Dear John.

Dear J,

So, I know you won’t read this and that’s OK…sometimes you need to say something even if no one is listening.

When you texted me the other day, I was pissed. It wasn’t necessary to say you were ‘happy for me’ that I was with Bill and how glad you were that I was finally seeing our ‘relationship for what it was’.

Look buddy, I saw our relationship for what it was at the beginning. Remember then? When you and I were besties and did everything together and took care of each other? Remember when you thought I was the most fantastic person who ever walked the earth and you made me feel like I was loved more than anything? I do. And I believed it. And reveled in it. And savored it with every piece of who I was. I fell in love with you so fast…so hard… because you were every single thing I had wanted.

Then, things started to change. You began to get impatient with me…cut me down…mock my art…make me feel insignificant in your life. And, like I always tend to do in any relationship, I felt it was all my fault. See, it had to be. Right? Because you were perfect at the beginning and I had to have done something to screw that all up.

When I first suspected you were talking to your ex-girlfriend, you assured me you weren’t. And I believed you. Totally. Because I trusted you. Totally. Then the angrier and more distant you got that first year, the harder I tried. Because that’s something else I tend to do: try when things look to be at their worst. What’s a partnership when the people don’t work on addressing their issues and fixing them? The answer is nothing…and both have to want something to work.

Anyhoot, you know how it was that first year. You also know how bad you were because you’ve apologized for it. But I was so attached. Not just to you, but to your amazing kids. J, I love them so so much. I never ever would have let myself get so close to them if I thought we weren’t going to end up working out. I never would have been a 2nd ma to them…never would have held them and kissed them and played with them and took care of them. I hope to hell you gave them the letter I wrote them when I sent your things to you. I want them to know they will always be a part of my heart. Always.

Was it silly of me to think we were still going to work after all we’d gone through in those early days? Was it stupid of me to believe it after you put your hands on me twice and then cheated on me throughout that first summer? Was it naive of me to think that was a one-off and you were truly repentant and that it would never happen again? I guess so. But part of that was your fault. You told me from the very beginning that I was going to be your last. That we’d be a family. That we’d be a forever. I’m one of those people who believe what people say…particularly if it’s something I want to hear.

And things were so much better for our last 2 years. So much. We traveled and grew together and solidified what were building. Yes, there were some bad times too. Some raging…some horrible words…some days when you would simply leave without contacting me for days. But it was better and I knew in my heart you were trying.

I excused so much of what you did because of your PTSD. I was so so proud of your military service…3 tours is truly amazing. I was also aware of your friends death that happened in front of you and the other terrible things you had to witness. Of course I took that into consideration during the times you were unstable. I also knew of your childhood. How dare your family raise you and treat you the way they did. No little boy deserves any of what you suffered. None. You were an innocent child and because of their own ignorance, selfishness, and issues they raised a boy who never had the chance to experience the unconditional love from a family which later provides the base for future relationships. I hate that for you.

So, I tried to give that to you and people thought I was nuts. I lost friends because I kept taking you back. But they didn’t understand how fragile all love is to you…how much you fought against it because you had never had it…how much history I was trying to erase for you. They didn’t understand how bonded I was to you. How connected.

And yes, I know my anger at your cheating and abuse was a problem during those last years. You would get so upset when I asked to see your phone or ask who you’d been talking to or where you’d been. In fact, you’d get so upset that I felt guilty for it, even though I was completely justified. Having to win back my trust was your penance so to speak…the price you needed to pay for the months of cheating that happened. Do you really blame me for that? Then, when you’d lash out at my ‘control’, I’d get even more angry since you just didn’t get it. You were in a similar situation once and told me you couldn’t handle it. Well, I was handling it the only way I knew how…trying to get out my anger and build up that trust.

I also knew how distant I was that last summer we were together. I think I had to do it though. I needed to know that no matter what happened between us, I’d be OK . And, I needed that lesson…didn’t I?

Then, we argued over your son needing some help. You know he does and I couldn’t understand why you were fighting something that he needed (needs) so desperately. I got loud and angry and said things I shouldn’t have…but someone needs to fight for that little guy. And it was my turn that night.

But, the ‘fight’ led you to someone else who I had the pleasure of seeing in the apartment I helped you move into, decorate, and furnish. That was fun. I had come over to tell you we both needed to let go of our anger and move forward. And you said this: “You’re a day late.”

Wow. It’s my fault you cheated again because I was a day late in coming to you. And then? You wouldn’t even speak to me. I haven’t heard your voice for a year now and it was the most humiliating thing in the world for the person who hurt me to disregard me so completely. Like I never existed. Like I was nothing. Like I was simply thrown away. Which actually, you pretty much did.

I mourned us for months and months and months. Every single night, without fail, I’d ask God to bring you and the kids back to me. Every. Single. Night. And he didn’t. Finally about 5 weeks ago, I asked God to just do his will and what he knew was right for me. Bill literally messaged me the next day.

He’s awesome. Totally. He’s kind and understanding and sweet and smart and funny. Actually, he’s everything you were in the beginning. And that scares the fuck out of me. I never would have believed in a million years you would end up treating me like you did, and Bill is having to show me again and again he’s not going to do the same. Bless his heart…he’s taking on this baggage and doing it so willingly and well. I love him. To be honest, it’s not the “Oh my God I’m going to die without him love” that I had for you. It’s different. Softer. Nicer. It’s safe and content and secure and I’m growing in it. Instead of shrinking. Damn that feels good.

So, it’s been a year since we parted and you told me I was finally seeing things for what they are. Let me shed some light on this for you: I loved you. More than you’ve ever been loved by anyone in your life. I took care of you. I loved your children. I wanted nothing more than to build a future with you. I even loved you enough to forgive you again and again and again. That’s what things were. It’s funny, isn’t it? I tend to remember the good we had, while you ruminate on the bad. You need to break that habit for your next love.

Anyway, it’s been a long time coming and I’m finally ready to let you go. Took a while, didn’t it? So here it is: goodbye, J. God bless you and the kids. I hope you find your happy. I hope the kids grow into the awesome people I know they can be. I hope they lead happy, healthy, safe lives and will one day hear my name and smile. If that’s all that’s left of everything I went through with you, then it’s enough. Truly.

Kristi

“The Bachelor”

So, I decided to drive to Indiana to see Bill this past weekend and had forgotten what a ‘bachelor’ pad looks like.  It’s obvious to me the poor man needs my help in terms of ‘decorating’ and…well…most everything else as it pertains to housing.  🙄

When Eddie and I were on our way to “The Pad” (Little Miss Dottie was with her brother…otherwise known as my sonshine 😎), I called Bill to chit chat while making the 3 hour drive.  I was confident he’d have everything I needed but clothes, so I was a bit taken aback when he said this:  “Uh…there’s no food in the house.”  

OK.  I get it.  No ‘food’ means there’s just the basics: crackers, bread, peanut butter, eggs…you know, the staples.  Ed and I split a hamburger outside of Terre Haute and I figured we would snack once we arrived.  When we got there, Bill was at work and after lugging in my bag and pillow (can’t sleep with out it…down filled…on sale at Kohls last year plus my Kohl bucks plus my 30% off made it nice and cheap or otherwise I would have said “Hell to the no” in terms of the price 🤨) I decided to get some food out because I was so freaking hungry.  And, as my family members know, when I’m hungry, I’m very VERY crabby.  😠

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Bill’s fridge. Nuff said.

So…I start opening the cabinets.  Plates…glasses…cutlery…pots…spice rack (minus spices😐)…and…no food.  Heh?  Did I miss it?  I scrounged through the cabinets again and there was…no food.  OK.  Stay calm, Kristi.  I tottered (because of my hunger I was a bit unsteady on my feet…or it could have been that I’m just unsteady on my feet) over to the REALLY nice fridge (meaning, better than mine) and opened her up.  And waiting to be eaten was literally 2 bunches of brown bananas.  Two.  That’s it.  There was NOTHING else in that son-of-a-bitch.  Now, I realize bananas are food…but they are the ONE fruit I can’t stand.  At all.  So…with a hopeful heart, I opened the freezer and lo and behold, there was…NOTHING. 

What I realized were these 2 things:  Bill is very literal and truthful when he speaks, and not everybody stocks up food for weeks on end like I do.  Sooooo…I gave him a jingle and he said this:  “Honey, I’ll bring you food after I get off of work…at 4:00 in the morning.”  Well…this was sweet but I was hungry at 8:00 in the evening.  So I stuffed a banana down my gullet and when Bill arrived the next morning he brought me the staples we all should have:  2 bags of sunchips, a Hershey bar, and a ‘healthy’ organic protein bar that has more calories than a full birthday cake and tastes like cardboard on top of cardboard.  *Note to family:  I said birthday cake.  If I’m not mistaken, I’m the next birthday we need to prepare for.  Just sayin’.   🙄

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Edward was quite comfy on the bed!

Eddie and I then looked for a place to sit and read for a while, and as I really looked around, I saw there was very little furniture.   Very little.  In fact, his house consists of a kitchen table and 1 chair downstairs, and a bed and 3 small chairs upstairs.  And that’s it.  Hmmm.  I decided on the bed and I think I made the right choice and as you can see, Eddie concurred.  When I called Bill again and asked why he didn’t have any ‘usable’ furniture…you know, like a couch or comfy chair, he said:  “I never really thought about it.”  OOOKKKKAAAAYYYY!  

Now when I first went upstairs, Eddie and I had to fumble our way in the dark to find the various rooms I assumed existed, and I started flipping light switches before a serial killer popped out.   I tried 5 switches in a row.  None worked.  I finally stumbled into what I assumed was some kind of bedroom, felt my way around like Mr. Magoo, and found a lamp!  Hallelujah!   Then, with that precious light on I found the other bedrooms.  However, since the switches didn’t work because there are NO ceiling lights in the whole place, I had to carry around a 6′, cast iron, wobbly lamp everywhere I wanted to go.  I really roughed it…sorta like Laura Ingalls having to carry  lantern.  (I’m actually quite proud I survived this 😉).

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The heavy lamp I drug to the hallway so I could see to type this.

So, Edward and I saw that one of the ‘dark rooms’ was Bill’s office.  This modern day technologically impressive room had 2 computers, both of which are quite old, a filing cabinet labeled ‘student grades’ (he is not a teacher), and unopened boxes.  I was actually quite dazzled by this.  

Then, I walked into the other room and lo and behold it was the ‘home gym’ he’s been telling me about. At first, I had to look away. Literally. The rug on the floor was like those optical illusion posters that if you look at it long enough, it ‘spins’ and makes you dizzy. (Since I was already a bit woozy from lack of nutrition, I was scared that looking at the rug would cause me to lean over the porcelain throne).

The “Home Gym” complete with the rug.

But WOW…the ‘gym’ was quite impressive and after phoning him yet again (when you’re hungry and dizzy you don’t really think about how annoying you’re being 🙄) I asked if he was selling memberships.  There was a push up board and some elastic bands.   Eddie and I were stunned at the equipment he invested in.

Yesterday, after lunch (which I inhaled), we drove to Lowe’s so I could scope out their plants. I put a couple in our cart and then saw my dream: an 8′ Fiddleleaf Fig tree! (If there was sound to this, it would be like angels singing right now 👼). It was only a hundred bucks (shutty) and I almost peed myself I was so excited. Until reality set it. My jeep can only haul 6 foot long stuff and you can’t bend a Fiddleleaf tree. Bill said it was going to be impossible to get it back to my place (which has furniture and food…just sayin’) so I came up with a solution: I’d quickly trade in my jeep for a cargo van. Doesn’t this make sense to you? I was excited at the prospect of being able to haul trees but Bill, for some reason, thought this was a bit foolish. Sheesh. So then, we came across a medium sized tree that could easily fit into my jeep! But, by this time I already had a cart full of plants and I do have a small one at home. I pondered and pondered and kept walking back to it, but told Bill: “I shouldn’t get that” which actually translates into: “Talk me into getting that so I don’t feel guilty about spending more money.” However, Bill does not fully speak “Kristi talk” yet and decided to buy the damn tree himself! I was sweet about it…telling him how great it would look on his floor (no end tables in sight) and was a good sport. Until last night when he got home from work, leaned over to give me a smooch (that’s all that happened, ma…I swear…🙄) and whispered in my ear: “My fiddlefig is bigger than yours.” I will NOT tell you my response to this…let’s just say it was ugly.

The much sought after tree. In Bill’s house. Not mine.

Anyhoot, it was really fun visiting Bill in his ‘natural environment’ and enjoyed roughing it for an entire weekend.  After this, I think I’m ready to camp out in Yellowstone.  But do you know what was the best part of the weekend?  No…not that you naughty peeps…it was this:  Bill and I being able to laugh at ourselves, laugh at each other, and laugh at situations.  

It’s been a long long time since I’ve had this.  You see, my last partner made me cry.  This guy makes me laugh.  And you know what?  It feels so good.  

Kristi xoxo

“If the sky that we look upon, Should tumble and fall…” ~ Stand by Me

From: Family Resources and their Psychological Series

So, my new love and I are doing great and we are so freaking compatible. Meaning, I like to sing and he doesn’t cringe when listening, and I like to be busy and he’s more then capable of keeping up. He’s like a ‘saint’ almost to me…he listens, cares, asks about me, worries about me, etc. and even though you might be thinking “This is the way it should be”, I’m thinking “This is the way I haven’t experienced in a very long time.”

My last partner is formally diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder which is characterized by instability in mood, relationships, self-awareness, etc. and I saw all of these in our 3 years together. However, I also firmly believe he has characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder too (although I’m not ‘diagnosing’ him…only correlating his behavior with the disorders ‘symptoms’) which often co-occurs with BPD and is in the same ‘Cluster’ of personality disorders ( 😮)

Narcissus looking at his reflection.

Anyhoot, there has been so much writing about narcissism in the last few years and people with NPD have the following (per the DSM V):

  • Inflated sense of self-importance
  • Lack of empathy (when my nephew was killed, he said, while ‘hugging’ me: “I don’t give a fuck…I didn’t know him.”  Those words devastated me and this is the first time sissy and ma will know he said this.  Had they known while we were together, they would have hog-tied me and gotten me away.  And, he didn’t go to the visitation or funeral with me…I just had ma and my sonshine.)
  • Attention seeking behavior (we were at Kohl’s one day and he started spitting on the floor just to get my attention, make me mad, and give him an excuse for raging at me later.)
  • Takes advantage of others 
  • Has a feeling of entitlement
  • Are great liars (to be honest, I don’t think he ever told me a ‘truth’.  Ever.  Certainly not about loving me.)
  • Has no boundaries (zero…zippo…)

Now, partner had all of these and I’m not going to rehash our history…been there done that. However, the lack of empathy, lying, and taking advantage of others is something I experienced time and time again while we were together. The serial cheating he did after looking me in the eye and telling me there was no one else he was communicating with showed his lack of love and respect for me and taking advantage of me financially is something I’m still recovering from. I also saw his sense of entitlement in that he could cheat and still string me along…in other words, wanting his cake and eating it too. And self-importance? Uh. Yea. Thinking he’s God’s gift to women when in fact he’s…well…not 🙄

So, why am I bringing this up now? Because after being in this relationship for 3 years and experiencing the gaslighting, lying, cheating, etc. day after day after day, I still have effects from it. Bigtime.

There’s actually a condition that’s referred to as Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome and I’m struggling with it in my new relationship. People who have experienced loving a narcissist might have these things:

  • Question their sanity
  • Mistrust those who support them (every time ma and sis told me how horrible my situation was, I just thought they weren’t able to see the ‘great’ guy I thought he could be)
  • Feel worthless (yep…anyone who gets cheated on multiple times feels this way…)
  • Doubt their abilities to think or make decisions
  • Disconnect from their own wants and needs (what are those again?  According to narcs, we don’t have any 😯)
  • Give in to what the narc wants (New car?  Check.  New motorcycle?  Check.  New clothes?  Check. And on and on and on…)
  • Devalue their contributions (I never ever thought I was doing enough…because if I had been, he would have been better to me…right?)
  • Obsess on their faults and mistakes (I would ruminate over things I said and did again and again and again when he would rage at me, cheat on me, give me the silent treatment, etc. because there just HAD to be a ‘reason’ for this and it was undoubtedly my fault.)
  • Make excuses for the narcs actions (“But ma…he’s a vet with PTSD and had a shitty childhood…he can’t help it.”)
  • Spin their wheels trying to gain the narcs favor (I did ANYTHING I possibly could to make him see how important I was in his life and how much he ‘needed’ me.)
  • Obsess on how to the make the narc happy (they are never happy…ever.)
  • Idealize the narc (Ohhhhh…I definitely did this.)

Now, why in the name of all that’s holy did I ‘put up’ with this? Well…because narcs are ‘master manipulators.’ You see, they go through a pattern in relationships that involves 3 stages:

  • Idealize (when we first got together, he was EVERYTHING I needed and wanted him to be.  He made me feel like I was a ‘Queen’ and he held me on a pedestal that I thought would never tumble.  I truly believed he was my soul-mate and couldn’t imagine my life without him).
  • Devalue (as time wore on, he started to slowly pick at me…criticize me…hurt me…until I felt like ‘NOTHING’.  But see…he did idealize me so I had to have done something for him to devalue me…right? 🙄)
  • Discard (again and again and again…)

So why am I bringing this up now? Because this pattern and the Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome still lingers. There are actually ‘boot camps’ and classes and support groups and therapists who specialize in this type of abuse. Because it is abuse. It’s emotional manipulation, gaslighting (big time), and with me, some physical abuse. You just can’t ‘get over that’, and to have someone hurt you to the core where you question your own worth and sanity is devastating.

Here’s another secret ma and sissy don’t know: The first time I cut myself was in front of him…and he said this: “You can’t even do that right…it’s not deep enough.” So, later that week I made a 4″ cut that needed stitches (which I didn’t get since I didn’t want the docs to see it 😔) and the scar will never fade. He seemed pretty proud of that one.

How sick can you be to do that? I didn’t start the relationship out wanting to cut and commit suicide. But as I got deeper and deeper into thinking there was something very wrong with me because of his treatment, my self-worth and meaning vanished. Here’s what a lot of people say who were abused by narcs: ‘These people (and yes, women can be narcs too 😕) don’t just break your heart, they actually break your spirit.’ I believe this. The other day I was going through photos and came across a pic of me during the time of my breakdown (he was living with his other woman during this time and didn’t give a rat’s ass about the suicide attempt, etc.) and my eyes look vacant. Lost. Dead. Literally. It broke my heart to see how broken I really was.

I know Bill isn’t like this at all. He’s full of empathy and understanding and compassion and kindness and sweetness and he is open and genuine with me. I love this and feel like I’ve waited all of my life to get it. But here’s the thing: I don’t feel worthy of it. I really don’t. Partner did such a number on me I still feel ‘broken’ in a way…still feel if only I would have been good enough…still feel ‘bad’ about myself…am still struggling to understand why he targeted me. What is ‘in me’ that makes someone like him hurt me so bad? How he could do this to someone who loved him so fucking (sorry, ma…but you’ve said that word in reference to him too…just sayin’…😲) much. How in hell could he manipulate me so easily when I should have seen all of this coming?

In my heart I know Bill is different…I’ve even talked to 2 of his ex-wives and they have nothing but great things to say about him. He’s the real deal. But… and there’s always that BUT…how do I learn to trust again? Give myself totally when my heart has just healed from shattering? Believe his promises? His words? Feel worthy of having such a terrific man in my life? I wish I knew the answers to these.

Bill is aware of all of this…I’ve told him more about the partner than I’ve told anyone else and he has cried because of how I was treated. Even ma and sis don’t know the seriousness of things I experienced. Bill is giving me all of him. Everything inside of him. He’s putting it all out there.

I want to as well. And I’m trying my damndest. But I know it’s going to take time to fully trust and believe and understand that Bill won’t do what partner did. I hate that Bill has to almost ‘prove himself’ to me when he’s done absolutely nothing wrong, but it’s the baggage I carry after such a relationship. But you know what? If anyone can help me unpack that baggage and lay it out bare and get rid of it once and for all, I think he’s the guy. And I feel so fucking (sorry again, ma…this was just because…🙄) lucky because of that.

Kristi xoxo

“But I do know one and one is two…” ~ Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, a couple of things made me happy yesterday and I couldn’t wait to talk about them with you. Here goes.

First, I attended a virtual workshop on how to ‘Humanize the Online Experience’ in your college classes. The speaker was wonderful and talked about how students need connection, rapport, feelings that the instructor is genuine and real, etc. I totally agreed with this but after a while, I realized that the necessity for this workshop made me sad. You see, this to me is a no-brainer. Really.

I guess I was a ‘humanized’ professor before the ‘humanization of professors’ was ‘cool’…suddenly, what set me apart is now ‘vogue’ in academia. I have always believed that unless you see your prof as someone you can connect with, you won’t learn a freaking thing from them. I’ve had bosses who I had no connection for…no respect for…no investment in because they stifled any hope of that happening. “We must remain objective and somewhat cold in order to maintain order” seems to be a common mantra amongst some college personnel. But why?

I’ve been hugging students longer than most of you have been alive (shutty the mouthy, please 🙄) and I’ve gotten looks from it over the years. I also share with my students. I share my experience of being sexually abused. My experiences regarding my divorces (another shutty, peeps🤨 ). What it’s like to have a mental illness. What it’s like to self-harm and attempt suicide. What it was like having a batterer married to ma for so many years. And what it’s like to get yourself out of a very very dark place in order to see the light again. I answer any questions honestly, and there are times when I cry with my students. When we’re tackling the hard stuff in my psychology and sociology classes, I might stop the lecture, walk over to someone who is tearing up, hug them around the shoulders (I ask…I don’t want to invade space), and tell them we are all supporting them. I had a dean once tell me I was ‘being too nice’ to my students and my job wasn’t ‘comforting them or being their friend.’ Well, my retired dean, it was. And still is.

When you take a gander at the definition of ‘teacher’ you get this (courtesy of Merriam-Webster): ‘to impart knowledge’ and ‘to instruct by precept, example, or experience.’ How in the world are you going to be an effective professor if you show nothing of yourself? Don’t help students learn from your own experiences? Don’t show students how their own bad experiences don’t have to shape them forever? How do you expect students to learn when they are needing ‘more’ from you? A smile. A hug. An empathic ear that listens and validates and doesn’t just spout platitudes. Why in the hell would a student want to open themselves up in anything less than this type of environment?

You see, something I was reminded of yesterday was how thinking and emotion go hand in hand. They both originate from the mind and both need each other to survive. If a students feels lonely or like an outcast…has depression or is anxious…is fighting a battle that’s not readily apparent, how can they learn? Seriously. How effective are YOU when you are emotional? How well do you do your job? Remember what you read? Retain what you heard? I don’t know about you, but when I’m in an ’emotional state’ it pretty much supersedes anything else. Period. And, if you don’t address these issues by not inquiring how students are doing or noticing a student who is suddenly quiet and down without asking if they’d like to talk…they aren’t going to learn from you. And, if they see that you can’t be real in the class…how the hell do you expect them too?

I think teaching is more than imparting knowledge. I think it’s building connections with people where they learn the academics but also more about themselves. Where they come out of a class feelings stronger. Better. More supported and supporting. More understood and understanding. And this is a NEW concept? Well spank me hard. I was ahead of my freaking time.

Then yesterday, a student shared a video with me of a woman doing a talk about how a professor helped her deal with her rape by speaking up about her own sexual assault. My student wrote “You are this professor to me”.

I’ve had students say a lot of things to me over the years (some not so hot 😐) but these words hit me the hardest. It showed me that opening myself up…providing students with the atmosphere to do the same…means something. Can do something. Something more than memorizing who the Father of Sociology is (Auguste Comte…my sweetie students better have known this 😉).

Look, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Teaching isn’t fucking Rocket Science (sorry, ma 🙄) . And for those who think it is, you’re doing it wrong. Just like when Michael Keaton is “Mr. Mom” and he’s dropping off his kid incorrectly at their school and a room mom tells him: “You’re doing it wrong.” It should never be ‘hard’ for a prof to connect. Build. Encourage. Motivate. Validate. And if it is…you just might want to go into something else.

Professoring is a people ‘job’. It’s bringing a room full of strangers together for 16 weeks and creating a bit of a family out of them. A family where they feel comfortable sharing and voicing opinions and asking questions and opening themselves up to what you say. It’s creating a place where students can be expressive…vulnerable…willing to learn from everyone around them. It’s not the brain that’s hard to use when professoring…it’s the heart.

But, I’m here to tell you this: when you can use the heart as much as the head in a classroom then you have come to the point when real learning takes place.

Kristi xoxo

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” ~ Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

So, as my sweetie peeps know from reading this blawg, I’ve been single for about a year now and although I’ve been lonely at times…particularly during the March quarantine…I’ve also really liked it too. I learned so much about myself and have done things I didn’t know I ‘could’ do: electrical work (I just changed out my porchlight a couple of days ago!), painting the entire interior of my house, getting on the roof to clean out gutters, etc. I also learned that ‘I’m enough’. That I’m OK taking care of myself and that I can have a life (even travel!) with just me.

Then, Bill came into my life about 5 years ago. We were friends in High School and below is what he wrote in my senior yearbook (figure out the dates yourself, peeps…I’m not saying a word… 🙄), and then we really started talking a bit again after I had one of his family members in my class and I found out he was a relation to her! I found him on FB and friended him and we started commenting on each others’ posts.

Yes, at one point I wanted to be a music education teacher but realized I had no talent. Go figure.

But here’s what happened and yes, it’s going to sound cheesy 🧀 but what the hey…it really kinda is. So I pray every night before I go to bed and that’s when I have a tendency to ‘ask’ for things. I know…I know…but God says “Ask and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7-8). Of course I talk to him throughout the day as well but that’s more like ‘chit chat’…not a formal type of prayer. Anyhoot, since J and I broke up (i.e. since J cheated on me and I saw it right before my eyes 😐), I’d ask God EVERY single night to bring back the ‘good’ J and give us 1 more chance at possibly making it work. Every night. But a few weeks ago, I started to picture what that would look like and I saw myself being anxious, distrustful, on edge, stressed, etc. and realized I didn’t want that again. And I also realized that even if ‘good’ J came back (like that would have happened…I’m the one that always crawled back to him 😡), the bad could rear it’s head anytime. So, I prayed this (literally): “Please do your will with what you want me to have in my life. I’m leaving it up to you.”

A few days later, Bill commented on one of my blawg posts and I decided…just out of the blue…to message him and thank him for his support. One thing led to another and now…drumroll please…

I’m in love!! ❤❤❤

Yes. I know we all thought it was impossible and the chances were 1 in a billion I would ever be in a relationship again, but…it happened…and I’m really happy right now! First the good stuff: he’s adorbs (bright blue eyes that make me melt 🤩), very sweet and kind, very respectful, and fun. During the last couple of weeks he’s been coming up to see me (we live in different states right now), we’ve run together, hiked, worked around the house, watched scary movies, made dinners together, gone on ‘dates’, and had tons of great talks about everything under the sun (except the sun 😁).

I have truly, in all of my relationships, never ever felt like I could really be ‘me’ with a guy like I’m doing now. I decided before he came up the first time that I’d be real…that I would stop being a ‘pretzel’ and start being ‘me’. And I am. I’m not hiding behind anything. I haven’t done that in past relationships because I’ve always believed my ‘true me’ wasn’t enough. Wasn’t what I should be. Wouldn’t be what the person wanted.

But after this year of being single, I thought “What the fuck?” (sorry ma…🙄). I’m done pretending. Period. And here’s the thing: he accepts me. Totally! I feel genuine and ‘real’ and he’s doing the same.

Photo by Leticia Ribeiro on Pexels.com

Now, there’s always downsides, right? And the biggest? We both come with a lot of baggage. A lot. Steamer trunks full. Bill is a recovering alcoholic and when he’d drink WAY too much, he caused a LOT of damage because of his behavior (including DUI’s). One particular time was a couple of years ago at an event with his daughter…what he did was inexcusable.

He’s also been married more than a couple of times, and that’s always cause for concern as well. We both have trust issues…fears…insecurities…etc. And, just like I struggle with an eating disorder, he also has one too. Bill has binge eating disorder which has caused him a lot of shame, weight issues, embarrassment, etc. I can definitely understand that.

How are we going to handle these things? Bill is going to AA meetings daily and hasn’t drank heavily for a couple of years. He realizes what a problem it’s been in his life and is determined to never drink again. I make sure he attends regularly and stays on this path he started himself. As someone who comes from a family of alcoholics, I know what this addiction is like. My ma is a recovering alcoholic too, and she tells me she still knows if faced with alcohol, she’d most likely drink it. It’s a battle that’s never fully over.

He’s also seeing a counselor for the binge eating and issues that led to it’s formation. I’m really proud of him for that as well. I’m calling my counselor today and am going to start going regularly again after a hiatus during the quarantine. I think I’ll need some guidance through this time too.

Finally, our baggage. After what J did to me, I’m carrying a shit load. How do you go through a 3 year relationship with abuse, infidelity, abandonment, manipulation, etc. and not be affected? How do you learn to trust what someone says and not assume they are lying to you one more time? How do you kiss (Bill’s a GREAT kisser…just sayin’… 😘) someone goodbye and not worry about unfaithfulness? How do you know when someone says ‘I love you’ they aren’t meaning ‘I love what you give me and until someone better comes along?’

So we’re helping each other with all of this ‘baggage.’ But for the first time in a relationship, we aren’t just sharing the burden of this weight, we are allowing each other to unpack it. Look at it. Talk about it. Cry over it. And lock it away somewhere else where it’s no longer on our shoulder’s anymore. It feels so fucking good (sorry, ma…but you know how I curse when I’m happy 🙄…and mad and onery…and…well you get my point).

I love Bill with a feeling I’ve never really experienced before. It’s not just ‘giddiness’ or ‘butterflies’…it’s a feeling of safety and security and acceptance and kindness. It’s comforting. Relaxing. ‘Real.’ We have a lot of challenges to overcome and I know the road will be hard. But I also know this: I trust him to take this journey with me. And, if the journey proves too much for either one of us, I trust myself to be OK. What a sense of peacefulness that gives me.

Kristi xoxo

The Buck Stops Here

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, I had someone leave a comment on my blog this past week and I felt it was a bit harsh. It was regarding all of my failed relationships and the writer said that since I was the common denominator, I needed to understand the failings were my fault (it wasn’t put quite this nicely). After thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized there is much truth in that and I have been remiss in focusing on hurt I’ve experienced and not enough on my own personal responsibility.

You know, every relationship is a dynamic entity or system that is more than just the 2 people involved. It’s what Family Systems Theory says: the whole is bigger than the sum of it’s parts. And, the theory also states that what happens to one part affects the others.

If I listed all of the mistakes I’ve made in relationships, we’d be here for a very long time. First and foremost, I know having un-managed bipolar greatly affected the hubbies and had I been brave enough to confront what I knew was wrong, I would probably still be with my son’s dad especially. That was my fault, and because of the lack of treatment, my highs and lows fed into our issues and magnified them. Greatly. I understand that when I would be experiencing a manic state I made decisions that weren’t good for the relationship, and when I was depressed it was hard for him to know how to handle it.

With hubby 3, we started just living in separate worlds. He was in the outlaw motorcycle club he’s a member of and was gone most of the summer and lots of weekends throughout the year while I was at home teaching and taking care of the house. Consequently, we just drifted apart more and more. We both decided that divorce would be best but like I’ve said, he’s probably my very best friend and we talk almost daily. I’ll never not be in his life and vice versa…when his mama was dying and I was visiting her one night, she asked me to always take care of him and I promised I would. I intend to keep that promise.

With J, I made a ton of mistakes. The first time he lied to me, I should have drawn a boundary very quickly with clear consequences should it be crossed again. When he cheated the first time, I took him back too quickly and once again, didn’t create any sort of consequence for him to not to it again. The second (and 3-4th times during that same time period) should have been it. Period. It was my fault for allowing the behavior to continue .

In terms of my son’s dad, we never really argued/fought much. In fact, I was so eager to make sure everything went so smoothly that I ignored issues that should have been addressed immediately. It was on me for that…hubby sometimes wanted to resolve something while I shied away from it. I guess I thought covering up issues would be better in the long run but when things started to get ‘bad’, ALL of these issues came out in a torrent and they were just too much to handle. Not addressing our conflict at all was worse on our marriage than addressing the issues with fights would have been.

I also know I have some issues as they pertain to being sexually abused for 2 years. According to The American Counseling Association: “…sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, and relationship problems.” Now, let’s see: check check check check.

Abused children become adults with no idea who we are or what we need. All we know is how to make other people happy, while we pretend to be perfect. Abuse turns us into ‘codependent caretakers’. We secretly resent this people-pleasing behavior pattern, but we don’t know how to escape it. According to Svava Brooks (expert on child sexual abuse and author/counselor), people that have been abused become ‘pretzels’ and take the shape of what they think the other person wants. They aren’t themselves…but who they perceive they need to be in a relationship. But even though they believe this to be necessary, they are also resentful of this ‘people pleasing pattern’ but don’t know how to break the cycle.

So, was I genuine in my relationships? Not always…by a long shot. Did I know I was turning myself into what I felt the person needed/wanted? Yep. Did I want to stop it? Yeppers. Did I? No. And, not being genuine and authentic in a relationship means you aren’t living a real relationship…and how can any ingenuine relationship ever survive?

For people that know me, I’m also a fixer. I just love to fix fix fix (hence my awesome toolbox). Hubby 3 and J both had a lot of problems stemming from childhood. Both were abused horribly and grew up not having the attention, love, appropriate discipline, etc. that every child deserves. I believe this led both to being insecurely attached to their parents and I know I was very very conscious of wanting to make this up to them. I wanted to show them all they didn’t have. I didn’t get together with them out of pity…but I did do things because of the sorrow I felt for their early circumstances. I obviously know a partner’s place is not for one person to ‘fix’ the other in situations like this, simply because it doesn’t work. For example, it didn’t matter how good I was to J…how much love I showered on him…how many times I gave him ‘2nd’ chances because I was cognizant of his early experiences…it didn’t fix him. Nothing can make up for lack like that…I know that now.

Being alone for the past year has given me more time to look objectively at these relationships and understand the dynamics and roles I played a bit better. I’m glad of that. I needed that. I also needed to learn that in order to have a ‘real’ relationship, I have to be ‘real’ in it.

Writing this blog opens me up to so much. I know the stigma of being bipolar is huge and just ‘admitting’ I suffer from this mental illness in front of friends, colleagues, and students in such a public way is risky. And scary. It’s also very hard to open up about the relationships I’ve had. It’s humbling to tell all and sundry about this history because of the ‘failures’, but it’s also honest.

I know I’m going to have ‘haters’…everyone online does. I also know I’m going to write things others don’t agree with…but, this is my blog based on my opinions, observations, experiences, etc. It’s not an objective news article. I know I need to let negative comments open my eyes to another perspective or take what is said in consideration.

But I also know that hateful comments hurt me a lot. Being bipolar, I ruminate, personalize, get overly emotional, am ‘extra’ sensitive, etc. so I can’t let things just ‘slide’. I wish to fuck I could.

It’s been a few days since I blogged…school is taking up so much of my time. But I also needed a bit of a break from it as well. I’m evaluating whether I want to continue this blog or not. I want this to be a safe place where I can share, educate, inform, or just maybe make people smile once in a while. It’s a little piece of me I put out there because for the first time in my life, I am being real. Authentic. Genuine. Those of us with mental illnesses often can’t do that, and to be able to is exhilarating. I don’t have his huge wall I’m hiding behind…I’m able to finally be me in this space.

I’m Kristi. I’m bipolar, struggle with anorexia, have lots of highs and lots of lows, mess up more times that I can count every day of my life, and work every minute of every hour of everyday handling this mental illness the best I can. I have good days. I have bad days. But now? At the very least, all of my days are ‘real days’.

Kristi xoxo

If at first you don’t succeed…

Anais Nin

So, I don’t have writers block because I’m always ready to yap about anything but I’ve been going back and forth on what I want to write (I’ve been grading my butt off 😳)…but this is something I’ve been thinking about and I’ll tell you why.

Here’s a question for you: how do you know when you can trust someone? When someone is a ‘good guy’? When you can open your heart again and not worry that it will be crushed? I always tell my students to ‘trust their guts’ because I’m a big believer in our intuition. If something doesn’t feel right…or sound right…or smell right (tossed that in there because I drank some milk that smelled iffy once and greatly regretted that action 🙄), then guess what? It’s probably not right. (Question: am I the only one that when I smell something bad, I want everyone else to smell it too??)

But, what if everything does look and sound and smell OK? How do you know you are beginning something with someone ‘good’? Kind? Real?

Here’s what sucks balls about being thrice divorced (shutty the mouthy 😳) and having my heart crushed by J. I have a hard time trusting my intuition in terms of men. You know, I don’t think my past choices were ‘bad’ per se, but I do think I was sometimes blinded by red flags my gut was pointing out but that I chose to ignore because let’s face it, emotions aren’t logical and hindsight is 20/20.

So, I’ve been talking to a guy I know from high school for about a week now and he currently lives in another state. He’s coming to visit me tomorrow (he’s going to sleep in the basement, ma…don’t worry 😐) and I have so many thoughts going through my head.

In high school, he was a really nice guy and although we didn’t interact much, he was always very kind to me. About a week ago, he commented on one of my FB posts and then messaged me and we have been talking, basically non-stop, for these past several days (he’s got a voice like butter…just sayin’ 🤨). He’s respectful, funny, understanding, sweet, smart, etc. and my gut is telling me “YES”, this might be ‘the’ one. When we first spoke on the phone I was nervous we wouldn’t have enough to talk about (hard to believe, huh?), but the more we talk, the more we realize how similar we are and we always have so much to say.

He’s actually an empath like me (not as strong, but very ‘feely’ 🤨), and when I talk about things, he validates and sympathizes and makes me feel heard and understood. That feels good. He’s a giver…something I haven’t experienced a lot of in a couple of previous relationships, and whenever we interact with one another, I smile. A genuine smile.

What’s the problem then? Well, I’m scared.

I got involved with J right after Hubby 3 and I separated and I know that was WAY too fast. I was crushed that 3 left me like he had and J really comforted me and helped me through that our first couple of months together. But then the ‘devaluation stage’ started and I went from being on a pedastal with J to being on the ground. And that happened very quickly.

I would never be with someone I didn’t see good in…didn’t see potential in…didn’t feel love for. I felt all of those things with J and I’m feeling all of them now. But, the good didn’t last very long with J.

He was lying to me from the very beginning of our relationship regarding his ex-girlfriend and taking his anger of being away from her (I now can understand that was the source of often seemed like having hatred for me) out on me. He also had some anger towards his ex-wife and I was the scapegoat for that as well. The thing is, I didn’t understand this at the time so I kept trying harder and harder in the relationship which actually made him angrier and angrier.

But I believed in J. I truly did. He can be so sweet and funny and kind and he’s extremely intelligent and that’s why I think I gave him so many chances because I had seen the good and knew it was there.

So now with this new guy, could it be the same? Him saying all the right things and acting all the right ways until…later he ‘changes’ into someone else? We actually talk about this (because he’s had his heart broken numerous times as well) and he says he will never lie to me, etc. But, how can I believe that? I’ve been told by hubbies that we’ll be together forever, no matter what. And, well…we all know what happened there 🙄. I was told by J he wasn’t lying to me (and he made me feel ‘crazy’ for thinking so…gaslighting anyone?) and after the cheating during our first year together, he swore that would never happen again either. He also would tell me I would be his ‘last’ since we’d be together…through the good and bad. Hmmmmm.

How can I know it’s different this time? That this guy isn’t lying or pretending or in this for the wrong reason? He’s never given me any reason to distrust him, but losing trust in other relationships where you’ve been betrayed unfortunately carries over to new ones…whether that’s fair or not.

People say this: you have to put those past experiences behind you and just move forward with a fresh start and attitude. Okey Dokey. Roger that. I’ll tell my heart to forget all of the breaks it’s had and pretend they never happened.

And, I also worry about this: what if I do fall for this guy? What if it is ‘the real thing’ for me, but he breaks my heart too? Can I handle another heart break? How many times can your heart break before it can’t be repaired ever again?

So I’m excited about these next couple of days (you’ll love him, ma 😀) and hope that we click in ‘real’ life as much as we do talking and video chatting. He’s certainly not a stranger to me and that helps. I’m going to try to be careful and not just ‘leap in’ like I normally do, and I know I need to take my time with this and really make sure I go in with open eyes. And I guess an open heart too. Maybe risking it just one more time will lead to that special forever I’ve been looking for. 💖

Kristi xoxo

“What becomes of the broken-hearted?” ~ Jimmy Ruffin

So, the tagline of this blawg is “just being me in this bipolar life” and that’s what I need to do right now. Just be me.

See, I have a great post I’ve been working on for a couple of days almost ready to go and was going to finish it this afternoon. Instead, I feel like crud, I’m having a super shitty day, and I guess just need to talk. I hope that’s OK.

I felt pretty super until yesterday at lunch…I don’t know what I ate (and no, I haven’t been experimenting in the kitchen, ma 🙄) but it may have been some bagged salad. It tasted a little ‘off’ but not so much to stop me from shoving it down my gullet. See, I knew eating healthy would eventually backfire. So, from then until now (24+ hours later) I still feel like crap and my bathroom has been busier than usual. Charmed, I’m sure.

Anyhoot, it’s no biggie…just some ickiness, a bit of clamminess, and that general feeling of blah, but it’s my mood that’s taking a toll on me today. I think that started early this morning when I woke up from a pretty bad nightmare. It always sounds so freaking stupid when people try to explain their dreams to you because first, it bores the shit out of you and second, they never sound that bad in the light of day. This one was a doozie though…it involved black snakes laying on my bed and ma’s ex husband (that fucking bastard 😡) being the only one who could kill them for me. Hello…calling Dr. Freud. I don’t know what Siggy would make of that (however, I can guess) but I know it was really bad at the time and I was quite shook up.

So, after getting up and visiting the bathroom (yet again 😳), I finally fell back to sleep and I’ll be damned, I had another nightmare. This one was troubling as well. Thankfully there were no snakes (yes, I’m absolutely petrified 🐍) and no R (fucking bastard 😡), but instead it was all about J which is weird because it’s been almost a year now since I’ve seen him.

The whole premise was me being hunted by someone and J was the only person that could help me stay hidden away and safe. Except he didn’t. I was trying to hide myself in this area of a town that was out of the way, and I tried and tried to get him to help me do this, and he’d keep disappearing for days and days while I was trying to stay out of danger. Then, he’d come by where ever I was hiding, and instead of bringing me food or water or whatever else I needed, he would just drive away in his car and pay me no mind.

I guess I don’t need the good doc for this one…it’s a pretty easy one to figure out. But for some reason, it brought up a lot of stuff that I know I need to put to rest. And Lord knows I’m trying.

I hate that I still care so much about him, when he hasn’t spoken a word to me since the day I caught him. I know I shouldn’t, and I know it pains my ma and sis that I still have this hurt in my heart. But I do. I’m not the type of person who can say “Done…NEXT!” I wish I could. I don’t know if this is a curse or a blessing because I suppose you could argue either side, but when I love, I love so hard. So so hard. And to be honest, it’s very hard for me to understand when people don’t do the same.

The first year we were together was hellish to say the least. He was lying to me about his ex-partner and making me feel I was ‘crazy’ (not hard to do, huh? 🙄) when I would question him. His PTSD was not under control and he took a lot of things out on me that I didn’t deserve. But even though it wasn’t OK, it was “OK” to me because when you love someone (to me), you love them through the good and bad. Unfortunately, it was mostly bad. A year after we started seeing each other is when he finally cheated multiple times on me. I know there are a lot of you out there that can relate to this, and I’m so sorry you do because it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Also, I’m older and him doing this made me feel so horribly unsure about myself.

In between cheating, he would tell me it was over…he loved me. Only me. I was the one he wanted. Then, he’d be with her the next day. Literally. Now, I’ve had my heart broken before…numerous times 🙄. But J shattered it with this behavior…something I’d never experienced with another man before. Couple this with everything else going on that summer and that’s when my breakdown occurred. NO…the breakdown wasn’t his fault…but his behavior didn’t help and his cheating had further consequences I don’t talk about.

Anyhoot, a couple of months after not seeing each other, we got back together and things were so much better. He really did try and I could see that. It wasn’t perfect…not by a long shot…but I felt better with him than I had and it seemed he was feeling the same.

But, I was angry. Very angry. And I had a right to be. Sometimes I could push that to the side, and sometimes it came out with a vengeance. But regardless, I knew I needed to work through him cheating so blatantly and I tried very hard to do it. We had great times during the next 2 years…vacationing in Tampa (and getting to hug a penguin!), being with his kids and feeling like a little family, getting him set up in his apartment so his kids could stay with him and have their own room and all (I loved helping him decorate and get things nice), fixing dinners together, pulling the carpet off my floor and cracking up while trying to roll it up, taking Eddie to the dog park, watching the stupidest horror movies we could find, snuggling on the couch…basically, just doing the best we could.

Last summer, I really took a step back from him though. I needed too. I needed to resolve the anger that was still in my heart and also get strong enough to realize I would be fine if something happened to us. I needed that reassurance. Of course, that didn’t sit well with him and I can understand that. But I also understand that some people never try to forgive, or work to forgive, infidelity, so I thought I was ahead of the game. Apparently, I wasn’t.

Finally, last October we had a pretty bad argument and I was being really rough on him because I was worried about his son and wanted so bad for J to get him the help I felt he needed. This wasn’t well received and that was it. He was done. I caught him just a couple days later after being ghosted, and later he messaged me saying I was a day late. One day.

See, when I went to see him that Saturday, I had realized something during the couple of days we hadn’t spoken…that I had a choice I could make: I could forgive him for cheating, let go of the anger I knew was hurting the both of us, and move forward with him as a team. But, when I went to tell him this, well…you know what happened.

By saying I was a day late makes me feel like if I had forgiven him just a tad earlier, we’d still be together. Remember how those of us with bipolar ruminate, personalize, over-react, etc. I know in my brain this isn’t right…he had to have known this gal for a while…but there’s still this whisper that says I could have saved this.

I know…I know…it’s not right. I truly do understand that. He deserved anger and tears and recriminations after what he had done…and I wasn’t some shrew constantly berating him. In fact, I doubt most women would have given him a second chance, let alone the numerous ones I allowed him.

So why did I do it? Give him so many chances? Well, love I guess. Sometimes I think I’m an anomaly in that I can’t turn love on and off easily. I just can’t. Never have been able too. I ‘expect’ people who love me to love me through my good and bad, but only because I’m willing to do the same for them. It’s only fair. I also pray a lot, and every night I say “The Lord’s Prayer”. When I say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” I feel I need to take this seriously. So I try.

Maybe it’s because the ‘anniversary’ of what happened is approaching that I’m thinking about this. Maybe it’s because I’ve been single now for a while and am starting to feel lonely. Maybe it’s just because he’s not completely out of my heart yet. People have said to me: “You need to forget him…get him out of your mind…throw him away!” but I’ve been thrown away (by him ironically as well as 3 other hubbies 🙄) and I can’t do that to others.

Maybe that’s the problem. Feeling like I was thrown away after all the work and effort and forgiveness and love and patience and kindness I tried to give him for the 3 years we were together. He came from a horrible home…I wanted to make his life better…show him that there are loving people out there that really care. I wanted to make up for what he hadn’t had all his life. Yes. I’m a fixer. No. It’s not necessarily healthy, but it’s who I am. At least I can recognize it, but not acting on it is really really tough for me.

I was actually going to write a letter to him on here…you know, like I’ve done for others. It was going to be my ‘goodbye’ letter that cut those remaining threads that I have (I know he has long since moved on). But I can’t do that. Not yet. I’m just not ready. Sometimes I think he’ll see the error of his ways and call me or message me and tell me how much he still loves and needs me. Other times I get ‘real’ and understand this will never happen (IF it ever did, I’d buy a fucking lottery ticket immediately). That’s the shittiest thing about relationships: it takes 2 to make it work and 1 to make it end. Go figure.

I know I’m having a bad day and that the nightmare I had, and time of year it is, brought up some feelings I just haven’t put to rest yet. I’ve come so far in a year and am so proud of all I’ve done and accomplished. But I’m also lonely. I want someone to snuggle with. Someone to laugh with and cry with and share my plants with and talk to and feel like I’m not quite as alone in this world like I’ve been feeling. My ma is fucking wonderful and I don’t know (truly) what I’d do without her, but she also has her own life…lots of friends and social stuff and things to do every week. My sissy has a great husband and grandkids and friends and I envy her that…but in a good way…she deserves it. My sonshine is building a life with his girlfriend and throwing himself into his career…and he should be doing that (have I ever mentioned to you all how freaking proud I am of him?)! But then there’s me. The cheese stands alone. 🧀

I’ll feel better tomorrow. I’ve gotten a lot of tears out and my poor neighbor had to come over and help me un-stick a shelf from my doorway (don’t ask ) and as I was bawling to him about all kinds of stuff (when you feel shitty about one thing, others always follow) he assured me that ‘this too shall pass.’ And he’s right. It will. But right now? My heart hurts. Aches. And I’m feeling pretty durn down from being thrown away yet again in my life. I’ve never…ever…had a guy (actually, a hubby 🙄) leave me and then come back with regrets. Never. Maybe I’m just that forgettable. I hope not.

Kristi xoxo

“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