“Regret is useless in life” ~ Marlon Brando

So, the worst thing about not being able to blog much this semester is that I have so many ideas that when I do get time, I don’t know which to choose. In fact, I regret I have less time for this outlet than I’d like. Ooooo…I have a regret. Hmmmm.

I’ve been thinking about a lot about regrets lately. A few weeks ago, one of my friend’s daughters called me and said her mom had died…she had simply laid down for a nap and never woke up. I was gobsmacked. Linda was a really genuine, down to earth, sweet woman and it didn’t matter how much time went between seeing each other; she was the type of friend you could pick right back up with as if a day had never passed. She’ll be missed.

You know, I think I’ve always just ‘assumed’ that I’ve got a lot more time to live. Ma and pop are both in their late 70’s and one grandma lived well into her 90’s. Ma’s parents died young…at age 63 for both of them…but they also lived a very sedentary life. Grandma was a chain-smoker and had been for decades and grandpa died of cirrhosis of the liver because of life-long alcoholism. So, their young deaths were definitely tied to these lifestyles (but, they were the BEST…most of my happiest memories are with them 🙂) and since I’m fit, eat well, don’t smoke or drink, and otherwise take pretty good care of myself, I tend to think I have years and years left. But…that’s not guaranteed, is it?

Car accidents, cancer (which there is a family history of on both sides…ma is a breast cancer survivor!🌞 ), Alzheimer’s (which my older grandma died of…it is such a horrifying disease and broke all of our hearts), falls (like from my roof when I’m dancing a jig while cleaning out my gutters just to make my bestie across the street laugh 😬), and simply being bipolar. Yep…that’s one I think about more than I probably should. The National Library of Medicine reports that studies show female bipolar ‘patients’ have about a 10.6-8.3 years lesser life-span (while men lose 12.0-8.7 years) than the general population. This is even a bit higher than the 10 year reduction in life-span for chronic smokers. Charmed.

And suicide: again, the National Library of Medicine found that the rate of suicide among bipolar patients is approximately 10–30% higher than the corresponding rate in the general population. Research has also found that up to 20% of (mostly untreated) those with bipolar will end their life by suicide, while 20–60% of ‘us’ will attempt suicide at least one in our lifetime.  In other words, being bipolar ain’t so great. Go figure.

So, because of my friend and the suddenness of her death, I’ve been thinking about my life and ruminating over regrets that I have. Regretting something is really wishing it never happened…in fact, regret is often called a useless emotion since you can only regret what has already taken place which makes it too late to change things. All that’s left is the sorrow of that , which leads to guilt, shame, remorse, etc.

Daniel Pink (author of The Power of Regret) says there are 4 major types of regret: 

  • Foundation Regrets: these are failures to be responsible or conscientious which can center around money and health.
  • Boldness Regrets: not taking the action you wanted…being INACTIVE in terms of going after a job or reaching out to someone you want to get to know. In other words, passing up chances that could have changed your life. Pink’s study found that these inaction regrets outnumber action regrets. So, what we don’t do makes us more sorrowful than what we do do. Interesting, isn’t it?
  • Moral Regrets: pretty self explanatory but let me phrase this in my Kristi language: those times when you fucked up royally. Pink found that although these tend to be the fewest of all our regrets, they are actually the most painful ones for us.
  • Connection Regrets: neglecting the people that you should be connecting with more.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative carer and author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying says that the 6 most common regrets those with serious illness have are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier.

Hmmm…is there anyone of us that can’t relate to these? Good Lord, as I look back on my regrets, I see them in all of these categories and in this list of common ones. Before I even started reading Ware’s work, I actually had thought of these very ones. The worst for me? Not living my life authentically…and actually, still not doing so in many ways.

We’ve talked about masks and how those of us with mental illness hide behind them out of shame, embarrassment, pressure, expectation, etc. I did for most of my adult life. Who wants to admit they have a mental illness that is so stigmatized? So misunderstood? Has so many myths circling around it like vultures who want us to believe we’re ‘crazy’ and violent? How can anyone in their right mind (yes, that pun was intentional 😳) want that rosy attitude directed towards them? The solution? Hide. Pretend. Be who others want you to be. Expect you to be. Demand that you be. That’s a tough thing to do and in fact, many of us know that it’s fucking (sorry, ma) exhausting and really does nothing at all in the long run anyway. Masks fall off…they disintegrate…they shift and budge. They are simply unsustainable. And when the elastic does break on them people say things like “You used to be so ‘normal.” Or, “You never used to speak up like that.” Or, “Ummmm…no…I don’t think I can do lunch with you today…ummmm…something came up.” Or, “Of course Kristi is to blame for that, she’s bipolar…you know, they’re all nuts.” Is it any wonder we put them on in the first place?

But then I think about WHO I put them on for and realize they can all fuck off anyway (not gonna apologize for that one ma, since you say the same too 😐). Those I pretended for were really going to love me forever? Or be my best friend? The assholes (I’m on a profanity roll here…) who wouldn’t accept someone mentally ill in their midst were really worth me being someone I wasn’t? Well no…they weren’t. And believe me, the only regret I have with this one is just how recently I learned it.

Another one I’m still working a lot on is a boldness regret…one of inaction. Look, I’ve been bullied a lot in my life…as have many of my sweet peeps. My sister is a badass and this is why: she isn’t rude or mean or a fight-picker, but by golly she’ll stand up for herself with absolutely nothing held back! In fact, she still does it for me in place of the times I can’t! My inaction regarding standing up to people was more understandable when I was young and sickly and skinny, but still doing it at 55? No…it’s pretty much bullshit by now. After all, I’m in my 50’s (yeeeeesh…) and shouldn’t be so hesitant to say what I really want and need to say. Right? I can do this for my son…in fact, sticking up for him has always been easy no matter what his age. I’m quite the mama bear! But to do it for myself? Hmmm…perhaps I need to harness that bear for myself as well.

But, I don’t. I think it’s why the other people have usually blamed me for their actions: cheated on me…my fault. Yelled at me…my fault. Accused me of things…my fault. You get the point. And why do I acquiesce to this? Hmmm…maybe in some part because I had to be more timid and accommodating around ma’s bastard of an ex. If I stood up to him…didn’t agree with him…didn’t nod my head and smile no matter what he said, ma was the one in danger. Period. So, that ‘I’m sorry’ became a sort of mantra for me. And now? Bipolar is to blame. No matter what I say or do or feel, it can be easily turned around to the fact that since I have bipolar, I must be the one in the wrong. It’s a great scapegoat for anyone to use against me when they need someone outside of themselves to blame. Blech.

And of course there are all of the other regrets too: I do work too much at times…let friendships get pushed aside in all the busyness of the week…not spend the time I should with those that mean the most to me. But the good news is this: regrets are things that have their origins in the past…and don’t have to be our futures. So, my pledge to myself? Be me with no excuses. Reach out and make time for those I love and if papers don’t get graded that day, the world won’t end. Stand up for myself and say “Hey! Lay off!” Nurture the friendships I’ve built over these last couple of years. Take a bit more care with my moolah so there won’t be regret with that later in life when I’ll be looking into what old folks home I want to spend my golden years in. And not be scared to be happy…whatever that happy may look like.

But one thing I don’t regret? Starting this blog, getting to know all of you, and making some pretty awesome friends along the way. Thanks, peeps.

Kristi xoxo

Good Lord, I wanted Billy Ray’s hair so badly (along with a few other ‘things’ too😳) !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

 

 

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