To say or not to say, that is the question.

So, my counselor and I were talking a couple of days ago, and I was telling her about this blog (or as my sis and I pronounce it: blawg).  I told her the purpose of it was to be open and honest about my journey with mental illness and to show others that you can be a successful person, even if you suffer from one.  I told her I wanted to break down stigmas of the mentally ill as being dangerous, dependent, or volatile people who should be avoided; that I felt the need to take off the masks I wore for decades while trying to act ‘perfect’, so that others can feel more comfortable doing the same.  She asked me what all I share, and I told her I was pretty frank in my posts, and got as personal as I saw fit.

Then, we started yacking about my 2 date guy because I wanted to tell her it was no longer in the works.  I also told her that I thought him reading my blog may have scared him a bit (that may not be true…I just have a feeling), and off we went on a discussion as to whether or not me blogging was worth possibly sacrificing potential relationships.

And I had a long drawn out answer for her: “Yes.”

I’ve always been a talker (I know…huge shocker for those who know me) and I’ve always had a hard time respecting boundaries.  Even though I’ve only started speaking out about being bipolar for a couple of years now, I still opened up way too much to people about other aspects of my life.  I am one of these people who speak first, and think later!  Not necessarily a good thing!  Part of that has to do with being bipolar, and another part comes from being such a feeler while lacking enough outlets in which to talk, that when I get into conversations, I want to jump right in.  Head first.

But what’s too much to share about myself on this public blog?  Actually, a few things.  Yes, I share things about relationships that I feel are pertinent to my feelings and behavior, but I would never share intimate details of alone time, if you get my drift.  I’m also very careful what I share about family, and don’t use their names, only initials which aren’t always theirs.  I never want to identify anyone on this, and even yesterday, when I used pics of ma, T, and O, I asked them first before I did so.

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Photo by Tayeb MEZAHDIA on Pexels.com

We all have secrets, don’t we?  Secrets that are only ours…only in our head…only in our hearts.  There’s a place inside of me that’s for me only.  And I protect it.  I’ve learned through experience that revealing everything about yourself makes you extremely vulnerable, and can be used against you as well.

Those of my students reading this will tell you something I teach in my Marriage and Family classes is to zip it.  We live in a culture where total self-disclosure is an everyday thing.  We see people talk about everything.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  “Hey, Jerry…I had sex with my sister’s cousin husbands wife, stole a $1000 from my mom, and tried to boink the UPS worker when they delivered my box of sex toys.”  OK.  Good to know.  Listen, I’m a huge believer that we DON’T have to share everything.  NO!  I think it’s so important to weigh the pros and cons of disclosing.  Of baring yourself.  I truly believe that not everything has to be heard.  We may need to SAY it, but they may not need to HEAR it.  Often, we disclose to unburden ourselves.  To make ourselves feel better.  But here’s the thing, grasshoppers:  when you unload your burden when talking to another, it moves that burden to their shoulders.  Why would we do that?  What purpose does that really serve?  When I need to unload, I talk to God.  Edward.  Dottie.  They are all great listeners and I know they can handle any burden I give them well.

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Photo by Wery Shania on Pexels.com

Has anyone ever told you:  “I really shouldn’t tell you, but…”?  When that happens to me, I say:  “Then don’t.”  Look, if there’s something I need to know, I’ll find out.  Why would you want to give me some juicy tidbit just to get it out there, when I’ll probably resent you for sharing it with me?  You know, the ole’ ‘hate the messenger’ type thing.

BUT, you might be saying, what about guilt?  Ok, what about it?  I knew a gal who was attracted to a colleague, and although they had lunch together a couple of times, she realized she was close to a boundary she had set with her husband and what was at stake.  So she stopped seeing him in any social capacity and only spoke professionally to him at work.  Nevertheless, she just HAD to tell her hubby about this.  WHY??  Nothing really happened.  But, she told (against my advice).  He wasn’t just upset (like she assumed he’d be), he was furious.  He took it way out of context and told her that she had probably ‘fucked’ this guy too, and when she vehemently denied it, he called her a liar (‘thou doth protest too much’ type thing).  Their marriage was never the same, and they divorced a couple of years later.  Hmmmm.  Was unburdening that guilt worth it?  Ask her 2 kids.  They are now living with a stressed, single mom who is fighting to make ends meet, while rarely seeing their dad.  Guess what?  If you have guilt, suck it up, Buttercup.  THAT is the burden YOU live with…the penance, if you will.

Look, if someone doesn’t like what I share, then they don’t have to read it.  That was easy to figure out.  For Petes sake, close the freaking tab.  Block my site.  Turn off the damned computer or shut down that iPad and take a walk.

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From The Guardian

But I’m not going to stop sharing, because if I can’t be genuine and talk about my life as it really is…and not just a ‘filtered’ social media version of it that’s all rainbows and sunshine, then I’ve put those masks back on, and they will eventually suffocate me in the process.  Not worth a couple of people disliking me.

There’s another problem I have too (among hundreds of others):  I not only yap too much, I also ask too many questions.  Hello!  I have degrees in Psychology…it’s sorta natural for me to do that.  And to be honest, I think the most important question that we don’t ask enough, is WHY.  Why are you so angry?  Why are you acting so hateful?  Why do you look so down today?  Why did you share that with me?  Look, behavior and feelings aren’t just random.  There’s a cognitive process behind them and knowing the ‘why’ can help immensely in understanding the person.  Another important question is WHAT.  What can I do for you?  What do you need?  What is hurting you?

We are so quick to judge people on their behavior, that we often don’t stop to ask what’s BEHIND it.  The whats’ and whys’.  Imagine if we asked kids who misbehave that question before calling them out in front of the class.  “Little Johnny, I asked you to stay in with me during recess today to talk about what might be happening to make you act out so much today.  Why are you doing this?  What can I do?”  Wow.  Think that could change a life or 2?

I’m also a big believer that past behavior can be a good indicator of future behavior.  Not always, but often.  I like to dig around in peoples lives; I find it fascinating, and as someone who has worked with 100’s of students from my classes on their personal issues, digging can uncover truths layer by layer.

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Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

I ask about past relationships when I’m dating someone new.  Look, when you’ve been cheated on a couple of times in your life during both a committed partnership and a marriage, you want to understand where exes stand in their life.  How closed those chapters are.  It’s kinda hard not to worry about stuff like that.  But that’s where the WHY comes back into play.  “Why are you asking me these things, Kristi?”

Look, I know I share a lot.  I know that some of it may not be the most comfortable reading material out there.  But I also know this:  I am NOT going to hide myself anymore.  I’m not going to fake my way through the next few decades like I did before.  I am not going to be ashamed to be me…warts and all.  This is who I am.  It’s my bipolar life.  This is my experience with mental illness and it ain’t always purty.  But it’s real.  And to frank with you: I’m going to fucking own it.

Kristi xoxo

Luck is this Lady Today.

So, writing about my bipolar journey and life isn’t always the most cheerful experience.  Those of us with mental illness know that there are some pretty tough times we have to work ourselves out from.  But, I am so freaking blessed in my life and never want to lose sight of that.  Ever.

Take my ma.  Please.  (Just joking, ma…I won’t let you go.).  I call my mom my ‘bra’ because she’s been so supportive of me all of my life.  I remember lying (gasp) as a little girl (BTW, when I type ‘girl’ you need to say it like Linda Belcher does:  ‘giorl’) that I was sick just to stay home with her during the day…and this was from someone who loved school so much.  In high school, I had a party at our house in which I was told I could invite a few friends.  So, I did.  And those few friends invited a few friends, etc.  The party of 10 grew to be a party of about 40 (some of you reading this were there!) and even though I swore with the best (ahem) intentions, alcohol miraculously appeared.  It was a GREAT time though!  I got to kiss my long desired dreamboat (who smelled of whiskey and polo…a combination that still gets me a bit hot) while others were doing Mexican hat dances on the carpet, with tortilla chips under their feet.  When mom and her husband came home, they didn’t yell like I thought they would.  My step-sister and I had cleaned the best we could in our inebriated states, and since I was still ‘tipsy’, I think mom figured she could yell at me some other time.  I would have been furious at my kid doing this, but mom was pretty cool about it.  She put me through hell the next day though by vacuuming, emptying ice trays, and anything else she could think of that was noisy as hell to further compound my hangover headache, but besides that, nothing else was said.  Except…that I could never…EVER…EVER…have a party again.  Go figure.

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Isn’t Ma beautiful???

I’ll never forget when mom took me to lunch one day after Hubby 2, our son, and I moved back to IL from Kansas where we had lived for 3 years.  I remember the weather, the restaurant, the booth, and the food on the table when she said this:  “I found a lump.”  I don’t think words can adequately describe my feelings at that moment.  Mom fought like a warrior over the next year though and survived a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat this metastasized cancer, and has now been cancer free for a little over 20 years.  She’s a fighter like no other I’ve seen.

When I had a breakdown a couple of years ago, my mama saved my life.  Literally.  She and my doctor were my salvation and she had to work with me everyday to make sure I was just eating and showering.  I was at her house all of the time either crying, staring off in space, or just being close to her so I couldn’t cut myself anymore.  She doesn’t take enough credit for what she did for me.  She should though.  I wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t been for her.

And my sister?  When I was a tot, I could hardly speak to where anyone was able to understand me.  The roof of my mouth is incredibly high and when I talk, I can’t use my tongue against it to help form words.  So, T was my translator.  She’s OLDER than me (see that, T??  You’re OLDER!) and was truly my voice.  In every single pic of us at little kids, she is standing with her arm around me, and when we were in grade school and both of us were getting bullied, she protected me.

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Me and my sis…2 peas in a pod!

On snow days, we’d tie our beanbag chairs together in the downstairs, and pretend we were stranded at sea and couldn’t move off of them!  We’d take bike rides to Grandpa and Grandmas, and as we got older, we’d boogie off to the drug store to buy make up and try it out on one another.  I was the sickly, puny one as a kid and then with having anorexia and bipolar, I know T has often been second to the attention I took…and still take.  She’s the smartest, most kind-hearted person I know.  Really.

And my son?  Well…what do you say about perfection?  OK.  I know he’s not perfect (sorry, porkchop), but he’s damn close.  He was the funniest, sweetest, most adorable kid ever and grew up to be such a good, kind, talented man.  O has aphantasia which is the inability to see pictures in your brain…you actually don’t have a ‘minds eye.’  We didn’t understand this had a name until a few years ago, but as early as Jr. High, when his geometry teacher told the kids to picture a cube and then to rotate it in their minds,   O couldn’t do it.  He simply couldn’t see it.  He would always tell me he didn’t really dream and when he did, it was like fleeting images of black and white.  His dad and I had no idea that such a condition existed, but now I can see how he’s had this all his life.

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My amazing son…introducing me to IKEA in Dallas a couple of years ago!

O always wanted cameras.  When he was 4, we started going to pools every summer afternoon, and he would ask for underwater cameras and took amazing pics even at his age.  As he got older, I’d get him more and more disposable cameras before buying him the real thing.  Now, he’s a professional wedding photographer who has already received national attention.  I understand how for him, photographs ARE his memory, and his passion is to create those precious memories for others as well.  Have I mentioned how amazing he is?

Another blessing in my life are my students!  I taught elementary school for a couple of years before getting my M.S. and I loved my 5th and 6th graders so much!  When I started teaching college at the ripe old age of 28, I feared I’d miss that close connection.  How wrong I was!  I absolutely, unequivocably LOVE my students!  Each and every one of them.  They have given me so much more than I think I’ve given them, and when I’m at the store, and I hear someone shout “Ms. P!” or “Professor K!” my heart soars!

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I can’t share a pic of any of my students, but you can see the joy in my face when I’m with them!

So many of them are on my Facebook and to see how they have succeeded in their careers, started beautiful families, and become incredible people is more joyful than I can express.  I may forget names after having so many thousand students over these last 24 years, but I remember every single face…and I’m touched that they remember me as well!

There are so many other blessings I could talk about:  all of my other family (yes, Edward and Dottie, this includes you), my colleagues, my home, my neighbors, my health, my finances, and the list could go on and on and on.

And who do I have to thank for all of this?  Well, the big guy himself.  God.  Yep, I’m a believer.  Have been for as long as I can remember.  I could go into a big testimony of how God came into my heart, but I’m not going too.  As much as I think it’s wonderful to share your faith, which I do with people who want to share with me, I also think it’s kind of personal to talk about since words actually minimize that experience.  I talk to God a lot, and I also pray.  And yes, those are 2 different things to me.  He’s very good at listening to me chit-chat, and I know he hears my prayers since they’ve been so generously answered.  I haven’t deserved the blessings that I’ve received, but like any father, God gives me exactly what he knows I need.  ‘Nuff said.

You know it’s so easy to lose sight of the positives in your life when you deal with the negative ramifications of mental illness day to day, and I think it’s important to always keep those in mind.  I don’t ever want to forget what’s wonderful in my life and get mired only in the lousy.  That wouldn’t be fair:  it would be ignoring all of the people and things in my life that are so incredible.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

The Tragedy of it All.

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Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

So, I’ve written a lot since I’ve started this blog, and it means so much to me.  When I began this, I told myself these posts were my chance to say some of what I need to say, some of what people need to hear, and sometimes, a little bit of both.  But this is the first post I’ve written while tears are streaming down my face.

I’ve talked about my ex-partner in posts before, and I think it’s because the wounds from the relationship are still fresh, and because I thought he was my forever (actually, I thought all of them were until him, but c’est la vie).  I also write about him because he’s mentally ill like me.  He’s been diagnosed with PTSD from his 3 tours overseas in the Army, and also with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I believe is caused by a genetic component (I believe his mom also has this disorder), and also because of the abuse he endured as a child: serious physical and psychological abuse with periods of forced isolation where he literally couldn’t move from his bed for weeks at a time.  I was attracted to him before I knew all of this, and after he told me his story, it made me love him even more; I felt so much empathy and compassion for this man who had been through so much.  

For the last couple of days, he’s been messaging me.  The messages are horrifying.  Ever since his unfaithfulness last October, he’s been on a downward trajectory.  He’s completely isolated himself from everyone, including his 2 kids, and has told his family members that he hates them and won’t have anything more to do with them ever.  I know some of this behavior is the BPD.  But I also know he’s taking all of the pain of his childhood and tours, and turning it outward as anger against the only targets he has.  The problem is that many of his targets don’t deserve to be his scapegoat, most especially his children.

When I first met them (one was in Kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade), I fell in love with them immediately and completely.  I love kids and these 2 are so smart, sweet, affectionate, and funny.  To be honest, I didn’t know I could love other kids as much as I do them, with the same unconditional love I feel for my own son, and my nieces and nephews.  The feelings blew me away.  Once, my sister said this: “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than both.”  She’s right.

These kids have been through a lot in their lives.  Not having their dad around because of his tours, moving around the country multiple times, and then experiencing a contentious divorce took their toll.  The little guy is extremely sensitive and like me is a huge feeler who is at a loss as how to deal with the emotions of what he’s been through, so he internalizes them.  He doesn’t eat well.  He doesn’t have friends. And he lives in his own world, not wanting others to intrude.  I’m lucky he let me in.   The little miss is also a sensitive child, but as opposed to internalizing, she externalizes her feelings.  She’s a clinger, and just wants to feel love from anybody and everybody.  In that regard, she’s like me.

When J told me he completely cut off everyone in this life (I think I’m the only one he can talk, or in this case text, to), I assumed he didn’t mean these sweeties.  You see, during our 3 years together, J learned so much more about being a parent than he previously knew.  He built a strong relationship with them, and we did so many fun things together as a family:  museums, zoos, hikes, eating out, birthday parties, swimming, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. and I could see the connection to their dad get stronger and stronger.  He also worked hard to provide a home for them.  He got a really nice apartment in a family oriented neighborhood, and the kids were thrilled at having this with their dad.  J and I had fun buying bunk beds, comforters, toys, books…anything that would create a positive environment for them.  He took them to the private school he got them into every morning, picked them up afterwards, started little miss in Taekwondo, made nice dinners for them, bought them birds so they could have pets, and hugged and cuddled them to their hearts desire.

Then, this BPD took over.  Actually, it had taken over before, something that I experienced first hand.  I was on the receiving end of rages, weeks of silence, damaging words and actions, but to be honest, I knew when it was the illness that was in charge, and not ‘him’.  People questioned me again and again why I kept loving this man…why I forgave him over and over.  The answer is simple:  because I’m mentally ill too.  When I’m in a depression or a period of mania, I’m not in control either.  I do things, say things, act out on things that I never would do when I’m in a more self-restrained time.  Sometimes…well maybe always…it takes someone mentally ill to truly understand another’s struggle.  Once I had a student say to me, “I like talking to you, Professor K.  When I tell you I’m depressed, I know you get it.”  And yes, I do.

But this time for J it’s different.  The BDP is in total control.  100%.  And it’s going to stay that way for however long he lives because he’s doing nothing to try to fight it at all.  He’s wallowing in it. Yes, I said wallow.  He’s feeding that monster we’ve talked about an awful lot of food.  He’s given up.  He’s become trapped in this disorder without grabbing onto the rope that’s there, and pulling himself up as much as he can.  He’s pulled up before…he just won’t even try to do it again.  He said he likes the wallowing.  The hating.  The anger.  The isolation.

And I think he’s a fucking liar.  He experienced so much as a kid that like his little guy, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings.  So, by killing his soul, I guess he’s killing those emotions too.

But the real tragedy?  These sweeties.  After having a dad for these past few years, how can they ever understand why he’s no longer in their lives?  Why ‘his’ home is no longer theirs?  How can they take another loss?  Another upheaval?  Another piece of their hearts destroyed?  He’s doing to them what was done to him (to a degree).  Isolating them.  Rejecting them.  Maybe he thinks that will heal him.  It won’t.  All it will do is continue this generational cycle of abuse that’s been in his family for decades, and then cause these 2 innocent angels to grow up with what J is battling himself.  He had been reversing this trend for years so well…the kids were flourishing and J seemed happy and content.  It’s like he got the diagnosis of BPD and decided to live down to that as much as he can.  It’s the excuse I guess he was finally looking for to hate.  He’s making this diagnosis a label to be absorbed, as opposed to a diagnosis to aid in understanding. Dammit, J, you fought fucking Akeida for 3 years in desert conditions on the front lines, how can you not fight against this too?  Your kids lives are worth the battles this is going to give you;  you are worth the battle.  I know J is still in there.  I’ve seen him.  I’ve loved him.  He’s a smart, funny, passionate guy that he’s allowed this beast to consume.

Mental illness is a bitch to live with.  Y’all know that.  But I also understand first hand, that it’s a bitch to deal with in others too.  I’ve put my mom, son, and sis through so much.  I know I have.  If I could take back what I’ve said and done, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  It’s agonizing to know how they have been victims of my bipolar.  I can’t think about it without feeling so fucking guilty and ashamed, and I know words can’t take away the pain I’ve caused them.

When I attempted suicide a couple of years ago, I laid on my bed, ready to go to sleep forever.  And then God spoke to me.  Yes, he spoke to me.  He showed me my son.  My mom.  My sister.  My family.  My students.  He showed me the pain they would experience.  How horrible it would be for my mom to bury her daughter.  For my son to bury his mom.  And that’s what turned me around.  This fucking bastard of a mental illness is not going to be who I am.  I’m going to always fight and fight and fight to stay me as much as I possibly can.  I’m gonna win some battles.  I’m gonna lose some battles.  But I tell you what, every one of those is worth the bloodshed.

Kristi xoxo

 

Shame on you.

So, I was surfing around on my iPad last night, and came across a couple of blurbs about celebrities who have been age shamed lately.  Eva Mendes posted a pic and someone said she was getting older (OK…how should she stop time?), and another was of Gwen Stefani who wore a leotard, hoodie and boots with sequins while giving a concert.  People said she should ‘act her age’ and ‘quit performing since she’s so old’ (she’s 50!).  Lara Spencer on Good Morning America was age-shamed because she posed in a dress with ‘old looking knees’, and Madonna was shamed regarding her old looking hands, and actually had multiple, invasive, painful treatments on them to make them look younger.  And we all know about fat shaming:  take a look at the tabloids this summer and we’ll see pics of celebrities who have the “Worst Beach Bodies” because of weight.

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Shame.  That’s an interesting word; one we need to understand since it’s being done so much to others on social media.  Do you know what it means?  To shame someone is to try to make them feel they are disgraceful or should be humiliated by what they ‘are’.  It means you should feel bad for whatever someone deems to be an issue.  Look at those words:  disgraceful, humiliated, guilty.  Damn.

Of course we should feel shame when we do something wrong.  Self-shame in that regard is healthy since it makes us realize how wrong we were and then hopefully makes sure we don’t do whatever it was again.  I once read a parenting book that said “You should never allow your child to feel shame.”  What the fuck??  Of course I wanted O to feel shame when he did something wrong.  How else could he learn to internalize his own consequences for behavior?  And I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of things in my life I am ashamed of, and rightfully so.

However, we aren’t looking at personal, internal shame.  We’re looking at what’s put upon us by others who want us to feel shame simply for ‘being.’  Age shaming?  OK…guess you’re not going to get older (let me know how that goes).  Fat shaming?  All righty…stop eating those desserts before you gain a few.

Hmmmmm.

But, what really hits home for me is mental illness shaming.  And yep, it happens.  The mentally ill are shamed for having a disorder or condition.  Period.  We are supposed to feel humiliated, disgraced, less than.  Our illnesses are shameful while other medical conditions such as arthritis, COPD, asthma, etc. are accepted as a struggle the person has to bear.  “Of course, take the medications that help treat the symptoms.”  “Of course you can’t join us for dinner since you aren’t feeling well.”  “Of course, take your time…I know you are struggling today.”

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Gemma Correll

What?  Of course physical medical conditions should be treated with such care and support!  But, shouldn’t that hold true for MENTAL ILLNESSES we well?  Sadly, those of us who live with mental illness hear things like this instead:

  • “Do you really need all of those meds?  Don’t they just screw up your brain even more?  I wouldn’t take something that messes with MY brain!”
  • “C’mon.  You’ve been depressed long enough.  Get out there and so something!”
  • “You can’t make it?  Why are waiting until now to tell me?  What the hell?”
  • “Therapy?  How does talking to someone help?  No one’s probing my mind.”  (Thank fuck for that.)

And of course, the list goes on.

Why is it that so many people look at mental illness as something WE are at fault for?  That we must have ASKED for?  That we should be able to control on our own?  Maybe they think we are ‘sick in the head’ because we’re being punished for something.  Why can’t people understand that our illness are often biological too?

In a study done by Ole A. Andreassen at the University of Oslo, people with bipolar have thinning gray matter, particularly in the parts of the brain that control inhibition and motivation (the frontal and temporal lobes).  Psycheducation.org states that “Evidence is growing quite strong that a region of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex is underactive in people with bipolar disorder even when they are having no symptoms at all.”

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health-innovations.org

 

The Stanford University School of Medicine has determined that scrambled connections between the part of the brain that processes fear and emotion and other brain regions could be the biological reason for types of anxiety disorders and even depression.

MRI’s show structural abnormalities in the brains of those with major depressive disorder or social anxiety disorder according to a study by Youjin Zhao from Sichuan University in China.

In terms of eating disorders, findings are showing that the hypothalamus may not be functioning correctly in triggering the response of being full in the person.  Further, researchers are also determining that certain neurotransmitters in the brain are tied to eating disorders as well.

So…we are finding more and more biological causes of mental illnesses.  Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and even some personality disorders.  Borderline, for example, is now considered an inheritable brain disease with specific brain abnormalities.  Wow.

SSSSSOOOOO, here’s my question.  Why in the HELL are we shamed for having a biological brain disorder???  Answer that for me, peeps.  Mental illnesses are not made up for attention or an excuse or crutch people use when they can’t cope.  They are BRAIN disorders.  Period.  And we should feel guilty for having one (or in my case, 2)?  We should feel disgraced that our brains differ from others?  We should be humiliated to carry a diagnosis showing that we have brain abnormality?

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NO, grasshoppers, we shouldn’t.  Why in the fuck should I apologize or feel shameful for having bipolar?  Why should I have to worry about ‘coming out’ and disclosing this to everyone?  (Kristi…are you sure you should talk about all of this?  What about your job?)  First, it’s a fucking career I went to school for 8+ years to get (so let’s get that straight right now!).  Second, why should I HAVE to worry about having an illness?  A disorder?  OH YEAH.  Because it’s in my brain.  Even though I earned a freaking M.S. in 18 months, while taking care of a toddler, and teaching to pay for it, people should still worry that I just might screw things up at school.  Well, I haven’t yet for 23 years…so…

Here it is:  I’m so tired of people shaming other people for things that they can’t help or control.  I’m going to get old (OK, I’m already there).  I’m going to gain weight as I age (less estrogen, less metabolism, more tummy).  And I’m going to have this bastardly bipolar until the day I die.  Except now there are studies showing how dementia is more likely to happen among us who have bipolar, so that’s something else to look forward too as well.  Goody.

We who have mental illnesses shouldn’t HAVE to be afraid to talk about it…ask for support…get compassion.  I understand when my neighbor with arthritis can’t carry in her own groceries, so I do it for her.  Why can’t others understand that when I’m depressed, I simply can’t answer my phone at times?  Can’t go out to the mall?  Can’t make plans for the week?  When are us ‘crazy, psychotic sickos’ going to get the same treatment as those with physical disorders?

I don’t have the answer for that, grasshoppers.  But you know, I’m just hopin’ and prayin’ it happens soon.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

My Lesson in Schizophrenia.

So, Hubby 3 has a nephew named Jack (I changed his name for privacy!) and he is a paranoid schizophrenic.  A few years ago, when Hubby and I were married, his sister came to town from Florida (where she lives) with Jack (25 at the time) to visit her and hubbies mom who was suffering with lung and breast cancer.  Right before she left, she came to us and said this:  “I’m not taking Jack with me.  I rented an apartment, and it has a 6 month lease.  I can’t handle him anymore.  He’s yours now.”  And there we were with the responsibility of Jack for 2 years.

The first thing we learned was that Jack had no medication for his schizophrenia.  We got him set up with a behavioral health facility here in town, and he was quickly put on  anti-psychotic medication.  This really helped, and for a while, we thought he could maintain his apartment, with us checking on him daily.  We had no idea how serious his schizophrenia was at that point.

A couple of weeks after getting him settled and hooked up with services, we bought him a bus pass and a cell phone.  We wanted him to be able to get to us and around town easily as well as call us anytime.  But, instead of him calling us one day, it was his landlord.  He said the apartment Jack was living in was a “shithole” (his words) and he was kicking Jack out.  We went to talk to Jack, and found what the landlord said was literally true.  Within a week of us not seeing the apartment (he had been visiting us), we were shocked by what we saw.  There was poop smeared on the walls because he had run out of toilet paper, rotten food on the counters with maggots beginning to develop, and garbage strewn all over the place.  We also saw Jack wasn’t taking his meds, and was clearly not able to live on his own at all.  After talking with his caseworker, we got him into a great group home where he would be supervised, given his meds, and taught the general  life skills he needed.

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Photo by Malcolm Garret on Pexels.com

By the way, Jack didn’t want to live with us.  He wanted more freedom than we would have allowed him and since both of us worked full-time, he wouldn’t have gotten the supervision needed.  Jack lasted about 3 weeks in the group home, and then got kicked out for not following the rules.  So, with more calls to his caseworker and other agencies, we got him into a subsidized apartment with  home visits scheduled as well as us checking on him everyday.  He had also been taking his meds at the group home and he swore to us he would continue (of course, we knew that wouldn’t happen…Jack didn’t like them).  He got kicked out there within a month, and one day, we went to check on him and he wasn’t there.

All of this time, he’d come to visit us.  I’d always have a supply of t-shirts, underwear, jeans, socks, etc. since he seemed to lose his own or get them so dirty or torn they were unsalvageable.  I also made him take a shower when he got here ,while I washed his laundry.  The first time he showered, he was out within a minute and I shouted to him if he had used soap.  He told me I hadn’t told him too, so I explained in detail what to do and he learned to shower “Aunt Kristi’s way”!  I’d also make him his favorite meal:  grilled cheese with soup or chili.  According to Jack, I made a mean cheese toastie!  Sometimes, he’d start pounding on it with his fists “to kill the bugs on it” or study the chili to look for any evidence of tampering.  Once he looked and then I assured him everything was OK, he’d eat.  I’d usually have a new phone for him too; he went through them at about one a week, so I bought a few burner phones with minutes on them from Dollar General.

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Photo by Arian Malek Khosravi on Pexels.com

During this time, he moved around from friend to friend, and finally, he ended up homeless.  We hated this and begged him to go back to the behavioral health facility and get back on meds, which might have allowed him to go back to the group home.  He wouldn’t.  He liked being homeless.  He said he liked the people he had found and being on his own, living on his wits.  We usually knew where he was during the day (our local homeless day center) and then had ideas of where he was living on the streets.  We’d drive around until we found him, would offer him food or anything else he might need,  and then he would say he needed to get back to business.  This consisted of him making ‘traps’ (they were harmless stacks of boxes, etc.) to catch the spies who were out to get him.  Once we took him to the psychiatric floor at our local hospital, but he was discharged in days with meds that he pitched after we left him.

One day, I got to the day center to say ‘howdy’ and he wasn’t there.  I talked to some of his friends, and finally one said this:  “Some people said they took him to the woods and killed him.”  Now, this was coming from another guy with schizophrenia, so we didn’t know how seriously to take this info.  We called the police and they said they would investigate but in the meantime, to see if we could find him because he was most likely alive.  Hubby walked parks for hours and hours each night while I drove all over town.  As the days wore on, the police took the info more seriously and interviewed a couple of people who said where his body could be found.  Along with the police, we looked and looked, but nothing.

The news station ran a story on Jack and there was also an article in our local paper;  we wanted to know if anyone had seen him.  Here’s what happened:  social media blew up with the most horrible comments I’ve ever read…in fact, I have tears in my eyes just remembering.  People said things like this:  “Why waste resources on this sack of shit?”
“Homeless people get what they deserve.”  “I hope he’s dead so he quits draining our system.”  “They’re all fucking drug addicts.”  “Fuck him…I ain’t wasting my time looking for this asshole.”

When I started reading these, I was gobsmacked.  Truly.  These were people I knew!  See, Jack’s last name is different than Hubbies, and people didn’t know he was my nephew.  So, I wrote a post myself talking about how Jack was my family, that I loved him, how he was mentally ill, and that he needed help.  All of a sudden, the tide changed.  “OH…I didn’t know he was YOUR nephew.”  “I’m sorry!  I wouldn’t have said those things if I had known that.” and blah blah blah.

Really?  What the fuck?  It’s OK to wish someone dead if you DON’T’ know them?  It’s fine to say a mentally ill young man is a ‘sack of shit’ unless he’s Prof K’s nephew?  What the hell is wrong with this?

Finally, police in Iowa found Jack…he had literally joined the circus!  We had had one in town and he went with them to ‘help with the animals’ when it moved on.  We were so relieved, and I don’t think he could understand why we hugged him so much when he was brought to us.  Long story short (finally), he’s back with him mom in Florida, and still doing about the same.  I miss him.  I really do.

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Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

As an educator all of my life, I try to see the lessons in experiences, and as much as I tried to teach Jack things, he actually taught me so much more.  Jack brought out a compassion in me I had never felt before, and he could break my heart with just a look.  He taught me that happiness can be anything…just enjoying a whopper on the curb of a street is reason to smile.  Jack taught me how to see the world through completely different eyes…a different reality.  It was his reality, but I needed to understand we all have our own reality, and no one’s is more or less than anyone elses.

But most of all, Jack taught me how cruel, insensitive, degrading, and ignorant so many people are when it comes to mental illness; and, how superficial they can be when expected to say the ‘right things.’  When we’d be out together, people would look at Jack like he was disgusting.  They’d sniff the air because he often smelled.  They’d look away as if by ignoring him, he’d simply not exist in the world they wanted to keep ‘crazy’ free.  I’d listen to radio shows and read articles in the paper about the city needed to ‘get rid of the homeless’ downtown because they made people uncomfortable.  REALLY?  Sleeping on the fucking streets?  Bathing in a fucking sink?  Shitting behind a building because that’s all there is?  That’s what’s uncomfortable, assholes.

Did you know there are 10,363 homeless shelters in the U.S., and 13,500 dog/cat shelters and sanctuaries?  As much as I love love love dogs, this is wrong.  ‘Nuff said on that.  We need more resources for the homeless.  More acknowledgment of how much help is needed for those who are seriously mentally ill.  Better education amongst the masses so that maybe, instead of ignoring the problem, we could instead start to solve it.

Love ya forever, Jack, and I’m sure I’ll see you again when you pass through sometime.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

World Bipolar Awareness Day!

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So, it’s not as exciting as Christmas or as fun as Halloween, but today is World Bipolar Awareness Day, and it’s something important to recognize!

You know, there are so many misconceptions out there in terms of what bipolar is, or is not, so let’s learn more about this brain disease with my infographic below!

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In terms of the mania, here’s what those of us who have bipolar can experience (Mayo Clinic) with my comments in the parenthesis:

  • ABNORMALLY upbeat, jumpy and wired (I can barely sit down when I’m manic)
  • Increased activity, energy, or agitation (last summer, I walked 8 miles every single morning and then more in the evening, painted the interior of my house in days, created dozens of pieces of artwork, painted all of my wood furniture, kept up with 3 online classes, did tons of yard work and the list goes on!)
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (when I’m manic, I feel like I could rule the world!  Literally!)
  • Decreased need for sleep (I have to take OTC meds to induce sleep)
  • Unusual talkativeness (my mom knows I’m getting depressed when I stop talking non-stop)
  • Racing thoughts (sometimes I cry because all of the thoughts are so ‘busy’ in my brain it scares me)
  • Being easily distracted (my mom will tell me something and I’ll be looking her in the eye, and then I say “What?” and she has to start all over.  I’m distracted by my thoughts, sounds, what I’m seeing around me…all the while thinking how I could incorporate this into some kind of art)
  • Poor decision making (whooo-weeee…where the hell do I start with this one?  How about spending $20,000 on motorcycles in one weekend?  Or, allowing my ex to move back in with me days after he cheated on me?)

In terms of depression, we can experience these things:

    • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness with lots of tears (I will cry over anything, everything or nothing.  I literally feel like there’s a whole inside of me that will never get filled or healed again)
    • Marked loss of interest in activities (I can’t even think about painting or even coloring a page…I just don’t have the ‘will’ to create at all)
    • Significant weight loss or weight gain, or changes in eating habits (when I’m manic, I’m too busy to eat, and when I’m depressed, I’m too sad to eat.  Also, eating disorders often go along with bipolar, and since I’m a recovering anorexic, this isn’t good for me at all)
    • Insomnia or sleeping too much (depression makes me want to nap during the day and it’s harder than hell to get myself up and face the night)
    • Restlessness or slowed behavior (everything feels like I’m doing it in slow motion)
    • Fatigue or loss of energy (oh yeah)
    • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt (when I’m experiencing a depression, I apologize for things I did decades ago.  I feel guilt over every wrong I’ve ever committed and feel I should be punished for them.  When something bad happens to me, I feel like I deserve it as a payment for sins (even though I believe in Jesus).  I also feel so worthless that the world would be better off without me.)
    • Decreased ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness (I know I stumble over words, don’t remember lectures like I should, and really have to think harder at school when I’m depressed…I hate how it affects my teaching.  This is the worst thing for me…knowing that I’m not able to give 100% to my students each and everyday.)
  • Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide (yep.  Been there, done that.  Nuff said.)

Now that you know about bipolar, maybe better than you did, this final question remains:  What can YOU do with this info?  Let’s see:

  • Try not to use the term bipolar as an adjective…it’s not!  It’s not a substitute for crazy or nuts or someone acting out!  It’s the diagnosis of a mental illness!
  • If you know someone you love or know is bipolar, try to remember the above!  If they cancel plans on you at the last minute, refuse to join you in eating out, won’t speak to you except in short phrases, they are probably cycling through a depression and it’s not their fault!  Also, if they are talking so fast that you can’t get a word in edgewise, won’t sit down and watch a movie with you, want to try everything out there right NOW, they are cycling through mania.  Just try to be understanding that these things aren’t their fault.
  • Having said that, if you see signs that you feel are much exaggerated and/or dangerous, talk to their partner, parents, or trusted friend of theirs.  They might need help!
  • Never ever be afraid to ask a bipolar (or anyone!) if they are considering suicide if you see signs of it (talking about it, giving away things, saying ‘goodbyes’, seeing helpless and despair in them, etc.  For a full list of warning signs and more info, visit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.)  Talking, directing them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifetline at 1-800-273-8255, discussing what you see with their parents/partner/friends, or taking them to your local Emergency Room can help save their life.
  • When you hear someone talking about bipolar in an inappropriate way, or you see something in the media that minimizes or portrays bipolar wrongly, speak up!  Use it as a teaching moment for others to learn from!

There are so many other mental illnesses out there as well, and learning about them, talking about them, and understanding them can help reduce the stigma that the mentally ill face.  The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on Oct. 10th every year, and the Mental Health Awareness Week is the first full week of October.  Be vocal these days on social media and show your support for all that suffer from mental illness.  We need you!

Finally, thank you all for supporting me.  There are so many of you that read my blog who e-mail me with support while sharing your own stories.  I love the connection with all of you!

I know it’s not easy to be my parent, son, sister, and friend.  I know that it really sucks balls sometimes, and I’m so so sorry for what I’ve put my mom and son through especially.  If I hadn’t had, or didn’t have, their support, I know I wouldn’t be typing this right now.  The support you give someone who is suffering from a mental illness is truly life changing or life saving.  We need you…and we know how special you are to be there for us.

Kristi xoxo

 

It’s in Their Head.

So, I’ve been reading a lot about the stigma of mental illness, and the more I read and study, the more I’m shocked and disheartened by the attitude of people towards the likes of me:  a mentally ill woman with Bipolar and Anorexia (in ‘remission’ but still something I have to fight daily in terms of making myself eat enough and stay healthy).

First, let’s talk about what stigmas are; if you look at the Oxford Dictionary for a definition, here’s what you find:

“A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”

Take a close look at this sentence, Peeps.  “A mark of DISGRACE.”  Really?  In this day and age, we are still considered ‘disgraceful?’  Or let’s use other synonyms to further understand this:  shameful, despicable, bad.  I should be ashamed to have a brain disease?  It makes me despicable?  It makes me bad?  Wow.

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Prejudice is pre-JUDGING.  PRE-judging.  Putting people in groups based on certain characteristics then lumping them all together under an umbrella of adjectives.  “The rich are all stingy.”  “The poor don’t want to work.”  “All teenagers all use drugs.”  Nope.  None of these are true.  There might be some individuals that have these characteristics, but not all!  Now, here’s the one we MI’s might hear:  “The mentally ill are just crazy.  They should be locked up!”  “Those homeless guys make me nervous…you know they’re just nuts.”  “I know that if someone is schizo, they’ll hurt you!”  And on and on and on.  Then, because of these prejudicial stereotypes, discrimination follows – these ideas are acted out by the people that have them, and suddenly, we’re treated differently.

I read an excellent article entitled:  The Stigma of Mental Disorders by Wulf Rossler.  In this, he states the following:  “There is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without a mental illness.”  He also writes that people with mental illness internalize societal stigmas, and then experience diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy as a result.  Non wonder so many of us feel bad about simply being who we are.

In another article entitled: Prejudice Towards People with Mental Illness, the authors say 4 factors have been identified that underlie prejudice towards people with mental illness (my explanations of these are in the parenthesis):  fear/avoidance (people being scared of the MI and then staying away because they’re considered dangerous), malevolence (highly negative thoughts against the MI and thinking they are bad), authoritarianism (the MI should be controlled by society), and unpredictability (who knows what they’ll do?).  So, in a nutshell:  people fear us…try to avoid us…think we’re bad or inferior…think we need to be controlled…think our behavior is always unpredictable.  Wow again.

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Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

So.  I’m literally sitting here right now, trying to think of what to say, and I’m drawing a blank.  Not writer’s block.  But a blank of how us MI can been seen so freaking negatively for having disorders we can’t help.  But then, I think about racism, and how skin color changes a person’s opportunities and treatment in our culture drastically.  How our gender puts us in boxes with very clear expectations and assumptions.  How our social class determines the way people see us, treat us, and either look up to us or down to us, just based on what we might have in our bank account.  How can any of this be possible?  How can anybody be judged by others who could be judged themselves.  I just don’t get it.

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What have YOU been told to do?

And yes, I’ve definitely felt the consequences of these stigmas.  You know, in the 23 years I’ve taught at my school, I’ve only been asked to lunch twice.  Twice.  People get in groups and eat together all of the time, with me watching my colleagues in adjoining offices getting ready to go out while joking around.  But I’m not asked.  I think it’s because I can be loud…overly sensitive…overly eager.  When a student threatened to rape me and turn me into a lamp shade (his words), I was blamed.  After all, I’m the sicko.  Right?  The crazy and unpredictable one.  So, of course MY bipolar had to be the reason for HIS threat.  When I’m struggling with depression or having difficulty with suppressing my feelings, I’m simply ignored.  It’s just too uncomfortable for others to be around or address.  In fact, according to one colleague, mental illness isn’t real.  They say:  “Just cheer up!  Damn, others have it a lot worse than you do.”  Or here’s a good one that really makes me feel better:  “What the fuck!   Quit being so damn sensitive.”  (I’ve heard that more times than I can count).  Or how about this gem: “God, here goes Kristi AGAIN, just looking for more attention.”  Or my truly favorite one:  “What the fuck is the matter with you?”

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I can so relate to this.

It’s not my imagination; I know I’m treated differently than others since I’ve ‘come out’ and really started talking about my mental illness.  I’m not taken as seriously.  Sometimes I’ll be talking in a meeting at school, and someone talks over me and I just have to shut up and not contribute.  Or, I’ll be in a bad depression but try to hide it from family members because I don’t want them to think I’m not trying to be ‘better’.  In fact, I have family members that won’t even talk about it at all, while others have told me:  “You’re going to beat this!”  No, I’m not.  I’m going to fight it, but I’m not going to beat it; this is who I am, and who I have been for as long as I can remember. {Shout out here to my mom, son and sister:  they are awesomely supportive of me.  My rocks.}

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I feel different than others.  I see things differently.  I think about things differently.  But when I try to express that to people, I’m shut down.  And to be a part of the conversation, I just have to nod and pretend that their ideas are mine too.  Sometimes I think I should just build a bubble around myself to protect people from having to be around me.  Uncomfortable around me.   Wary around me.

But, there is a light.  You know the friend I talked about in my last post?  While we were talking about what having bipolar is like, I told him I did feel so different..so out of place…so at odds with others.  And after thinking for a minute, here’s what he said:  “Kristi, you are different.  You light up a room when you walk in.  Not many do that.”

You know, like Elton says in ‘Rocketman’:  “I’m OK with different”.  Maybe someday, we can all share that sentiment.

Kristi xoxo

 

Invasion of the Monster.

So, a friend and I were yacking yesterday, and we were talking about what being bipolar is like.  He truly wanted to know what went on in my head and how it felt to be me.  Very few people have ever asked me this, so it felt really good for someone to be so interested that they asked me for my personal experience with it, as opposed to textbook definitions.

Here’s what I told him:  “When I’m manic, it’s like a blender with ice, fruit, and juice, on high, with no lid…just spraying around the kitchen.”  But really, in this scenario, the juice has an outlet…it’s escaping the blender.  I can’t escape my blender…the ingredients (thoughts & emotions) just keep coming back and getting spewed out again and again.

Then I said this about depression:  “It’s like there’s a monster with heavy metal chains that grabs my mood, reels it in, and makes me sink so low during this process that I can’t escape.”

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Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

After listening to this, he said it helped him understand it more, but he had something to confess (Ought oh…I’ve heard that phrase before).  His ex-wife had depression and would spend days in their bed, refusing to even get up to eat dinner or walk around.  He said it would tick him off, that he just wanted her to GET UP and try.  He said he feels guilty now, that after learning more about depression, he was so hard on her when she was down.

First, I can understand him feeling guilty.  As much as I want people to understand bipolar and take that into consideration, I don’t always reciprocate well.  Ex-partner has a personality disorder:  I thought for a long while it was Narcissistic Personality Disorder since his treatment of me mimicked narcissistic relationships in terms of idealize, devalue, and discard (he repeated this cycle multiple times).  A couple of months ago, he got formally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which actually does make more sense while considering other issues in his life.  Anyhoot, I knew he had a personality disorder along with the PTSD from his military tours.  But here’s the thing, I would get impatient with him.  I’d try to change what I was seeing by getting angry with him and telling him what he should be doing instead.  I’d respond to his irrational behavior by yelling at him and holding grudges.  (On the flip side, he’d do the same:  get mad at me when I was ‘too emotional’…get frustrated when I was bouncing off the walls).

So why did I do this in response to his behavior?  Like my counselor has said to me before:  “He’s Borderline…what did you expect from him?”  Yikes.  She’s right.  Right as rain.  Just like I’m bipolar, what the hell do you expect from me?   I’m gonna be up and I’m gonna be down.  BUT the behavior that results from mental illness can be frustrating, hurtful, embarrassing, anger provoking, etc. to others in our lives.  It’s hard to deal with people like us!  It’s hard for others to understand us when we can’t always understand ourselves.  I get angry at me.  I get frustrated by me.

Back let’s go back to my monster and depression.  I do believe my monster is very very strong.  However, I can’t lay down and always let him win;  it’s time I started fighting back.  You know, there’s not many times in my life where I’ve been a fighter against people who were hurting me.  When I was being bullied in grade school, my sister always protected me so I never had to fight back.  When the psychologist I was seeing at 16 sexually abused me for 2 years, I didn’t fight back out of fear and a misplaced sense of loyalty.  When I was bullied my Jr. and Senior years in high school, I just tried to look away and make myself as inconspicuous as possible.  When ex was cheating on me, I apologized for my role in it.

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I never really fought.  But guess what?  No more.  Let’s all say it together:  “NO MORE!” I fight that fucking monster, my biggest adversary, with as much as I can muster.  When he’s dragging me down so far I can barely see any light, I grab that chain and pull up with all I have.  Link.  By link.  By link.  And then, magically, my feet the floor in the morning.  Then Edward comes running to me to let him and Dottie out; so I hug my pooches and let them out to pee in the backyard (and eat poop).  Then I have to let them back in and that propels me for a walk to the bathroom where I hop into the shower.  Get it?  I’m tugging back on that depression monster little by little.  And, those little tugs are making me function.  Making me ‘do’.  Making me feel not so much at the mercy of him showing me only darkness.   I have vowed that he will NOT keep me so down ever again that I stand in the middle of my floor for hours, not knowing what to do with all that’s in my mind.

Look, bipolar is a brain issue.  My brain is different.  I can’t help the roller coaster this brain has set me on; just like someone with a migraine isn’t to blame.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s not that I’m going to suddenly ‘cheer’ up and be happy.  But yes, I can push myself little step by little step and show that monster Kristi is still here.  Me.  And that I’m going to take as much control as I possibly can; count my small victories and celebrate them.  Just knowing that I’m fighting  back makes me feel stronger,  which makes me feel ‘better’ in the midst of this depression.

I’ve had enough ‘monsters’ in my life that I haven’t fought against and I’ve decided I’m not ever going to bow down to anyone (or anything) again.  I’m going to fight.  I’m going to do all I can with all I have to get wins in these battles.  And at the same time, I’m going to get a little piece of myself off of that fucking roller coaster.  That son-of-a-bitch monster has led me on this ride for too long.  It’s time for me to start taking over at least a few of the controls.

Kristi xoxo

Don’t Fence me In.

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Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

So, my counselor and I had an excellent conversation today, and I really look forward to seeing her every week!  Yea!

Anyhoo…we are talking about relationships, because as you know from my last post, me and relationships just don’t get along too well.  Let’s put it this way:  I have a 100% fail rate for them!  ‘Nuff said.

As we were talking about the ‘why’ behind all of my relationships ending, I began to see so many of my problems lie in the fact that my boundaries are pretty poor.  In fact, if my boundaries were a fence, even a chihuahua could escape.  Easily.  Having bad boundaries makes it very easy for people to get in.  And for me to get out.

One of the many ‘wonderful’ characteristics of being bipolar is impulsiveness.  And I’m not talking impulsive as in buying a new shirt I don’t really need.  I’m talking about impulsiveness throughout every area of my life, including relationships.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never done things half way.  I do them the entire way, and then some, or I don’t do them at all.  When I was 30-something, I was still carrying around baby weight (from a 65 pound gain…I couldn’t eat just one Oreo when I was preggers, I had to eat the whole damn sleeve) and wanted to lose it.  I called my dad who had been a runner since I could remember, and we met at a track.  I couldn’t finish an 1/8th of a mile, so I did what any rational person would do.  I signed up for a marathon.  When I started acrylic pour painting, it wasn’t enough to create a canvas or 2.  I had to buy every painting supply known to man…fix up a studio in my basement…and make so many canvases that I’ll be giving them out as Christmas gifts long after I’m in a nursing home.  See what I mean?

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I do the same thing in relationships.  I jump in…without looking…without thinking…without considering the consequences of what that jump could do to me.  Once I’m in, I’m in.  I fall too quickly.  I love too hard.  I give too much.  I want even more.  And the problem is this:  once I get outside that boundary which should be in place to protect me, I’m VERY hesitant to get back behind the little fence there is.  After all, freedom is better!  Take my Edward.  He’s such a good dog, but if I’m taking out the trash, and leave the gate open, he’ll take off and never look back.  I can tempt him with every known treat, and he’ll still value that freedom more than the safety of home.  Even though it’s dangerous!  Even though it’s unknown!  Even though something could happen to him that could cause great injury!  For some reason, being outside of a gate is so much more fun than being inside it.

Like Eddie, I want that gate open, especially in relationships!  The simple fact is, I love love.  I hope you read that correctly…let me try it again:  I LOVE love.  🙂  I love falling in lust…building up love…getting to know someone…unlocking the secrets of someone…cuddling with someone…knowing I have someone in this world just for me.  Little old me.  OK, little OLD me.

It’s intoxicating, isn’t it?  That first tug of the heart.  The first kiss you share when your heart is beating so hard you wonder if it will ever be the same again.  But like anything intoxicating, it can be so dangerous too.  1ce81319ae2fb2a691e22822a6618feb

We learn to ‘feed’ off the impulsiveness.  It becomes almost addicting.  It becomes something to us that puts us in a tunnel.  And then all we can see is that tunnel and the person in it with us.  We can’t see the dangers associated with it, just like a drug addict might not see the consequences of their use.  Our rational mind has been blinded, and our impulsive, emotional side has taken control; face it, it’s MUCH more exciting to listen to our hearts than to our heads.

Hence, people like me put up with a lot of things they shouldn’t.  After all, we slid ourselves into this tunnel, we’d better learn to like it; we ran outside the gate, we’d better take advantage of it.  So we’ll let people say horrible things to us without calling them on it.  We’ll let them use us:  financially, emotionally, and sexually, because saying no to them, trying to build up another fence while we’re out wandering around, is just too damn hard to do.  And anyway, whose got the time or tools for that?  We’ll let them cheat on us, with no consequence other than making them ‘promise’ they’ll never do it again.  We’ll let them put their hands on us, when we swore to ourselves that would never ever ever happen.

But after a while, you do get tired of this.  Tired of being in such a dark place.  Tired of exhausting yourself justifying to others your objection to leaving.  Tired of having a hollowness inside of you that nothing outside the safety of a fence will quench now.  Tired of looking in the mirror…and then looking away…because you don’t want to see, or acknowledge, the pain you can no longer hide in your eyes.  Tired of feeling less than.  Tired of feeling like a thing, instead of a person.  Tired of not being ‘you’ anymore.  You are just so fucking tired.

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Since my last relationship ended, I have come to understand that the safety of a fence is actually so much more comfortable and satisfying than running around without a leash.  I finally have gathered some tools now.  I finally have time now.  I have the know-how to build my fences, and keep them in repair.  I have the want to protect this person I’m getting to know better and better each day.  A person I’m actually starting to like.  Maybe loving myself is right around the corner.  Maybe I’m the ‘one’ I’ve been waiting for all my life.

I guess I’ve just come to the realization that I’m worth taking care of.  And if that’s not motivation to get busy nailing these boards together, I don’t know what is.

Kristi xoxo

What the Hell?

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So, I teach Sociology at our local community college, and now that the nation is practicing social isolation, I am working hard to get all of my on-campus classes switched to online learning.  This isn’t necessarily a big deal for me, since I’ve taught online classes forever, but as I’m working on lectures and content for my Sociology of Deviance class, I am getting a bit angry…perplexed…wondering about what we consider to be deviant in our culture.

First, deviance is an act or behavior that goes against societal norms (rules) we have in place; and it isn’t always an easy thing to recognize since it’s dependent on so many variables like culture, context, place, etc.  Also, a behavior/act isn’t necessarily considered deviant even if it goes strictly against a societal norm; instead, we take into consideration the ‘label’ society has placed on it; for example, does this behavior cause anger in people?  Scorn?  Disgust?   And finally, sometimes you don’t even have to ‘do’ anything to be labeled a deviant.  You simply ‘are.’  People with physical or mental disabilities are often considered deviant.  Labeling people like this as deviant stigmatizes them.  It connects them to negative stereotypes which can cause them to be ostracized ; looked down on as outcasts.

Now, think about this.  SOCIETY can ‘say’ a person is deviant simply because the person is ‘different’.  Or simply because the person ‘is’.  Because they exist.  Because they are them.   “Holy crap, Batman…what the hell is this?”

“Let me tell you, Robin.”  This means that ANYONE can be labeled deviant…have a stigma put on their head…and be treated as such at anytime in their lives.  Right?  First, let’s take a look at age, simply because (God willing) we will all experience this eventually in our lives.

Oh, Lord…I hate talking about age.  As a woman who is (cough cough) 53 (I know…that’s a really BIG number!), I have seen the way I’ve been looked at over the last 10 years or so, and can’t believe the difference!  When I turned 40, it was a celebration!  “Girl…you are in the prime of your life!!  40 is the new 30!”  Actually, it isn’t.  40 is 40.  30 is 30.  And so on…you get my point.  But when I turned 50?  I was almost ashamed!  What do you say to a 50 year old?  “Ummm…you look great FOR 50!”  That’s about it!  And what a horrible sentence to hear!!  Let me translate it for you:  “Kristi…I don’t know what else to say, so I’m going to tell you that you look OK for being 50…but if you were 40, you’d look like hell!”  Hmmmm…what a compliment.

Look in ANY women’s magazine.  Know what you see?  Products that work from the ground up to make sure nothing on you looks old.  Nothing.  We’re talking younger looking feet (which I rarely show off)  to younger looking hair.  And face creams?  If I tried everyone that was advertised AND that promised to wipe away my years, I’d go broke.  Quickly.

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But why would I want to ‘wipe away’ my years?  Why is it deviant to get old?  Why does society tell us our worth is less as we grow up more?  Why is a natural aging process a bad thing?  And why, because of these messages, should us older people (more so for women than men in our society…much more so) feel guilty if we have wrinkles?  I don’t get it.

Mental illness is considered deviant too.  Because face it, being mentally ill makes others feel uncomfortable.  We’ve all heard the words.  At least I have.  People use crazy or nuts as a synonym for bipolar all of the time.  Even Katy Perry, in her song Hot and Cold, says “…love bipolar” for a crazy type of unhealthy/game playing love.  So, I’m deviant because I’m mentally ill too?  Because I have a brain disease I did absolutely nothing to get?  Because I might cry?  Or be angry?  Or be depressed?  Or be manic?  These make people uncomfortable?  Scornful?  So I’m LABELED deviant.  LABELED.

Guess what labels do?  Labels make us see ourselves through that mirror.  Like sociologist Charles Cooley described in his “Looking Glass Self” theory, we see how we appear to others, and reflect back what we’ve perceived.  Don’t believe me?  Then why are so many people ‘ashamed’ to talk about their mental illness?  Reluctant to let their friends know how much they are suffering on the inside?  Hesitant to tell people they’ve dated for a while because they fear it will negatively affect their relationship?  Afraid they will be treated differently by colleagues?  Worried they might be passed over for promotions?  Embarrassed to say their Dr.’s appointment is with their psychologist?  Humiliated when words like ‘psycho’ are used to describe behavior tied to their own mental illness?

And for people who have cut…have attempted suicide (2 other groups I fall into)?  Wow.  The stigma is fierce!  How dare I have been in so much psychological pain, that I felt the only relief came from using a razor blade on my legs.  How could I have hurt myself, even though the physical hurt took away some of my mental hurt?  AND, what an awful person I am that I was in so much pain and so much anguish, that I truly felt, at that time, being with my grandma and grandpa in heaven was better than my life on earth.

These labels…this stigma…is something we have to endure.  Not because of what we have.  But because of how we’re seen through the attitudes people have.  Opinions.  Reactions.

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Dammit.  I don’t know about you and what you might endure in terms of stigmas, but I’m tired of feeling ‘less than’ over issues I can’t help.  Yes, I’m old.  Yes, I’m mentally ill.  And that’s just to name 2, or this blog post would be so long, I’d have carpal tunnel after all the writing (and probably be stigmatized for that as well).  And NO.  I will NOT be made to feel demeaned because of these things.  I refuse too.  I will continue to talk about being bipolar.  About why I used to cut.  About why I took a handful of pills.  About all of my struggles, and all of my successes.  I will do this again and again, because until we all speak out against stigmas (and in my case, mental illness stigmas), we will never see them gone.  Until we all learn to accept everyone for who they are…what they might have…how they might be ‘different’, we’ll never see the change I think we need to see most in this world.

Acceptance.

Kristi xoxo