“Walk Among Us” ~ Recorded by the Misfits

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So, I was contemplating about how I often feel like I don’t belong in so many different situations, and I think I am starting to understand why a bit better.

I kinda hate the word ‘misfit’ but if I am honest with myself regarding the definition (“a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way”), it really does describe well how I often feel when I’m around others.

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Only about 1-2% of people in the United States have bipolar disorder…about 2.3 million people all together.  If you play around with the numbers (I’m I’m no math whiz, I actually still use my fingers at times…just ask ma), it’s about 46,000 in each state, and in terms of the number of counties in IL where I live (I’m sure you’re all jealous I live there since it’s such a great state right now 🙄), that’s about 450 people in my entire county of over 104,000.  Now here’s my point: I really am an outsider in terms of having bipolar.  Statistically, it would be pretty unlikely for me to interact with anyone else bipolar on any given day since it’s relatively rare compared to other disorders.  For example, about 20% of the population deal with anxiety disorders and about 14% have major depression every year; so although these are horrible disorders to have there are still many more people who might understand what others are going through because of their own personal experiences with them.  By the way, if you’re thinking you know numerous people with bipolar, ask yourself if they’ve actually been diagnosed by a psychiatric specialist or if they are assuming they are because of their mood swings.  It’s so easy to self diagnose in light of info online, and I’m guilty of it too.  Just this month, I’ve told my son I have 3 different diseases since I love to peruse WebMD.  Just sayin’.  (P.S.  O doesn’t worry about my diagnoses like he should…I wonder why 🤨 ).

When I’m around other people, whether it’s at school or at a family function or in the gym or where ever, the chance I’m the ONLY one there with bipolar is huge.  HUGE!  And since I’m most likely the only one there, how can I feel like I fit in with everyone else?  How can they understand how my mind works?  Or how sensitive I am to criticism or rejection?  Or how I might not be able to control how ‘manicky’ I am, despite others possibly saying, “C’mon, Kristi…just calm down!”  How can others understand how I might be really happy when I get somewhere but then get really down if something was said that seems silly to them, but actually hurt me pretty badly (“Kristi…you have to stop being so sensitive.  It’s getting old!”)?  How can I tell them them that even though I was so excited to plan on being somewhere, I’ve cycled into a depressed state where I can now barely interact?  When you think about, it’s no wonder I feel like I don’t fit in…like I’m always on the edge of whatever group I’m around.

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Now let’s throw another wrench into the equation:  research is showing that those of us with bipolar might experience either very HIGH levels of affective empathy or very LOW levels of cognitive empathy.  What’s the difference?  Affective empathy is when you basically ‘feel’ and ‘mirror’ another’s emotional states, whereas cognitive empathy is understanding someone’s emotions, but not actually feeling them yourself.

Well…we all know how lucky I am so…drumroll please…I was blessed with the VERY high level of affective empathy!  Yea. 🙄 What does that mean in terms of my everyday life?  Hmmmm…where the hell do I start?

I know this can be hard for others to understand, but I literally (I hate that overused word, but I’m too lazy to open up another tab and take a look-see at the thesaurus for another 😳) feel what others feel.  When someone is crying in front of me, I cry…not just because I see their tears and feel bad for them, but because I ‘absorb’ their pain like a sponge.  Empaths soak up the world of feelings that surround them and this can be so fucking exhausting (dammit…I was trying not to say it, ma…but…).  It’s hard enough to deal with my own feelings since those are plenty to handle as is.  But pour everyone else’s feelings into the mix, and it can wear me down completely.

This is a particularly huge problem in relationships.  Empaths take on the other’s emotions, absorb their stresses, feel their pain, etc.  It’s like we’re living the relationship on both sides:  their feelings seeping (or actually madly rushing) into us while our own are bubbling in there too.  Now, couple that with being mega-sensitive and personalizing things like those of us with bipolar often do, and I think it’s clear why relationships can become all consuming very quickly.

Even though I’m not always conscious of this happening, I am conscious of how over-whelmed I can get in relationships and how that can affect my mood and behavior.  When I get frustrated or distressed or upset, it can come out in anger.  Like I’ve said before, anger is more of a reaction we have which actually has other emotions buried underneath it (embarrassment, fear, grief, shame…).  And since people with bipolar have a lot of stuff happening under the surface, anger is something else that’s common among us.  Go figure.

When I think about my marriage to my son’s dad, I see it as the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.  Hubby 2 came from a really solid family and had one of those wholesome upbringings with nothing ‘bad’ really ever happening to him.  I didn’t have to absorb much from him because he was usually on a pretty even keel and my emotional stresses were fairly low.

Hubby 3 was much more of a challenge.  He brought a lot of baggage into our marriage and couple that with the bipolar suitcases I carry, it was a lot.  R’s moods were very unpredictable, especially those first couple of years, and having that load on me was problematic, to say the least.  His stresses became my stresses.  His anger became my anger.  His insecurities became my insecurities.  This is such a hard thing to explain to people who aren’t empathic sponges.  Sometimes he would say, “Why are you so upset?  It’s my problem!”  What he didn’t understand was this:  his problems were passed onto my little empathic heart and TA-DA…they became mine too.

The same thing happened when J came along.  I’ve said before that he has PTSD from being in the military and has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Both of these cause great fluctuations in mood and behavior and I wasn’t just watching that ride, I was on it with him.  Sometimes he’d wonder why I was so stressed or upset.  How do you explain it’s because everything he’s projecting/feeling/acting out on, I’m taking in…’literally’ (that damn word again 😐)?  His pain.  His anger.  His instability.  I was a passenger on that roller coaster with him, along with riding my own.  No wonder the weight of it often became too much for me.

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After he cheated a couple of years ago, I was angry.  And rightfully so!  But I also felt so much more:  I personalized the affair to the point I just knew it had to be my fault.  Cognitively, I know that’s not right.  Emotionally, that’s how I felt.  And then after, when we ‘started over’ and he became so much better to me, I not only had all I was feeling from the affair, but I was also absorbing all he was feeling too, whether he realized that or not (and no, I strongly doubt he ever reads this blog…someone asked me that the other day).  His own anger over his guilt.  His own doubts about our chances.  And even his own grief over the woman he loved and had been with.  Somedays this would be so freaking overwhelming that I couldn’t breathe, and the only way I could handle things was to channel them into anger.  It’s the quickest release there is when you get that overwhelmed with feelings…it’s like a pressure cooker easily exploding if you fiddle with the lid.

I used to wonder why I’ve had such a hard time getting past our relationship and it’s finally beginning to make sense to me.  When I caught him cheating the last time I saw him, he started crying and hugging me when he realized I knew someone else was in the apartment with him.  That emotional outburst pained me so much and it was extremely confusing to me.  I had so much running through my mind and my heart and then I had that to deal with as well.  I had my anger and confusion and disgust and disappointment  but all of that was connected with his pain too.  It was so much to handle and it was a horribly complicated time for me.  You know, I totally understand that being empathic like this isn’t something that’s rational, but it is something inside of me that I can’t control.  How I wish I could!

I’ve also been able to understand my need to be alone at times.  Being so overwhelmed by all of this ‘absorbing’ (like I’m a Bounty paper towel) means us empaths need time to get away from it all.  We need to process all of these feelings and stresses and moods so we can decompress.

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So many empaths can’t sleep with their partners (actually sleep with them all night…we like the naughty stuff 😳) because the stresses of the day and the burdens we’ve absorbed are simply too much.  We need that space to come down again.  To unload ourselves.  To be able to focus on our own stuff only.  I love to sleep alone.  There’s only 1 partner I’ve ever been able to sleep with and besides him, I’ve always had my own bed.  I used to feel SO guilty about that, and I know it’s  probably very hard for other people to understand.  It’s almost like you’ve been running a race all day, with others on your back, and you finally have a chance to put those burdens down, stretch out, and have it just be you without that sponge taking over.  There were times in my marriages where if I hadn’t had that, I would have burst.  Like a big zit. 😐

Anyhoot, not fitting in is actually starting to make sense to me.  I don’t necessarily like it, but I know I’m different.  My brain works differently.  My heart works differently.  My moods work differently.  My feelings work differently.  It does make me a ‘misfit’…I’m not like everyone else.  There are so many times I want to be and I think about what it would be like to be more ‘normal’.  More relaxed.  To be able to be around others without taking all of their ‘stuff’ in, along with my own bipolar issues.

But then again, sometimes I think that maybe it’s ok to be different like this.  Maybe others need me to be.  Maybe helping others with their burdens is a gift I’m able to give.  Maybe it pays others back for having to deal with me being bipolar.  Maybe, in a way, it’s what others should be more like.  Just a little.  Because think about it…if we could all ‘share’ our burdens, feel other’s emotions, take on some stress from others, wouldn’t that lead to more understanding and insight?  More compassion?  More appreciation for all of our different situations?  Wouldn’t that empathy make us better people that don’t cause pain because we feel it so intensely?  Hmmmm.  Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

Kristi xoxo

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

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So, what does it mean to be happy?  Really think about it.  Everyone says that all they want from life is to be happy…but what is it?  Contentment?  Security?  Being loved?  Having a family?  Enjoying your career?  A minimization of stresses?  Is happiness the addition of good things/feelings, or a subtraction of the bad?  Is it a concept like ‘love’ that has a different meaning for everyone?

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I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately for a variety of reasons.  I used to think that my happiness stemmed around having a family.  The white picket fence, “Leave it to Beaver” type family I always wanted for myself, and I pretty much had that when O was a little guy and his dad and I were raising him for the 13 years we were together.  I can honestly say that was the ‘happiest’ time in my life since being a mama and wife meant so much to me.  It was also then that I was hired as an adjunct instructor, got a full-time position, and then was rising up the ranks to being a professor.  It was almost like the stars were aligned just right and everything that I had ever wanted came together.

Fast forward to my life now, single and living alone, and I ask myself if I’m happy like this.  I never thought I’d be because here’s a secret for you:  I was always VERY scared to be alone.  VERY.

Even when others were at home with me, but I was upstairs while they were downstairs, I’d still be scared!  Sometimes sissy would spend the night with someone and my parents would get me in bed before they went down to watch TV.  I would lay in bed shaking…literally.  My family used to laugh at how I’d sleep with all of my stuffed animals in my bed to where they surrounded me like a fence, but it was my safety net, so to speak.  If anything could scare off a monster or axe murder, it was my pink bunny with the ears pulled off.  I don’t think they know this or not, but I often snuck out of my room and would sit on the steps for a time just so I could hear them talk and the TV playing.  I felt much safer then.

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Ted Bundy…Seattle Times.

Then, it was around the time I was in the 6th grade or so that ma started working outside the home full-time (and yes, I used to roll my eyes at that expression but after raising a son, I’m here to tell you that professoring is a freaking breeze compared to the work load of mommying) and my sissy was in High School.  Ma would drop her off and I’d get myself off to school.  No biggie…right?  I had 2 blocks to walk and I was only home for a half hour or so before leaving.  But I was petrified every single morning (which is why I often called T in sick to school so her friends could come over for a skip day, courtesy of my excellent imitation of mom’s voice that the school secretary never questioned) and having T at home for that 1/2 hour before I tottered off to school made me so much more comfortable.  If anyone could stave off a Ted Bundy wannabe, it was T!

Even as an adult, I was scared.  When M (Hubby 1) and I were married, he often had to work 3rd shift and I was alone in our green trailer (if I never see a toilet the color of a rotten avocado, I’ll die content).  I’d pack up Scooter (my first ever dog), Sheldon (my parakeet) and myself and traipse over to ma’s to spend the night in my old room.  She was married to R at the time (get ready for it…the fucking bastard) but even spending the night in the same house as him was preferable to being by myself.  That, my sweet peeps, says a lot.

When O’s dad and I got married, we moved a couple of states away and sometimes he’d have to go on 2 day trips around Kansas (very exciting stuff) while I stayed at home with my baby.  I couldn’t go to moms unless I wanted to drive 14 hours, so I’d barricade me and O in my bedroom with my German Shepherd posted outside the door (God bless you, Tessie) and would count the hours until morning.  Hubby never understood why I was so freaking tired when he got home since O could sleep through the night by that time.

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The real Bloody Mary – First Queen of England

I don’t know what did it, but being alone started to change for me when I was married to Hubby 3.  He spent his summers riding with his motorcycle club (gang 😳) and I was alone for 3 day weekends all through the season, as well as during his  4-5 day trips.  I hated it at first, but then started savoring more and more of the aloneness (is that even a word?).  I liked having the time to do whatever it was I wanted to do, but yes, I was still really scared at night.  Do you remember the game “Bloody Mary”, where you look in a mirror, chant that phrase, and then you’ll actually see her ghost appear?  Because of that damn ‘game’, I couldn’t sleep in a room with a mirror for ages.  So, when Hubby was gone, I’d put a blanket over my dresser mirror that faced the bed, and hoped for the best.  Eventually, I took it down…believe it or not, that was a huge step for me!  (P.S.  She never appeared…go figure 🙄).

So here I am now…alone.  Everything I didn’t want to be but suddenly the situation I find myself in.  Surprisingly though, I don’t hate it and in fact, sometimes I really love it!  You see, I used to depend on others to make me feel secure.  Safe.  And to go even further with it validated…important…needed…and yes, happy too.  I sought these things from everyone I had been in a relationship with.  I wanted them to be the one stop shop where I could get all I needed just from them.  I wanted them to be responsible for the things that made me ‘happy’ and as you well know by now, those situations didn’t last.

You know, I used to hate it when people would say:  “You are responsible for your own happiness.”  OK…I’ll jot that down in my little book of advice.  But actually, it’s true.  I think I turned away from the gist of that phrase because I didn’t want the responsibility of my own happiness.  I didn’t want to learn to depend on me.  Feel safe with me.  Feel secure with me.  That sounded like a crap load of work, and it was so much easier to put that onus on someone else and then blame them when I wasn’t happy.  Right?  Why take on a job when you can pass it along to another?  (By the way sis, you still owe me a vacuuming from 1980 when I did it for you that one afternoon before ma got home…just sayin’).

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So, I’ve been put in a situation where I’m having to depend only on me.  If I want to feel secure, I am the one to make that happen.  If I want to feel safe, I have to understand I can take care of myself.  If I want to feel content…fulfilled…’happy’…then it’s up to me to create that environment to do so.  Period.  Me.  Just good old (cough cough) me.

And guess what?  I’m doing it!  Over these past months, I’ve learned so much about myself.  I’ve learned how much stronger I am.  How much more capable.  I’ve learned to take care of me…by myself.  I’ve come to understand I can weather storms with just me, Eddie, and Little Dot and it’s empowering every time.  I have finally come to see that depending on me is something I’ve needed for a long long time.  I’ve also learned something so so important:  that being with someone who creates unhappiness for you is so much worse than simply being alone.  I don’t NEED anyone to fulfill my needs now (although having one of those fulfilled…ahem…would be sorta nice), I’m doing just fine on my own.

So, back to my original question:  is this what happiness is…at least for me?  Yes.  I think it is.  I know when I wake up, I smile.  I know doing things around my house to make it exactly the way I want it makes me proud.  I know that watching Eddie and Dottie play out in the yard makes me laugh.  I know that watching stupid movies and eating dinner on the couch with Eddie’s head on my lap makes me feel a sense of contentment.  Maybe this wouldn’t be enough for someone else.  Maybe it’s too ‘little’…after all, I’m not traveling the world or jumping out of a plane, but it’s what I like.  And for me…that seems to be my happiness.

I still cry.  I still deal with issues relating to being bipolar.  I still get scared at times…lonely…sad.  I still miss having a partner at times.  I still want a picket fence family again.  Right now, I’m cycling through a bit of a manic stage but with some depression in the mix (it’s such a weird feeling to be on top of the world while crying at times), and the other day, I was really struggling.  I reached out to a friend and asked if they could come over for even just a few minutes to give me a hug and reassure me I was going to be OK.  They couldn’t so I weathered the storm on my own, and came out just fine.  By myself.  All by myself.  And…I was so proud.

For me, this is all happiness.  Knowing that no matter what happens to me in life, I’ll always have myself.  I’m happy with being ‘just’ me.  I’m happy with how I’m living right now and what I’m doing.  Maybe happiness is different for everyone, but sometimes I think people seek it too much in things…or in other people…or in constantly striving for that ‘something’ else that will miraculously fulfill them and make them believe they have finally reached the nirvana they sought.  I’m thinking it’s a little more than that…and a little less.  I’m thinking that it really does come from within…that it’s not money or cars or houses or others.  It’s you, and being content with who you are.  That, grasshoppers, is enough…at least for me.

Kristi xoxo

“Number 47 said to number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.” ~ Elvis Presley

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So, my sissie and I were yapping the other day and during our conversation about her new LPN position, she said her boss had told her something she’d been thinking about a lot regarding love.  Basically, it was how we are all given only 3 true-love relationship coins in our life, and because of that, they need to be used wisely and sparingly…with great care.

Wow.  My first reaction was why the hell didn’t I hear this 40 freaking years ago, and my second (which I know you are all thinking so I’ll just put it out there 🙄) was “Son of a bitch…mine are definitely spent.”  😳

Hmmmmm.  Is this true?  Do we really have a finite number of times we can experience true, fulfilling, ‘real’ love with another, or can we actually have that time and time again in our lives?  I think back to my past relationships and question how deep and meaningful that love really was, and whether or not I had experienced it with everyone I’d been with.  I adore Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love which states there are 3 aspects (sides) to love:  passion (the sexual chemistry), intimacy (the emotional connection), and commitment (the cognitive decision to stay with the person long-term, through thick and thin).  If you have all 3 of these components in your relationship, Sternberg says you are experiencing ‘consummate love’ which is what we all (well…most of us) strive for with our partners.  Just having a couple of the sides represent different types of love…for example, passion plus intimacy is a romantic love without any commitment to weather the storms that might come along.

So, have I experienced this ‘true’ love in every relationship I’ve had?  Is this idea of consummate love something like that of Maslow’s idea of self-actualization where it’s the ‘goal’ of life, but not necessarily something that everyone can achieve?  Is having ‘just’ 2 sides of the triangle mean you haven’t had ‘true’ love?  Can you feel ‘true love’ without having a solid 3?  Can you be satisfied with having less than the 3?  If you start out with just a couple of the ‘sides’, can you build the other with conscious work and determination?  What if you feel the 3 sides, but your partner doesn’t?  Does that negate the ‘true love’ in your own heart?  Hmmmmm…

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror. 🙄

OK, so let’s take a look-see at my relationships (yes, this is going to take a while since Elizabeth Taylor and I are twins… 🙄).  My first one was in high school when I didn’t know beans about what love really entailed.  I ‘loved’ my boyfriend, but didn’t have any idea how to create something meaningful outside of high school ‘love’…writing my first name with his last name in my notebook and making out with him in my basement on ma’s nubby green 70’s love seat, praying she wouldn’t traipse down the stairs with a basket of laundry to start (by the way, she did do that at a very awkward time…cough cough…and if that doesn’t kill the mood, I don’t know what does.  Thanks for that one, ma.).  Does anybody in high school really have the experience and cognitive ability to love fully?  I don’t think so.  YES…I know high school sweethearts who have married and are still together, but I have a feeling their love matured a great deal from what it was solely in high school.

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How about Hubby 1?  I was besotted with him and was definitely in love with him, but still, at 21, pretty darn immature regarding the significance of marriage.  We were WAY too young and had some really stupid beliefs like we could live on love, and not money.  Obviously, that worked out well.  With Hubby 2 though, I had all 3 sides of love.  I actually consider him my first ‘real’ marriage.  We had our son, raised him together for 13 years, built a couple of houses together, moved out of state together, and really got close to each other’s families.  It was a much more mature love in which both of us had divorced and wanted to work to make this marriage the one that lasted.  And #3?  Another true love…and one that was different than that with my son’s pa, but still all encompassing.

So, the question you are probably shouting is “Then why the hell did they fail, dumbass?”  (You don’t need to cuss at me, grasshoppers…you know ma doesn’t like that 🙄).  The answer?  Beats the fuck out of me.  More on this later.

Now, with J?  I had all 3 sides…bad.  I definitely had the passion and intimacy going into the relationship, and the commitment grew quickly for me.  In fact, my commitment was almost too much since it held on to him during situations when I should have let go (e.g. cheating).   But, to be honest, that’s what commitment is, isn’t it?  Holding on?  Getting through the bad?  Learning from it?  OK…sounds good…but does that mean abusive behavior should be ignored because of commitment?  Nope.  Of course not.  So with J?  The biggest issue I think that was inherent in our partnership was his own ‘triangle’.  I know he had intimacy with me because he shared so much of his childhood trauma and war experiences with me.  But passion?  Obviously not.  And commitment?  Uh huh.  Unfortunately, as I readily found out, a relationship is only as strong as it’s perceived by the lesser invested member.

Now, why did the ‘real’ ones fail?  Why did they end in divorces?  Why didn’t the commitment we apparently had not win out?  I think a lot of it had to do with me being bipolar.  Let me rephrase that…me being a not yet diagnosed, untreated bipolar.

When I was in manic phases, I was high with so much impulsivity, poor decision making, and feeling so freaking good, I didn’t think anything bad could ever touch me.  So why work on negative things in a relationship when I’m having just too much fun being up?  Screw that.  The result?  I did things and said things during these times that contributed greatly to the erosion of the marriages, and at those times, could not even begin to see what the consequences of that were.  Not real proud of that.  And then when I was cycling through a depression?  I didn’t have the energy, desire, or even the capability of knowing what was happening in the marriage…I was too deep down into my tunnel to see anything but that terrifying darkness those of you with depression can readily relate too.

So, what if I would have had more insight (or acceptance, since I knew something was very wrong) about being mentally ill?  What if I had been treated at that time with meds and counseling (as I am today)?  Would that have saved these marriages?  Could I ‘blame’ being bipolar for being a pretty shitty wife at times?  Is that fair?

Well yes…in a way it is.  I literally can’t help what my brain is like…how it operates differently from others.  I can’t control the cycles on my own.  I can’t prevent myself from the emotional states and related behavior of being bipolar without meds (and meds don’t prevent the states…it just works to lessen them).  Or can I?  Do I sometimes use my ‘brain’ disease as an excuse?  Or do I have more control than I might think?  And, does anyone who is mentally ill know the answers to these questions in terms of their own experiences?

What if I had gotten help when I should have growing up (wait…let me rephrase that:  what if I would have gotten the right help from a professional that wasn’t sexually abusive)?  Would I have had more insight into my behavior, emotionality, and sensitivity?  Would my spouses have (I sound like a freaking polygamist)?  Would they have understood these issues better, and worked with me to handle being bipolar in the context of our marriages?

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So, back to the 3 coins.  Let’s say this is right and we have only these 3 coins to spend on love  relationships.  We’re given these coins at the start of pubes, and are told that’s it…you can’t have more.  Would we be more careful in jumping into relationships?  More understanding of what we are truly looking for instead of just ‘trying’ things out?  Would we become more selective?  I wonder if I would have made different decisions based on this.  Even though everything was telling both of us that marriage #1 (sigh) was probably not a super idea, M and I did it anyway.  Maybe I would have saved that coin instead.  Using a coin on O’s dad was the best freaking coin I could have ever spent though.  And #3?  I think I would have spent that one too…we had 10 years that were definitely worth it and are still great friends to boot.

Now, what about J’s?  Oh wow.  This is a toughie.  I definitely spent my last coin on him, and this relationship hurt me the most emotionally than any other one ever did.  I know I was in ‘true’ love with him and thought he was my soul-mate (the only time I’ve ever said that about anyone).  So, was the coin I spent worth it?  Yep.  If not for anything else, just the fact I was in his kids’ lives for 3 years.

Well…the problem is obviously this and what I’ve been thinking about:  my 3 coins are spent.  Used up.  My piggy bank is empty.  Does this mean, if the 3 coin idea is true, that I’m out of ‘loves’?  Here’s what’s weird:  I think I kind of am.  Sometimes I think my heart has been broken and then glued together so many times that it’s just not up to the task of trying again.  And even if it is up to the task, is my head?  Will I ever invest the ‘commitment’ side into someone else again?  Trust to do that?  Or, can’t I help but invest that, no matter how bad of an investment it might be?  (Like me investing in bitcoin, lost on that one 🙄).  Maybe the banker in charge of the coins will have mercy on me…give me another one as a ‘tip’ so to speak.  Hmmmmm…if that happens, I’ll tell you one thing…it’s staying in my pocket until I’m damn sure the money is going to be well spent.

Kristi xoxo

“I can tote it, I just need an egg.” ~ Angela (90 Day Fiance)

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So, it’s no secret that I’m not the greatest at relationships (shutty 🙄) and thought it might behoove me to take lessons so to speak.  The experts I’ve decided to turn too, who I know will guide me through the perils of relationship dynamics and teach me lessons I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, are known around the world.  Their platform?  A very serious and insightful show called ’90 Day Fiance’.  As I’ve been watching it these last 7 seasons (as well as all the seasons of their many spin-offs) I’ve gleaned knowledge that’s applicable to any future partnership I might have and I’m certain that the secret to relationship bliss is mine.

For example, did you know it’s not necessary to learn about a mate’s culture, even though they have a different religion, a different language (tip:  learn at least a few words in their native tongue…just so you can…you know…communicate 🙄) are half-way around the world, and live in a way you have never experienced yourself? I’m mean hells bells, that’s just tiny stuff…right?  So, when a woman who dresses like a stripper falls in love with a man who practices Islam, this will be super.  When she visits or even moves to his country (which many of them do), he’ll want and expect her to wear the hijab per Muslim tradition, but why do that?  It’s not fashionable and we definitely don’t see those on American catwalks, so obviously this doesn’t apply to these gals.  They’ll go on wearing outfits with their boobs showing, sans nipple, and wonder why their man is angry and others in his family don’t accept them.  Well…guess you can’t please everyone…huh?

And food?  Don’t try to learn about a cultures food before visiting or moving to the country your sweetie resides in.  Why would you do that?  Just traipse over there, and then when the very poor family sacrifices a goat for you (which is an extremely gracious gesture), don’t eat any.  After all, you prefer steak.  When a future ma-in-law makes you a beautiful dinner she spent hours on, be sure to make faces, spit food out in your napkin, and stage whisper to the lucky sap who’s going to marry you that you’ll puke if you actually swallow a bite.  That way, the ma gets a very good impression of you as a independent thinker with distinct tastes. 🙄

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Did you know that houses in the poorest of our world’s nations aren’t built of wood, brick and siding?  Some are little more than huts with no air-conditioning, no running water, no bathroom, no electricity.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable for the 3 days you’ll be staying there on your visit (God forbid you actually move there, it would just be ‘too much’ for you to ever get used too), even though the ‘love of your life’ has lived in these circumstances all  their lives.  And if they take you to a local hotel for some, ahem, private time?  Be sure to bitch and complain, because I’m here to tell ya, they aren’t the Hilton.  If there are lots of  bugs or animals roaming the street or stores that are carts with torn awnings, it’s always a good idea to make fun of these things or complain bitterly.  Nothing brings a couple closer together than a great deal of mocking.  (Also, did you know that countries on the equator are hot?  Apparently, not a lot of people realize this so don’t realize they might sweat a bit on their visit).

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Here’s something I truly didn’t know but is quite exciting if I ever marry a 20 year old:  even though I’m 53 (blech), I can still have a baby!  YEA! Actually, I would sorta ‘have too’ since my future hubby is expected to have an heir and is wanting his own shot at raising a brood (even though I have a kid older than him 😳).  Now, it doesn’t matter that I’ve gone through menopause (which at 53, one would assume I have) or that my eggs are as old as dirt (if I even have any of the little boogers left), I can still get an egg from someone else…preferably in my immediate family so the baby will be my blood…and then have that little nugget inserted into my nice, healthy, still like 18 pink uterus I presumably have.  Well for piss sakes…this is an epiphany for me!  Here I’ve been wanting a grandbaby, but instead I’ll just have a little cutie myself.  As Angela (who is my age and whose YOUNG hubby wants a little guy running around that’s his own) says to her daughter:  “I can tote it, I just need your egg.”  (Starts picking out names, ma!).  Nuff said on that one.

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And age doesn’t matter!  Whoo Hoo (let’s face it…a LOT of guys from my generation are pretty much set in their ways and aren’t quite as exciting as a 25 year old)!  OK…some of you may not know this, but J was significantly younger than me.  No, I’m not going to tell you by how many years, my sweet and nosy peeps.  Suffice it to say we got a lot of looks, and yes, I was often self-conscious about it!  I was the wrinkly elder with this younger guy on my arm (for balance since I’m so old I could fall and easily break a hip) and folks would stare.  Like I’ve said before, aging is a sin in our country and many of you younger people are apparently going to figure out a way to dodge it (but still be alive)…best wishes to ya.  Anyhoot, a 65 year old and a 30 year old are actually fine and dandy (no peeps, J was not that much younger 🤨).  And just because my new man will have to wash my hair for me and help me up out of a chair doesn’t mean things won’t work out in the long run.  He’ll love doing that and more when he’s 40 and I’m 75.  And families love these age differences too.  In fact, I’d love for O to marry someone older than me.  We could be besties and eventually room together in the old age home.  That way, O would only have to make one trip to see us both.

Were you also aware that lying doesn’t matter?  No wonder I’m thrice divorced, I didn’t lie enough.  Well spank me hard…I know what to do next time now, don’t I?  Seeing pics of a body builder from Great Britain who actually speaks with a Nigerian accent when you chat and doesn’t know where London is on a map does NOT mean you are getting catfished.  And if you are?  Well, they must have a good reason and actually be an ok guy to hook up with anyway.  If you’re already married and wait until you’re engaged to your new baby to tell them, whatever.  It’s just a teeny little detail you forgot to mention.  If you’re moving halfway across the world and your darling hasn’t shared with you the fact they are broke and don’t have a job…no problemo.  Just live on love.  And the best kind of lie?  If you say you’re 40 and use a filter during chats and while sending pics that make you look 20…it’s ok.  Your beloved will be so happy at your 55 year old self complete with lines, sags, spots, etc.  It’s just a cool surprise.

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Now, not every one of these relationships work out (why, I have no idea).  So, if that happens here’s a sure fire way to feel better:  get some plastic surgery like HUGE lips…butt fillers…DD boobs…liposuction.  It’s because of YOUR bod things didn’t work out, so the more fake you look, the more you’ll be loved.  Who woulda thunk that?  No wonder I’ve been divorced…I’ve still got my original breasts. 🤨   Another idea if things don’t go perfectly with this soulmate of yours?  Just get your newly rounded butt back online and try again.  It’s really as easy as that.

This next one is a shocker to me.  Truly.  SOME people are out there to take advantage of you.  To use your for a green card.  To get to America the only way possible for them.  I know…I know…that would never happen to any one of US.  That only happens to people who aren’t truly in love.  So, when your parents, friends, colleagues and neighbors pull you aside and say they think the behavior of your intended is pretty bad and they don’t seem to love you (look, they only go out by themselves to a bar a few nights a week…we all need our space 🙄) tell them they’re crazy.  In fact, the longer you’ve known this friend, the angrier you should become. People in love always know what’s best…they are always the most rational and most objective.  Look, if I want your advice that could save me from getting into a marriage that’s going to last 6 months and then bankrupt me after, I’ll ask.  Got it?

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And this brings me to the last lesson I’ve gleaned thus far, and that’s about what love really is.  True love comes from texting and face-timing with no physical interaction what so ever.  It comes from jumping into bed the minute you land in their country, and then pointing out all that’s wrong with the area while praising your own fatherland.  The love is seen in little spats that end up with a drink being thrown in a face…smashing a cake over a head…or storming out of a restaurant screaming the entire way.  And the little sweet names you have for one another (and did you know that nicknames are truly good for a relationship)?  Here are some ideas from the show:  bitch, cow, douche, jerk, asshole, idiot and f##ker (you’re welcome, ma).  Those are sure to help your love bloom even more.

So thank you, 90 Day Fiance.  I now know what I’ve been doing wrong in finding a soulmate and I’m going to remedy it now.  I’m staring my search for a 22 year old guy from a very poor country (whose language I can’t speak), who sends me pics in which he looks different in every single one in terms of his hair and eye color, body shape, & height, who wants at least a half dozen little ones running around soon, whose parents are horrified I’m of a different religion, and who I’ve caught lying (but hey, none of us are perfect).  When I find this gem, I’ll let y’all know right away.  I promise.

Kristi xoxo

Sexy is as Sexy Does.

So, a friend and I were yapping yesterday about sex (I’m running out of words that basically mean talk, since every post has me yacking to someone else) 😳.  Both of us have, ahem, been ‘without’ for a while (she a bit longer than me) and we were discussing when it’s appropriate to have it in a new relationship.

We live in a hook-up culture, don’t we?  My students and I talk about this in our Human Sexuality class, and I’ve had so many girls tell me it’s easier to find a ‘fuck buddy’ (sorry ma) than a relationship.  I’m not saying all younger guys are like that by any means (my son better not have been); however, in our society men are socialized to equate sex with masculinity and scoring means you’re a ‘real man’.  Look at the language used to describe sex with women:  tap that, bang, get lucky, bone, slay, get busy, bump uglies (😳), nail, ride, etc.  Hmmmm.  It’s a conquest.  And if a guy doesn’t take advantage of an opportunity to be with a woman (imagine a man turning a woman down and then telling his buddies…hmmmm…), well…he must be gay.  🙄

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And in our society?  Sex comes first in relationships.  It’s almost like couples have sex and then decide if they are emotionally compatible with all of the things that go along with it.  In addition, with society telling men they need to have sex to show they’re a real man, this might be pushed to the head of the line for that reason alone.  I’ve had so many male students tell me they lost their virginity at 14, 15, 16…just because their friends already had sex and they were being mocked for being a virgin.  They felt enormous pressure to show they were a ‘real man’ too, so they just had it.  No love.  No intimacy.  In fact, how do you even know what those things are at 15?  So they did it just to ‘score’ points with their buddies.  Isn’t that sad?

And then women?  We are so objectified and are ‘told’ that the worst thing in the world (I’m being a bit dramatic here) is to ‘hold’ out on your man.  Or really any man that wants you.  If you do?  OMG.  You’re a bitch.  A tease.  Something must be wrong with you…are you frigid?  After all, we’re here to please men and not doing so sets us apart from the women who do.  Why go through all the rigmaroll of a relationship, when you can just hop on a futon with someone else?

Last spring, in my Marriage and Family class, we were talking about these issues, and 2 of my girls stated they were virgins.  Actually, 1 did, and then when there was so much heated discussion, another admitted to the same.  Just that alone should tell you something is very wrong.  For an 18 year old to believe, and often justifiably so, that she will be berated for being a virgin is very unjust to me.  Anyhoot, one of my older male students (40’s) said he didn’t believe the girls because “No girl stays a virgin anymore…it’s just not done.”  So, I asked:  “Tell me why isn’t it done?  Why can’t this be believed?”  And he said: “Girls need to put out or they won’t have their guy.”

OK.  Girls need to ‘put out’ or they won’t have their guy.  Really?  That’s what keeps a couple connected nowadays?  Her ‘putting out’?  Hmmmmm.

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And the funny thing is this:  50 years ago, the ‘girls’ who weren’t virgins would have been the ones looked down on.  Not the girls who were.  It was right to ‘save’ yourself for marriage.  It was Biblical.  It was expected.  We’ve done a complete turn-a-round and now women have the pressure to keep their man happy or lose him to someone else who does.

I hear a lot of teacher talk and in some of the local grade schools, girls have been caught giving oral sex to boys in the bathroom, around the corner of the building during recess…pretty much anywhere they can.  See, this is status to them!  It’s sex!  It’s ‘putting out’ and making these guys like you.

Are you fucking kidding me?  Our GRADE SCHOOL girls are saying they need to do this in order to have status and boys around them?  OK.  Where do I even start?  First, when I was in 5th, 6th grade, I didn’t even know what a BJ was! (I can’t type it…my ma would probably have a heart attack or call me yelling…either one is bad…).  Seriously!  And then when my sissy taught me about sex (over pop tarts one morning and with napkin drawings) when I was in Jr. High, I was disgusted by the thought of oral sex…as were my friends!  In other words, we weren’t ready for anything like that, and didn’t feel pressure to do it.  Actually, the girls who did ‘do it’ were looked down on as ‘sluts’.

These poor girls break my heart.  How did they learn so early that pleasuring a man is the way to be ‘liked’?  And bless them, because they are being liked for what they can do with their mouths.  Not who they are.  Where’s their self-esteem?  Where is their understanding that doing what you are being pressured to do is wrong?  Where is their self-respect?  Where the hell are their parents who should be teaching some freaking values to them?  I don’t get it.

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This ad is a horrible statement about women.

I also think about how they are learning that pleasing a guy is the most important thing.  What about their pleasure?  We talk so much about all of the meds and devices that are out there for men to continue to enjoy sex in regards to impotency, but around 75% of women don’t orgasm from vaginal intercourse, they need extra help (toys, hands, tongue…).  And, 10-15% never orgasm under any circumstance (abcnews.com).  Where’s the help for this?  The outcry?  Why don’t we take the pleasure of women as seriously as we do the pleasure of men?  Doesn’t that alone say something about sex and gender in our society?

Before my son started the 6th grade, I bought him a book…complete with drawings.  I gave it to him in the summer (we always had a summer school project) and he read a chapter a day, filled out the info, and then we talked about it.  Yes, it was uncomfortable.  Yes, it was probably mortifying to him (I’m sure he’s nodding his head vigorously now), but guess what?  He learned the mechanics of sex along with the physical, emotional and social consequences of it.  Then, when he was around 16, we were driving home from dinner and he asked me some direct questions about sex (he always talked better in the car when I wasn’t looking directly at him).  Basically, he asked me about sex before marriage, whether he should always use a condom, and what I would have thought if he had been gay.

So, here’s what I sad:  “I don’t think it’s realistic to think men and women wait until almost 30 to have sex (that’s around the average age people are getting married now), but that’s a choice you need to make.  All I ask is that you be respectful, loving, and kind to any partner you have.  Yes, you provide the protection even if she’s on something;  for the love of all that is holy in this entire universe, wear a freaking condom every time.  Never have sex with anyone you can’t raise a baby with, because you will accept full responsibility if she gets pregnant.  And who gives a shit if you would have been gay?  (His friend came out as bi-sexual so I think that’s where that question came from).  All I know is I want grandbabies…one way or another.”  😐 

Our poor young people need guidance.  Conversation.  But instead, according to my scores of students over the years, they aren’t getting it from their parents.  They see it TV, look online (8-11 is the average age kids start to see porn online), and hear stories from their friends.  Wow.  I know people who have kids that are at the age where they need information now!  Yet, these parents refuse to bring it up.  Refuse to sit their kids down and talk to them.  So…what’s going to happen when they are around this pressure?  These expectations?  How will they ever be able to make informed decisions?  And, will they be punished if they make the wrong ones?  Believe me when I say this:  Ignorance is NOT bliss, and not talking about it will NOT make the issues go away.

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But, here’s the kicker (as if all of this wasn’t enough already), even people my age live in a hook-up culture at times.  One of the guys I dated this past winter (he was a real winner) was pissed when I wouldn’t sleep with him after seeing him twice.  What?  Really?  Just because I’m, ahem, a bit over 50 doesn’t mean I don’t want to build intimacy…need connection…and for piss sakes, need to be in love!  C’mon now.  Why is that so wrong?

I hate that sex is used as a tool nowadays.  As just something to do because it feels good (sigh…I’ve kinda forgotten ).  As a way to gain ‘status’ or keep a partner (believe me…the keeping part doesn’t necessarily work…sigh again).  That it’s ‘expected’ just because ‘everyone else is doing it.’  Even infidelity is becoming common.  More than 40% of couples experience this in their marriage, and so many will justify it by saying: “It’s just sex.”  Okey dokey.  Glad you took those vows.

What happened to love?  Seriously.  What happened to waiting until sex will have a deep meaning for you?  Part of a relationship that has built intimacy and trust and respect?  Why have we weakened what sex is all about?  When did it just become another thing to do?  Another Saturday night?

It makes me sad.  It makes me sad that guys have to prove themselves sexually to be accepted and it makes me even sadder that women are succumbing to pressure.  I don’t have an answer for this, and maybe there isn’t one.  It’s awfully hard to move backwards rather than forward.  But I just wish sex wasn’t such a ‘goal’, but a personal, intimate, loving connection that means something very special.  And, it breaks my heart that so many young people will never know that experience. 💔

Kristi xoxo

“Perception is strong and sight weak.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi

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“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, one of my pet peeves is when people say “It is what it is.”  Because even if you’re talking about a tangible object, nothing ever is what it is (rhubarb pie to you might be a great thing…to me, it’s a trip to the toilet).  Here’s why:  every word we speak, thought that we have, suspicions that might haunt us, how we see a gift, how we react to a particular person or animal or food, etc. are filtered through our own perceptions.  Period.  Our minds are like onions with things being processed through various layers that are unique only to us (and that can also make us cry).

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Think about it.  When you were a baby, nothing ‘was what it was.’  You had to learn about everything through your own innate abilities and then from others.  If a baby pulls a dogs tail (and O did this many times with Scooter who would sigh and look at me for rescue) and the dog snaps at them, guess what?  That baby is going to perceive dogs as being mean and will most likely be afraid of them.  I remember a cat hissing and making that horrible snarling type noise at me when I was at a neighbors house in the 2nd grade…ever since then, I do not like cats, have absolutely no desire to interact with them, and avoid them like a plague.  P.S.  Please don’t try to change my mind:  me not liking cats is what it is.  🙄

I remember walking home from a friends house when I was around 10 or so, and our neighbor had a HUGE Great Dane (yes, that’s an oxymoron but I had to emphasize this beasts massiveness) who was getting old and cranky.  As I walked around the corner of our block, he came at me fast, hard, and snarling.  I peed myself covered my face and finally his owner heard me screaming and got the dog under control.  After that, I perceived all big dogs to be a threat and only lost that years later when Hubby 2 had a white German Shepherd I had to be a mama too.  She was able to change my mind, but I’ll tell you what, I was terrified of her at first but cried like a baby when she died.

everything-we-hear-is-an-opinion-not-a-fact-everything-we-see-is-a-perspective-not-the-truGet my point?  Instead of saying “It is what it is”, we need to change that to “It is what we interpret it is based on our own thoughts, viewpoints, experiences, memories, values, belief systems (including political and religious ideologies), socialization, cultural norms, verbal and non-verbal language used, etc.”  However, that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, huh?

I think perception really comes into play with communication and can cause a lot of conflict when the perceptions differ and effort isn’t made to understand what thought processes are being used.  Take flirting.  I’m an extrovert.  A HUGE extrovert who loves loves loves to chitchat and interact with people anywhere and everywhere.  Besides my lucky family, I talk to my neighbors, postman, garbage men, random people in stores or when I’m out walking, on airplanes, on social media…pretty much where ever someone happens to be.  When I write anywhere but here (I’m trying very hard to make sure this blog is taken seriously), I use a ton of exclamation points!  In fact, I feel guilty when I don’t because to me, periods look like you are ending a sentence with kind of a ‘meh’, instead of with excitement! 😄

So anyhoot, when I talk to people on social media, I use exclamation points, lots of emojis, etc. and a friend of mine said I was much too flirty.  Heh?  I’m not talking to men any differently than I talk to women.  I see (perceive) my interactions to be funny or sweet or jokey.  But, my friends perception is different.  I think a lot of it is because he’s far more quiet and introverted, and as a guy he just doesn’t use emojis and exclamation points quite as much as women might.  I also wonder if he’s had issues where flirting led to much more, so he perceives any ‘excited and fun’  communication as the start of something more serious.

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I can understand this, but my perception doesn’t agree with it.  Should I change my perception and start to see that I’m ‘flirty’ when I feel I’m just being fun and nice?  Should I change myself to fit his perceptions?  Should I stop using emojis when I respond to men’s comments?  Would it be disrespectful if I didn’t?  If we were in a relationship, would it be ‘fair’ for him to expect me too?  Why does my perception have to be his…and vice versa?

However, I know my perceptions have colored so much of how I see things in my life.  After being sexually abused by my psychologist for 2 years, I am very leary when a new man comes into my life because a part of me still assumes they only want me for their own satisfaction.  Rationally, I know that’s probably not true, but my perception stands.

When I start getting close to someone, I want to know who they are messaging or texting regularly since this is how J communicated with the woman he was planning a rendezvous with.  Because of my experiences, it makes me nervous that any texts to another woman could be fodder for an affair.  So, should a man have to hand his phone over to me based on MY perceptions?  No.  But should he try to understand why I have that perception?  Yes.

Early on when I was growing up, I always felt I wasn’t enough. Obviously, so many of these sensitive, self-critical feelings/perceptions were stemming from early indications of mental illness, but even now, I still have the same perceptions.  Regardless of how much I try to give or do, in my eyes it’s never enough.  So, when someone says “This is your fault, you didn’t do enough”, it doesn’t matter if it’s objectively true or not.  My perception is that of having failed them…and myself.

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I learned in my family that work is very important (which isn’t a bad thing) and being idle can be seen as laziness.  To this day, I try to ‘keep busy’ and if I watch a movie in the middle of the day or take a nap, I still feel a sense of guilt and make up for the lost time when I get up.

When I was suffering that fucking breakdown, so many things had piled up on me:  the senseless death of my nephew, the passing of my mentor, finalizing the divorce with Hubby 3, the crash of my relationship with J, a troubled student who threatened me at school, as well as surgery I was scared to have.  And here’s the thing (which actually breaks my heart), I used to see the world as sunshine and rainbows…or at least I tried too.  I really did.  I was a modern day Pollyanna who had a tough time seeing bad in things.  But now I do…and I hate it.  These things that happened changed my half-glass full perception to seeing a half-empty one instead.  I understood that the world can change in a heartbeat and there’s a lot of bad out there that can hurt you anytime it wants (I’m trying to mitigate this view and understand there’s both good and bad…).

Once I ‘came out’ as being bipolar, so many people rallied around and supported me.  But so many also faded away…their perception of me and mental illness was one they just couldn’t ‘see’ in their minds.  I was no longer Kristi.  I was mentally ill Kristi that made them uncomfortable and unsure how to act around me.

I think it’s a good idea to examine our perceptions to get a better understanding of where they came from and how they are affecting our lives…our relationships…our communication.  If we don’t understand what lenses we’re using to see the world, how can we pass those glasses to anyone else?  And, if can’t explore the basis for our own feelings and behavior, how can we begin to work on what we want or need too?

You know, my perceptions aren’t right or wrong, and neither are yours.  Our perceptions are ‘ours’ and need to be respected.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to other viewpoints and change, but by the same token, it’s not fair that others demand you to see things through only their eyes.  It’s not right to HAVE to change who you are and what you believe to be accepted.  What’s right is to explain WHY you hold these perceptions to be true, because that’s the only way understanding will take place.

Kristi xoxo

“…Revved up Like a Deuce, Another Runner in the Night.” ~ Bruce Springsteen I

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So, in a post last week, I talked about whether or not love is blind and I said that actually it’s not since we all have our preferences along with what we NEED to see.  But like I do, I’ve been going over that in my mind and started thinking about how love truly is blind in certain circumstances…places where none of us want to go, where we say we would never go, and swear we would leave as soon as the issue is clear.  My son and I were talking about it yesterday, and he said this:  “Love isn’t necessarily blind in the beginning, but it can become blind after the love has taken hold.”  Let’s take a look-see.

For you sweet newbies, my ma was married to R (I won’t say what I usually do when I hear his name in my head but I have to say something so I guess asshole will suffice), for 28 years and although my sis and I knew about it and tried very hard to get her to leave him, she didn’t for all of those years.  In fact, she wouldn’t admit to the abuse until close to the time she was able to get away.  I saw black eyes more times than I can count, black and blue arms, marks by her neck, a beating so bad that she was rushed to the ER and was throwing up blood, and an eye injury so serious I took her to the doctor to make sure she wasn’t going to lose her vision in it.

Now, for the big question:  why the hell did she stay?   The first reason after the initial act (just a ‘little’ slap) was, she told me, almost unbelievable to her.  She grew up with parents who were never violent in any way and my dad treated her very well; she didn’t have any experience with domestic violence so it was out of her realm of comprehension that it could happen to her.  Using my favorite phrase, she was simply gobsmacked and since it was ‘small’, and he profusely apologized, she assumed it was a one-off and wouldn’t happen again.  The second reason?  Because she loved him.  Because she had fallen in love with who she believed to be a good man, and this one incident didn’t change that.  The next dozen didn’t change it.  The love was still there and she said she could compartmentalize the bad and only focus on the good.

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Years later, after the abuse intensified , she continued to stay for a myriad of reasons:  he broke her down so far she had absolutely no self-esteem or feelings of worth; he manipulated her thinking to believe she was the cause of the violence; he psychologically abused her to presume she was unlovable and no one else would ever want her, and the list goes on.  In other words, he used the proverbial ‘Game Book’ entitled:  “How to Beat Your Wife and Get Away with it for Decades.”  (Probably the only fucking book he ever read 🤬).

So, she stayed for love in the beginning, and he used that initial showering of love to get away with just enough until she was essentially his prisoner.  I remember my grandma, T, and I sitting down with ma before she even married him and telling her how much we disliked him and were suspicious he was hurting her.  She looked us straight in the eye…  said she loved him…he loved her…and everything was fine.

Hmmmmm.  Love is blind.

After living with R for 5 excruciating years and then having to see him for 23 more, I swore to myself I would NEVER ever ever ever be in a situation like my poor ma found herself in.  Never.  And seeing that written, and remembering how smug I was every time I said it, makes me realize how terribly naive we are when it comes to our hearts.  Those fragile, irrational hearts that can cloud our eyes and dull our senses because all that matters in the end is the love.  Right?

I’m going to be honest with you (because I always try to be), as much as I loved Hubby 3 (shutty the mouthy) and still do…we talk almost daily and are very close…our first 2 years of marriage were horrible.  Like I’ve said before, Hubby came from an extremely physically, verbally abusive home which was coupled with neglect so awful he basically had to raise himself from about the age of 10.  His adult relationships were very volatile with tons of drama, yelling, throwing things, alcohol fueled incidents, etc.  Then he married me, and guess what?  He started re-creating the only dynamic he knew.  So, I got yelled at, accused and berated for the most absurd things which forced drama into our lives, had things thrown at me, had my bathroom door ripped off the hinges because he was upset I had slammed it, had a chair thrown across my kitchen, had my arms grabbed.

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And I stayed.  Yep…I surely did.  Why you ask?  Because I loved him.  I really really loved him.  I was terrified when he was angry and would cry when he’d scream at me (and once, peed myself 😟), but I loved him.  And guess what?  Love is blind.  But finally, after those first 2 years, I told him this:  “If you ever do anything to me again, you will be out of here and probably in jail.  Period.  You need to grow the fuck up, learn some self-control, and realize I’m the best fucking (sorry for the cussing, ma 😳) thing that’s ever crossed your path.”  And he began too.

Hubby put so much effort into his behavior and words…he truly did.  He made changes that most people wouldn’t think are possible and our last 8 years together were actually very happy and fun.  Yes, we’d butt heads at time, but I’ll tell you what:  he changed into a kind, sweet, loving guy who would run bubble baths for me when I was having a bad day, wrote notes for me every single morning of our lives together to start my day off with a smile, took me to Chicago each year after Christmas for a fancy schmancy time to celebrate the year, and told me he loved and appreciated me more times than I could ever try to count.

Just last week were were yacking on the phone and I told him I was feeling down and here’s what he said:  “Kristi, you are a beautiful woman who is the sweetest person I’ve ever known.  You made me a better man and no one has ever given me the chances you did.  I will always love you for doing that.”  But you know what?  I should have left him the first time he was abusive to me.  The very first time.  But I didn’t because of that love I had for him.  Yes, after 2 years it was ‘worth’ it but the road to get there was NOT guaranteed at all (so please please please don’t think I’m advocating staying with an abusive partner…not at all!) and it could have ended horribly.  I gambled and that time, I ‘won.’  A million to one shot (I think I’m going to buy a lottery ticket today…you never know 😳).

Not so with J who was physically abusive twice, psychologically abusive for most of our 3 years together, verbally abusive countless times, would go into rages (which I now understand to be part of his Borderline PD), and finally was cheating on me in very public ways numerous times (in other words, he never tried to hide it once it started happening) and blaming me for it.  And once again, I stayed.  I had gambled once, and won!  Who’s to say I wasn’t on a streak?

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Like a broken record, I stayed at first because of the love I had for him.  I loved him with a passion and yearning I’ve never had before and doubt I’ll ever have again.  I can honestly say I felt he was my soulmate.  My forever.  I could see all of the good in him (because like Hubby, there is a lot of good) through the bad.  I kept thinking that all he needs is patience.  Understanding.  Security.  Why?  Because he too grew up in a very abusive home and also had PTSD from his 3 tours overseas.  Of course I needed to stay…for fuck sakes, he needed me!  And I also needed him.

So, I took him back again and again after he’d leave and cheat.  After he’d swear to me about things right before catching him in a lie.  After he put his hands on me.  After he said horrible things to me.  I stayed because I loved him.  Because I was blind to what was outside of that love.  It’s almost like our heart creates a space that doesn’t allow anything ‘bad’ to get in to threaten those feelings.  I had to work my way out of that tunnel I found myself in where I couldn’t see anything but what I wanted to see.  Maybe that’s why people say hindsight is 20/20.  And it really is.

Look, we see what we want to see.  We believe what we want to believe.  We love who we love no matter how irrational it might be.  We are blinded while in love (or at least I’m convinced we are) and that accounts for a lot of things we accept in our relationships.

And I’m going to tell you one more truth today:  Even though I have ‘learned my lesson’ about this phenomenon, I also understand it could happen again.  Because each time we open our hearts to love, we are taking the risk of being overpowered by it.  So, what I’m hoping to remember is this:  to keep my eyes as wide open as I can in the beginning.  Look for red flags.  Trust that intuition.  Let the mind rule the heart while it still has a chance.  Actually, I think that’s something we all need to do.

Kristi xoxo

“But She Was… Blinded by the Light” ~ Bruce Springsteen

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So, my sis had me watch “Love is Blind” on Netflix and it was fascinating.  Here’s the premise in case you haven’t watched:  30 men and women go into these rooms (called ‘pods’ on the show which makes me think of a post- apocalyptic time 🙄 ) in which you can’t see, but only hear, the other person.  All of the contestants spend 10 days speed-dating with each other, and then can talk to certain people they connect with the best.  After 10 days, some of the people get engaged, and it’s only after this that they actually see each other and meet.  They go on get-aways and then tackle ‘real life’ before getting married (maybe) after a month of being face-to-face.   Plus, during the ‘pod’ interaction and get-away, there are no phones or social media of any kind so that the people/couples can totally focus on one another.

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Now, as the name states quite clearly, this ‘experiment’ is trying to answer the day old question:  Is love blind?  I’m not going to tell you what happens to the 8 couples that actually get engaged (6 are followed on the show) since I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s interesting to watch the relationships unfold.

I think we would all like to think ‘love is blind’ but after watching this, and really stewing about it, I believe this concept is more complicated than what’s seen on the show and can be looked at on a lot of different levels.

First, the show focuses on looks and race in terms of ‘blindness’.  Fall in the love with the person, not how beautiful or handsome they are and learn about a person without stereotyping in terms of skin color or ethnicity.  The thing is, this isn’t a big deal on the show.  EVERY single contestant is gorgeously yummy, so anyone picked is going to look good!

Why did the producers do this if they really wanted to see if love is blind?  Because it’s not.  Does it sound shallow if we say looks don’t matter?  I personally don’t think it is.  I believe we all have somewhat of a type, but if you talk about it you sound superficial as if knowing what looks good to you is wrong.  Look, I like a certain look in fashion (running shorts and t’s…quite the couture), a certain type of car style, a certain type of house architecture, etc.  I know what I ‘like’…what pleases me.  Why is it bad to have preferences for partners too?  I like tall men, a bit bigger guy (but someone that can hike and run and do stuff with me…in other words, keep up with this bipolar woman), a crinkle to the eyes when they smile, hands that show they know how to work, some arm muscle, facial hair, nice teeth, etc.

This is MY type.  What I like.  So, if I meet a man who is shorter than me with a smile I don’t find attractive and very skinny, I’m sorry but I’m not going to be attracted.  “But Kristi, for fuck sakes, you can learn to love them if you have the right foundation.”  Maybe so.  Platonically at least.  I’m not saying this guy wouldn’t be a good, kind, sweet, smart man by any means.  But, I happen to believe that sex is an important part of a partnership, and not being attracted to someone physically, even though you are mentally and emotionally, can cause the relationship to be more brother and sister, than hubby and wifey (I’m looking at this heterosexually since that’s what I am, although it hasn’t worked out great for me 😳).

“But Kristi, you yourself, in your amazingly brilliant, much sought after lectures, have yacked on (and on and on) that you can learn to love someone.  That love is an ‘art’ (thank you Erich Fromm)…something you have to build and nurture.”  Yes, I know that grasshoppers, but building love, and building sexual attraction, are 2 very different things.

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Think about this:  I knew a guy from 7th grade through high school that I thought was ‘it’!  I tried to get him to notice me all of those years (don’t say it…pathetic) and finally, after graduation, he asked me out!  YEA!  I was so excited!  I don’t think I ever spent as much time getting ready for a date in all my life since I wanted to look as perfect to him as he did to me.  When he picked me up, I was almost giddy; I mean, this was it!  My dreamboat (🙄)…my 18 year old soul-mate.   He drove us to the mall to look at CD’s (shutty…I know I’m old(er) and can even remember buying…gasp…cassettes at the mall too, along with 45’s.  If you don’t know what those are, ask your ma.) and after just arriving he opened the mall door, stepped inside and kept walking.  Heh?  He let the door close on me.  OK.  But I figured this was a small thing and something I’d fix when we were married.  Throughout the night he proceeded to be the most self-centered, pompous, narcissistic asshole I’d ever met (and even now, he’s still up there).  Those 4 hours we spent together made me go from salivating over him to thinking how ‘ugly’ he was after all.  I wouldn’t have been with him for a million bucks (OK, maybe for a million…but then again, getting paid for sex is well…ahem…a bit slutty), but you get my point.

Maybe some looks don’t do it for me, but then again, some personality quirks can turn me off an attractive person as well.  Hmmmm…love is blind?

Why didn’t the producers use people that were overweight?  Disabled in some way?  Here’s one:  mentally ill (gasp!)?  More regular looking, as opposed to every woman having a flat belly and big boobs, with the guys having extra good looks.  Would love be blind then?

Then, you have to look at another question:  SHOULD love be blind in terms of other aspects of the person?  Once again, rail against me if you must, but a criminal record that includes any sort of domestic violence or child abuse is something I need to SEE.  What about a current addiction for which the person isn’t wanting to get help?  How about them being an atheist when spirituality is important to me?  Seven divorces (above my own personal record)?  No thank you.  A man whose work ethic is non-existent?  Someone who is racist?  Homophobic?  Refers to mental illness as those ‘crazies’?  Nuh uh.  How about someone who is as opposite me politically as you can get (been there…done that…and the arguments left us both alienated and frustrated)?  Someone who has never had kids because they really don’t like them?  And I could go on and on and on.

My belief is that we should NOT be blind to these things.  Seriously.  Because as an older woman (but not that old…remember that, peeps) who does have some (cough cough) experience in the realm of relationships/marriage, these are things that can greatly affect your relationship and can pull you apart faster than Taron can get my heart racing (and that’s mighty fast, y’all 🤭).  These are also things that can be dangerous (obviously), pull your own family apart, have a horrible impact on your kids, etc.

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When I was dating ‘The Counselor (lawyer)’ in December and January (much too long), I ran a report on him like I did for Hubby 3 and J when we got together.  Look, I have a son (and with Hubby, he was only 12) and hope to have grand kids soon (O…did you read that sentence?  Go back honey…and read the freaking thing again); I definitely don’t want some boob around them.  ‘The Counselor’ was highly pissed when I casually mentioned the report (run one on me…I don’t care!) and that was a huge red flag for me.  For piss sakes, he has a daughter!  Does he want her to jump into something with someone who’s been in jail 5 times?  C’mon now.  Or, as my ma likes to say:  “Think Man!”

The last really interesting thing I got from this show is when the couples had no access to their phones or social media, and only focused on each other, things were hunky-dory.  However, after their engagements and get-aways, when they got these things back, a lot of couples slid downhill and were really negatively affected by them.  That in itself teaches us a huge lesson.  Let me say it Professor K style (not like I would in the classroom, but with frankness): leave the fucking devices alone and focus on the real person right in front of you!  I know couples that can’t even eat together without their devices.  That are on them when they are watching a movie together…when they’re out and about.  Great.  This will be a terrific foundation for caring for a baby together, where you have to put these time-suckers down and get your hands dirty…literally.  Hey, there’s no freaking app that changes diapers, wipes up puke everyday, helps you handle the stress of colic, deals with a tantrum in the middle of the store, etc.  Right?

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So, is love blind?  Nope.  And it shouldn’t be.  You should look for what your preference is.  What you want in terms of looks, personality, morals, ideologies, etc.  In class, I call it my ‘Captain Crunch’ theory (this is going to get copyrighted since it’s such a deep theory that could be written about in a textbook):  if you like CC, crave CC, are always happy with CC, and enjoy the looks and texture of CC, for fuck sakes don’t buy Fruit Loops just because you have a coupon and it’s easier to reach on the shelf.  And if you do, and decide they’re icky after all, hey…that’s your fault.  You chose what you didn’t like instead of what you knew you wanted.  You went the easier route…and look what it got you.  A taste of fake orange in your mouth that you try to brush out and then your toothpaste tastes disgusting and mouthwash only moves the goop that gets stuck in your teeth all through your mouth and for the rest of day, you are tasting spearmint fruit.  Ugh.

‘Nuff said.  🤓

Kristi xoxo

“Oh, It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night” ~ John Lennon & Paul McCartney

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So, yesterday sucked balls (for some reason I really love this term).  I’m having a bit of a tough week, and yesterday I pretty much lost it.  I’m missing my son and his girlfriend since they are in their own apartment now…I’m working really hard to get my house in order and have a wrenched back and purple/numb finger to show for it…and this week marks the 3rd anniversary of seeing my nephew for the last time before his death.  Also, this is the exact time that J began making plans to see his ex which started his back and forth abandonments and cheating.

In some ways, I’m really proud of how I’m handling things because not long ago, I would have been much worse.  It shows that I have grown and healed to some extent these past couple of years and that I really am stronger.  But it also brings me back to a place that I never wanted to visit again.

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My sis and I were talking about this last week as we discussed things happening in our quarantined lives.  She’s always worried about me…she was my protector growing up and still plays that role today.  I know she’s proud of how far I’ve come since that fucking breakdown 3 years ago, but she also knows once you experience something like that, there’s always a chance of going back.  I have to agree.

Anniversaries are tough, aren’t they?  The anniversary of someone’s death.  The anniversary of a divorce.  The anniversary of a marriage or relationship that failed. The anniversary of a tough time in your life.  As much as we like to put things behind us, they still have a tendency to haunt.

For some reason, I find myself saying “I’m Sorry” an awful lot lately.  It’s almost like I’m going back to a somewhat ‘weaker’ me I thought I had all but buried.  Maybe since these anniversaries are here though,  I find myself going back to being a ‘people pleaser’, just  to ensure I don’t get hurt again.  Hmmm…I don’t know.

One of my precious students messaged me last month and asked me something I’ve had other students deal with as well:  she had been sexually abused as a child and was worried about having a child someday herself.  How would she protect them?  Would she be able to recognize when something was wrong?  How could she open the road of communication early so her child would feel comfortable sharing things with her?  Other students who have been physically abused worry they might end up repeating the generational cycle they were in, that their own parents lived.  I’ve had female students tell me they will never marry or live with man because they are so scared they’ll be in a  domestically violent situation like their mom was.

So, I tell them it’s understandable how these serious past issues are affecting their present.  I talk to them about being conscious of the damage these situations caused will help them in stopping these cycles.  After all, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge (Dr. Phil 🙄).   I also recommend they develop a support system of friends and family who are aware of the issues, see a counselor to learn how to put ‘safeguards’ in place, talk to their partners about their fears, and to make themselves understand they don’t have to be like those who hurt them.  They can make a cognizant decision to be the kind of parent or partner they want to be, and anyone, with enough ‘want’, truly can break this cycle of abuse.

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We are all in cycles…patterns…dances…whatever terminology works best for you.  I know I am.  I fall for someone and immediately I’m so elated and excited since I love to love (that sounds like a great title for a song), and I want to share with them, be with them, and get to know all I can about them!  Falling in love excites me; it opens my heart and so much flows from it.  I think this can be attributed to the feeler inside of me…the empath.  This sensitive person I am who when I feel something, I feel it strong and want to share every single bit of myself with that person.  The problem?  It can be hard to keep up!  I know it can be overwhelming.  I know I’m very excitable.  Well…I know I’m bipolar.

I also know that when I’m around others, I try very hard to be the person who never rocks the boat.  It’s almost like Everyone Loves Raymond…I want everyone to love me!  And I guess I’ve learned, through various life experiences, that to do that I need to acquiesce to the wants of others.  To make sure they’re happy. Satisfied.  “If I’m good enough and sweet enough and act happy enough, this person or these people, will have to like me!”  For some reason, I associate any criticism, hearty disagreement, or conflict with the idea the person has ceased to approve of me, and for those of us who are sensitive ruminators who tend to personalize things, this is terrible for us!  As a result, we do what we say we won’t do again:  push our own needs down, do all we can for the other person, envelop them with a love that’s very hard to return, and then take blame for when things go wrong.  I don’t like this dance and I’m trying so hard to change the steps.  But when this is the only way you’ve danced for 50 years, that’s easier said than done.

This fucking bipolar.  I know so many people have it much much worse.  I truly understand that and I thank God every single night about how grateful I am for the blessings I have.  But I still hate this.  It’s so easy for people to say, “Of course I understand you’re bipolar”, but it’s not so easy to understand that if I am more emotional or sensitive to words and behavior than others are, it’s because of this brain illness.  Unless you’ve been there, how do you describe what it feels like to have your brain pushing you one way, when you really want to go the other.  Pushing you to have that emotional, hypersensitive reaction instead of letting you tone it down to what is more appropriate.  What’s more realistic.  You’re fighting an opponent that’s very very difficult to beat.

Maybe I need to put some of those masks back on that I tore off a couple of years ago.  I am starting to understand masks can be a good thing too and we really do wear them more than we think.  Sometimes I say to myself, “OK, Kristi, who do you want to be today?”  When I get into another relationship, will I be able to put on a mask that says: “I’m a bit reserved because I don’t want to give so much that you have the power to destroy me.”  I wonder what that mask would look like?

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There are so many ‘anniversaries’ for me in the spring and summer:  my grandparents dying, 2 husbands leaving, 2 weddings (and no, the weddings and leavings were not necessarily the same people…and yes, I understand this aspect of my life is a freaking soap opera), my nephew, J, my breakdown, etc.  It’s impossible not re-visit these.  To make yourself forget.  And so many of these bring me pain.  Remembering my sweet nephew who was killed on a Naval ship continues to bring tears to my eyes.  Looking back at my weddings and remembering the excitement of starting a new life with this person, and then trying to understand how the marriages fizzled out like they did.  I smile when I remember my grandparents, but get choked up too after all of these years since I wish they were here to hug and talk too.  Having to go back to all J did and trying to still build myself up from being torn down like I was.  And remembering that breakdown.  That fucking breakdown.  Actually, I’m reminded of it everyday since I have scars that mark the time.

I’m going to try to put on a ‘strong’ mask for this summer.  I’m not going to be fake or go back to being someone I’m not.

I just need to consciously remember I’m capable of handling anything that might come my way.  Old memories…new situations…new people.  I’m not going to have the mask completely cover my face though.  I’m going to have more air holes so I can breathe.   More flexibility in how it fits.  A better representation of who I am compared to masks I used to wear.

So anniversaries…memories…do you worst.  I’ve got the ability to handle them now.  And to be honest with you, I’m pretty proud of that.

Kristi xoxo

“Someone Call the Doctor. Got a Case of Love Bipolar.” ~ Katy Perry

 

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So, I’m reading a book about a school shooting, and during the trial of the shooter, a psychiatrist is testifying after interviewing the boy.  The defense attorney asks what the psychiatrist was looking for in terms of mental illness, and he states ‘bipolar and schizophrenia.’  Heh?  Bipolar (I’m going to focus on this one since I have it)?  Really?  It’s perceived as being that dangerous it needs to be ‘looked for’ in a school shooter?  I’ve had a LOT of ups and downs with this illness, and it hasn’t been a bed of roses, peeps, but I have never entertained the thought of hurting others.

After reading this I decided to peruse the web (you know, the one Al Gore invented) to see what is said about bipolar out there, because this particular illness really does have a lot of stigma attached to it.  So, I googled (that’s a search engine, ma…don’t monkey with it or you’ll get confused) ‘what are some questions people have about bipolar’ and I was gobsmacked (Lord, I love that word) about the way it’s perceived.  Let’s dig in, grasshoppers.

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One question was:  “Can bipolar people love?”  (Skip over these next few words, ma) but what the fuck?  Really?  There’s the idea floating around that you can’t LOVE if you have bipolar?  No.  Not true.  Here’s where I think this came from:  when we’re in a manic state, everything looks wonderful and exciting, including potential partners.  We might feel that initial intoxication very quickly and be giddy in the romance.  Yes, some might become very promiscuous too.  However, what the person feels during the manic state may not be love; we are so emotionally bombarded with energy that’s overwhelming us, we might say it’s love when it’s really just sexual infatuation. 🤩

But, you gotta remember that us bipolars are not always manic and not always depressed.  There is a state in-between where we are ‘relatively’ stable called euthymia and this, at least in my case, is when I can really ‘fall in love’ (whatever the hell that means) and know that it is love.  When I love someone, I love ’em whether I’m manic or depressed, and I love them hard!

Another question was:  “Can people with bipolar be faithful?”  Short answer?  Yep.  Long answer…well, here goes:  when we’re manic we’re not making the best decisions and are usually very impulsive with no thought of consequences.  So, during those times, yes, it’s possible.  Sometimes the mania is so strong, there is no ‘you’ left inside to help mitigate what the mania is wanting you to do, but sometimes there is and that reigns you in.

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However, a medicated bipolar (me!) who is on a mood stabilizer (I love Lamotrigine…if I could marry it, I would 😳), then the ups and downs are so much more calm; it’s like the roller coaster becomes a bunch of small, rolling hills and your thought processes are much more clear.  You have to keep in mind though peeps that 40% of people cheat on their spouses and I can guarantee you they ain’t all bipolar!

How about this question:  “Are bipolar people violent and dangerous?”  Yes.  I keep a roll of duct tape and some tarps in my trunk. 🙄 There are so many mental illnesses that can can cause a person to be dangerous including psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, borderline, etc.  However, people with bipolar are either really really happily manic or we’re pretty down in the dumps, and neither one of these states has violence as a feature.  Of course, someone with bipolar ‘could’ be dangerous, but so could anyone.  Right?

Last one:  “Is it safe to live with a bipolar person?”  For piss sakes, yes.  Hello!  I raised my son very very lovingly…I adore each and everyone of my students…I’m the best dog ma around…and my house is comfy cozy with me sitting on the couch at 7:00 every night, in my jammies, watching Netflix.  YIKES!  Sounds horrible!  Now, people who live with someone bipolar need to understand there are going to be issues, but through education,  patience, and counseling, these can be handled well.

You know, when you see how stigmatized bipolar is and how it’s perceived by others, you might believe we’re just dangerous people who fool around and will bitch slap you at anytime.  Nope.  But, we do have some serious issues affect us that should garner some sympathy:  bipolar people have a reduction in life expectancy of 9-20 years (more than a heavy smoker) and this is scary as hell to me.  Particularly since I don’t have a grandbaby yet (did you read this sentence, son?).   We are also at greater risk for dementia as we age, as well as seeing an increase in the severity of our depressive episodes.  These things are disheartening to me and should show people that we have more fears about being bipolar than others might have regarding the myths about it.

Look, people with mental illnesses struggle.  Right?  So many of you reading this are battling everyday and we need support, understanding, love, patience, and encouragement from others to get through.  What we don’t need is misinformation circulating about that causes yet more problems in our lives.  We need to be seen as people.  Individuals.  Folks who are sometimes good.  Sometimes naughty.  Sometimes happy.  Sometimes sad.  We’re ma’s and pa’s and sisters and brothers and teachers and CEO’s and nurses and doctors and electricians and sales people and on and on and on.  In other words, in so many ways, we’re really just like everyone else.

Kristi xoxo