“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

Me? Sarcastic? Never.

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So, I wanted to address an issue with my sweet peeps and decided to write y’all a letter…here goes:

Dear Peeps,

I wrote a blog post to day about ‘Pet Peeves’ which some of you liked and others didn’t.  After I received a comment that made me cry, I thought about deleting the post altogether.  The comment basically said I was calling people out on things that may not be their fault and I needed to do something else with my life besides worry about others.

I actually meant for that particular post to be sarcastic but I don’t think it was taken that way by everyone.  Sometimes my sense of humor is just ‘off’.’  Go figure.

You know, I’ve written about some really deep things in this blog.  I’ve shared all of my many struggles being bipolar and how that affects my life.  I’ve written about the self-mutilation I’ve done to myself and how I attempted suicide 3 years ago.  I’ve shared the sexual abuse I endured when I was a teen.  I’ve talked about the divorces I’ve had and how devastating they all were.  I’ve talked about ma’s experience with domestic violence by her 2nd husband (that fucker…sorry ma, but I always have to say that) that lasted 28 years and I got to live with for 6.  I’m very upfront talking about my meds and how much I need them to be stable.  I pretty much share everything with you…the bad and the good.

I’ve opened up to you because, well, I need too.  Being able to write out these issues is a way for me to understand them better while also being a cathartic experience.  It also, I hope, shows others that having a mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed or needs to be hidden away.  I’m trying to break the stigma of mental illness and show others that we aren’t violent or totally unstable or ‘crazy’ or someone to be avoided.  I’m Kristi who has a mental illness. It’s OK to voice that.

Anyhoot, talking about these tough issues is hard on me sometimes and maybe more so since I also have to teach about them in my classes every semester as well.  Teaching psychology and sociology forces me to address the topics of domestic violence, substance abuse, divorce, incest, rape, crime, mental illness and the list goes on and on.

You know, having bipolar is a tough thing.  I have good days and I have bad days.  I have really good days and I have really bad days.  I never know, week to week, what to expect with my mood.  Bipolar is like the Captain of my ship who I always try to stage a mutiny against.  Sometimes I take over and sometimes I don’t.  Right now, I’m struggling a bit.  Getting 7 classes online for Fall semester is overwhelming and knowing I won’t be interacting with my sweetie students face to face is horrible.  I love them all so much and it’s like being taken away from my family in so many ways.

I’m also dealing with some loneliness.  I’ve said before that I like living alone and how much I’ve gotten to learn about myself because of it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely.  When the Covid quarantine was at it’s peak, people would tell me how their partner or spouse was getting on their nerves.  But for me, there were so many times during it I wanted someone here.  Someone to hug and cuddle and tell me things were going to be ok.  I’ll make something I think is cool and wish I had someone here who would admire it (or tell me honestly that it’s ass-ugly).  At night I’ll watch a movie and wish someone was here with me to laugh or cry while we shove popcorn in our faces.

I’m still coming to terms with my last relationship.  It’s been 8 months since I’ve seen him and I continue to think about him, and his precious kids, every single day.  I miss the kids so much and if I’m being honest, I miss him too.  That’s tough to come to terms with considering how our relationship ended.  It might not make sense to others that I still grieve a bit for him…but tell that to my heart.  I truly thought he was my soulmate.

Because of all of this, I need to lighten up sometimes.  I just do.  I have to write happy or funny or sarcastic because I need the break from the heavy stuff.  Anyhoot, I’m sorry if I ever offend you with my posts.  I write them for me and share them with anyone who wants to see them.  I take all feedback seriously and I hope that you sweet peeps understand that the last thing in the world I want to do is hurt anyone.  Especially you.

Kristi xoxo

“…it’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward.” ~ Rocky Balboa

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Dear Breakdown,

So, this is the last time I’m ever going to talk about you because I’m sick of you still having a hold on me that way.  I need to put you away…not forget that you happened, but not have you continue to haunt me either.  K?

Anyhoot, I decided to write this now, because it was exactly 3 years ago today you started to happen.  And yes, I remember the exact date.  Luckily, it was right before a holiday that you started seeping into my life so thanks for that 🤨.

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It’s funny I used the word seep just now but that’s exactly what you did.  At first it was like a tiny trickle telling me something was very wrong…but tiny trickles don’t cause much damage, do they?  You know it’s there, but you also hope the damn thing just stops on it’s own.  If you wouldn’t have become the deluge you did, things would have been a hell of a lot better, so thanks for that too 🙄.  Gotta hand it to you…when you show yourself, you really go all out.

Look, I know a lot of things opened up that little crack that welcomed you in.  I understand that.  You were just seeing an opportunity, like breakdowns do…I mean, that’s sorta your ‘job’ if you will…and I was a great one to start working on.

I could go on and on about what led up to you, but that would literally take pages and pages and I’d prefer not to get carpal tunnel since I’m teaching online until January.  I do know it started as a teenager though.  Yes, I know that was eons ago (can we please not mention my age again…for piss sakes, we all know I’m a dinosaur 😐) but cracks were starting to appear already.

See…I knew I was different than other kids very young.  I never really fit in, and when I did, I was just being what they wanted me to be.  I think a lot of that was because I didn’t know who the fuck I was.  (Sorry ma…I’ll try to make that the only one.  But did you know that in Great Britain, that word is used as easily as we say crap?  And you know what an Anglophile I am).  As I started going through pubes, I could feel it getting worse and worse.  So much was happening in my head, and I was scared.  Very scared.  I developed an eating disorder and ma got help for me.  He turned out to be a sexually abusing asshole though, so I really wasn’t too keen on ever getting help again.  I think that’s understandable, but I know I needed it.

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Fast forward the next couple of decades, and I buried and buried what I was feeling and tried to deal with it the best I could.  Sometimes I was successful, and sometimes I failed.  At times I’d get so depressed that I couldn’t hide it, or I’d be so freaking high I’d bounce off the walls.  At least I could direct that into work and activities…I’ll tell you what, my yard is always the prettiest on the block and my son says my house is slowing shrinking because of all the paint I slap on the walls.

So, 1 had 2 divorces under my belt (😐), and was going through another one.  Yep…I loved my first 2 hubbies very much and those divorces were hellish at best.  But with R, it was really tough because we both still loved each other.  We used the same lawyer, faced the judge together, and hugged each other and cried the entire time when our divorce was being finalized.  But we were living 2 different lives and that just doesn’t make for a good marriage.

I met a guy and we started to get involved after R and I separated.  He took my breath away and he said I was his forever.  I felt the same.  But, he was mentally ill too.  He has Borderline Personality Disorder that as you know, without help, can be extremely difficult to deal with.  He also has PTSD from his 3 tours in the Middle East.  I cut him a lot of slack for this…something so many people in my life didn’t understand.

Three years ago today, I found out he was making plans to be with his ex-girlfriend who was driving to see him, and as we spent time together, he got angrier and angrier with me.  It hurt me so so much because I had been very good to him.

He’s a lot younger than me, and I was always very self-conscious about that.  So, I had a face lift that June.  Yep.  It wasn’t because he asked me too and he even tried to talk me out of it.  But I was starting to make very bad decisions and I went through with it.  I think him being with his ex later freaked me out even more since I took such an extreme step to be ‘perfect’ for him.  Yes, I know that was my issue, but it was hard to deal with.

Then my nephew died on the USS McCain.  He was born 6 months after my son, and all of the kids in our 2 families grew up together since we lived within a mile radius of one another.  My nephews and son always played ball on the same team in Little League together, went swimming at the same pool every summer, and we all were members of the same church.  L was a sweet, playful, funny kid that was very much his own person.  After my son’s dad and I divorced, I never stopped being a part of my niece and nephew’s lives.  L took a few of my classes in college, and having him there always made me smile.  In fact, his smile was truly infectious.  He came to see me right before he left for sea, and we hugged and I cried.  His brother took a pic of us and that was the pic he had on his badge that he wore everyday.  Losing him was the hardest loss I’ve ever faced.  He was still a kid, and there’s no justification for it like you often hear with older people; it wasn’t a blessing and it wasn’t God’s will.  It was stupid, horrible actions of the ones in charge.  Period.  It didn’t have to happen and that makes the pain even worse.

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A student started bothering me exactly around this time too.  I was told to befriend him outside of class because his disruptions were too much to handle in the classroom, and I did.  We talked and joked around and developed a friendship (we are the same age), but never saw each other out of school or even spoke on the phone.  All of our interaction was online.  One night, he got drunk and sent me texts telling me he wanted to rape me, kill me, and make me into a lampshade.  I obviously sought help for this at work but was told it was my fault and had a letter placed in my file.  I actually could have lost my job which would have killed me.  Being a prof means everything to me and I am so invested in my institution and my sweetie students.

So, all of this led to the dam gates opening and you rushing right in.  It seemed so fast.  It was like you wrapped your hands around my throat, stifled my ability to breathe (I’m actually having trouble right now just writing this…another reason I need to purge you) and then shoved me down a black hole I couldn’t see out of.  You know, I believe in God, in heaven, and in hell.  I know hell is the worse possible place imaginable and outside our human realm of thinking, but I had a little taste of it through you (once again, thanks asshole).

You made it so I could hardly talk…it took too much out of me and I couldn’t expend the effort.  I couldn’t go 10 minutes without crying.  I had so much trouble eating.  Sleeping.  It was like I was in a trance.  I was a zombie.  I couldn’t do anything.  I sat.  I ate.  I laid down.  Day after day.  You had gotten rid of ‘me’ and put this shell in it’s place.

So, I started seeing a counselor and my doctor who I’ve known for 20 years.  They saw me more than once a week, and I was in constant touch with both of them because they demanded I be.  As much as they helped me, I lied to them about the seriousness of some of what I was doing (I still can’t see my doc without bawling because I remember how much he did for me and how so supportive he was…he spent hours with me most weeks).  I didn’t want them to know you showed me that razor blade, and when you did,  I didn’t know what I would do with it when I took it from your hand anyway.  But then one night I pressed it against my skin and cut.  It hurt like fuck (my bad, ma) but it was something to concentrate on besides you.  The pain in my leg was much easier to deal with than you were.  My 12 scars are hard to look at but at the time, it seemed right.  That’s how much power you had over me.

I guess that wasn’t enough for you though, so you showed me that bottle of pills I had in my cabinet.  Look, you knew I didn’t want to leave my son and my ma and my family and students and the world itself, so why did you make my pain so bad that I couldn’t find any other way out?  That was when God took over.  He got me up off my bed and I threw up what you had given me.  I don’t care what unbelievers say…I know it was God, because it certainly wasn’t me.

That’s when I finally saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar.  After hearing my history, doc said I am one of the few cases that show itself before adolescence.  When I do something, I do it well…huh?  I got on meds, sought more help, and slowly climbed out of the black hole you were trying so hard to keep me in.

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And it’s over.  It’s finally over.  You’re gone.  And as much as you might hate to hear it, I won.  I fucking won.  Look, I’ve run marathons, did a triathalon, and have really pushed myself physically at times, but those were cakewalks compared to you.  Yet I beat you…I sorta feel like Rocky.

I slowly got strong again, and after a long while I started running because I could finally breathe and leave the house with getting panicky. I can’t tell you how good it felt to lace up my sneakers again.  I was so proud when I did a couple of miles; for someone who used to run 40 miles a week, that doesn’t sound like much, but for me it was huge.  I started doing yoga, and you should see my arms…they freaking rock.  I started doing my art and crafts again, read books I hadn’t been able to concentrate on for so long, reconnected with neighbors who I hadn’t see for months and months, started posting on social media again and basically just started living my life without you.

Look, I know you’re out there.  And I know you can come back at anytime.  That used to scare the shit out of me, but here’s the thing.  I’ve beaten you once, and if you ever show yourself again, I’ll kick your ass one more time.  You don’t scare me anymore and I’m not going to live in dread thinking you’ll return.  I’m too busy being happy, content, proud and healed.

You’re gone.  You lost.  You put up a hell of a fight for me, but I won.  I WON.  Me.  So there.

Kristi xoxo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

 

“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

“It’s a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards.” ~ Lewis Carroll:

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So, this isn’t the post I was going to write today…I had another one mapped out (and it’s a goodie 😳) but I’m putting that off a day or two because I need to process what I’m feeling right now.  I hope you don’t mind.

Today I was at the college for a couple of hours to box up my office since I’m moving to another location in the building; there’s going to be construction where I currently am.  I’ve been in my office for 17 years and I was surprised at how emotional it was to pack it all up.

I have so many letters, cards, drawings, and gifts from students over the last 20+ years and getting them out and looking at them again brought back so many memories.  I had letters from students telling me how much I had helped them when they were facing difficulty, cards saying ‘Thanks’ for all I did teaching our class, drawings of llamas and my Dottie and name designs that hung on my walls, and lots of gifts like mugs, stuffed llamas (see a pattern here?), books, etc.  It really delighted me to know these wonderful young people took the time to say and give these things to me.  I could picture each one of them in my head, and laugh at the memories I shared with them.  I’m somewhat known for often having nicknames for people and I was smiling, with tears running down my face, thinking of the special things I called them (for example, one of my sweeties is my “money beet”…if you don’t get this, watch The Office).

I try very hard in my classes to give a lot to my students…I don’t ‘read the textbook’ to them like a couple of professors I had in college did (yes, they had college even way back then…it was a one room schoolhouse 🙄), but create special lectures and expand on the curriculum content.  I also ask my students what they’re interested in and try to make a pertinent lecture based on their suggestions.  But here’s the thing:  no matter how much I give in my classes, I get so much more.  I love my students…and I don’t say love unless I mean it.  They are my family and have enriched my life more than I can say.

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Then, as I was cleaning out some drawers I haven’t touched for years, I came across a ton (not quite a ‘ton’ but damn close) of pics that I’ve decorated my office with over the years.  I found so many of Hubby 2 and my boy, O, when he was a little guy.  Hubby and I were shown in restaurants, on our front porch, on outings with O, and posing with pets we had had over the years.  I cried as I looked at these, because we did have such a terrific life together.  It was very much a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ type of situation and memories of it are so good.

When I look back at the end of our marriage, I know it could have been saved.  No doubt.  I also know I was wasn’t on meds for my bipolar, and that surely played a role in it’s demise.  Handling my ups and downs couldn’t have easy for this man who had no other experience with mental illness and I’m not proud of how I behaved during manic times.  It’s so hard not to have regrets and guilt, and I know that right now my ma is saying – “Kristi, you can’t go back…you did the best you could.”  Well, the thing is:  no I didn’t.  Doing the ‘best I could’ would have been breaking down my denial that anything serious was wrong with me…being honest with our family doctor when he’d ask how I was…and getting my butt to a psychologist for a proper diagnosis with treatment.  And because of all of that, my guilt remains.

Unearthing pics of Hubby 3 was difficult too (I know, I know…they are SO hard to keep track of…I promise not to add another to the freaking mix to help y’all out).  Yes, we are still really good friends and talk daily.  He’s going through some rough times and I’m here for him just like he’s been there for me.  I found pics of us in Chicago where we loved to spend weekends, pics of us at mountain bike races with mud all over our arms and legs,  pics of us at different zoos and in museums, and yes, all of these were rough to go through.  Hubby and I had some tough times (which I’ve written about and I’m sure you’ve read my sweet, loyal peeps) but the good times we had outweighed those significantly.  He was so much fun and no one has ever made me laugh like he can.  Hubby is the one person (outside of ma, sis, and O) who I can tell things to and never ever have them used against me.  He has always accepted me for who I am and I do the same with him.

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Did my bipolar affect our marriage too?  Is that why it ended?  Well… I can definitely say a resounding  ‘yes’ to the first question:  bipolar affects every part of my life, and I know I was a bit much at times when I was ‘high’ (that’s an understatement if I ever heard one and no ma, I don’t do drugs; please don’t run out and get a drug testing kit for me to prove it to you 🙄).  But when I was in a depression, it was even tougher for him.  I’d suddenly not want to do things with him and was much more distant emotionally which brought back memories of neglect when he was young.  I’m sorry I put him through those ups and downs that he didn’t have an explanation for.

Then I found my pics of J.  One of them was framed and had hung on my wall for 3 years; O (professional photographer) took it of us at a wedding we attended and we are facing each other, laughing, and looking into each others eyes.  We both look so happy and in love.  Seeing pics of J brings back bad memories…it’s no secret our relationship was tumultuous, but we had so many great times too.  I think out of all my ‘men’, J understood me the most.  Him having Borderline Personality Disorder (undiagnosed at the time) and PTSD helped him to understand my behavior better, and I tried to do the same with his.  Our biggest problem was each of us not getting the help we both desperately needed to get ourselves stable and our behavior under control .  We were 2 mentally ill people trying to have a ‘normal’ relationship, while doing our best to ignore our diagnoses and their subsequent behaviors.  It’s funny that I’m so much better now…so much more ‘even’ because of my mood stabilizers, yet it came too late.  Had I recognized and then insisted we both get the medical/psychological care we seriously needed, I believe our relationship would have had an excellent chance.  Yes, I still think of him everyday.  And yes, I miss his kids so much I ache.

I’ve talked about guilt before in this blog…as well as regrets, and I see, through all I found today, how much I have failed so many people in my life.

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You know, there were students I could have done a lot more for…students in my classes who may have had pain I didn’t recognize or needed help I didn’t spot.  I could have talked more to individual students.  Listened more.  Asked them more.  I have a feeling my students who read this are saying:  “Shut Up!  You were great!”  But sweeties, I could have been better…and hope to be as I continue in my career.

And why didn’t I get help sooner and maybe have my life on a different trajectory with fewer regrets and losses regarding my personal relationships?  Why didn’t I do this for my marriages?  For my family?  For myself?  Yes, the psychologist that sexually abused me for a couple of years (that fucker…sorry ma) did a number on me trusting any other therapist or counselor, but I could have worked harder at letting someone in.  I could have put the needs of the people in my life over my fear of being used again.  But, I didn’t.  Am I’m so sorry for that.   I’m especially sorry for those that were hurt by my inaction and mental illness…but to be honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Memories are a funny thing.  They can make us laugh and cry…surprise us and anger us…and they can teach us lessons we take with us as we move ahead in our lives.  I know I can’t go back and fix all the wrongs I’ve done and make it up to the people I’ve hurt.  But I can use those memories to make me a more loving, empathic, understanding person that tries her best again and again.  And that, grasshoppers, is what I intend to do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

If it Ain’t One Thing, it’s Another.

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

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

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

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Anyhoot, there are so many other issues that go along with having bipolar as well and most people don’t realize how severe they can be.  Reading memoirs and other material helps me remember I’m not alone in experiencing these problems and that’s a comfort to me.

Memory is a biggie.  When I’m manic, I don’t have time to remember.  Hello!  I’m so freaking busy painting, sewing, mowing, running, hiking, shopping (!), cleaning, yacking and yacking and yacking, and moving around from task to task with my mind speeding along so fast, how in the world is my brain supposed to retain anything?  When I was manic last summer, I painted almost every single piece of furniture I own along with 3 rooms, but I barely remember doing it!  Seriously!  When I’m manic, I lose chunks of time.  Everyday last summer I walked a minimum of 8-10 miles and have no memory of the majority of these jaunts and the routes I took.  You know, it’s scary when your mind loses time like this.  It’s like it’s going on auto-pilot and you are caught up in the vortex.  I’ve done crafts/art when I’m manic, and after I cycle back down, I have no idea how to do what I’ve already created.  It’s spooky.

I have a lot of trouble talking as well (I know, I know…that’s extremely hard to imagine and ma, I know you’re rolling your eyes right now) when I’m manic, I talk so loud and fast that it’s overwhelming for people to listen, but frustrating for me.  I’ll hear “slow down” or “hold on…I can’t keep up” but I am simply unable to do that.  I have so much to say with my mouth already not keeping up with my brain that telling me to slow down is like telling a wild horse ‘whoa’ before he’s been ‘broken.’ (Actually there is a term for manic speech called pressured speech).

18+ Famous Bipolar Quotes

Sometimes I’ll even lose words. I have so much to get out but my mind is racing forward so fast that I can’t find the words I want to use.  I’ve even made up some to compensate.  And my ideas?  Well hells bells, I can basically invent anything…figure out the mysteries of the universe…and brainstorm solutions to any of the world’s ills.  If there’s no one to listen to this grandiosity?  That’s OK…I’ll just talk out loud to myself (or Eddie and Dottie who think I’m absolutely brilliant).

Now, the flip side is this:  when I’m in a depression (and by the way, women with bipolar have more depression than men) I don’t want to talk, and actually having a conversation can be exhausting.  I think this can be explained two-fold…my mind is slowed down so much there’s not much in there but feelings of darkness, and I’m so fatigued mentally (and physically), it’s just too much effort to express much of anything.

This is tough.  I know when I’m cycling through a depression, ‘keeping busy’ and doing stuff I normally like would be a good idea.  But the kicker is this:  I don’t like to do anything when I’m down.  What I normally love is pushed aside.  Running is known to help mood (any cardiovascular exercise) but I’ll get my shoes laced up and my tights on, but will either balk at going outside to start, or will stop after a block and walk home, panicky, until I get through the safety of my door again.  Even reading isn’t pleasurable to me during these times.  I might start 5 books, read a few pages, and then just put it down with no interest whatsoever.  And art?  Nope.  No original ideas out all…or strength to even get supplies out and ready to use.

So then guilt takes over, and those of us with bipolar have tons of it.  People will say:  “Take a walk!”  “Get out and about!”  “Paint!”  but I can’t.  Literally, physically, mentally I can’t.  And then I feel guilty that the advice I’m given is impossible to do, or because I don’t have the ability to will myself back up to a better mood again.

Self-esteem is an issue too.  When I’m manic, oh my gosh…I can conquer the world!  I have so much confidence in everything I do and I know I’m the most interesting, engaging, wonderful, awesome person ever, doing stuff no one else is doing (right…no one else walks or runs everyday… 🙄)!  I can do anything and when someone asks me for something?  The answer is YES before they can even finish their sentence.  And by golly, I get it done everytime…usually right away.

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Then the darkness comes in and I feel like shit about myself.  No confidence, hating what I see in the mirror, shying away from any requests because I feel like I’ll fuck them up if I even have the energy to do them (sorry ma, but that’s the only way I can describe it.)  If I’ve made a commitment during a manic phase and then am depressed when I need to follow through, I feel tons of guilt if I can’t and I know it’s hard for others to understand this.  “Hey, you promised a couple of months ago you’d do this.”  Yes, I realize that (well not really, because who the hell remembers), but I can’t even wash my hair today, so…there you go.  And then?  I feel even more horrible about myself than ever.

Fear is another big concern.  I have fairly ‘normal times’ (which aren’t really ‘normal’ per se…just not full hypomania or full depression) but know another cycle will eventually rear it’s ugly head.  I’m ecstatic when it’s mania…actually, it’s fun in a way.  To have that much energy is intoxicating, but will I be able to reign it in when I teach…interact with students…interact with my colleagues?  Or, maybe depression is what I’ll cycle into.  Will I have the ability to teach…to not cry at school…to even get up to start my day?  It’s despairing to have this fear and dread be a part of your everyday existence.

These doubts and the inability to handle things ‘normally’ when I’m cycling forces me to wear masks.  As much as I’m trying to be genuine and authentic, my life compels me to put some of those masks back on so I can function as expected.  As we all now know from wearing real face masks for the last 6 months, these proverbial masks are just as constricting and uncomfortable, but we can’t necessarily rip them off when they become too much.

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Another fear is what the mania and depression do to me physically.  Regardless of what mood I’ve cycled into, I often have stomach issues (I do have a pesky ulcer that tends to  come back periodically) and diarrhea (so much fun 😐) is common for me as is a constant feeling of ‘ick’ in my belly (I think the medical term nausea is more often used, but ‘ick’ describes it better for me).  Whether I’m manic or depressed, I get a racing heart at times (which is scary as hell) and hyperventilate, or I’ll break out in a sweat that soaks my entire bod.  Headaches are common and muscles aches happen too.  The physical side of bipolar is the least talked about (at least in my experience) but these can be just as scary as the moods.  Sometimes even more so.

I also find myself having a lack of affect (emotional expression) or inappropriate affect (to say the least).  When I’m manic, it’s almost impossible for me to cry or show any negative feelings, so I’ll hear something tragic, but can’t react with the right empathy.  I know it’s sad and I feel bad about it…but my brain is ‘on fire’ (to borrow that term from Susannah Cahalan’s memoir) and it can’t slow down to really process the situation.  On the flip side?  When I’m down, everything gets to me.  Ma will tell me something ‘good’ and I’ll start to bawl.  I mean really sob like it’s the end of the world.  Watching a movie during this time is hellish at best, because even my normally fave comedies like “What About Bob?” make me weep because I read so much angst in the characters.  Poor Bob, he’s so freaking lonely and misunderstood.

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Then, there’s a constant feeling of disappointment.  Last summer I was manic and happy and energetic and the world was a wonderful place with rainbows and sunshine.  I’m not there right now.  I’m still cycling through a depression that’s lifting somewhat, but still hanging on (like a sloth on a freaking tree).  I want to be up again…I’m so so sick of being down still.  This depression has held of for over 7 months now, and I want it over.  I want to feel better.  I want to be happy again.  I was hoping and praying and wishing spring would magically take this away, and it’s chipping at it piece by piece, but I’m not there yet.  I don’t want a full-blown manic phase, but getting rid of this dark tunnel would be just ducky.

Medications help these moods, but only to an extent.  Mood stabilizers can lessen the severity of the cycles, but doesn’t ‘treat’ them to where they disappear.  It’s like using Tylenol for a migraine.  It might lessen the pain so it’s a bit more bearable, but some (often a lot) pain still exists.  In fact, that’s another disappointment I think all people with mental illness experience:  we want our meds to be the fairy godmother that waves her magic wand and rids of us of our sickness.  But as we all know, there ain’t too many of those around.  And then when people say:  “Are you taking your meds?” when you’re experiencing these ups and downs, we feel guilt again when they aren’t working perfectly.

Another thing I have to deal with is anger and whether I’ll be able to reign it in or not.  Whether I’m up or down, there’s an anger boiling inside of me all of the time and it’s such an unwelcome ‘guest’ and I want to kick it out the door and turn the key.  Little things can set me off, and this anger can be so so disproportionate to the trigger.  It’s horrifying when this explodes.  I can hear myself saying terrible things or acting hatefully and it’s like I’m watching someone else doing it.  I want it to stop…but once again, the control is in the part of the bipolar brain I don’t have much access too.

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Probably the most terrifying aspect is the recurring thoughts of suicide.  Yes, when you are in a depression, suicidal thoughts often abound for so many.  But I have them during manic stages too when my impulsivity and inability to really think about the consequences of my actions take over.  If I’m upset during mania, my bipolar brain will think: “Oh…you’d be sorry if I killed myself and everyone will be at my funeral!”  Maybe that’s why 20-60% of people with bipolar will attempt suicide and up to 19% will succeed.  It’s never fully out of our minds.

And talk about understanding…how in the hell do you tell people about these reactions and moods and guilt and self-esteem and physical issues when you really can’t grasp them yourself?  How do you apologize for things you blurted out when manic?  Promises not kept?  Emotional reactions that were often flippant?  Explosions of fury?  Look, it’s harder than fuck when your mind takes you over as opposed to you being able to control it yourself and I think that’s the hardest thing for others to understand who don’t have a mood disorder.  It’s like we’re just the train car following where ever the engine want to take us.  We don’t have the brakes.  The ability to take another route.  The wherewithal to slow down or speed up.  And when we try to apologize, how can it ever be enough?  And then BINGO, here’s comes the guilt and the tummy aches and the lowered self-esteem, and life continues in this bipolar way.

You know, having insight into this disorder is difficult enough, and just when you think you have a handle on it, BAM! …something else pops up.  It really helps to read books and articles about other peoples struggles, because it’s normalizes this abnormal world for me.  It’s lets me know I’m not alone. and others are in the same boat.  And peeps, that’s what I hope I do for you.  Let you know you aren’t alone in any struggles you have, and that you’re in good company always.  ❤

Kristi xoxo

“The most important things are the hardest things to say.” ~ Stephen King (The Body)

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

So, need is a funny word.  Like ‘love’ or ‘friend’, it can mean so many different things to different people.  Go shopping (after social distancing, of course) and listen to what is being said about all of the products we are inundated with:  “Oh my God…I gotta have that!” “OOOOO…this new shampoo is supposed to be great!  I need to get it now!”  “Wow…that’s the exact shirt I’ve been needing!”

Actually, need is so different than want, yet we often forget that.  Do we really need another shampoo when we have 12 full bottles in the shower?  Do we really need a new shirt when we have 10 others we haven’t worn yet?  Hey, I’m just as guilty as anyone.  Put me on amazon, and I will order something…anything…because getting that brown box on my step with the shiny tape is just so damn exciting.

But let’s face it, we don’t need half of what we have.  And often, we don’t even want it a few days later.  It’s just something else cluttering up our house that will wind up in a donation box sooner or later.

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Clutter.  I know all about that too.  Not because of my house since it’s fastidiously clean, but because of my mind.  Clutter is such a great term to describe the emotions and thoughts that circle around it every day thanks to being bipolar (😬).  Sometimes it’s hard to sort out the clutter; it becomes so overwhelming I simply don’t know where to start.  That was me yesterday.  My clutter was strewn all over the place and I needed someone to help me sort it out.

I miss O moving to his own place (even though I’m so proud of him for being able to make this leap while still running a business in these difficult times), I’ve been working on my house to get it more ‘me’ and moving furniture around until it’s just right.  I’m doing a deep cleaning and a good cull, while also getting used to the quiet which frankly is a bit tough.  Then I have school to deal with during this pandemic…I missed my students and seeing them graduate this spring and I still don’t know what the Fall will look like in terms of my classes.

And then I have me.  Lonely old (shutty the mouthy 😳) me.  I had to run to the store yesterday and I interacted with the cashier (barely, which was probably a good thing since her face mask looked to have some kind of demon on it and she had the personality of a turnip).  I talked to ma for about 10 minutes and texted O a few times, and that was it.  I’m used to talking to 60+ students a day, my colleagues, and living with a noisy son who always had something going on.  This quiet is really a big change for me.

See, yesterday I had a need.  A real need.  I needed to vent to someone so I could process some of these feelings I have being alone.  I guess I just needed a virtual hug.  Needed it, not just wanted it, because I was also feeling a bit lonely too.

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So, Edward gave me one (one of my sweet dogs who happens to be a damn good hugger).  But as much as I love his affection (while Dottie usually looks on with disgust but decided to smile for the camera since she’s a diva), I needed a real person and reached out to a ‘friend’ who said they had had a bad day too.  We messaged back and forth for a bit and I poured a lot out to him…it felt good to have someone just listen.  His responses though were quite brief such as “It’ll get better.”  Well, duh.  Of course it will.  However, it wasn’t better then, and I “needed” someone to just be there to commiserate with me, or at least validate that what I’m feeling is OK.  It’s like when I got my appendix out a few years ago (on April fools day, no less).  I got home and couldn’t bend which is something you don’t appreciate doing until you can’t.  It was horrible trying to contort myself into a chair or my bed and realized I couldn’t do it without feeling like I was going to break in half, so I needed Hubby 3 (🙄) to help.  I knew I would heal, but at the time of the pain, that wasn’t much comfort to me (although wine helped…and believe me, it was NEEDED at that time).

Anyhoot, as I was saying how sorry I was for my friend’s day, he said he just didn’t have the wherewithal to chat with me right then, so we stopped.  And the problem was that I still needed him.

Yes, I know he had a bad day too and I expressed my concern over his issues and listened to what he needed to say.  If he would have asked me to do anything for him in this situation, of course I would have (hello…I’m a freaking empath).  It’s almost like when I was a young parent:  I’d be running on 2 hours of sleep for 3 straight nights when O was sick, but if he needed something after I nodded off, I got up and did it.  He NEEDED me.  It was as simple as that.

Maybe I didn’t express how much I needed my friend’s support yesterday (even though I said “I need your support this afternoon”), but it’s very hard for me to really do that.  I feel guilty when I ‘need’ something from someone…when I ask for it.  I feel selfish for needing them to ‘give’ me their time, their energy.  I sometimes feel like if they give me an hour, I have to give them 2…I never want to be the one that takes more.

Or, maybe it was difficult for him to understand my situation yesterday, or relate to it since his is so different.  I think it’s also baffling for others to understand that when you have bipolar, a seemingly ‘little’ issue is actually a pretty big one because of our emotional constitution and constant rumination.

Hmmmmm…do we ever ask ourselves what we truly need from a partner?  Not what we want…but what we need, and what we think of as being essential to our well being.  I think about this a lot because in my Marriage and Family classes we talk extensively about mate selection…what you want, what you need, what are deal breakers, etc.  And for me, I need someone to just listen.  To be there.  To say “Hey, I understand this is a tough time…what can I do to help?”

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From mybestrelationship.com

I think it’s because when someone fulfills this need, it makes me feel special…like I matter to them.  I feel like they see me.  One time J and I were in an argument, and I yelled “See me!” to him.  I was so frustrated that day and needed him to actually see the real ‘me’, not the person he wanted me to be or how much he needed me to pretend I was fine. Yesterday made me realize that my needs in a relationship have changed over the years. Decades ago, I would have said I needed someone to be a good dad…good provider (since I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom), affectionate (since I’m so touchy/feely), and a great sexual partner (😲).

Compared to other times I’ve had, yesterday was a cakewalk.  But what happens when there’s something seemingly insurmountable for me to handle alone? And having bipolar makes this a very real possibility.  I know I need someone I can trust to be there for me. Will be able to understand that I’ll have issues that at times may seem silly to them, but for which I’ll require their support.  Their understanding. I need someone who will try to learn what they can about bipolar since it is a mental illness that’s difficult on relationships; anyone living with someone bipolar has to understand the dynamics of depression and mania.  And just so you don’t think I’m a selfish cow, I don’t demand that only my needs be fulfilled in a relationship, and I’m not asking for anything I’m not willing to give back. In fact, sometimes meeting my needs is pretty easy; yesterday, an ear or a hug would have sufficed.

When everything was crashing down on me a couple of years ago, some of my students who read this blog tell me they never would have known based on my demeanor in class and talking to them in the halls.  Good!  I would push aside my own crap in order to fulfill the needs these awesome young people had…and happily so.

Maybe it would be a good idea to just make sure I seek what I need:  someone to  listen, give me affection, attention, and understanding (and don’t read this part ma, but throwing in great sex would be appreciated too 😜).  But maybe these are too much for some people to handle, or too much for me to ask for in the first place.  Or maybe, just maybe, I need to learn to fulfill these in myself to a great extent.  I need to listen to myself, be good to myself, give myself the attention I deserve and the patience I often don’t allow myself to have.  And when I think about it, this might really be a great idea.  After all, I’m pretty good at helping others out…maybe it’s time to do the same for me.

Kristi xoxo

“Oh-Oh, Yes I’m the Great Pretender, Pretending that I’m Doing Well…” ~ The Platters

Photo by MockupEditor.com on Pexels.com

So, I read an excellent post yesterday on the blog Pointless Overthinking called “Is Social Media Toxic – Being Mindful” which really got me to thinking about my own use of Facebook: my fave social media platform. And here’s what I discovered: I’ve been a total hypocrite at times. Here I am yacking to my peeps about how important it is to be genuine and authentic, yet I’m not necessarily doing that on FB. What the hell?

I don’t ‘use’ Instagram because to be honest, typing in all of those hashtags is simply a chore, and Snapchat just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me (yes son, roll your eyes and call me a digital immigrant even though I gave birth to you after 16 excrutiating hours of back labor without a grandbaby in sight to make up for it 🙄). I get where you send pics and videos that you’ve jazzed up with cool editing, but they ‘disappear’ (not all together true…you can take screenshots and as such, naughty pics can be actually be saved and shared) in 10 seconds which seems like a heck of a lot of work for that incredibly short period of time. And yes, I know all about tiktok and whatsapp as well, but have never tried them. 🤓

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Anyhoot, that’s why I’m focusing on FB (that’s short for Facebook son, try to keep up) to illustrate my own hypocrisy. See, I’m not being completely genuine on FB. After all of my orating about opening up, being honest, being yourself, I realized I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. Yesterday, I downloaded all of my FB pics so I could make sure I have them myself for all posterity. As I was scrolling through them, I started laughing at my use of editing tools and how absolutely horrible some of them looked. I started out with my grunge phase where every pic looked like it was run through an incinerator, and then using frames that just were ridiculous. The biggest thing I noticed though was my use of filters so I would look as perfect as I possibly could in the pics I posted of myself.

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O didn’t need the filter, I did!  And look…no pores! 

After looking at these pics, I started wondering about my posts. So, I clicked on a bunch of them that went along with the pics, and saw I was filtering those as well. There are a few of R (Hubby 3 🙄) and I where I’m smiling broadly with him, when actually the day was pretty rotten. But like I think others do, I was just wanting to show everyone how ‘happy’ we were no matter what. I saw so many from my time with J…some on an outing just a day after getting back together following the first month he cheated on me. I guess I wanted to prove to myself and his ‘ex’ how we were meant to be; but all I can see now is a confused look in my eyes and a resigned expression on his face. I have some upbeat pics during the time of my mental breakdown…I wanted people to think old Professor K was fine like always, even though I had attempted suicide just days before. I think you get what I’m saying.

Why did I do that? Why did I think I had to pretend my life was going great all of the time? Well…because it seemed like everyone else’s life was. You see, I was still pretending my way through life and wanted to make sure everyone saw the best me. The ‘perfect’ me if you will. The me that would get a lot of likes because hey, that’s the whole point. Right? I needed that outside validation because I knew on the inside, I wasn’t accepting myself. I didn’t want too. I had worn the mask of ‘normality’ for so fucking long, I didn’t want to take it off in front of a keyboard either. In fact, that was one of the the last places where I wanted to show my true self. As long as I looked right in real life and also online, the longer I could convince myself it was true.

I see my eyes in these pictures so well now and notice the desperation in them. Wanting so bad to believe I was ‘normal’ and not face what my true self might be. I think we all do that to a degree…put what we wish was true or want our ‘friends’ to believe is true, despite the actual circumstances. When you think about it, you can’t be authentic in real life and not on social media…that’s an oxymoron for sure.

And when I put ‘friends’ in quotes (yes peeps, I know I’m not using “quotation marks” but apostrophes are easier for me to find on my keyboard 🙄) I do that for a reason. C’mon now…how many friends do you actually have? Hundreds? Really? You know hundreds of people so well that you could call them right now, from another phone because you have the number memorized (like friends usually do), tell them you’re in trouble and need them to bring a hundred bucks to you now, and they’ll drop anything they’re doing to come to your rescue. Because isn’t that a true friend? Someone who will be there for you not matter what? Someone that you know so well you could talk all about their likes, history, relationships, etc.? Nope.

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From Identity Magazine and how I look using my bifocals to read my laptop screen.

It’s almost like a contest to see who can have the most friends on FB…when in actuality, I would guess the vast majority are acquaintances and maybe not even that. I have over 1000 friends on FB (many of them students who I adore keeping up with) but in reality, I only have a couple of friends I can really talk with in my non-social media life. Literally two. Hmmmmm…I’m so often lonely, but have 1000 friends. Something just doesn’t sound right to me.

I also noticed I checked in a lot while out and about. Am I so narcissistic to think people give a flying rat’s ass where I ate dinner last night? That I’m in a new store? That I took a trip? Am I that important? So influential that the check-in will promote the business? For fuck sakes, no (sorry ma, but you know I drop the f-bomb just for you).

After the breakdown when I had to face the mental illness I battled all of my life, I started talking about it in dribs and drabs. I needed too for a couple of reasons. First, my masks didn’t just fall off during that time, they were stomped on as well. Second, I started allowing myself to be more genuine. More ‘me’. I was so fucking exhausted from acting all of the time, and didn’t have the energy to continue. And third? I was done being ashamed of who I was. Someone that’s always been different…always had a tough time making friends and fitting in…someone who is way way way too sensitive…someone who doesn’t always laugh and smile, but cries too. In other words, someone who is human, doing the best she can with the cards she’s been dealt.

So, once I was healed enough after the breakdown to be able to get back on FB, I discussed why I’d been absent. I was honest, more so than ever before, about having had the breakdown, what I had been dealing with, who I really was. Later, I did a Tedx Talk where I addressed being mentally ill for the first time in another very public forum. I think I did these things to make sure I had people around me who would not only understanding who I was, but hold me accountable for being real. Not fake. Then I started this blog just a couple of months ago to further yap about my bipolar life in a no holds barred way.

My point (after all of this rambling)? I need to make sure I’m consistently real on social media too. Last February, as I was spending my first Valentine’s day alone in decades (I hate this holiday…hello…be loving to your partner everyday), I scrolled through FB and read posts like “My husband just brought home 3 dozen red roses, booked us a cruise (not a good idea then, but who knew?), and bought me yet another diamond ring.” Okey dokey.  I was sitting at home in my old jammies with the hole in the arm pit, Biore strips on my blackhead infested nose, eating Reeses Pieces while bawling, and watching a Lifetime movie to make me feel better by seeing some boob being stalked by a deranged contractor. Great holiday. 😳

Unfortunately, I know a lot of ‘friends’ of mine on FB who are pretending their way through life via social media. They’re like I was: hoping that if they write it…put it out there…it’ll be true. I’m here to tell you grasshoppers, it’s not.

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No filter…I actually have pores! 

So now, when I’m having a shitty day and need some support I post “I’m having a shitty day and need some support.” It feels so freaking good! And this week, I uploaded a profile pic with no filter…there I am, wrinkles and all. But it’s me. Not a better, more attractive me. But me. And shouldn’t that be enough?

My new resolution (in writing so that I’ll have to honor it) is this: no more lying on FB, ever. If I’m sick and having diarrhea and feel a compulsive need to post, well, there you go. And no more filters (😱)…no more pretending. If I do any of these things, it means I’m not accepting myself for who I am or the life I’m actually living; and if I can’t do that, how in the hell can I expect others too? I’ve been working on this very thing for a couple of years now, and am understanding that there’s no shame in being who I am, which in my case is a thrice (never used that word before) divorced, mentally ill, 3 on a scale of 1-10 in looks, wrinkly, mom-bod (but no mom jeans…ever), imperfect woman. But now, I’m not wasting energy trying to think of posts that will make others envious. Pics that show me so freaking filtered I look 12. Lies about my life I have to remember so when I talk about my weekend to colleagues, I can keep my stories straight. I’m done with that.

And you know what? It’s actually quite liberating. 🙂

Kristi xoxo