“We don’t want no devils in the house, God…” ~ Kanye West

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Dear Kim,

So, I’m going to be honest right from the start and I hope you understand but I’m not a big fan of yours.  I’m sorry, it’s just that I try so hard to teach  my sweetie students that their beauty and worth comes from within, and then for them to see you on Instagram wearing corsets, in make-up that looks to be as thick as a steak, and then photoshopped to where you have no hair follicles kind of confuses them.  But anyhoot, I digress (which is very common for me to do 🙄).

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Look, your husband needs help.  And he needs it now.  It’s true Kanye and I have very little in common.  I’m white and he’s black.  I’m a woman and he’s a man, I’m a middle-class professor in a smallish city in IL and he’s a star that jet sets across the world, and I’m not running for president (yet…but a gal at Hobby Lobby told me I should…what do you think 😳?).  However, we both have bipolar disease and that connects us more than anything else could.

I know you are well aware of his mental illness, but I don’t understand why you haven’t helped him get the long-term treatment that could benefit him tremendously.  Yes, he was in a mental health facility for a short while in 2016 which led to his diagnosis, but that was only a band-aid on what he really needs.  I know he doesn’t want to take medications in case it ‘stifles his creativity’ (I like to macrame 🤨) and in his line of work I get that.  But you need to realize that Kanye suffers from something called anosognosia which is an inability for him to realize he sick.  You have to be his ‘eye’s for him right now.

And Kim, he is very sick.  Look, if your hubby was suffering from appendicitis and needed to go to the ER, you’d take him in a flash (or your chauffeur would…I have one too I can call on: I call her ‘ma’ 🙄) even if he said it was just gas.  By the same token, people with mental illness often don’t ‘see’ what’s happening to them and if they do, they’ll deny the fuck out of it (BTW, does your ma get pissed when you say ‘fuck’…I know mine does.  Maybe they could chat sometime about that.  Also, I’d like to ask Kris to show my ma how to style her short hair in different ways…I think she’d like that 🤔).  I know this because I’ve done the exact same thing.

A lot of people don’t realize that some of us with untreated bipolar can become psychotic, and in my humble opinion (it’s actually not humble…I’m kinda smart about stuff like this since I’m a psychology professor…just sayin’) your hubby is experiencing pretty severe delusions which puts him in this category of symptoms.

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Look, he’s compared himself to Picasso, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson (I wouldn’t be too proud of that one…just sayin’) and Shakespeare.  The most egregious one though?  Jesus Christ.  Honey, these are humongous signs that Kanye NEEDS meds in order for him to have a better grasp on reality.  He’s also admitted to being ‘hyper-paranoid’ which shows even more psychosis.

This all has to be hard on you and your adorable kids and having a daddy that’s mentally ill is something that all the clothes and toys in the world won’t fix (BTW, I wear a size 6 and would love any hand-me-downs 🤩).   Kids need their daddy to be ‘there’ for them and not just physically, but mentally too.  Your cutie boys, Saint and Psalm (I named my little guy – he’s 26 – Oliver and I thought that was a bit edgy) need a strong and stable male role model.

We all know how people laugh at your husband.  They call him crazy.  Ignorant.  Stupid.  Insane.  Psycho.  I don’t think he’s aware of this and if he is, doesn’t take it seriously.  But  I do know this has to hurt you because it’s hurt me and my ma when I’m called bad things too (another question, do you ever call Kris ‘ma’?  I just can’t picture that for some reason 😵).  Over the years I’ve been called crazy, psycho, a liar, and an attention seeking bitch just to name a few.  And every time I hear words like this, it’s like my heart is being pierced again and again.  The hurt is unfathomable.

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It’s funny how most of us use the correct rhetoric in TALKING about mental illness, but so many people don’t try to UNDERSTAND it when it shows itself.  If I have a very high fever and start babbling incoherently (which I do most nights after 9:00 p.m. which is my bedtime…I’m a real party animal like yourself 😎), no one will take the words seriously (which is very true right now since I’m single.  BTW, do you know Taron Egerton?  Just askin’).  Right?  By the same token, I wish people accepted the fact the mentally ill will say and do things their disease/disorder is directing.

Kimmy (can I call you that?), getting your hubby help can do more than stabilize him…it could save his life.  MentalIllnessPolicy.org  reports that at least the 5,000 suicides per year that are committed by people who have schizophrenia or bipolar could be prevented if the people get adequate psychiatric treatment.  And Dr. Ken Duckworth (NAMI) states that at least 90% of all suicides are by people who have an untreated or under-treated mood disorder.  See, we aren’t just talking about his mental well being here, we are talking about his survival.

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I can tell you this, Kim:  having bipolar sucks balls.  Bad.  Having so much swirling around in your head and going between being so happy and so depressed is like riding a roller coaster that never ends.  I actually don’t know what it’s like to have a ‘normal’ functioning brain and if I contemplate it too much, I get over-whelmed.  I really do.  You know, not much scares me in the world.  Yes, I have concerns and live my life with some caution, but my fucking brain and emotions are the most scary thing I have to encounter.  And I get to face it everyday.  Every single day.  As I’m writing this paragraph, my stomach is turning and my eyes are tearing.  It’s like a boulder sitting on my shoulders and some days it’s a bit lighter and on others it’s heavier.  But the damn thing is always there.  Always.  This boulder has made people back away from me…dump me…treat me differently…and affect how my co-workers see me and my contributions even though I’m a fucking amazing professor (yes, that’s bragging, but why can’t we toot our own horns sometimes?  That’s going to be another post so stay tuned! ✎).

Kimmy, get your hubby help. Silence his freaking YES MEN and screw what others say.  Please.  I know this is a monumental task and that you can’t force him to take the help that’s out there. But you can put consequences in place if he won’t…like distancing your little sweeties from his instability.   Please don’t make him suffer anymore.  He needs you right now to forcibly guide him in the way you know he needs to go.  Now.

Kristi xoxo

“Don’t Ask me to Choose” ~ Fine Young Cannibals

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So, I’m going to be honest with my sweetie peeps:  I’m horrible at making choices and decisions.  HORRIBLE.  Even on little things I waver and ruminate and am wishy-washy over what I want to do (note to self:  start some laundry 🙄).

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I see a shirt at Kohl’s and I have my 30% coupon and $10 Kohl’s Cash and I grab the shirt I see and promise myself that’s all I’m going to get.  Along with the coupon, my ‘cash’ pays for it, and I don’t need anything else.  I’ve picked out what I want.  So, I totter over to the cashier (one of them tries to save my soul whenever I’m in and even though I tell her my soul is nice and saved, she doesn’t believe me.  Go figure 😳) with shirt in hand.  BUT, as I am crossing the store another display intrigues me…and then another…and then another.  And before you know it, the shirt I loved is buried in my arms under a dozen more.  Now, I could just get that initial shirt…easy…right?  OR…I could whip out my Kohl’s card, spend $60 above the ‘cash’ and not have to make a choice.  AND, since I get MORE Kohl’s cash, I’m actually ahead!

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I think my reasoning is like common core math.  If I scootch around the numbers enough in various columns, I’m actually spending less than I intended.  Yeah.  (Ma doesn’t understand why I wasn’t a math major even though I have to call her to figure out what 20% off of $25 is 🤪).  Hubby 3 never understood the concept of the more you spend, the more you save.  It makes total sense to me.  Sheesh.

See…I’m horrible at choices.  And we face choices everyday, don’t we?  You see people at McDonald’s (I’m an epicurian) stare at the menu for 10 minutes even though they were in there literally a day ago.  “Gee…should I get the quarter pounder or the Big Mac?”  It’s not like the choice you make is going to be life-changing, but still we hesitate.  By the way, if you choose a Big Mac everyday, that may not be a ‘good’ choice for your health.  Just sayin’.

Anyhoot, big choices and decisions are hard for me.  Very hard.  If you think I have trouble with shirts, you should see me with relationships (🙄).  I’ll be honest, I’ve made some bad choices in this area…and I’ve made choices I’m not proud of.  Haven’t we all?  But why?  Why can’t I ‘rationally’ look at the choices…list the pros and cons…and come to a decision in a logical way?  Well probably because I’m fucking bipolar (sorry ma).  That’s why.

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I was reading an article the other day and the author said that to make good choices, you have to get out your feelings and put them aside, and then allow your brain to be the one that talks to you.  Okey dokey.

How the hell do you “get your feelings out?”  I hate it when people say that!  It sounds like feelings are simply things you can put in a pitcher and pour down the toilet.  Like there’s a compartment in your heart away from the ‘feelings’ and you can lock them up there and hide them from your mind.  People will say things like “Go run off your anger.”  Well…I’ll do a 5 mile run but I still have the feeling.  I might feel less stressed, but the feeling of anger didn’t evaporate with my sweat.

I think some people can do this.  I know my son’s dad could.  He is a HUGE thinker and feelings rarely got in the way of his decisions.  In fact, I would get upset because I didn’t think he had enough feeling when making choices and decisions.  Me?  I cannot put my feelings aside.  And then there’s some extras that being bipolar brings:  impulsivity, racing thoughts, distractibility, decreased ability to think clearly, and here’s one from the Mayo Clinic:  poor decision making skills.  B-I-N-G-O!  There it is.  (Ma loves to play bingo but bless her heart, she never wins.  I don’t love to play but I often win.  It pisses her off royally 😆)

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Sometimes I’ll be making a choice about an issue in terms of a relationship and even though my ‘gut’ (which is getting bigger since I’m sitting on my ass all day getting ready for fall semester) and brain are trying to tell me something, it’s only a whisper.  However, my heart is screaming so that’s the voice I hear.

Guess what?  That voice often leads me down the wrong path.  OFTEN.  Remember, feelings aren’t rational.  And as much as I want too, I can’t silence it.  I have bipolar.  My feelings, moods, level of sensitivity are all heightened and that voice puts me in a trance.  Even on little things I’ll hear that voice saying (and say this to yourself in a eerily ghostly way):  “Go ahead and buy it Kristi…”  and so I do.  And then, a week later, I regret it.  👻

Actually I do more than regret it.  I ruminate over it.  REALLY ruminate.  Once the choice or decision has been made is when my brain finally speaks up.  But of course it’s too late.  I’ve made the choice and now have to live with the consequences.  And that’s hard to do.

It’s hard to have a brain that puts so many blockades up but then punishes you when you can’t get around them.  It’s hard to have a heart that’s so open you simply can’t close it, but then get in trouble for not knowing how to latch that door.  It’s hard to know that sometimes you repeat bad choices.  You make another bad decision when a previous one should have taught you the lesson.  Thanks bipolar.

I think it’s hard for people to understand any mental illness if they haven’t suffered one themselves.  How do you explain that your brain and heart aren’t like everyone elses?  How can you get people to understand that previous bad choices don’t matter…you’ll probably make them again.  How can you ever describe the obsessive ruminating you do when decisions and choices are bad?  How can people ever grasp the pain your heart feels when you know you’ve made a bad choice that has hurt someone?  How can you ever get them to comprehend how terribly sorry you are to the point you are sick about it?

So often when people talk about mental illness, they’ll use large generalizations. For example, people who have major depression are sad and have trouble functioning in their daily lives.  People who have an anxiety disorder are extremely nervous and fearful and worry.  People with bipolar are just cray-cray (yep…that’s the idea.  Kanye West is bipolar and EVERYTHING he does is put down to the disorder.  All that does is stigmatize it more for all of us and make things harder for him.  😥)

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You don’t hear so much about the more specific symptoms or characteristics.  Anxiety disorders may make the person too fearful to even leave their home.  They can’t go to work, the store, a friends house.  All this does is increase their anxiety because others are telling them to just get out.  How horrible that would be.  Those with depression often have somatic issues like back and shoulder pain, have memory issues, and have suicidal thoughts racing through their heads.

When you are mentally ill, everything is affected.  Everything.  Not just moods and temper, but everything the person faces in day to day life.  Making decisions and choices.  How we eat.  How we sleep.  What we unwittingly think about.  How our body feels.  How we feel about sex (don’t have to worry about that one 😐).  How we feel about ourselves.  Whether or not we can make it to work that day.  Or go get groceries.  Or even get out of bed.

I’m 53 years old and I’m still making stupid decisions like I did when I was younger.  Bipolar doesn’t go away.  Fade away.  Unfortunately, like we see with a lot of mental illnesses, it worsens as we age.  I know how lucky I am for all the blessings that I have…and I mean that.  I have so much to be thankful for.  Selfishly though, I would like to know how it feels to make a choice, know it’s the right one, and if it’s not, then learn from it and move on.  Just once.  That’d be great.

Kristi xoxo

“Walk Among Us” ~ Recorded by the Misfits

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So, I was contemplating about how I often feel like I don’t belong in so many different situations, and I think I am starting to understand why a bit better.

I kinda hate the word ‘misfit’ but if I am honest with myself regarding the definition (“a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way”), it really does describe well how I often feel when I’m around others.

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Only about 1-2% of people in the United States have bipolar disorder…about 2.3 million people all together.  If you play around with the numbers (I’m I’m no math whiz, I actually still use my fingers at times…just ask ma), it’s about 46,000 in each state, and in terms of the number of counties in IL where I live (I’m sure you’re all jealous I live there since it’s such a great state right now 🙄), that’s about 450 people in my entire county of over 104,000.  Now here’s my point: I really am an outsider in terms of having bipolar.  Statistically, it would be pretty unlikely for me to interact with anyone else bipolar on any given day since it’s relatively rare compared to other disorders.  For example, about 20% of the population deal with anxiety disorders and about 14% have major depression every year; so although these are horrible disorders to have there are still many more people who might understand what others are going through because of their own personal experiences with them.  By the way, if you’re thinking you know numerous people with bipolar, ask yourself if they’ve actually been diagnosed by a psychiatric specialist or if they are assuming they are because of their mood swings.  It’s so easy to self diagnose in light of info online, and I’m guilty of it too.  Just this month, I’ve told my son I have 3 different diseases since I love to peruse WebMD.  Just sayin’.  (P.S.  O doesn’t worry about my diagnoses like he should…I wonder why 🤨 ).

When I’m around other people, whether it’s at school or at a family function or in the gym or where ever, the chance I’m the ONLY one there with bipolar is huge.  HUGE!  And since I’m most likely the only one there, how can I feel like I fit in with everyone else?  How can they understand how my mind works?  Or how sensitive I am to criticism or rejection?  Or how I might not be able to control how ‘manicky’ I am, despite others possibly saying, “C’mon, Kristi…just calm down!”  How can others understand how I might be really happy when I get somewhere but then get really down if something was said that seems silly to them, but actually hurt me pretty badly (“Kristi…you have to stop being so sensitive.  It’s getting old!”)?  How can I tell them them that even though I was so excited to plan on being somewhere, I’ve cycled into a depressed state where I can now barely interact?  When you think about, it’s no wonder I feel like I don’t fit in…like I’m always on the edge of whatever group I’m around.

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Now let’s throw another wrench into the equation:  research is showing that those of us with bipolar might experience either very HIGH levels of affective empathy or very LOW levels of cognitive empathy.  What’s the difference?  Affective empathy is when you basically ‘feel’ and ‘mirror’ another’s emotional states, whereas cognitive empathy is understanding someone’s emotions, but not actually feeling them yourself.

Well…we all know how lucky I am so…drumroll please…I was blessed with the VERY high level of affective empathy!  Yea. 🙄 What does that mean in terms of my everyday life?  Hmmmm…where the hell do I start?

I know this can be hard for others to understand, but I literally (I hate that overused word, but I’m too lazy to open up another tab and take a look-see at the thesaurus for another 😳) feel what others feel.  When someone is crying in front of me, I cry…not just because I see their tears and feel bad for them, but because I ‘absorb’ their pain like a sponge.  Empaths soak up the world of feelings that surround them and this can be so fucking exhausting (dammit…I was trying not to say it, ma…but…).  It’s hard enough to deal with my own feelings since those are plenty to handle as is.  But pour everyone else’s feelings into the mix, and it can wear me down completely.

This is a particularly huge problem in relationships.  Empaths take on the other’s emotions, absorb their stresses, feel their pain, etc.  It’s like we’re living the relationship on both sides:  their feelings seeping (or actually madly rushing) into us while our own are bubbling in there too.  Now, couple that with being mega-sensitive and personalizing things like those of us with bipolar often do, and I think it’s clear why relationships can become all consuming very quickly.

Even though I’m not always conscious of this happening, I am conscious of how over-whelmed I can get in relationships and how that can affect my mood and behavior.  When I get frustrated or distressed or upset, it can come out in anger.  Like I’ve said before, anger is more of a reaction we have which actually has other emotions buried underneath it (embarrassment, fear, grief, shame…).  And since people with bipolar have a lot of stuff happening under the surface, anger is something else that’s common among us.  Go figure.

When I think about my marriage to my son’s dad, I see it as the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.  Hubby 2 came from a really solid family and had one of those wholesome upbringings with nothing ‘bad’ really ever happening to him.  I didn’t have to absorb much from him because he was usually on a pretty even keel and my emotional stresses were fairly low.

Hubby 3 was much more of a challenge.  He brought a lot of baggage into our marriage and couple that with the bipolar suitcases I carry, it was a lot.  R’s moods were very unpredictable, especially those first couple of years, and having that load on me was problematic, to say the least.  His stresses became my stresses.  His anger became my anger.  His insecurities became my insecurities.  This is such a hard thing to explain to people who aren’t empathic sponges.  Sometimes he would say, “Why are you so upset?  It’s my problem!”  What he didn’t understand was this:  his problems were passed onto my little empathic heart and TA-DA…they became mine too.

The same thing happened when J came along.  I’ve said before that he has PTSD from being in the military and has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Both of these cause great fluctuations in mood and behavior and I wasn’t just watching that ride, I was on it with him.  Sometimes he’d wonder why I was so stressed or upset.  How do you explain it’s because everything he’s projecting/feeling/acting out on, I’m taking in…’literally’ (that damn word again 😐)?  His pain.  His anger.  His instability.  I was a passenger on that roller coaster with him, along with riding my own.  No wonder the weight of it often became too much for me.

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After he cheated a couple of years ago, I was angry.  And rightfully so!  But I also felt so much more:  I personalized the affair to the point I just knew it had to be my fault.  Cognitively, I know that’s not right.  Emotionally, that’s how I felt.  And then after, when we ‘started over’ and he became so much better to me, I not only had all I was feeling from the affair, but I was also absorbing all he was feeling too, whether he realized that or not (and no, I strongly doubt he ever reads this blog…someone asked me that the other day).  His own anger over his guilt.  His own doubts about our chances.  And even his own grief over the woman he loved and had been with.  Somedays this would be so freaking overwhelming that I couldn’t breathe, and the only way I could handle things was to channel them into anger.  It’s the quickest release there is when you get that overwhelmed with feelings…it’s like a pressure cooker easily exploding if you fiddle with the lid.

I used to wonder why I’ve had such a hard time getting past our relationship and it’s finally beginning to make sense to me.  When I caught him cheating the last time I saw him, he started crying and hugging me when he realized I knew someone else was in the apartment with him.  That emotional outburst pained me so much and it was extremely confusing to me.  I had so much running through my mind and my heart and then I had that to deal with as well.  I had my anger and confusion and disgust and disappointment  but all of that was connected with his pain too.  It was so much to handle and it was a horribly complicated time for me.  You know, I totally understand that being empathic like this isn’t something that’s rational, but it is something inside of me that I can’t control.  How I wish I could!

I’ve also been able to understand my need to be alone at times.  Being so overwhelmed by all of this ‘absorbing’ (like I’m a Bounty paper towel) means us empaths need time to get away from it all.  We need to process all of these feelings and stresses and moods so we can decompress.

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So many empaths can’t sleep with their partners (actually sleep with them all night…we like the naughty stuff 😳) because the stresses of the day and the burdens we’ve absorbed are simply too much.  We need that space to come down again.  To unload ourselves.  To be able to focus on our own stuff only.  I love to sleep alone.  There’s only 1 partner I’ve ever been able to sleep with and besides him, I’ve always had my own bed.  I used to feel SO guilty about that, and I know it’s  probably very hard for other people to understand.  It’s almost like you’ve been running a race all day, with others on your back, and you finally have a chance to put those burdens down, stretch out, and have it just be you without that sponge taking over.  There were times in my marriages where if I hadn’t had that, I would have burst.  Like a big zit. 😐

Anyhoot, not fitting in is actually starting to make sense to me.  I don’t necessarily like it, but I know I’m different.  My brain works differently.  My heart works differently.  My moods work differently.  My feelings work differently.  It does make me a ‘misfit’…I’m not like everyone else.  There are so many times I want to be and I think about what it would be like to be more ‘normal’.  More relaxed.  To be able to be around others without taking all of their ‘stuff’ in, along with my own bipolar issues.

But then again, sometimes I think that maybe it’s ok to be different like this.  Maybe others need me to be.  Maybe helping others with their burdens is a gift I’m able to give.  Maybe it pays others back for having to deal with me being bipolar.  Maybe, in a way, it’s what others should be more like.  Just a little.  Because think about it…if we could all ‘share’ our burdens, feel other’s emotions, take on some stress from others, wouldn’t that lead to more understanding and insight?  More compassion?  More appreciation for all of our different situations?  Wouldn’t that empathy make us better people that don’t cause pain because we feel it so intensely?  Hmmmm.  Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

Kristi xoxo

“Because the Darkness Hides in the Light of the Day…” ~ ‘He’s Out There’

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To the 281 million people in America who don’t have a mental illness,

I’m writing this letter to you because there’s much that needs to be said on behalf of us who have a mental illness, and I’m taking it upon myself to do so.  I would have sent each one of these separately, but it would have taken me centuries longer than the time it’s been since Christ walked the earth, so here goes.

Did you know there are almost 48 million of us that suffer from mental illness in the United States alone?  And if you want to look globally, there’s over 450 million.  Those are huge numbers and ones I believe everyone should know.

Look, I know it’s how difficult it is to empathize with something you don’t have; there’s no way I can truly empathize with someone who suffers from heart disease since my ticker is in pretty good shape.  However, I do think it’s important for y’all to have a greater understanding of ‘us’.

See, often times mental illness is looked at as a weakness in people.  Something they should have either prevented in the first place, or pull themselves out of if they happen to ‘get it.’  It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  If you’re depressed, well for fuck sakes, count your blessings, get out there and do something, and for the love of all that is holy, don’t wallow.  That only makes things worse.

Isn’t wallow is a funny word?  It means to lie around…be immersed in something…to flounder.  And the connotation is that you can get out of a ‘wallow’ so to speak:  just get up out of that bed, jump out of the situation, and quit floundering.  Just stop it.

I think using that word is unfair though, something that’s easy to see when we switch around the context.  Have heart disease?  Quit wallowing in it and run a freaking marathon.  Have diabetes?  Quit wallowing in it and just eat a Twinkie.  Have asthma?  Just breathe harder for piss sakes.  Easy peasy.  I’ve just solved the worlds’ ills.

It’s silly to look at it that way, isn’t it?  But, as you may be saying, mental illness is ‘different.’  It’s not the same.  And you’re right…it’s not.  It’s not our heart or lungs…it’s our brain.  When you think about your brain being the thing that isn’t working right, that’s scary as hell.

Some great advice so many of us get is to ‘just take you meds!’  Okey dokey…that’s simple enough.  But let me tell you something about my meds:  one of them is a mood stabilizer which I desperately need so I can function as well as I’m capable of despite being bipolar (which is one of the more serious mental illnesses along with schizophrenia).  Guess what some of the side effects are for me?  After I take it every morning, I feel like I have the flu for a couple of hours since nausea and muscle weakness are common.  During the day, I have some dizziness so I have to be careful when I stand up and then my muscle coordination also suffers.  It can cause thoughts of self-harm and suicide, so even though I feel significantly better overall in terms of my mood, I still have thoughts of razor blades I can use and drugs to overdose on.  That’s scary as fuck, people.  My dreams are affected as well.  Last night I dreamed I was choking for what seemed like hours.  When I woke up, I was gasping for breath, sweaty to where my sheets are now in the washer, and crying because I thought I was going to die of asphyxiation.  If I’m lucky, I won’t get the actual serious side effects like a fatal rash that attacks your organs (which means I have to check my bod everyday for any red patches and if I see one, get to the ER as quickly as possible), aseptic meningitis,  and low blood cell count.  Everyday when I swallow just that one med, I’m literally taking a risk with my life.

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From ‘The Mighty’

And my other meds?  One can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart beat and tremors.  Do you know how scary it is to look at your leg and see it shake?  But, without this one I can be so depressed I literally can’t function.

So, when we are told to ‘just take our meds’, there’s a bit more to it than swallowing an aspirin…just sayin’.

I know you mean well when you say things like “I pity you” or “I’m so sorry you have this”.  Yeah…I’m sorry I have this too.  But look, we don’t want your pity or sorrow.  What we need is your support.  We need you to ask us how we feel that day.  Do we maybe need anything?  Check in on us once in a while.  And if we don’t feel good more than a couple of days in a row, it’s because for so many of us, our mental illness is chronic.  It’s going to be with us for life…and in my case, progressively gets worse which makes me cry whenever I think about it.  Did you know the life-span of people with bipolar is 9-20 years less than yours?  This is actually more than if I ‘just’ smoked heavily all my life (no ma, I’ve never smoked).  Facing the fact I may not be able to see my future grandbaby (son, ahem ahem) graduate from college or get married is a loss I can’t describe.

And please don’t stop asking about us because “I’m sick of hearing how down you are” or “We all have problems, you need to get over yourself” because it makes us feel like shit.  Do you think we like being down so much?  Being anxious so much?  Being manic so much?  Do you think we like waking up everyday and facing the fact our lives will never be as close to normal as possible?  As much as you may get tired of listening to us, we are tired of living it.  See the difference?

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Some of you are very condescending to us.  I see you look at homeless people and turn away in disgust and with a sense of superiority .  Did you know that so many of these guys and gals suffer from schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar (yipee), depression and anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders?  When you look at them with revulsion, you are making all of us feel dirty and ashamed.  And since I’m so open about being bipolar and yes, mentally ill (I’m no longer hesitant to put it out there), those of you I know do 1 of 2 things:  turn away from me because you fear me (why I don’t know…I won’t step on an ant when I run) or patronize me like I’m a basket case that needs to be treated like I’m 5 (I actually have an IQ of 128, so I’m not 5 in any way).  Either way makes me feel different from everyone else.  Walking into work and having colleagues ignore me in the hallways hurts like nothing else.  Having family members step away from me because it’s just too much is like a kick to the gut.

Being blamed…used…taken advantage of is also something we face.  When I was having a breakdown that almost ended my life, a student stalked me and then threatened to rape and kill me.  I had the messages.  The direct messages in writing.  And still I got blamed for the threats, like a woman gets blamed for a rape (naughty girl, you wore a dress).  But why not blame me?  I’m the crazy one.  I was the one who couldn’t stop crying when you questioned me…after all, I had attempted suicide just a couple of weeks prior.  And those of you who threw me under the bus for your own agenda…because you were mad at me?  I have a few scars on my leg that you are personally responsible for. 

And talk about being different.  I have no friends.  Literally.  I have my ma, my sonshine, my sissie, and my family, but I don’t have friends.  There is absolutely no one I can call and say, “Hey, wanna talk?”  Yes, I have acquaintances who will speak to me when I’m out and about, and my students are the best in the world who I love love love interacting with, but friends?  Nope.  I think I understand why.  For all of my life I was different.  Or, let’s use some other words to make it even more clear:  strange, peculiar, at odds with others.  My behavior can vary day by day…sometimes I don’t even know what I’m gonna be like when I awake.  I try to cover this up the best I can so people will want to be my friend; if you look in ALL of my Jr. High and High School yearbooks you’ll see this:  “To a crazy girl, blah blah blah”.  Being ‘out there’ was the only way I could be accepted in some circles.  But I was the one that would end up outside the radius…always on the edge.

Then, when someone new pops up in my life and I want to be their friend, I’m like a puppy.  Bouncing all over the place, giving giving giving, and basically overwhelming the poor sap to where they back away.

Relationships are the same.  Those of us who are mentally ill have such a tough time with these.  It takes a very special partner to navigate bipolar, and so far, I haven’t hit the jackpot.  I know it’s hard.  REALLY hard.  REALLY really hard.  But if you give me a chance, I’ll be the best partner you could have.  I’ll love you to death…I’ll be loyal and  caring and will work my ass off to make the relationship work.  And if it doesn’t?  Don’t take the blame yourself.  It’s all mine.  At least that’s what I’ll feel like and then I’ll punish myself for it.

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So I sit at home with my best buddies…my 4 legged sweeties who give me the comfort, companionship, and attention I so desperately need.  And guess what?  I thank God for them everyday.  When people tell me they are ‘just dogs’, I think to myself:  no…they are my lifelines.  Literally.

One more thing because I know I can ramble (I’m a professor…we yack for a living):  please don’t think you’ll never develop a mental illness and that it can’t happen to you.  You are not above it.  You are not immune to it.  A traumatic experience, the death of someone you cherished, an accident where there is head trauma, genetics that can show itself at anytime in your life, brain chemistry that goes awry for whatever reason…the list goes on.  You could someday be the one reading this letter from the “other side” and in fact, 25% of people will suffer a mental illness sometime in their life.  It may not be chronic, but it’s going to impact you more then you could ever have imagined.

But don’t worry.  I’ll be there for you.  I’ll lend you support…a listening ear…my own story to help you come to terms with your own, and I won’t throw back to you some of the negative you threw to me.  I promise you that.

Kristi xoxo