“I allow myself to fail. I allow myself to break. I’m not afraid of my flaws.” ~ Lady Gaga

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Dear Lady Gaga,

I don’t know if you follow my blog or not, but I know much of the Hollywood elite does so hopefully they’ll direct you to this soon enough. 🤨

Anyhoot, I’m going to be honest with you since I’m trying to be as genuine as possible and I know you do the same.  When I first started noticing you due to your amazing talent (much like mine), I thought you were so bizarre and strange that I was a bit put off.  I’m embarrassed of that reaction now because I’m the first to preach to not judge a book by it’s cover and here I was doing the same.  Then I saw you in a “Star is Born” (is Bradley as good of a kisser as I imagine him to be?), and was blown away by your natural beauty, acting ability, and the vulnerability you showed in the role which, seemed to me, came from a real place within you.  Some things you just can’t ‘act’ (I’m somewhat of an actor myself…I was the ‘mama bell’ in my debut in the first grade).

As I started reading more and more about you, I realized what a genuine, brave, and influential woman you really are, and that’s when my girl crush began.

I’m so sorry you were a victim of rape when you were only 19.  To experience this is horrific and so many women are scared to speak out because of the stigma that’s still in existence today.  Why in the hell do we blame victims in our culture?  As far as we have come with things like the #metoomovement, we still have a long long way to go.  Your song “Til it Happens to You” is an inspiration and speaks for the millions of women who have suffered rape and sexual abuse in our society.  I was sexually abused for 2 years and it took me decades to talk about it publicly because of my own shame.  It’s still uncomfortable for me at times because I feel like people see me differently because of it.  Like I’m dirty or something.  Your lyrics helped me to get past some of that:

“Til is happens to you, you won’t know
It won’t be real
No it won’t be real
Won’t know how it feels…”

You are so right that although people can have empathy for victims (or actually I prefer the word ‘survivors’), they still can’t fully comprehend the effects rape and sexual abuse have on a person.  I’m so sorry you developed PTSD and psychosis because of it…how hard it must be to live with such consequences.

“I was raped repeatedly when I was 19 years old, and I also developed PTSD as a result of being raped and not processing that trauma.  I did not have a therapist, I did not have a psychiatrist, I did not have a doctor help me through it.  …All of a sudden I started to experience this incredible, intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked, actually, the illness that I felt after being raped.” (interview with Oprah Winfrey 2020)

It took a while to admit you had this though, didn’t it?  You stated you were lying to everyone about experiencing this mental disorder and ‘coming out’ freed you from that deceit.  I can’t imagine how painful it was to do so, but you helped so many people in understanding that mental disorders/illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of.  Thank you so much for that.  (I also love you came out as bi-sexual…your bravery humbles me).

You talk about how you received mental (and physical) help for PTSD and that’s another barrier you’ve broken for others.  Getting help is not weak…quite the contrary, it’s strong.  Until everyone can be taught that therapy and intervention is just as acceptable as getting treatment for any physical issue, there will still be people out there who won’t seek it because of that fucking stigma (my ma doesn’t like me to use that word, but I have a feeling you don’t mind).

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How horrible you were bullied about your appearance and kooky behavior when you were younger.  Those words stick with you, don’t they?  But, you ‘came out’ again and have talked extensively about the bullying culture we all live with in terms of body image and expectations.  Women are told we must be perfect, from head to toe, and since that’s simply impossible to live up too, most feel inadequate in terms of how they look.  I know you developed anorexia and bulimia because of weight issues and I can relate to the anorexia myself as well.  It’s a horrible one, isn’t it?  And, like I know you are all too aware of, something that never fully leaves you (like bulimia too).  It can be an everyday struggle.

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I happen to think you are absolutely gorgeous.  I’ve seen you a bit heavier (words you have used yourself, so please don’t think I’m being catty) and a bit thin.  It doesn’t matter, because your beauty transcends anything on the outside.  With your ‘Body Revolution’ movement you started in 2012 that allows women (particularly those with eating disorders) to share their real life bodies and put out there how beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, you’ve shown that being proud of yourself is the most important thing.  Bless you for that.  That’s something all girls and women need to do…see themselves for who they are and know they don’t have to be a cookie-cutter version of anyone else in this country.  I used to be so self-conscious about my belly, but now I’m not simply because it’s a part of me…and it’s real.  Thank you for that.

I also love the way you dress!  Once again, you don’t conform, but express yourself however you desire.  Who’s to say what’s ‘fashionable’ to wear anyway?  Who sets that stupid standard?  When you look back at 70’s fashion, it’s obvious that some of the trendsetters are idiots.  We should all be able to wear what we want to wear…not what the magazines tell us is ‘right’ to wear.  Face it, we look like sheep: the same jeans…the same shirt…the same shoes.  How boring it is to simply be another body clothed in what everyone else is wearing; it’s almost like we all have uniforms (actually it is like uniforms since uniformity seems to the be goal) and for you to stand out like you do shows we can have personal expression in our clothes.  Plus, I believe that if we all look like sheep we’ll start to act like sheep and mindlessly follow anyone without question.

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Finally, I can’t thank you enough for talking so openly about your love of God.  How refreshing to see an ‘unconventional’ woman speak about her beliefs and faith.  There’s this stereotype that Christians are uptight, hypocritical (“I don’t go to church…everyone’s a hypocrite.”  Really?  You are the one judging us, dumbass 🙄) with no love for anyone different than themselves.  Where the fuck did that come from?  Why are there so many stereotypes about Christians that people are more than happy to not only believe, but share?  I’ve been told by colleagues (literally) how ‘dumb’ I am to believe in God and that I should know better since I’m educated.  Okey Dokey.  Thanks for that info…I’ll file it away where I file away all the rest of the bullshit I hear. 🙄

Anyhoot…just wanted to tell you what an influence you are on me and how I appreciate all you’ve done in being so open about who you are and what you’ve gone through in your life.  You inspire so many, including myself.  I am going to try to continue working at doing the same the best I can and for that, I’m eternally grateful.  ❤

Kristi xoxo

Let ’em Say It.

So, my sister and I were yacking yesterday (have you noticed that I’m usually talking with someone?) and we started discussing words that people are very apprehensive to say.  Let’s take a look-see:

  • suicide
  • domestic violence
  • cutting
  • depression
  • abuse
  • rape
  • molestation

And the list could go on.

The reason we got on this subject was that we were talking about the Netflix series “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”  This little 8 year old boy was brutally murdered by his mother and her boyfriend and suffered horrific abuse all of his life.  The most heart-breaking thing about this poor child was how social services and law enforcement let him down time after time after time, allowing this abuse to continue.  Once, a social worker actually told little Gabriel to quit lying about being hurt by his mom.  Wow.

As my sis (T) and I were talking about this, I told her how incredibly hard this documentary is to watch and how, at that point, I hadn’t finished the last couple of episodes.  So we had this conversation:

“Are you going to finish watching it?”
“Yes, T. But it’s hard to get through…it’s upsetting me so much.”
“Well guess what? What he went through is harder than what you’re watching.”
“I know. You’re right.”
“Kristi, how are we going to stop things like this from happening if we can’t face it or talk about it?”

And she is absolutely right (she loves hearing that from me).  There are so many issues we need to acknowledge, learn to talk about, learn to ask about, but for some reason we turn away from them.  Maybe hoping they’ll go away?

In my classes, I talk about a LOT of ‘icky’ stuff;  after all, I teach Psych and Socio so it’s part of the job.  We talk about everything I listed above, and I know how uncomfortable that makes some of my students.  Many of them have never heard the words being used so freely.  And to be honest with you, some of them are still new to me.

Those of y’all that know me have already heard my mom’s story.  She married her 2nd husband (the fucking asshole…sorry, that’s what I say EVERY TIME I think of him.) when I was in high school and they were married for 28 years.  During those 28 years, he beat her, strangled her, slammed her head against the ceramic tile in the bathtub more times than she can count, and mentally tortured her until she turned to alcohol to dull some of the pain.  It took so much to do so that she developed cirrhosis of the liver and has esophageal varices.  She finally came to me at 5:00 a.m. on Aug. 13th, 2011 (yep, I remember it to the minute) and said this:  “You said you would help me and I can’t take it anymore.  He’s going to kill me if I stay.”  Hubby 3 and I called the police, got a restraining order, got his stuff out, installed an alarm system, etc.  You know, T and I spent 28 years trying our best to help her, but like many of you know, until the person is ready, all you can do is be there the best you can.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

To this day, there are still people in our family that won’t use the words domestic violence in regards to what mom went through.  They won’t say that R beat the shit out of her, once to the point where she was throwing up blood in the ER with her back looking like someone water colored it purple (I will never forget that sight as long as I live).   They don’t want to admit that mom had black eyes more times they can remember (but chose to ignore), because talking about DV just isn’t OK.  In fact, some of them are actually friends with this monster on social media (Yes, he is a monster.  His 3rd wife died of a stroke she suffered after R threw her against a wall).  Well…I guess ignoring it makes it go away right?  (By the way, mom has been sober now for over a decade…T and I are so proud of her!).

NO!  Things like abuse, rape, suicide, and molestation thrive in secrecy.  And for years, my sis and I kept the ‘secret’ too.  We didn’t want to face what R was doing to mom and mom wouldn’t admit to anything;  but we knew we finally had too.  We HAD too.  We had to let the secret out so mom would know we were there for her, that we knew what was happening.  Mom talks about it now and is open with her experiences.  It’s no longer just ‘something in C’s marriage’, or ‘R is just crazy’, etc.; it was ABUSE.  Serious abuse that could have killed her, but by the grace of God, didn’t.

Mom’s guilty of sugar-coating things too though.  After my formal diagnosis of bipolar, she would tell her friends about “Kristi’s problem” , “Kristi’s condition.”  Finally, I said this to her (and I wish you could hear my screechy voice to get the full effect), “MA. I have bipolar.  I’m fucking mentally ill.  Get it?” She laughed…and yes, she got it.

Take suicide.  Sometimes people will ask me, “What was it like when you tried to hurt yourself?”  And I say, “You mean when I attempted suicide?”  Say what it is, man!  It’s OK to use the word.  I didn’t try to hurt myself.  I tried to KILL myself.  There’s a difference, isn’t there?

Yep.  I’ve also cut.  A lot.  In fact, if I EVER get a new partner (that’s a slim chance, peeps), I’m going to be most worried about him seeing the scars.  Anyhoot, I’m not going to lie about the scars people see.  “Oh my God…were you in an accident?”  “No.  I cut myself.  I’m bipolar, I was going through a terrible breakdown, and I used a razor blade and cut myself numerous times.  Luckily, I’m doing better now…thanks for asking.”  People look gobsmacked when I say that, but hey, it’s the truth.

How is it a little boy can be fatally abused while scores of people obviously turned their heads?  How can molestation go on for years in a household when there are obvious signs to what’s happening?  Why is it we say “How ya doing?” as we walk by someone who is looking down, instead of saying “Hey, you look really depressed.  Is something going on with you?  Would you like to talk?”

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

One of my students came to me a few months ago, and I knew she was trying to tell me something, but just couldn’t get it out.  Knowing she’d been depressed, I said this:  “Are you thinking about suicide?”  She literally gasped and started crying.  She said: “You said it.  You said suicide.  You SEE me.”  And yes, I did.

I know these words…these issues…these horrible problems are hard to discuss.  Uncomfortable to talk about.  Not ‘polite’ conversation.  And here’s what I say about that (in me and my sister’s words):  “Who fucking cares?!”

If we don’t ask a friend about her bruise, how will she know we are there to help and support her (or him) if it is abuse?  If we don’t look in the eyes of a child who is exhibiting signs of sexual abuse and ask them if anyone is touching them inappropriately, how will they find the strength to share their ‘secret?’  If we don’t use the words rape when a drunk girl is assaulted at a party while passed out, how can we ever punish the offenders and make sure they can’t hurt another girl again for a long time?  If we see a teen (or an old lady of 53) with multiple bandaids in odd areas and never ask if they are cutting themselves, how will they know others are suffering that same compulsion too?

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Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

My God…think about this.  We can’t use these uncomfortable words, so the consequence is to keep our heads buried while people continue to be hurt?  Really?  I’m sure when mom hears the words Domestic Violence, it isn’t as bad as when R had her on the floor with his hands around her neck, squeezing until she couldn’t breathe.  Right?

For fucks sake (I only use that word to make ma cringe and my sis laugh every time they read my blog), we have to address these issues head on.  Not use the vocabulary that tiptoes around the problem, but words that lay it out there bare.  Naked.  For all of us to see.  Because until we do that, grasshoppers, little sweet Gabriel isn’t going to be the only victim to be let down by us all.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

Too Much Pain :(

So, I’m watching “Rocketman” this morning and I just start crying.  You have this prodigy, who’s talent is incredibly rare, but whose life was full of pain for decades.

I hate all the pain I see in people.  And I see it everyday.

I have students who hug on me, follow me, confide in me and I wonder where their family is.  Their friends.  How did they get to this point in their life without the comfort, love, and support they so desperately need?

Then, I talk about horrible things in my classes:  rape, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying.  And I NEVER, EVER give any of these lectures without at least 5 students reaching out to me afterwards to tell me they’d be a victim of the topic.  EVER.

How many students do this?

I hear stories from students about being sexually abused by a family member when they were as young as 3.  Or raped as a high schooler, but not being able to tell anyone because they felt the shame was theirs.  Or students who grew up with violent parents, and who tried to shield their siblings from the worst of it.  Or women who left an abuser after years because they realized it was either that, or facing the possibility that their next beating could be their last.  Or guys who have told me they are gay, but had to put on this ‘tough’ persona in front of family and friends, because they knew if they didn’t, they would be bullied and ostracized by those they cared for the most.

So many people out there are in pain.  So many have stories we can’t imagine.  And here’s the thing:  until we start really seeing people, and not shying away from actual connection; until we start asking the WHY behind behavior instead of just punishing it or judging it; until we ask people how they are and truly stop to listen;  until we look at a kid and see they need a hug instead of discipline;  until we drop our own masks and show that it’s ok to not be ok, things are never going to change.

How is it we live in what’s supposed to be this connected world, yet people are more lonely and disconnected than ever?  How can we let so many people suffer in silence?  And why can’t we say the simple words of  “I care?”

Maybe this needs to be reversed.

Kristi xoxo