passed gas.  Use whatever term you prefer but I wanted the floor to open up so I could fall in and never be heard from again.  The worst part?  He didn’t acknowledge this case of the ‘vapors’ but I’m the type to laugh when I’m nervous, so I started giggling like a lunatic (yes, big shocker there).  He, being a gentleman, tried to ignore this too, which made me more nervous, which made me more gassy, which made me more giggly.  Long story short?  He left town not much later, gave up teaching flute, and embarked on a figure skating career.  If he ever would have won a gold medal, I was going to take the credit for it.

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Newman Theatre

As some of you know, I’ve got the grandiose delusion that I actually have Oscar winning acting abilities if I could simply be discovered (my family disagrees, but what do they know?  Their last name isn’t Spielberg…just sayin’).  Of course, this began when I first saw Jodi Foster (btw, my big girl crush) and knew I could be just like her.  Anyhoot, I was always too shy to try out for plays in high school since that was for the popular folk (no-talent boobs who are still bitchy…get over yourselves already, please) that I was much too intimidated by to be around.  But one day an opportunity presented itself:  during Jr. year, my English Lit class was reading “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, and I was playing Laura that day.  She is physically and emotionally impaired with a lot of mental fragility (wonder why I was chosen?), and her mom was desperate to find her a husband (once again, this part fit me like a glove).  Anyhoot, I was excited to read this part because it would show the snotty seniors in my class how much they needed me in their plays.  There’s a part of the play where the horn of a glass unicorn is broken off and Laura yells:  “My GLASS MENAGERIE!”  Menagerie is pronounced ‘men-aj-er-ee’ but I SCREECHED ‘man-a-jer-aw’.  The class started cracking up and I was horrified!  My big chance at a movie career (actors from my Illinois high school often make it to Hollywood) ended and I was humiliated.  Bye bye, Tinseltown.

Another embarrassing moment happened when I was getting ready to start my Jr. year in college.  I went to community college my first 2 years (and now teach at the same college 😃) and was so so so excited to be the first in my family to go on to university.  As hard as it is to believe, I was a bit smug about this.  Anyhoot, Hubby 1 and I were dating at the time and we were at “Cousin Fred’s”.  I kid you not…there was a store where I live actually called this.  It was a great store and one of those where you could find about anything you need, but it was a bit dumpy.  So we were checking out and I was wearing a shirt from my new college and the cashier said:  “Are you going to that university?”  I thought: “How cute…this guy, a cashier at Cousin Fred’s (!), wants to know if smart, academically motivated Kristi is going to a big, scary university.  Bless his heart!”  I say, in a pretty snotty voice now that I think back to it, “Yes…I’m going to be a junior.”  It sounded like I was saying, “Why yes, I’m queen of the freaking world.”  The guy said:  “Cool.  I just got my Masters there.”  Hubby 1 started cracking up!  After looking at this guy dumbfounded that out of all the people who have asked me about college, I had to be snotty towards the 1 who actually had his graduate degree, I kinda mumbled something like “Good for you!” and moseyed out of the store.  Yes, this put me in my place.  Yes, I have never bragged about anything again.  And yes, I sorta lied on that last one.

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Best White Shorts Ever!

Once, I was at another store in my town called Venture that was also a bit of this and a bit of that.  I was wearing white shorts and as I was meandering the aisles, I noticed a lot of people admiring my butt.  I was 17 and thought WOW, I must be looking good!  Whispers followed me and my confidence was growing and I started smiling at these guys who ‘wanted me’ and the women who ‘wanted to be me.’  I glided through the check-out, sashayed my way to the parking lot, and when I got home I looked in my full-length body mirror to see my amazing ass.  What I saw was thin white shorts that showed my dark brown underwear perfectly.  Yes, dark brown underwear was a thing in the 80’s and I was too stupid to think they would show through THIN white shorts.  These guys weren’t admiring my behiner…they were laughing at me!  From this day on, I never…ever…ever…leave the house without looking at my backside first.  Just in case.

There are so many times I’ve tripped in front of people (and always look at the floor like there was a spill or something), waved to someone who wasn’t waving to me, said hello to someone who had no idea who the hell I was, talked to someone with a huge piece of food stuck in my teeth, got caught smelling my armpits, argued about something ad nauseam and then realized I was wrong, wasn’t able to get an easy word out, couldn’t complete a high five and having my palm just swat the air, said “That’s great” when I couldn’t hear someone and then realized what an inappropriate remark this was, gone out in my greasy face and lank hair to run a quick errand and then seeing a dozen people I know, and the list goes on.

Isn’t it funny how we think our families are embarrassing or we see embarrassing things on YouTube and we thank our lucky stars that it wasn’t us?  It’s so easy to point out other people’s moments and so hard to face our own mortifications.  I probably embarrass myself at least a dozen times a week…I’m clumsy, awkward, and have the tendency to say and act before thinking about it which can set me up for a lot of humiliating situations.  But I can laugh at them now.  Out of all the things I face having this fucking (first time in this post, ma &#128516) bipolar disease, being embarrassed is the least of my worries.  You know, I learned not long ago that if you can laugh at yourself, it’s one less time you cry.  And believe me…for those of us with mental illnesses, laughing can feel pretty damn good.

Kristi xoxo

“With sweet understanding, Seymour’s my friend.” ~ Little Shop of Horrors

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So, I’m not a trendy person.  In fact, some might say I’m the opposite of trendy which would be…ummmm…un-trendy?  Dis-trendy?  Unfashionable?  Out of the loop?  Old-fashioned?  Anyhoot, I will NOT wear mom jeans regardless of them coming back in style.  I will NOT wear ‘hot pants’ (to my neighbors:  you’re welcome 😳).  I will NOT wear neon-green even if it is favored by Valentino (my favorite designer…I wear his things often when I go out.  To Culvers.  By myself.  For my chicken strip basket with slaw &#128516).  And, I will NOT, as God is my witness (please say that like Scarlett O’Hara) ever wear bell bottoms again in my life.  Ever.

But, I happened to just ‘fall’ willy-nilly into a trend this spring and I was quite shocked to find out I wasn’t the only one doing this.  Ready?  I even have pics (GASP!).  My home is now full of house plants!  And…drum roll…I love ’em so much!

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My living room!

When spring came along I realized how much I look forward to seeing ‘green’ after icky, gray winters and I was at Lowe’s moseying around and saw some house plants and figured, what the hell?  Might as well bring some green into the house too.  But, I never thought I had a green thumb.  Why, you ask?  Well, because every other plant I ever tried to own died.  Quickly.  Tragically.  And I just knew I wasn’t meant to be a plant owner.

But, we seem to do strange things during pandemics so I bought a couple of succulents anyway and realized a very very important thing in terms of plant care:  they need water and light and you can look up specific amounts of these online.  And now?  My plants are alive and well!  YEA!  My thumb is now officially green (and yellow and blue…I just got done painting…).

Anyhoot, I started reading about how mental health is positively affected by plants and how they can help calm and center us.  This was a huge incentive in creating my own jungle, but I also needed more to take care of…to ‘mommy’.  My son had left home and Edward and Dottie just don’t require a whole lot of care outside of shoving Dottie’s pill down her throat twice a day after wrapping it in braunschwager which leaves my fingers smelling like liver for the rest of the day/night.  I definitely needed something else to occupy me, and my plants are doing that.  * NOTE:  please don’t give me ideas for Dottie’s pill…I have tried everything!  For example, braunschwager worked for a few days in a bowl with her pill mashed up.  Then, she figured out what was in it and refused to eat it anymore.  I’ve tried, literally, dozens of things and shoving it down her little gullet is the only sure-fire way for her to take it.  I told you she was a diva.  🙄

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My succulents keep me company when I’m in the kitchen!

So, like everything I do, I researched growing plants to death, took a couple of online classes, and have watched so many professionals on YouTube that I feel like we’re best buds.  But here’s what I learned from them that really touched me:  first, we wouldn’t be here without plants.  Think about it:  plants produce oxygen, clean and retain water, and are the basis of our food chain.  And then this:  we have ‘domesticated’ plants and have changed their natural environment by taking them from the outside.  So, we need to make sure we give them a good indoor home.  Finally, one of my favorite plant people, Amanda from Planterina, calls her plants ‘her green leafed friends.’  I love this!  After all, our pets are our furry friends, and now I have some leafy ones too.  And the answer is yes.  I name and talk to my plants.  I’m bipolar…I can act crazy if I want…so there.  🤪

I’ve always been interested in how our personal environment affects mental health simply because that’s something those of us with mental illnesses can have some control of.  I’m kind of big on control.  Having this fucking bipolar (sorry, ma…but I’ll give you a succulent 🎍) makes me feel so out of control since I’m very much at the mercy of my brain deciding my moods for me, and also at how effective my current meds will be against this.  But, I can take control of my physical environment and since I’ve been stuck at home so much, I’ve had time to really work on this.

There are heaps of articles that talk about how pollution, poor lighting, and clutter hurt our mental health.  But, our little green buddies can combat these things:  plants clean the air (peace lillies and spider plants are great at this and require little light and care…I have a spidey plant in my bathroom and it’s never smelled better 💩); I have ‘daylight’ bulbs in my house now and grow lights in a couple of areas…my house is a sunny day every day and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that; plus, I’ve really de-cluttered lately to find spaces for my little buddies.  I’ve made dozens of trips to Salvation Army donating stuff I had just sitting around and don’t need now that plants are the focal point of my house.  (No ma, I have not donated anything you have given me…yes ma, I love everything you have ever given me including the quilted, polyester culotte outfit you gave me in 1997 🙄…I wear it all of the time and in fact, I think sis would like one very much).  And, did you know anxiety and depression is greater in areas with fewer green spaces, and that plants can lower blood pressure and lessen levels of stress hormones?  Score!

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Desert Row.  &#128516

Now, keep in mind I’m also in a bit of a manic state right now…nothing too bad, but definitely on the ‘up’ and not ‘down’ side of the roller coaster.  What does this mean?  Welllllllllll…it means I went from 0 plants to around ‘cough cough 30 cough cough’ plants in a matter of weeks.  And like the McDonalds commercials used to say:  “I’m lovin’ it!”  (Is there anything better than HOT, fresh, salty McDonald’s fries?  I think not, my sweet peeps 🍟).

Another perk?  There’s nothing better than sharing plants with other people.  My dwaw-teh (I’m saying ‘daughter’ like Linda Belcher…it’s the only way I can do it) is into succulents and we love ordering them online.  I give my neighbor plants and we compare notes on how they are growing.  Other people have asked me questions about a dying buddy, and it’s fun to try to help them save the poor little guy.  And, reddit has the best houseplants sub-reddit and I’ve been chatting with new people everyday.  It’s actually been really a neat thing for me socially.

 

Here’s my dieffenbachia (‘dumb cane’), a couple of my calatheas (which I love because their leaves fold up at night…it’s actually a bit eerie), and a fittonia (called a ‘nerve plant’…go figure this is one of my faves 🙄).

I love succulents (any plant that stores water in it’s leaves including cacti) and here are my burro’s tail (I don’t want to brag…but my FB friends are pea green with envy since these are kinda hard to find), my ‘tiger jaw’ (I think it’s more like Jaws…so that’s his name), and my little buttons (my neighbor has a cutting too…we love ’em)!

You know, I never really looked at plants before…I mean really LOOKED.  Then, as I was reading posts on reddit, I discovered how awesome plants really are with their colors, designs, etc.  My fave is the pinstriped calathea…isn’t he adorbs?

Finally, not only am I loving the plants, but they are sparking my creativity too…win win! 😀

Anyhoot, with everything going on in the world today, it’s really nice to have my own little woodsy haven to focus on, with growing life all around me everyday.  When I see a new shoot spring up from a pot’s soil or have a big new leaf unfurl, it makes me happy.  Really happy.  And, can we ever have too much of that?

Kristi xoxo

“I am woman, hear me roar…” ~ Helen Reddy

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Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer on Pexels.com

So, I’m very confused.  Yes, I know it’s not a new state for me to be in so maybe I should have said that I’m confused even more than usual.  However, that’s a very confusing sentence and I’m confused about whether or not I should have stuck a comma in there somewhere, but anyhoot, confused is what I am.  😀

Answer me this:  why are we constantly being bombarded by ‘motivational quotes’ and people’s posts that say we’re all beautiful and wonderful and talented and special, etc. but then when we say it about ourselves, we’re called narcissistic?  In other words, I’m supposed to ‘think’ I’m all of these incredible things, but if I say that I’m any of these things well then by golly, I’m being conceited.  Really peeps, does that make sense to you?

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When did it become such a bad thing to say good things about ourselves?  I always give compliments to people and I mean every one of them I say.  I tell my students how amazingly wonderful they are (which they really are…funny thing:  every single semester for 25 years I have gotten the BEST students in the college in my classroom 😃)…I tell my son how incredibly talented he is (his photos blow me away 😮), I tell ma how beautiful she is (and she is…except for the way she does the sides of her hair…”Ma: for the love of all that is holy, don’t comb them back, just scrunchy them and let ’em go.  Just sayin’ 🙄), and the list goes on.  But if I compliment myself?

Look at what we say to people who do:  “Well, you must think a lot of yourself!”  “You’re full of yourself, aren’t ya?”  “Who do you think you are?”  “Don’t get above your raisin!”  “Remember, pride goeth before a fall!”  “Gee…you’re so self-centered!”  And on and on and on.

What the hell?  So, let me get this straight:  I’m supposed to take in the messages that I’m beautiful in my own way, understand that I have talents and things to offer, feel good about myself and have high self-esteem, but if I SAY any of these things are true, I’m pretty much looked at as an egotistical maniac?  Okey Dokey.

C’mon peeps.  I’m here to tell you something you might never have heard before.  Are you ready?  It’s OK to have pride in yourself and to talk positively about yourself and feel good about yourself.  So there.  Got it?

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I’ll start it:  I’m beautiful.  Well wait a sec…let me rephrase that:  I’m a 6 out of 10 after I take my shower, wash my face with micellar water (the freaking best thing ever…I’m going to buy stock in Garnier 😳), blow dry my shampooed/conditioned/twice rinsed/gelled hair…curl it up with my curling iron…apply my ‘blur’ moisturizer to lessen the looks of my laugh lines (a.k.a. wrinkles)…put my mascara on with a double coat and then use my eyelash curler which looks like a little S & M device…put oil absorbing powder on my face since I’m a shiny person…put on my all day lipstick (L’oreal  #50)…slather gloss over that…pick out my clothes and make sure I have something on that’s dark because I’m a ‘winter’😳…and there.  I’m beautiful.  Sorta.  🙄 (Now…I’ll bet you each a donut that ma writes a comment to me on FB saying how beautiful I am just because she’s so freaking sweet ♥).

So please Pinterest, quit telling me I am every time I open your app.  I’m average (or a tad under) but I’m OK with that.  I’m ok saying I look ok instead of saying I look like crap when someone compliments me:  “Hey Kristi…looking good!” (I heard that once…a LLLLOOOONNNNGGGG time ago but I digress).  “Hey, thanks!”  So many of us women will say:  “Aww, no I don’t!  I didn’t get much sleep last night!”  Or, they’ll point out specific things.  “My hair just won’t do anything today!”  It’s almost a given to counteract a compliment instead of agreeing with it.  BUT, we’re told that we ARE beautiful so what are we to do?

Another one:  I’m talented.  Not in the way I want to be:  on stage singing and dancing with Taron while he whirls me across the floor at Carnegie Hall, but in other ways.  Like, I’m a talented professor.   “OMG, Kristi…quit bragging!”

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Why?  I’m a really fucking great teacher (sorry ma, but remember that I said how sweet you are 😳).  It’s what I’ve wanted to be all of my life and I’m very very proud of going from being a high school ‘D’ student who barely graduated, to a Professor who earned her Master’s Degree while being a full-time mama to a 1 year old son and maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.  School is my thing, peeps, and I’m really good at it.  📚

Is that bad for me to say?  Why?  Aren’t we supposed to have pride in what we do?  You know, I was a really fucking great waitress too while I was in college.  I didn’t have the boobs to help me get better tips, but my service was great.  Hello!  I’m bipolar and being a manic waitress is awesome!  Water glasses were filled immediately…I could handle 10 tables at once…I was quick to bring extra ranch dressing (everyone always wants more ranch…Hmmm.), etc.

And on another note…why is it wrong to be self-centered at times?  My sweetie neighbors are wonderful.  WONDERFUL.  (R, if you’re reading this, I have another succulent cutting for you 🌵).  The guy has been working hours and hours restoring a car and he’s an amazingly talented man…the car will be perfect!  We were yakking over the fence the other night and he said he felt selfish restoring this car for himself because of all the time it was taking.  I said:  C, it’s not selfish to do what you want!  To work on something that’s so important to you.

And it’s not!  What’s selfish about pursuing things you want to do?  Eating what you want to eat?  Saying no to commitments you don’t want to go too?  I’m not saying you should be so self-absorbed that you are shutting out other people, but I’m tired of treating others better than myself.  Tired of allowing them the leeway I don’t give myself.  Guess what?  I’m going to start being a bit more selfish.  And I think that’s healthy!

Look my sweetie grasshoppers, I’m not saying you should be an egotistical asshole.  But I do think you should have pride and self-assurance and a sense of being pleased about who you are and what you have accomplished.  I think it’s OK to be your own cheerleader.  To be your own support.  To be your own fan.  (I bought a fan the other day and was blown away by the price.  Get it?  I’m funny too! 🙄).

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I saw this quote on Pinterest:  “The more you like yourself, the more other people don’t.”  What the fuck?  You told me to love myself!  That I’m wonderful!  BUT, if I LIKE myself, others won’t?  So, using my deductive reasoning skills: if I actually LOVE myself, others will hate me.  Right?  Sheesh.

Why are we like this?  Why do we preach to others about how important it is to build up a high self-esteem and feel worthy and have pride in ourselves, but then put people down when they achieve it and show it?  I’m done doing that.

Look, I’m 53 years old (blech 👵) and it’s time I started saying I’m a pretty cool person.  No, I don’t think I’m awesome or amazing or the ‘best’.  But I do think I have a lot to offer…have some talent…have some things about me that are pretty boss (like my use of groovy slang and emojis) and by golly, it’s time to be proud of who I am.  For all of us to be proud of who we are.  Out loud.  🎺

Kristi xoxo

 

“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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    Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

    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