“This is our life, this is our song” ~ Twisted Sister

So, I absolutely hate not having time to blog! You know, I love that you readers are spending time with me and reading my stuff but honestly, I actually do this for myself as well. Sometimes probably more so than others (see…I’m not lying…I don’t want my already point nose to grow anymore than it currently is 😳). For me, writing is therapeutic and let’s me work through things that I’m mulling or feeling or experiencing. When I try to keep a personal journal, I’m all gung ho for the first 2 days and then nothing. Writing here kind of keeps me doing it since ma likes reading these while consuming her quarter cup of Grapenuts but doesn’t open this until the Jumble and Wordle puzzles in the newspaper have been solved. I know where I stand.

Anyhoot, I get articles from PsychCentral delivered to my inbox and one came through the other day entitled: “Bipolar Eyes: Myth or Fact” and I was intrigued (took me 4 tries to spell that right 😐). I had absolutely no idea there was research confirming that those with bipolar actually have eyes with unique physiological features. I went to the actual scientific study to read more but after terms like ” inner plexiform layer” and “peripapillary RNFL thickness was reduced in all temporal sectors (P < 0.005)” I went with the summary from PC.

Apparently, these changes include:

  • Pupils tend to dilate during times of emotional arousal during both unusually high or low moods. This dilation can cause more sensitivity to light and that is usually during a manic episode.
    • This happens to me! I usually am pretty manic in the summer and last year was a doozie (it was BL – before Lamotragine). Working in the sun was causing me some headaches which are rare for me and I could feel myself squinting more and more despite having clip-on sunglasses (🤓). However, the other downside to this is my squint wrinkles are deepening.
  • The excitement from a manic episode might cause the eyes to look more ‘energetic’ or even wider.
    • Ma has said this to me so many times! Last summer she kept asking me if I was ok since she saw more and more rooms painted everyday when she stopped by (ma lives 2 miles from me and 8 from Terri…Terri is the smart one – and the pretty one 😎 ). I’d tell her I was fine because she worries enough about me and sissy…and I put her through hell 4 years ago. Anyways, when I would say “Ma, I swear on my original sociology text that I’m OK” she’d look at my eyes and say “Bullshit.” Yes, ma has a mouth on her. That’s where me and Terri get it.
  • Bipolar impacts eye movement and there’s slower reaction times in these during a depression. It also affects ‘vergence movements’ which allows for depth perception since the eyes are moving toward and away from things.
    • Well…this would have been keen to know since I was scampering around on my roof last summer while my neighbors laughed and took pics of me. 😬
  • Research is also showing that it’s more difficult for someone with bipolar to discern different colors. This is said to be due to thinning retinas and the rods and cones (something I know absolutely nothing about 😐).
    • This is so weird: The other day, I took down a plant hanger from my kitchen wall and patched the holes. I didn’t have any left over paint to touch it up so I took some of my cabinet paint…which is very similar…and doctored it up with some black, white, and any other color I thought would work just to make it a tad darker and a tad bluer. I was convinced it was a perfect match when I looked at my finished product. But when I used it, it was very very BRIGHT BLUE when I needed a soft BLUE GRAY. Now I know why!

When I read through all of this, I was amazed because I do complain about my eyes at times. Some researchers are saying that by looking at some of the physiology of the eye could help determine if that person has a higher chance of developing bipolar. Wow.

After reading all of this fodder-all, I searched for more physiological differences in terms of bipolar and found this in TechnologyNetwork: “In the largest MRI study to date on patients with bipolar disorder, a global consortium published new research showing that people with the condition have differences in the brain regions that control inhibition and emotion.”

I also found this from Pronhorpsych: Studies have shown that bipolar disorder reduces the amount of gray matter in your brain which affects processing info, thoughts and feelings; controlling impulses and sensory info; and regulating motor skills. The authors of the article state this: “This may explain why manic episodes often seem impulsive, careless, and thoughtless. Less gray matter might also lead to feelings of sluggishness and frustration, as well as trouble doing simple tasks when you have a depressive bipolar episode.” Charmed, I’m sure.

And genes play such a role:  “Research has identified 64 regions of the genome that are associated with an increased risk of bipolar disorder which is more than double the number of genes previously identified.” (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News). This explains why we see it passed down throughout generations.

Finally, Frontiers in Psychology report that those with bipolar tend to have an attraction for negative emotions and focus more on threatening images than positive ones. You know, I like to think of myself as being a positive person and I really am with others. But, often times when I’m alone I do ruminate over negative things I’ve done or seen or have experienced. Maybe that’s why I sometimes hold on to anger more than I need too. Hmmmmm.

So, ya’ll are probably yawning now (like some of my students 😦) but all of this info that I slugged through did something very powerful for me: it validated that my emotion, behavior, impulses and struggles are real. Really real. Not just me ‘acting up’ or ‘allowing myself to get so down’ or ‘being way too out-there.’ It’s the disease (the term used by many researchers) that’s affecting my life. My way of being. My actions. I take meds to counter-act this and for stabilization but no medicine can take all of this away. No medicine can change brain structure or genetic make-up.

But this information can maybe change the stigma that’s associated with bipolar and other mental disorders. Just understanding what underlies bipolar and then the physiological underpinnings of other disorders such as depression and anxiety can maybe help people look at ‘us’ through a different lens. A lens that recognizes that who we are is greatly affected by what we have. No one asks for mental illness. You’d be a fool if you did. The fault lies in our brain, not personal weakness. And you know, my realization of these things normalizes my condition in my eyes. I hope this lessens how hard I am on myself. How guilty I feel when I’m cycling. How less than I feel as a person.

And more than anything, I hope it changes how all mental illnesses are seen. As ‘real’ illnesses that need to be treated as such and not to be ashamed of.

Kristi xoxo

P.S. Best 80’s video ever! 😉

‘Cause it makes me that much stronger’ ~ Christina Aguilera

So, this has been such a BUSY semester and I hate that I’m not blogging! I’m re-vamping all of my online classes along with videoing (is that a word? 😳) full lectures for each chapter in depth. It’s a crap load of work but worth it…the students are giving me some great feedback. Yea! (However I will admit this: I do my hair before that webcam goes on and when I’m recording, I do my best to channel Katie Couric 😃).

Anyhoot, another project that’s keeping me busy is that I’m a team lead in bringing the JED program to our campus! This non-profit works with high schools and colleges in helping them recognize the specific needs of the school and students and then helping them implement mental health resources and such. We need it so bad on our campus…so many students come to me to talk about their depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues and just today, a student talked to me about the time she attempted suicide. Our teens are really suffering right now and I worry about them.

Why are they struggling so much right now? According to The Light Program: “…there are multiple factors involved, including pressure to succeed in academics, financial stress, uncertainty about which major or career path to choose, increased social media use, and less stigma around seeking help.” In terms of the reduced stigma (which is still not where it should be 😐), it may be that students have always had these issues but are now feeling more open about seeking help for them. Hmmmmm.

The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds says that the mental health among college students is a crisis and backs up this claim with reporting this:

  • Almost half of college students had a psychiatric disorder in the past year
  • 73% of students experience some sort of mental health crisis during college
  • Almost 1/3 of college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and substance use are associated with lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out of college
  • More than 80% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year and 45% have felt things were hopeless
  • 20% of female students report sexual assault or threatened sexual assault according to the Center for Disease Control
  • Only 25% of students with a mental health problem seek help

In addition they state that there is a tremendous lack of services in colleges and universities with the ratio of certified counselors to students overall being about 1:1000 – 2000 for small to moderate size schools.

At any rate, research has recognized the 5 biggest mental health challenges that college students face and having the resources in place to help address these is needed so badly. (In fact, studies clearly show that these issues greatly affects student success).

  • Depression: the American College Health Association found that 40% of students experienced at least 1 depressive episode during the 2018 school year and this was pre-pandemic. We know depression is even more of an issue now. In addition, severe depression rates have doubled in college students between 2007-2018.
  • Anxiety: A study from Pennsylvania State University (I know a GREAT blogger from Pennsylvania 😃) published a study in 2016 that found 61% of survey respondents (100,000 of them!) said anxiety was a ‘leading student mental health issue.’ In fact, The American College Health Association’s (ACHA) 2015 Finally, the National College Health Assessment survey, reported that nearly one in six college students (15.8%) had been diagnosed with, or treated for, anxiety. The same survey found that 21.9% of students said that within the last 12 months, anxiety had affected their academic performance, defined as receiving a lower grade on an exam or important project, receiving an incomplete, or dropping a course.
  • Eating Disorders: Sadly, the National Eating Disorders Association reports that 10-20% of female college students and 4-10% of males have an eating disorder which can include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. In fact, anorexia is the most deadly psychiatric diagnosis with a mortality rate of 5.86 which means those who suffer from it have almost a 6x greater chance of dying (both suicide and physical issues stemming from the self-imposed starvation) than others in the general population.
  • Addiction: Stats from 2019 show that alcohol plays a leading role in the more than 1,500 annual deaths on college campuses. 35% of students have or do binge drink and 25% abuse other drugs including prescription painkillers, cocaine and ecstasy.
  • Suicide: this is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students and the suicide rate among people 10 to 24 rose 57% from 2007 to 2018 (CDC). Around 11% of college age respondents in a June, 2020 study  said they had seriously considered suicide over the past 30  days with people aged 18 to 24 being significantly more likely to  report this and 25.5% said they had seriously  considered suicide. That’s 1:4 of our young people having considered suicide. Honestly? That scares the shit out of me.

So what’s my point? I believe college’s number 1 job is education and that’s what I do…teach my curriculum as best I can. BUT I also believe that in order to ensure student success in terms of academics, we need to address these mental health issues as well.

You know, when I was struggling so much 4 years ago and had a break-down, I could barely function. Luckily, the worst time was in the summer and my online classes are always completely ready to go when a semester begins. I have all of the work, lectures, etc. posted as well as the modules I use set up to open and close automatically each week. In other words, they pretty much run themselves in terms of the nuts and bolts and I spend my time grading, communicating, discussing, etc. I was able to get by that summer…although I know I wasn’t at my best by any means. And now? Despite the stability I enjoy, I still have issues with having bipolar everyday. No medication is going to ‘erase’ this brain illness: I still have ups and downs (and am in a bit of a depression right now for various reasons 😕), still have to force an effort to be the Professor K I’m expected to be each day, still have heightened emotions that are just part and parcel of bipolar, still ruminate over things and beat myself up easily, and the list goes on (and on and on…charming).

Students and their ability to work and function is the same. Had someone reached out to me in college and recognized what I was refusing to address in the way I needed too, my life could have been very different. Actually, I think that even with no resources offered at that time, just being ‘seen’ for who I was and what I had would have been a relief. A validation. Someone outside of ma or pop who would have said “What you’re dealing with is important to me and I’m concerned” and validating my struggle.”

All of us want to be seen. All of us want to be heard. Not everyone struggling needs intervention…after all, doesn’t everyone struggle at various times in their lives? However, we all need to feel support and know that no matter what, there is a place that we matter. For so many students that I see everyday, that somewhere is here. On my campus. And it’s up to us to make sure we are ready for that task.

Kristi xoxo

“He opened the lid and shook his fist…” ~ Monster Mash

A drawing I did of my brain this week.

So, I got my daily newsletter in my inbox today from bphope which is an excellent website all about bipolar with features and stories, treatment news, relationship advice, etc. and every so often, there will be articles about the myths which abound with this mental illness. There always seems to be new ones and I’m sure I could add a lot to what’s already out there. But I’m having a somewhat down day today and realized that myths aren’t what I am most focused on in with this disorder right now…it’s fears.

“You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This gem was first said by President Roosevelt in 1933 (after being swiped from Thoreau 😳 ) and I don’t want to be disrespectful but this is a crock of crap 💩 . Now, I understand what he was saying: you don’t want fear to paralyze you to where you can’t keep advancing but instead move backwards, and in the context of the Great Depression, this is probably sound advice. But, it also puts an onus of responsibility on people to never think they have a right to buckle…to stress…to become overwhelmed which to me are very human reactions to fearful situations that need to be expressed and validated.

Look, if a tiger was charging at me full-speed with fangs gleaming and roars emanating, I would NOT advance. I would NOT be able to retreat. I WOULD, however, most likely stand in that spot, paralyzed, with pee running down my safari shorts. Right? 😳 (Note to self: order some cute safari shorts…)

Those of us who have bipolar…or any mental illness…experience a lot of fears and if we can’t admit to them…talk about them…be validated for them…we feel yet another piece of additional guilt added on to an already huge list of things we have to feel bad about.

One of my biggest fears is that I’ll never find anyone in my life (outside of my wonderfully supportive family who truly does understand this 🥰) who will be able to fully understand that having bipolar is not a character flaw, a weakness, a manipulative ploy to control them. Bipolar is a biologically based illness…period. Various medical tests including MRI’s and CT’s show dramatic differences between healthy brains and bipolar brains and being a neurological illness, it literally changes how the brain operates.

Now, do we understand exactly WHY this happens? Nope. Does that mean it doesn’t happen? Nope. There are lots of times this happens with ‘accepted’ disorders/illnesses/diseases: Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Bell’s Palsy, and Parkinson’s to name just a few. There’s no question that these are biological in nature…I don’t think anyone would dare say that those with Alzheimer’s are just being dramatic and if they would just try, their memory and associated physical conditions would miraculously return to normal. It gets old to be blamed for a condition you have…and it’s gets old for having to apologize for it over and over again.

Silhouetted profile with pills forming a brain’s outline

On the same note, having to rely on meds to control this illness is scary too, although I realize that all meds can be scary. Look at what we’re seeing in terms of conditions that have altered their chemistry as a result of the over-use of antibiotics. According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million of these antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. yearly and no fewer than 35,000 people die because of this.

Psychotropic meds are scary simply for the fact they are operating on your actual brain functioning…your center so to speak. You know, in a way it’s like being an alcoholic: you need the ‘chemical’ to balance yourself. Take a look-see at this from Alcohol Rehab Guide:

“When someone abruptly quits drinking, the neurotransmitters are no longer inhibited by alcohol and the brain scrambles to adjust to the new chemical imbalance – causing the debilitating side effects of withdrawal which are separate from the “feel good” effects of alcohol consumption.”

It’s the same with my meds in that they affect my neurotransmitters and chemical balances; however, I NEED the meds to do this or my bipolar would be completely out of control. It’s not an addiction…but a need. And of course there are withdrawal effects when the med is stopped. According to Healthgrades: “Some drugs (and combinations of drugs) are linked to higher risks of obesity, diabetes, heart problems, thyroid disorders, kidney problems, and other chronic illnesses, all of which can shorten lifespan when left untreated.”

Courtesy of imgflip.com

If this isn’t bad enough, there’s also the fear that our meds will lose their ability to be effective and will need to be changed (like mine are right now). So, you’re faced with often terrible withdrawal effects as your brain re-adjusts without the med and then have to begin something new…hoping it will work.

In fact, Healthgrades also states: “Studies show that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to die early than people without the condition, by anywhere from 10 to 25 years.” I’m 54 (blech 🙄) years old. I want to live as long as I can to see my future grandbabies (cough cough, son…), to be productive in my life, to fulfill dreams I have…and the list goes on.

Another fear? Research at The National Center for Biotechnology Information has shown a significant increase in dementia in older people who have bipolar. Well hells bells…that’s great to know. 🙄 Not only is my life-span shortened but I may not realize what’s happening in it the last few years anyway. Charmed.

So, there are things to fear but fear itself and when you have a mental illness, there can be a lot of fears. Having these doesn’t mean I don’t move forward but it does mean that I carry the burden of these everyday. We all do. And we all need to be ensured by others that we are loved…special…smart…funny… in spite of what’s on our shoulders. Or what’s in our heads.

Kristi xoxo

“And the beat goes on…” ~ Sonny & Cher

So, I went to a specialist a couple of weeks ago in another city and feel so good about what my future bipolar treatment plan looks like! Yea!

First, this guy has both an M.D., and is a psychiatrist, plus a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. In other words, we’re on the same intellectual level (🙄). Anyhoot, he did the most thorough evaluation I’ve ever had and really dug around in my brain…Lord knows what he could have found.

According to Doc, I have been on the WRONG bipolar regiment for quite a while now and he was gobsmacked by what I was being treated with…particularly since the treatment was OK’d by another psychiatrist in the town I live in. However, that doc only met with me for minutes…he didn’t take the time to really find out all about my symptoms, and I’m a bit pissed by him just throwing some meds at me.

Basically, I am on 3 different anti-depressants which actually are working AGAINST each other in my brain. The 3rd is pretty much a mild one and is OK right now, but there are a few problems with the 2 main ones: just taking them together, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, actually counteract one another and are NOT indicated for bipolar. In fact, Doc said that both together are actually causing a ‘conflict’ in my brain chemistry and are most likely worsening my bipolar symptoms. He said that not only has it been like I’ve been on nothing for the my mental illness, but I’ve actually had a drug combo that was triggering more symptoms. What??? It’s making my bipolar worse? Yep…it sure is.

This was a major kick in the ass for me. For these past couple years I have been struggling more and I truly blamed myself. I kept thinking: “Hey…you are on these meds so anything you aren’t ‘controlling’ is your fault.” But actually, that’s not true. Doc put it this way (I think he dumbed it down a tad for me…thank God 😳): “These 2 meds are fighting one another…one is pulling stuff out and the other is pushing it back down. This fight is stressing out your brain chemistry even more.” NOTE: I’m assuming he means neurotransmitters but I can understand him using the word ‘stuff’ because when I asked what country he was from…he has an adorbs accent…he said to try to guess. I said “Turkey?” and he said “YES!! How did you know that??” And I honestly replied “I watch 90 Day Fiance.” He gave me a look for a long minute or two, scratched something else down on his pad, and continued our talk. 😳

Now, he also informed me that these 2 meds can also cause sweatiness, nausea, tremors, incoordination, etc. and I actually do have some tremors…they mostly occur in the evenings but were scary when they first started. I’ve also been tripping since I was a tot so I’m assuming my body was preparing itself for this drug cocktail ever since. Just sayin’.

Anyhoot, Doc is weaning me off of one of the meds right now and I’m almost completely done with it. I already feel better and he said I would because I’d be stopping that conflict in my brain! I feel MUCH less rattled and MUCH less manic…it feels goooooood! After I’m off of this one completely (Thursday) I see him a week later and then I’ll wean off the 2nd med. Once these are out of my bod, I’ll get prescribed Lamotrigine again which he feels is the best mood stabilizer for bipolar.

However, I’ve been on it before and although it seemed to help me, I was pretty zombie-ish. Doc said that was partially caused by these other meds and the fact it couldn’t work on my fucked up (he didn’t use that particular word but it’s the closest one I can think of…sorry, ma 🤨) chemistry. He said that really, all I need is a mood stabilizer and mild anti-depressant. With these 2 working together the way they should, I will be more stable than I’ve ever been before.

You know, it’s scary to sometimes think of how different my brain chemistry is and how much I need meds to stabilize it. During my evaluation, doc had me pick a past manic and past depressive episode and tell him all about it…he guided the questions. It was like he was dissecting my brain to really understand what happens when I experience these. Then he had me talk about my most recent ones and he did the same. After doing this, I realized that the episodes really have changed over the last couple of years.

When we were looking at these, I started bawling (go figure 😐) and he asked me why; after all, I wasn’t talking about anything disastrous that should be upsetting me. I said this: “I’ve been feeling like I’m on my own with this (bipolar) and to know I just wasn’t getting the right help I needed makes me sad. I would love to turn back these couple of years and live them differently.” He said he understood but that time can’t be changed…we just have to go forward and live from this moment on.

That’s sometimes easier said than done though…isn’t it? I actually wish I would have gotten help a LONG time ago instead of thinking: “I’m a psychology professor…I know what I’m doing.” I hate that I hid from this diagnosis for so much of my life and that it’s finally at the age of ‘cough-cough’ 54 that I’m seeing long-term hope. I hate that people have been affected by something I’m trying my very best to deal with. I hate I need meds and help and that this is one thing I can’t do on my own. I hate that at times I feel sorry for myself when I should always be grateful for who I am and all I have.

Anyhoot, I’m just so relieved that not only am I on a much better plan for bipolar, but I have some understanding of why things have been so tough for me. I love that I’m already feeling less conflicted and more ‘even’ and can’t wait to continue on this path.

Like any physical condition, mental illness is something that needs treatment…help. It’s not something we can talk ourselves out of or wish away. Like a broken leg, it needs a cast to straighten it out. In my case, both of my legs were casted and I couldn’t move/improve easily…I was battling myself. I’m not shamed by having to see a psychiatrist…by having to be on meds…by having this fucking (you call it this too, ma 🤨) illness. I’m just grateful there are people out there that can give me the tools to control it the best it can be controlled so I can live my life in the way I want…not in the way the illness wants.

Kristi xoxo

I love this art by Ellen Forney who has drawn her life with bipolar.
She is the author of 2 amazing books and you can learn all about her here!!!

“I want you to show me the way…” ~ Peter Frampton

So, I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a guy I dated for a while around a year ago. We didn’t end on great terms which bothered me a lot because we started out as really good friends. Anyhoo, what he wrote made me cry but in a good way.

In his message, he said he had gone back and watched the TedX talk I did about being bipolar and also thought about things I told him about this mental illness. And this is some of what he said:

“The combination of your past experiences, coupled with the struggles you deal with every minute of your life, made our entire interaction both too impulsive and too similar, from your perspective, to past abusive experiences. 

I know you have times where you say things differently than you would at other times. Another part of your struggle. I see many of the things you said to me as heavily influenced by those times and your illness. My hurt and pain over some of those things was real. But, when I take all things into consideration, I realize that you ARE the sweet girl I remember from school. You suffer from bipolar disorder that causes things to be said and done in a way that the sweet girl wouldn’t ordinarily say or do them. It can’t be helped. And it’s not intentional.”

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that this man diligently worked to understand what being bipolar is like and how it affects my interactions with others. I also think it’s insightful of him to see how my past experiences have shaped me as well. BUT, I know that being bipolar doesn’t justify what I said or did. Justifying means proving yourself right…and I was NOT right in so many things we struggled with. However, understanding bipolar sheds light on my behavior but doesn’t absolve me to not take responsibility.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Being in a manic phase does make you feel ‘high’ so to speak, but can also make you irritable and touchy (😳). Couple that with racing thoughts, impulsive behaviors, and incessant talking, you can see it’s a recipe for disaster in any relationship (BTW: did you know that 90% of marriages with a partner having bipolar end in divorce? Hmmm… 🤔). Another issue with mania is delusional thinking; for example, feeling extra important and talented (my Oscar speech is ready to go…all I need is to get a ticket to Hollywood, find an agent, learn to act, get an audition, make the film, and then walk up on the stage. Very do-able…right?? 🙄) . What this can do is make us feel better than others, and as we all know, this is the foundation of passing judgement on others. It makes me sick…literally (I hate this word…except it actually fits right now)… to know I’ve been that way. I am the FIRST to say: “Hey! Don’t judge me! It’s not my fault I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar!” Yet, that same bipolar has caused me to judge others at times…something I would never do out of that manic state. I feel horrible for that and have tears in my eyes as I’m reflecting on this.

On the other hand, being depressed makes you feel hopeless and worthless. You don’t feel like having sex, going out, or doing anything fun; plus, you see the world as being one big disappointing poop-fest (which right now, it kind of is…🤨) and feel pessimistic about everything. Charmed, I’m sure.

But I’m not always manic or depressed and I’m just ‘me’. Kristi. My brain is calmed and I can be much more in control of who I am, what I say, and what I do. These breaks of euthymia can last from days to months. So, in a nutshell, the people around me have no idea ‘who’ is going to show up on any particular day and how long that Kristi will last. Will it be manic Kristi…Oscar winner extraordinaire? Depressed Kristi who wants to hide in a cave and never come out? Or just Kristi? Average, mousy, plain old Kristi? It’s a crap shoot and I know how confusing that can be! It confuses me as well!

Me and Pop when I thought I was great at photo editing!

My dad, step-ma and I were having breakfast the other day and talking about mental illness since it’s such a cheerful subject to peruse over omelets and pancakes at Perkins. Pop is mentally ill himself and also has bipolar. I knew he did because I can see what I go through in him, but this was the first time he said it to me directly. When I look back at my life with pop growing up, I was always wary of which pop I’d be getting on any given day. Sometimes pop was the funniest, most energetic parent ever and other times, sissy and I would walk on eggshells not knowing what was going on. I know he understands how bipolar has affected his relationship with his daughters and I also relate since it’s certainly affected my parenting as well. Pop is a great parent…actually a very kind, helpful, generous man in general. But he’s mentally ill…and it’s going to affect his life and relationships regardless. (I love you, pop! 🥰).

Now, I also have anorexia which isn’t too surprising since there’s a pattern of comorbidity (I just love using words that make me sound smart 🙄) between eating disorders and bipolar. This makes sense since both have genetic components and we can see similar symptoms between them like compulsiveness (over-exercising for me), loss of appetite when manic, feeling worthless when depressed which causes me to be very hard on myself in terms of how I see me, and then being more touchy overall. One comment that I’ve put on a few pounds will reverberate through my brain again and again until I take action. I also think it’s a control/dysregulation issue as well: emotional dysregulation with bipolar and eating dysregulation in anorexia both involve the pre-frontal cortex as well as the neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine. In many ways, these 2 illnesses go hand in hand.

So, what effect does anorexia have on my relationships with others? Well, among other things I can be judgmental of the weight of others. It truly doesn’t come from disdain but from envy. I would absolutely love to eat something…anything…without thinking about how many calories are going into my body and how that will affect my weight. When I see bigger people, I am wishing I could eat more freely and with more enjoyment, and not beat myself up if I choose to have a dessert. This jealousy has caused me to say some pretty bitchy things; however, using that judgment against others might once again be understandable but it’s definitely NOT justifiable. At all.

You know, having this fucking bastard (ma…you know if I say it once, I’ll say it again…🙄) of a mental illness, times 2, makes life hard for me, but I also realize life is so much more difficult for others. Believe me, I know how blessed I really am! But honestly, bipolar sucks balls and sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I wonder why in the name of all that is holy, I have to have it. Why I have to go through so many ups and downs and problems and breakdowns and horrible thoughts of suicidal ideation and times of self-mutilation, etc. Why I have to be at the mercy of a brain that seems to not know what the hell it wants. But I think I’m finally beginning to understand the purpose of it. At first, I thought it was ‘simply’ to do what I could to help break the stigma of having it. But now, after reading the e-mail I got, I realize this: it’s more important to promote an understanding of the disorder. Breaking the stigma means getting rid of the ‘shame’ associated with bipolar (and all mental illnesses!) and that’s such an important thing to do! But understanding means to be empathic, considerate, and forgiving of the people and associated behaviors of those who have a mental illness because you’ve learned what these illnesses entail. And peeps, that’s what I need to promote. See the difference?

Yes, I have mental illness and it affects all of my interactions the vast majority of the time. And to have someone understand that, and then apologize for not recognizing that earlier, humbles me. But it’s really not their apology to make. No matter what is going on in my brain and how bipolar (and anorexia) affect me, I still am responsible for me. For what I say. For what I do. And to anyone and everyone that has been affected by that, I’m truly sorry.

Kristi xoxo

Romancing the Stone

So, I don’t even know how to start this post except by saying WHAT THE HELL? Now, if that’s not a great first sentence to pull you in, I don’t know what is.

Did you know, my sweet peeps, that it is now ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ to be mentally ill? OK. I’m going to pause a minute to let you take that in………la dee dah……la dee dah…..(pretend this is Jeopardy music 🎵). Yes my dears, it’s ‘in’ to be mentally ill. In fact, it’s become something that is not only sensationalized, but romanticized in so many ways in our society right now, particularly on social media.

It’s sad to me that to belong, too many younger people are now embracing the idea that they themselves have some type of mental disorder. Depression, anxiety, bipolar (🙄), a personality disorder, etc. These disorders have become ‘tragically beautiful’ or, at the very least, trivialize what mental illness really is. Regardless, mental illnesses are being sensationalized for attention and grasshoppers, that’s not right.

Look on Twitter…there’s this hashtag: #IGetDepressedWhen and here’s a couple of goodies – “I get depressed when my battery low” , or “I get depressed when I know summers almost over”, or “I get depressed when there’s no bacon for lunch.” Hmmmmm. I gotta be honest here. I’ve been struggling with depression as part of being bipolar for the great majority of my 40 years on earth (heh? OK, 50?), and I can honestly say, without reservation, that I’ve never ever been thrown into a depressive episode because I’m having a PBJ for lunch instead of bacon. Never.

Here’s a ‘quote’ I found: “She can paint a pretty picture but the story has a twist. Her paintbrush is a razor and her canvas is a wrist.” (Seriously…are you kidding me?) And another: “I think suicidal people are just angels who want to go home.” One more: “I’m jealous of people with enough self-control to be anorexic.” What the hell??? 😡

Let’s give these folks the reality of mental illness. Suicide is not a Shakespearean tragedy where the person was gracefully lifted from their pain while looking beautiful in their peaceful death. Not by a fucking (sorry, ma) long shot. Suicide is guns or pills or razors or ropes and it’s bloody and ugly and messy and scary and heartbreaking and irreversible. These people are never going to take a breath again…never have a chance of life again…never going to realize that what they went through could have gotten better to where suicide wasn’t the only option they could see. Plus, it’s hell on earth for the one’s that are left. The person didn’t commit suicide and then see how dramatically it played out on social media or how it became the basis for a Netflix show. They killed themselves. They are dead. And no matter what their situation or pain or illness, it’s nothing but a tragedy for both the victim and the survivors. Period.

And self-harm? Those of you that know me are aware that have I cut myself in the past and have 16 scars on my legs, arm, belly and boob. Two of my scars are over 4″ long and will be angry red welts forever. These scars are not beautiful. My body was not a ‘canvas’ I was decorating. The razor in my hand was not a paintbrush. There is nothing glamorous about what I did. I cut myself because I was having a mental breakdown that put me in such a depression that my mind told me it was the only thing I could do to release some of the pain. When I see my scars everyday, I don’t see a victory or a tragic piece of art. And I definitely don’t see them as being sexy as this quote says: “Call me crazy but I think emo girls/guys with self harm scars are sexy because it shows how much they have been through but never actually gave up.” And no, if any man ever looked at them and saw them as being arousing, I would run. Quickly.

And there are people who wish they were anorexic? Really? Well, as luck would have it, I have experience with this gem of a mental illness as well. There has not been a moment in my life from the time I was a freshman in high school (just a few years ago…) that I haven’t thought about how many calories are in a bite of food every time I eat something. Every. Single. Time. I can’t eat something because it tastes good. I can’t eat something out of pleasure. I can’t eat something not ‘necessary’ without feeling a lot of guilt and that I’m ‘bad’ for wanting it. I’ve known countless times what it’s like to be so weak from not eating that you can barely go from one task to another, and I don’t know how many birthday cakes, cookies, and other goodies people have made me over the years that I’ve trashed the moment they leave. You don’t recover from anorexia…you work every single solitary day to keep it in check, knowing that if you veer off a healthy course, you will succomb to the illness again. That is not having self-control, peeps…it’s actually quite the opposite.

You know, not only is this glamourization of mental illness a dangerous thing, it makes me wonder why anyone would want to be associated with something so stigmatizing in the first place. Maybe it’s giving the person attention or empathy or validation they are so desperately looking for. And if this is the only way that can happen in their lives, that’s something that needs to be addressed. Are there that many people not receiving the love and support they need without having to go to such lengths? Are there that many people shouting out: “See me” because they don’t feel ‘seen’ any other way? Are we living in a world where we are so into ourselves that we can’t see others crying for help unless the cry is so dramatic it can’t be missed? How sad this is.

I can’t imagine ‘pretending’ to have a mental illness…I wish to heaven I could experience what it’s like not to be mentally ill. It’s hard for me to understand why you would want to invent, and then share, a ‘mental illness’ because in reality, admitting you have one causes you to lose friends, opportunities, respect, and the list goes on. There are so many people that treat me differently now that I’ve ‘come-out.’ Some people/acquaintances/colleagues just stay away (which is fine…), others use it against me, while many just ignore it and pretend it simply doesn’t exist (“but you look normal”), plus I know it’s affected a couple of men from asking me out. Revealing a mental illness does not bring you the type of attention you think it might…trust me on this.

I talk about being bipolar for one reason, and one reason only, and this was voiced by a friend yesterday: “Well, you’re one of the people I look up too. You were one of the first people I knew to be extremely transparent about your mental health and that’s had an impact on me. It’s so important to destigmatize mental illness.” This is why I share it, my sweet peeps. I don’t share it for attention or sympathy or for ‘likes’. I share because I want people to know that mental illness sucks balls, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that should have to be hid. It’s a reality that too many people live with and we need to come together and make sure it’s treated like any other illness with support and understanding given to all who suffer from it.

Kristi xoxo

“Sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions.” ~ Stephen King

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So, I was in Wal-Mart yesterday which is such a great place to be on a Saturday afternoon but what the hey…there’s nothing else any more exciting for me to do on the weekends 🙄.  Anyhoot, there are arrows on the aisles showing which direction you are supposed to go and even though I want to rebel…just because I need some pizzazz in my life…I followed them.  I think I was the only one in the store that did.  Go figure.

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But here’s the thing:  I found myself apologizing for people getting in my way when they were the ones disregarding the arrows.  I apologized.  Me.  Then when I was driving home, I started thinking about how many other things I apologized for in the 30 minutes I was there (it seemed like an eternity…just sayin’ 😳).  I said ‘sorry’ to people who cut in front of me with their carts…a lady who almost ran me over with her electric scooter when she was backing up (but thanks to my lightening fast reflexes, I was able to save myself)…a guy who reached in front of me and grabbed a loaf of bread (not the healthier whole grain, but good ole Sunbeam)…a couple who cut through the self-scan lane I was on and knocked into my cart…and finally, a guy who shoved past me at the exit.

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All in all, I’d say I apologized at least a dozen times…if not more. *BTW:  the lady who almost backed into me was looking at vacuums and I very politely put the one she wanted into her basket (how she was going to see to ‘drive’ was beyond me 😳).  I told her she almost ran me over but I wanted to help her anyway since I survived and she didn’t bat an eye.  I wonder if she has scooter insurance…I feel a stiff neck coming on.

You know, this is a habit I really need to break.  I find myself saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  It doesn’t matter if I’m to blame or not, I feel like if something goes wrong, I need to put a ‘sorry’ out there.  And I don’t say it lightly…I actually mean it.  Like when the guy pushed past me, I started thinking that maybe I was going too slowly.  Maybe he had an emergency and I was in his way.  Maybe he won the lottery and was going to collect his millions.  No matter what, I MUST have done something to create that situation.

I did the same thing today at the gym (our leader kicked my ass today…I can barely move).  I apologized when someone slopped some cleaning solution on my shoes, and numerous times when someone would bump into me.  And even though they might not apologize, I do, whether I was the ‘bumper’ or the ‘bumpee’.

So, writing this blog has it’s ups and downs.  (Yes, grasshoppers…I’m changing the subject but it’s all going to make sense…stay with me…).  The up is that I get messages like this almost daily:

“I want to say ‘Thank You’.  I read something recently on your blog, and it stuck with me, in relation to toxic positivity.  I just appreciate and honor the fact that you’re real and authentic, and I admire the fact that you speak openly about depression, anxiety, and mental wellness…it makes those of us, who aren’t okay, feel seen and heard.  It gives us the courage to speak to our words our pain, and reach out.

Lately, things have been kinda crazy, and a lot of hard changes have happened.  However, I know this truth:  You are strong.  You inspire me to find strength and move forward.  You’re loved, I’m so grateful for you.”

And then, one of my students from a few years ago wrote to me and told me that she was so happy I taught about Domestic Violence in our classes and took the information seriously.  She said she also appreciated me sharing ma’s emotional story which is hard for me to do and often makes me cry.  She said that she dated someone a few times and started seeing the warning signs I preach about.  She ended the relationship and later found out he was a violent guy.  She told me I saved her from something that could have been detrimental to her and her beautiful kids.

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Now the downside?  I was starting to explore a some-what relationship with an old friend but we ended up being like oil and water (I was the oil…I use too much conditioner on my hair 🤨) and argued about…well…almost everything.  Anyhoot, no matter what happened or anything that might have been said, it was always my fault.  If he said something vile…it was my fault.  If he lied to me…it was my fault.  If he ‘tested’ me…it was my fault.  THEN, there would be a reference to me being bipolar and how that makes me ‘crazy’ so duh, it REALLY is my fault.  Hmmmmm.  Obviously, I ended things (or actually he did…but I took him up on it and now it’s my fault I didn’t try harder… 🙄…as my grandpa would have said:  “You can’t win for losing.”).

But here’s the thing:  I did apologize for everything.  Again and again and again.  I never said:  “I’m sorry but…” but sincerely apologized.  Like anyone, I said things I needed to apologize for…I’m no saint, that’s for sure!  But he didn’t buy my apologies, and then would say: “I’m sorry but YOU…” etc.

Putting my life out here like I do and talking about having bipolar makes me a target in so many ways.  People now know how overly sensitive I am…how guilty I can feel…how those of us with bipolar ruminate and question and worry…how impulsive and jumpy I can be, etc.  By knowing this, my mental illness can be used against me.  Who’s going to believe the ‘crazy’ one isn’t to blame for relationship issues?  Who’s going to believe ME if there are different sides of something being told?  After all, everyone knows that ‘bipolars’ are cray cray.  Right?

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Wrong!!  We are not fucking crazy (sorry ma, but talking about this gets me pissy 😠).  I’M not fucking crazy.  Period.  Yes, I have a mental illness.  A pretty serious one at that.  But guess what?  I’ve built a great career after years and years of schooling.  I raised a son who kicks ass in everything he does (except basketball…sorry, porkchop).  I was the ‘breadwinner’ in my last marriage (yes peeps…the 3rd one 🙄) and am financially independent now.  I do everything with the house and yard.  And the list goes on.  Just because I have a mental illness does not mean I’m crazy.  In fact, compared to some ‘normal’ people I know…I’m pretty damn ‘sound’.

So, why do I keep apologizing for every little bitty thing that happens and the biggies too?  Do I believe I need too because I am bipolar…cray cray…mentally ill?  I think I’ve kinda been ‘trained’ to over the years.  I think some people like to prey on those perceived as weaker or ‘less than’ in their eyes.  As a result, we take on more of what happens in any situation than someone else might.  (Since 25% of the population suffers a mental disorder or illness at some point in their lives, there’s a chance these ‘judgy’ people might be on the other side someday.  I don’t wish that on anyone.  But the reality is, it could happen).

So, I’m not going to do it anymore…keep saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  Well, I am probably going to go to my grave (it better be a BIG stone, son…BIG…🙄) apologizing for dying.  But I am going to try to stop feeling like I’M the one that’s always wrong.   Like I’m the one who’s always in the way.  Like I’m the one always to blame.  Like I’m the one…the only one…that has affected whatever it is that has happened.  I’m not going to apologize for being me.  If others want to use what I write against me, that’s fine.  Go ahead.  I’m actually pretty fucking tough for my size (right ma?).  But as long as what I write helps people, I’m going to continue.  And no.  I’m not sorry for that at all.

Kristi xoxo

 

“The things we fear the most have already happened to us.” ~ Robin Williams

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Dear Robin,

So I’m writing this to you smack between the day you were born and the day you died since I couldn’t decide which one was more appropriate.  Maybe neither of them are, but I always think about you around this time every year and wanted you to know it.

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Potsie and Fonzie

I remember the first time I saw you; my sis and I loved watching Happy Days together and while she was crazy about bad-boy Fonzie, I was a Potsie girl (I think I’m more of a Fonz gal now and sissy is definitely married to a  Potsie 😳 ).  One night someone new was on the screen, Mork from Ork, and I was suddenly besotted with an alien who had an adorbs face and a twinkle in his eye.  Sayonara, Potsie…I’m going another way.

Anyhoot, I became a fan immediately and loved loved loved following your career throughout my life.  When Mork and Mindy came on, I wanted to be Mindy so bad!  She had this great apartment, LONG shiny hair, and you.  That was the best part.  You made her laugh and love and cry and I thought that’s the kind of man I want.  Someone who can make me feel good no matter what else is going on (plus, I really loved your hairy arms 😉).

When you started showing up on the big screen, I didn’t miss any of your movies.  Seeing you portray Adrian Cronauer who made Vietnam soldiers laugh was amazing and there were so many times I held my breath while you worked to make catatonic patients feel alive again by playing Dr. Sayer.  As a fancy-schmancy professor, I really found myself drawn to Dead Poets Society and I watch it periodically to remind myself of the influence I can have in my sweetie student’s lives.

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Even though so many people loved your performance in Mrs. Doubtfire and think it’s your best, I don’t and here’s why:  I hated the entire premise of that movie.  I watched it once and cried after others had told me how funny it was.  So, I watched it again and cried again, and won’t even consider clicking on it when I’m perusing movies on amazon.  I thought it was tragic how a dad of your caliber who clearly loved his kids and made a fun, comfortable life for them had to resort to being someone else to see them.  It royally pissed me off and I thought it was a horrible premise for a comedy.  I know, I know…I’m a party pooper 💩.  No surprise there.

And even though I didn’t want to watch One Hour Photo since you were playing a sociopath, I finally did and came away with a much different view.  I didn’t see you as villainous at all.  I saw you as a mentally ill, lonely man who desired a family so badly you resorted to anything you could to feel that connection and believe you belonged.

Finally, here’s a confession about your movies:  I still can’t watch Patch Adams.  Still.  Seeing you so vulnerable after your love was murdered is something I can’t bring myself to watch because after what happened to you, it hits too close to home.  See, I think you were murdered too.  It wasn’t a psychopath or a serial killer (I guess that’s pretty much the same, huh 🙄), but a monster named depression and that son-of-a-bitch is relentless.

It’s common knowledge that you suffered from bouts of depression but many professionals believe you actually had bipolar disorder which many creative people have.  Those bouts of high energy and racing thoughts and fast thinking are evident in your stand-up comedy and whenever I have watched your performances, I feel an almost a frenetic vibe.  So much of your ‘acting’ was improvised and I can actually see in your eyes that you aren’t just trying to make people laugh…you are channeling this avalanche of energy into something you have an obsessive need to accomplish:  laughter, acceptance, applause.

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You never came out and said you were bipolar and I understand that because it’s so fucking stigmatized in our society…right up there with schizophreia (sorry, ma.  My ma hates that word and my guilt using it makes me apologize every time 🙄).  See, I have bipolar myself and it took me almost losing my life before I wanted to admit it.  Please don’t think I’m being cocky here, but I see a lot of me in you.  There were so many times growing up that I didn’t know how the hell (ma doesn’t mind that one…it’s in the Bible) to channel all that was in my head.  I’ve tried time and time again to explain to others what it feels like but I can’t.  How do you explain this tornado?  This storm?  This incredibly huge amount of ‘something’ that you have to direct or you feel like you’ll blow up?  It’s such a frantic feeling and when I have it (which is actually now…I’m in a manic state right now and work on my house 12 hours non-stop a day but can’t sleep), I’m almost delirious with the energy.  In so many of your performances, I see this delirium in you as well.  To be honest, it breaks my heart.

But underneath this, the fucking (I’m a rebel 😎) darkness remains.  How did you act so happy and make so many people laugh and feel good about themselves when depression was still dragging you down?  Most people believe that when someone is in a manic phase, their depression is buried.  Bullshit.  The depression is always seething under that intensity…it’s just biding it’s time until it shows itself fully again.  I think that’s why those of us with bipolar are always being asked if we’re OK.  See, our eyes give us away and as much as we think we hide it well, our eyes tell the full story.  As my mentor would have said:  the little bastards.

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That depressive fucker showed itself to you one last time, didn’t it?  And when I read that it had won, I was devastated.  After you committed suicide (I don’t believe in sugar-coating stuff by using euphemisms) you wife said you were killed by the ‘terrorist’ inside your brain.  What a perfect way to put it.  You didn’t commit suicide.  Your depression killed you.

I remember how quickly sentiment about your death turned from grief and sympathy to being judgmental with people saying things like ‘he was so selfish to do this.’  OK…that might be one way to look at it and if I ever experience a suicide in my family, I can only imagine how incredibly angry and lost and confused I’d be.  But I also know this:  when you are in the state where you want your pain to end because it’s finally too overwhelming to bear, you don’t see anything but the dark hole you’ve been bull-dozed into.  Nothing.  Robin, I know you weren’t being selfish because I understand how you were no longer able to fight the depression beast any longer.  I’m so sorry for that.

I love what you say to Matt Damon near the end of Good Will Hunting when he’s trying to come to terms with the abuse in his life: “It’s not your fault.”  What a powerful statement that is.  Four little words but an impact that can’t be measured.  How often I’ve wanted to hear those words myself and when you say them in the movie, I think there are a lot of people who respond to them like Matt does.  And Robin?  Just for the record, it was not your fault.

So thanks for the memories, Robin.  Nope, I didn’t know you personally but you impacted my life a great deal and I’m so grateful for the time we spent together.  You once said that if heaven exists, it would be nice to know there was laughter…to hear God say, “Two Jews walked into a bar…”.  You know what I think?  I think heaven is real and I also believe that because of you, there’s laughter there.

Kristi xoxo

“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

“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

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