Romancing the Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

One of my wonderful students from a couple of semesters ago messaged me about this condition and asked if I had ever heard of it.  I said I hadn’t and I started researching it.  I found so much interesting information!

First, this condition, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is, according to experts, tied to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder):  about 99% of people with ADHD have it and about a third state it’s the most difficult part living with ADHD.  In a nutshell, RSD is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain brought on by the thought that the person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. 

The specific symptoms of RSD are:

  • setting very high standards for yourself
  • STRONG emotion reactions
  • Shyness 
  • Depression
  • Fear of Failure
  • Rage towards the person/situation that was rejecting
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Seeking approval from family/friends/partners
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Being very self-critical

Now, I believe RSD can be tied to other disorders as well, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depression and bipolar) and even certain personality disorders (borderline, avoidant, and dependent). 

For example, in terms of bipolar, look at the symptoms of adult ADHD that I see are significantly tied into RSD:  impulsiveness, restlessness, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, hot temper, and trouble coping with stress.  And now some of the symptoms of bipolar:  mood swings (duh!), impulsiveness, restlessness, poor decision making, feelings of worthlessness, indecisive, and feelings of guilt.  Look how these match in so many ways! 

I found an article as I was digging around that actually shows RSD being related to bipolar in what looks to be a biological way (plus, this article cites another study to support this biological link as well).  The article also mentions how APPEARANCE based rejection can be related to eating disorders too, which are also being shown to have a biological basis.  SO…maybe RSD isn’t ONLY tied to ADHD, but is tied to many other disorders as well.  (I can even see it tied into children’s disorders such as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).

Here’s why I thought this was so interesting to look at further:  I’ve ALWAYS been very sensitive to rejection!  If I thought a teacher didn’t like me; if I thought my parents or sister were mad at me; if friends made plans without me; if I was ‘criticized’ in class; etc., I would be devastated.  And I’m not using that term lightly!

Actually, this came up at school just last week!  I’m on a special team where we evaluate one another and when I saw my scores as having ‘gaps’ in terms of my work, I IMMEDIATELY started crying!  I felt the evaluations were ‘rejecting’ or criticizing me as a professor.  My friend on the team talked to me about it, and showed me that the evaluations were meant for personal development and not necessarily valid in all areas since no one watches me in class and how I am with my students. 

Further, my last break-up was shattering to me. I literally felt as if I were falling apart (which I actually did).   Regardless of any circumstance, I saw MYSELF as so less than, and my emotional distress was more than I could, in effect, handle at times.  I know I’ve reacted similarly in the past:  for example, I’ve talked about how I ran my car into a tree after my High School boyfriend broke up with me.  I also remember being very angry when a friend I had ‘rejected’ me a few years ago.  That anger stayed with me much longer than it ever should have. 

Then, to top it off, you have people saying things like: “Quit being so sensitive!”  “Why do these things bother you so much?”  “There are other people out there!”   It’s so hard for people to understand this sensitivity unless they feel it themselves.  But that makes me feel even WORSE for having these strong emotions, as well as making me feel as if I’m being criticized for having them at all.  Yeesh!  It’s a huge self-defeating cycle I wish I had the power to stop.

So, what’s the take-away for me?  That Rejection Sensitivity exists.  That it’s more than likely tied to biological factors.  That it’s tied to more disorders than ADHD.  And, that it’s something that needs to be researched further for more understanding! 

Finally this:  it’s not my ‘fault’ or a failure on my part that I’m so very sensitive to rejection.  It might be a part of the mood disorder that already causes so much disruption in my life. 

Hmmm…I’m going to keep my eye on this topic! 

Kristi xoxo