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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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

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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

 

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” ~ Meatloaf

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So, first of all I used the title of one of my all time favorite songs; in fact, this was my go to song in High School for making out at parties (sorry, ma).😳 For some reason, just thought you’d like to know that.🙄

Anyhoot, I was visiting with a couple of neighbors down the street last evening and we were yacking about lawn mowers (yes, grasshoppers…single life is exciting) and then progressed into other things.  The wife was talking about her physical ailments and I said a few things about being bipolar.  THEN she said this (and I’m quoting her word for word):  “Yes…I know exactly what that is.  My cousin has it and she’s crazy crazy crazy too.”  She continued telling me how nuts this gal was and used the word loony as well.  Granted she’s 63 (which I only say because not much was known about some of these things when she was younger and that might account for her bad choice of words) but I was gobsmacked by her indifference and view of what I happen to have.

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Museums Victoria

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

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

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

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Whoever dates this winner is some lucky girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

    “You Should Have Seen His Face When I Started Taking My Clothes Off. Priceless.” ~ Stephenie Meyer (Breaking Dawn)

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    So, one of my Facebook buddies I’ve known since the 7th grade sent me a message the other day and said this:

    “And you are so easy to support.  You just put it out there!!  You never ask or demand, and you have this thing with honest reflection of the places and moments that make you whole.  I thought I was the only one with questions attached to things like joys and regrets.”

    I loved getting this and it showed me that opening up on this blog really is helpful to others.  We all have our challenges…our burdens…and to write about them and share them maybe helps to distribute that weight a little more easily, or eases the heaviness on some on our shoulders.

    When you hear the phrase ‘coming out’, you think of those who have revealed to their family, friends and colleagues about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  And that’s a wonderful thing!  For so long, members of the LGBTQ community were forced into ‘hiding’ so to speak.  To talk about their orientation was societal suicide and often still is.  They can lose family and  friends, be fired from jobs or denied promotions, be denied housing or custody of their children, be a victim of a hate crime, be an outcast in a neighborhood or community and the list goes on.

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    What’s so sad to me is that even though things have ‘gotten better’ more than 50% of LGBTQ have faced discrimination in just the last year, and even more frightening is there’s no federal law against this (Center for American Progress, May 2nd, 2017).  What the hell?

    The term ‘coming out’ regarding the mentally ill is similar.  Like the LGBTQ community, there’s a lot to lose and a lot of discrimination tied to having a mental illness:  housing, health care costs, work issues (yeppers), criminal justice issues (receiving longer sentences, etc.), loss of friends and difference in treatment among colleagues (been to that freaking rodeo) to name a few (National Alliance on Mental Illness, March 11th, 2020).

    So why did I do it?  Why do any of us do it, regardless of the issue we’re coming out for?  Because it’s not only hard to fake your way through life, it’s simply not fair.  Pushing down who you are to pretend to be who you’re not is exhausting, and shameful to the person.  You aren’t ‘good’ enough…’normal’ enough…’right’ enough to be fully accepted in our society, and feeling that way leads to self-stigmatization as well.  It also impedes seeking help/recovery and following through with it, as well as asking for support from others which leads to more feelings of low self-worth.  In other words, your ‘person’ is thwarted and you feel less than.

    Of course my family knew about me being bipolar and so many of them were supportive and accepting of the mentally ill ‘me’ which was such a relief and validated my worth.  I also share with my students, when it’s appropriate and in the context of what we are studying.  When I teach about mental illness, if I can’t talk about something I have openly, how can my students believe my lecture in which I state there needs to be acceptance of those with mental illness, education about the various illnesses, and a real effort to end the stigmatization of this population (which is quite large, by the way).  If I can’t talk about being bipolar without shame and share my experiences, everything I teach them is a lie.

    But there have been consequences for ‘coming out’ too.  Colleagues look at me differently.  Some are so supportive and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  Others have told me that it’s all in my head (hence the title of this blog!) and if I just got off those meds and kept a positive attitude, I’d be fine (oooookkkkkaaaayyyyy).  A couple told me to ‘pray it away’ (what the fuck?  I believe I was given this for a reason, peeps…and I would prefer these particular people pray away their ignorance instead).  I think the worst I’ve experienced at work was when I was having a very serious issue with a student at the same time of my mental breakdown and when I was at the bottom of the most serious depression I’ve ever had.  I was treated horribly (after 23 years of perfect service) and my mental state was obvious.  This was used against me as proof I was the cause of the stalking and direct, written threats I received.  I couldn’t fight it.  My illness was too strong right then.

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    How transparent should I be though?  Should I share everything?  My sissy and I were yacking about it last night (after I admired her highlights…they freaking rock), and she said I wasn’t being honest when I didn’t share everything going on in my life.  And she’s right.  I promised candor, but I realized there are some things I just can’t do that with.  I have my secrets…and I think we all do.  If I share every piece of me, what’s left that’s just mine?  It’s kinda like when sis and I would go trick-or-treating and take a look-see at our candy after.  I’d keep some of my treats hidden from her (I’m sorry T…I’ll buy you some Reeses peanut butter cups to make up for it) because I wanted those all for myself.  Likewise, it’s not always easy to be completely transparent.  Accountable.  And like all of us, it’s just too hard to be ‘out there’ all of the time.  I guess I just need to keep some of my ‘me’ inside too.

    I know my ‘coming out’ has helped people, and that quote at the beginning is only one of scores I’ve received.  Every time I hear that I’ve encouraged others to lessen their shame of having a mental illness and assured them it’s absolutely no fault of their own, I feel justified in this openness.  Is it worth the negatives?  You betcha.

    Like I’ve said in previous posts, ‘coming out’ has freed me.  Removed so many of the masks I was hiding behind.  Helped me to live more authentically which has bolstered my self-confidence and worth.  It ain’t always easy doing this, and it ain’t always everything in my life that I put out there.  But it’s real.  Something I wish we could all be, no matter what it is we’re struggling with.

    Kristi xoxo

    “Someone Call the Doctor. Got a Case of Love Bipolar.” ~ Katy Perry

     

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    So, I’m reading a book about a school shooting, and during the trial of the shooter, a psychiatrist is testifying after interviewing the boy.  The defense attorney asks what the psychiatrist was looking for in terms of mental illness, and he states ‘bipolar and schizophrenia.’  Heh?  Bipolar (I’m going to focus on this one since I have it)?  Really?  It’s perceived as being that dangerous it needs to be ‘looked for’ in a school shooter?  I’ve had a LOT of ups and downs with this illness, and it hasn’t been a bed of roses, peeps, but I have never entertained the thought of hurting others.

    After reading this I decided to peruse the web (you know, the one Al Gore invented) to see what is said about bipolar out there, because this particular illness really does have a lot of stigma attached to it.  So, I googled (that’s a search engine, ma…don’t monkey with it or you’ll get confused) ‘what are some questions people have about bipolar’ and I was gobsmacked (Lord, I love that word) about the way it’s perceived.  Let’s dig in, grasshoppers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kristi xoxo

     

    ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) ~ David Bowie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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


    Kristi xoxo

    “We Don’t Need No Education” ~ Pink Floyd

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    National Alliance on Mental Illness

    So, I’ve been teaching since I was 24 years old:  2 years olds (who scared the crap out of me), 5th and 6th graders, high schoolers, and of course, college, and through these experiences, I’ve learned there are 2 types of students – those who memorize and learn what they need to know for the subject, and those who take what they are learning and apply it to their lives in ways that allow for change and more insight to come about.  I think a lot of us are actually both.  There were classes I took where my main objective was to do all I could to get my grade and then scoot the hell on.  Ask me what I ‘learned’ in College Trigonometry.  The answer?  Not much.  I got my A and was very proud of that, but I never applied the info after my final exam; it wasn’t ‘important’ enough to my life and what I wanted to do, so the info has fallen by the wayside (Note to Dr. S:  you were an AWESOME professor to teach me something that was so hard for me to pick up…bless your heart in heaven!).

    I guess I’m feeling this way about what I’m trying to do with blogging: to educate others and help people see the inside perspective and challenges of mental illness, and then to take that info and run with it.  But I also understand this is very hard to do, particularly for those who have no experience with these issues themselves.

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    Besides my brain (🙄), I’m really quite healthy, and so it’s difficult for me to understand what it’s like to have diseases and physical illnesses.  For example, diabetes.  I have a friend with this, and he is struggling with a bit of a weight problem .  At times, I nag (yes, I said nag…I’m quite good at it actually) him to walk more, ride his indoor bike more, and eat better because I’ve read that losing weight and exercise is a great help for a diabetic.  And for me, this would be easy.  But I’m me…not him.  I don’t have any idea what it is to struggle with low blood sugar, to have to wear a monitor that’s showing insulin levels which must be checked dozens of times a day, to have diabetic neuropathy which makes balance and walking difficult.  I simply haven’t had this so I have no clue what it’s like to walk in his shoes, and the ‘advice’ I give to him is much more demanding to do than I can ever imagine.

    But by the same token, it’s the same with mental illness.  You can read all you want on it…show greater acceptance of people who suffer from it…vow to be kinder to those who have it, but actually doing these things is tough if there’s no personal experience to draw from.

    I’ve written a lot about how bipolars have heightened sensitivity and stronger emotional reactions, and research shows that even during our ‘middle’ states (called euthymia – where we aren’t too high or too low but experiencing more stable moods), we are still ‘hypersensitive to emotional stimuli and higher arousability.’  In other words, I’m a  potentially hot emotional mess, regardless of my cycle (that word always makes me think of my old menstrual cycles which I’m happy to say menopause has taken care of, thank the Lord).  I’ve also written about Rejection Syndrome which once again (if one has this particular symptom which I’m lucky to be blessed with myself 🙄) is always a part of a bipolars life regardless of cycle (but more pronounced when depressed ).

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    So, people have learned this from me and understand I have a brain disease that doesn’t affect my liver or my heart or my bones.  But, how can someone understand what it’s like to have a brain that is so ‘much’ unless they’ve experienced it themselves?

    Instead, those of us with bipolar might hear:  “OMG, don’t be so sensitive.”  OK…”OMG, don’t be so diabetic.”  Or, “OMG…you are so emotional and moody…you need to have better control of these things.”  OK…”OMG…you are so low on insulin and have nerve pain in your legs and feet that you need to have better control over those sugar levels.”  When it’s put this way, how silly and indifferent it sounds.  But to us with mental illness, the comparison is real.  (P.S.  If you grew up in the 80’s, feel free to say OMG like a Valley Girl).

    Look, I can’t control my moods…my emotions…my sensitivity anymore than someone can control what their pancreas is doing right now.  And yelling at us, or accusing us of using our disorder (yes, it’s very fucking fun to be on an emotional roller coaster all of the time) or ridiculing us for having ‘something in our heads’ compounds our symptoms even more.  The above is hard enough:  add guilt and shame to the mix and it can be deadly.  Literally.

    No one asks for a mental illness (and if they do…well…they’re nuts).  Whether it’s major depression, generalized anxiety, a personality disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc., we were just lucky enough to have been dealt that card (or often times, cards).  So, why are we blamed even though we’re the victim of the disorder?

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    I had a really sweet person talk to me on Facebook not long ago and they said this (with truly the best intentions):  “But you seem so normal.  I thought bipolars were like, more crazy, than you are.”  Hmmmmm.  Do you know what ‘crazy’ actually means?  Deranged.  Insane.  Mad.  Unless we’re channeling Ted Bundy, that’s not what mental illness is.  We are ‘normal’ people in that we love, work, read, garden, run, raise kids, clean our houses, mow our yards, ride our bikes.  Bipolar and all mental illnesses/disorders are always with us and these things can be a huge struggle at times; but we’re not ‘always’ the disease.  Major depression is always with my sissy, but she’s not always at the mercy of it.  Schizophrenia is always with my nephew, but he has stable times when you wouldn’t ever suspect he could be psychotic.

    Look, I love love love that y’all who don’t have a mental illness are reading this blog.  It shows you have a desire to learn more about these issues, as well as enjoying my incredible wit 🙄.  But may I ask you a huge favor?  Will you please do more for me?  For all of us who have these illnesses and disorders?  Try to use the info for more understanding.  More compassion.  More accurate perceptions that being mentally ill doesn’t mean being crazy.  Help others understand that too by correcting them when you hear stereotypes or misinformation.

    My goal here is to stop the stigma of mental illness.  I guess it started with me on these pages…but it ends with all of us.

    Kristi xoxo

    Maybe it’s About Starting Over and Creating Something Better.

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    So, I was thinking a lot today about what I would have changed in my life if I could go back in time…you know, have a do-over.  ‘Member when we were kids and we did something we didn’t like:  a painting where the eyes didn’t line up or missing the kickball on the first pitch.  When that happened, we could always have a do-over; just wad up that paper or take another pitch and suddenly, things were set straight.  Wouldn’t that just be fucking awesome to be able to reverse your life a bit whenever you needed and get things done right the second time around?

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    If this was possible, and I could go way back, I really don’t know where I would start!  Hmmmm.  Maybe Kindergarten?  Instead of watching the other kids and trying to figure them out, I could just jump in the fray and simply be me.  Or, when I was in 2nd grade and my teacher (who really was a sweetheart, but strict) wouldn’t let me wear my pink ‘see behind glasses’ I got in a box of Alpha-Bits that day (and sis wanted them but had her own real glasses).  They were so cool and I felt like a movie star in them.  But, Mrs. M. said they looked silly and I had to take them off in class.  Being the overly sensitive girl I was, this crushed me.  I translated this to be that I looked awful and disappointed my teacher.  I would like to go back and change my perception of that day (as well as my bangs and God awful clothes my ma made me and sis wear) and understand that not everything in life is personal.  That not everything revolved around me.  I think that’s when I really started having a stronger sense of being self-conscious; it was the first time I can remember where what I saw wasn’t what others did.

    Or, I could go back to my 5th grade class where I was badly bullied; one day he caught me behind a tree and wrapped his hands around my neck.  I was petrified but didn’t speak up because of his threats.  If I had, would I have been more apt to stand up for myself later in life too?

    I would definitely go back to Jr. High, which was actually the best couple years of my teenager-hood, and not try out for pom poms.  I sucked at it.  BIG time.  Not only did I have no sense of rhythm (like I do now…not) but I also looked like a Burger King sack in my red and yellow skirt and vest that was created from the most icky piece of polyester ever known to man.  Believe you me, that is something I would love to forget!

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    Yes, I circled my own face in my yearbook because I might forget myself otherwise. Please insert eye roll here.

    And high school.  Oh Lord, where do I start?  I think during my freshman year, I would want a do-over that probably would have affected all the rest of my life:  not caring about what other kids were saying.  If I hadn’t listened to them making fun of my looks…my body…my clothes.  If I hadn’t held my head down instead of up that year.  If I would have walked with confidence and shown pride in who I was, would that have changed the trajectory of my life?

    I would definitely go back and run out of the psychologists office (for you newbies, he sexually abused me for 2 years) the first time he touched me.  Period.  I also would have let my mom report it, and get that son of a bitch punished for what he did to all of us girls.  And letting that be a do-over might have made me more positive about relationships, more trusting, more open, less ‘needy’ (for lack of a better word…that one sounds pretty bad) and much more likely to better understand I don’t have to give anything to be loved, I can be loved just for little old me.

    Another thing in high school I would change (besides dying my hair orange along with my sis when we used too much Sun-In and then lied about it to our mom) would be my grades.  I sucked in my classes because I simply didn’t care.  I wanted to pass notes, doodle in my notebook, decorate the cover with Mrs. So and So to see what it would look like if I married any of the guys I drooled over.  I wanted to read novels instead of textbooks, and I wanted to spend time at my grandparents playing cards, riding bikes, and shooting baskets rather than doing stupid homework.  See, I love animals and I think I would have been a great vet (if I got over puking every time I see blood) who did a lot in terms of animal rescue and care if I would have gotten great grades and a scholarship to university.

    And as an adult?  OMG.  Can you have a do-over on a decade or two?  Hmmm.  I would definitely do-over marrying Hubby 1 (I know, they are so freaking hard to keep straight…I have flashcards in front of me to help).  We were so young and stupid when it came to what a marriage entailed.  And with Hubby 2?  I wouldn’t have avoided conflict like I have a tendency too, but would have faced our problems head-on instead of letting every little thing build up to an explosion that was way too much to handle.  And Hubby 3?  I would have drawn much stronger boundaries in terms of his motorcycle club and our life.  Sitting at home every weekend, and most nights, really wasn’t much of a marriage…in fact, it was pretty darn lonely.

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    I definitely want a do-over with J.  The first time he was cruel to me:  bye!  Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!  Or, at least the first time he cheated:  Buh Bye!  I would do-over the last time I saw my nephew and hugged him tighter.  So much tighter.  I would have fought how a threatening student was handled in regard to his treatment of me; I would have gone way further (like ma wanted us too, badly) in clearing my name, which up to that point at school was literally perfect after 21 years of service.

    Doesn’t this all sound so freaking good?  Doing all of this over so the related issues simply don’t exist anymore?  It would almost make life perfect, wouldn’t it?  Taking care of these pesky things that might haunt us to this day.

    But wait.  Let’s really think about this a tad bit more.  What if I had jumped into the fray in Kindergarten?  Would I have just followed anyone after that, or still have marched to the beat of my own drummer?  What if I would have reported the psychologist and been put on a stand and torn apart by a sleazy lawyer?  Would not being believed devastated me even more, with the lesson ‘never trust authority’ learned as well?  And what if I would have looked at those jerks in high school and said, up yours assholes.  Would I have gotten worse treatment for that?

    And doing my homework?  Why would I want to go back and do that for piss sakes?  Because I did screw up so bad, I went to community college and it gave me a love for how they allow people to find their footing while being in a smaller, more comfortable classroom.  It opened up so many possibilities for me and proved I could actually succeed in school.  If I would have become a vet, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of the thousands of students that have been in my classes and all who have become one of the most important parts of my life.  When I say I love my students, I mean it.

    Hubby 1 and I had no kids so there’s nothing connecting us now.  But does that mean our marriage wasn’t worth it?  Or, did it help me go to Hubby 2 with more maturity and realistic expectations for us?  And my God, I would never ever do over my marriage to Hubby 2 no matter what it ended up like:  I got my boy.  And Hubby 3?  He actually did show me a new world and to be honest, he helped me to see that the men who look to be the meanest or toughest, are often the softest and sweetest; and that you have to get to know anyone before you can make a determination as to who they are.

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    And J?  Hmmmm.  That’s a toughie.  He really is the one who haunts me the most.  I think it’s because of all we went through…all he put me through.  Actually, it’s time I took equal responsibility:  all I allowed him to do (and I was no angel either).  But you see, we had really great times too.  So many little jokes, and affectionate names, and things only he and I could understand and laugh about.  I could bawl in front of him, sing my loudest, talk my dirtiest and he accepted it.  He didn’t judge.  I cherish the time I spent with him and his kids, because I felt like I was getting a 2nd chance at a young family again which I loved.  And anytime I’d say, “Can I ask you something?” he’d always say: “You can ask me anything.”  He was very open to hearing me, listening to me.  Were those times worth the bad?  I’m starting to think in some respects, they were.

    I was telling my son about this post while he was rummaging around the basement and here’s what he said about do-overs:  “Every decision you have ever made has led to where you are right now.”  So many of my decisions in life have been crummy…so many of my perceptions have been skewed.  But I’ve learned from them.  Sometimes suffered because of them.  And I am who I am.  These decisions have taught me compassion, how to listen, the value of education, the importance of always saying I love you before saying goodbye.

    But, there is one thing I would like a do-over on.  And I would take it if I could.  Asking for help when I knew I was really spiraling downwards in my teens instead of channeling my sickness into the ‘crazy’ Kristi who partied.  Going to a psychiatrist to be diagnosed with bipolar so much earlier and then put on meds which would have lent a stability to everything else.  Taking off the masks I had to wear to hide this mental illness I knew was inside of me, but I was too much of a dumbass chicken to face.  Not being ashamed to let out the tears instead of pasting on a smile.  Being able to say “Hey, I’m mentally ill…that’s just a part of who I am”  instead of saying “Hey, I’m trying to be as perfect as I possibly can because it diverts attention away from the imperfection inside where at times I don’t know what the hell is going on in my head and I’m scared out of my fucking mind that I’m crazy and this mania will never stop and the depression will get worse and worse until there comes a day where I simply give up.”  Would have made a big difference, huh?

    Look, I know this isn’t possible.  No matter how much I want it…how much it would have eased the burden on ma, O, sis and my family…how much it would have made my life easier, this is definitely one thing that will never get a do-over.  But maybe that’s OK.  Maybe I had to go through all of this until I was ready to face it,  have the courage to talk about it, open up and speak about it, and finally write about it.  I have you peeps tell me that reading about my experiences helps you; that it makes you feel less alone and more accepting of yourselves.  Helps you to understand it’s ok to ask for help.  That it’s all right to take off your masks. A do-over would take this away from you, and you know what?  That’s something I just won’t allow to happen.

    Kristi xoxo