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.
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.
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.
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.