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

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Dear Lady Gaga,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” ~ Meatloaf

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So, first of all I used the title of one of my all time favorite songs; in fact, this was my go to song in High School for making out at parties (sorry, ma).😳 For some reason, just thought you’d like to know that.🙄

Anyhoot, I was visiting with a couple of neighbors down the street last evening and we were yacking about lawn mowers (yes, grasshoppers…single life is exciting) and then progressed into other things.  The wife was talking about her physical ailments and I said a few things about being bipolar.  THEN she said this (and I’m quoting her word for word):  “Yes…I know exactly what that is.  My cousin has it and she’s crazy crazy crazy too.”  She continued telling me how nuts this gal was and used the word loony as well.  Granted she’s 63 (which I only say because not much was known about some of these things when she was younger and that might account for her bad choice of words) but I was gobsmacked by her indifference and view of what I happen to have.

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Why the fuck is it OK to use such degrading words when it comes to describing mental illness?  And believe me peeps…she ain’t the only one.  Take a look at these:  deranged, psycho, cray-cray, mental, delusional, wacko, mad, insane, schizo, freak, needs a straitjacket, screw loose, etc.  How many of us who have a mental illness have heard at least a handful of these in our lives?  I have a feeling all of you are raising your hands.  Or, how many of us have used these?  I’m sorry to say that number is pretty high too.

In this time of political correctness when using one word or posting one tweet can literally destroy a decades old career, why is it OK to use damaging words against people like me?  I understand that using the ‘n-word’ is abhorrent and there’s no excuse for it. Likewise, I know that the ‘f-word’ (an epithet for a gay man) is also extremely derogatory.  I also know that both of these populations are born with inherent biological  characteristics be it race or homosexuality.

But so was I.  I didn’t bring this bipolar crap on myself.  I didn’t ask for it…didn’t want it.  Certainly didn’t create it out of a need for attention (as some people think those of us with mental illness do.  Yes, it’s fun to ‘pretend’ to be someone perceived by others as deranged 🙄).

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Whoever dates this winner is some lucky girl.

I have a feeling normal people (what ever the hell that is…I don’t know if I’ve ever met one) just don’t know what hurt these words do to us ‘crazies’, and I’d be happy to tell you.  They make us feel even worse about ourselves than we already do.  They can deepen our depression by making us believe we are less than.  They make us feel guilty about having an illness that’s obviously perceived as defective.  They often make us less likely to see help since many of us don’t want to admit we are part of a stigmatized group (me…for a lot of years peeps).  These words make us feel shame.  Feel inferior…bad…inadequate.

Go to Pinterest and look up ‘funny’ mental illness memes…a vast majority of these are derogatory to sufferers.  And then twitter?  Take a look at some of these gems:

  • Andrew Tate @ Cobratate:  Then they pretend they caught some disease to absolve all responsibility.  ITS (sic) NOT MY FAULT IM (sic again 🙄) SAD.  Yes it is. {Note to Andrew…revisit your grammar texts from grade school and learn about apostrophes once again.}
  • Andrew Tate again (unfortunately): “Feeling temporarily depressed is real.  Being uncontrollably depressed without reason and requiring anything other than a new mindset is BS {Another suggestion…use punctuation.}
  • Jake Paul @jakepaul:  remember anxiety is created by you sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy and the answers will come chill your mind out go for a walk talk to a friend {Seriously?  Are we not teaching writing skills in schools?}
  • Katie Hopkins @KTHopkins: People with depression do not need a doctor and a bottle of pills that rattles.  They need a pair of running shoes and fresh air.  {Super…why didn’t I think of that?}
  • Katie Hopkins again:  Sympathy for the co-pilot is making me angry.  If you are suicidal, for goodness sake top yourself in private.  Attention seeking b✷stards.
  • So, I think you get my point.  Reading these actually made me choke up and the biggest lesson I learned from these is if I attempt suicide again, I’ll be sure to do it alone.  Thanks for that advice, Katie.

    OK…now do me a favor:  imagine similar tweets with race being the focal point of the negative tirade.  Nope.  Not going to happen (and I very obviously don’t want it too…I’m just trying to show an analogy) and if it does, bye bye career, account, and any respect you might have once had.

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    I believe in God and those of you with diabetes or heart disease, please heed these suggestions too.  Right?

    Even friends of mine will resort to using inappropriate words at times, without even realizing the impact on me.  The other day someone was yapping to me about ‘Rocketman’ (and for the love of all that is holy, watch it if you haven’t) and said:  “I never knew Elton was so troubled…I just thought he was crazy.”  Hmmmm.  OK.  Gee…imagine a neglectful upbringing, being introduced to drugs early on his career, and having an eating disorder.  Who would’ve thought there were ‘real issues’ behind his ‘craziness’?

    And yes, I’ve been guilty too.  I used to really like the phrase ‘Bitches be Trippin’ (until literally a couple of days ago when I started researching all of this…I just thought it was funny) until I read what the meaning is (from Slang Define):

    Used primarily by heterosexual males to justify the irrational behaviors of women.

    Paul:  I can’t understand why my girlfriend cried just because I forgot our nine week anniversary.

    Jason:  Don’t worry about it, dude.  What can you do?  Bitches be trippin’!

    In other words, crying because of something important to you (CRYING) which is probably the culmination of other things going on in the relationship means the woman is irrational (synonyms – crazy, insane, etc.).  Okey Dokey.  No more tears, ladies.

    Having bipolar is fucking hard enough, grasshoppers.  And when insult is added to injury and then used as the basis for jokes and laughter, the pain is worse.  When I’m around people that don’t know I’m mentally ill and they use such words, it cuts me to the core because words are weapons.  I feel my face flush…I get self-conscious…I feel shame.  Look, when bombs are used against you, it means you’re in a war.  And how well can we fight back when we’re the ones who are already beaten down by stigmatization?  By misinformation?  By myths?  By our mental illnesses?  Our anxiety…depression…personality disorders…addictions?  Simply stated:  we can’t without help.  But in this culture, which still allows mental illness to be an acceptable prejudice, that help is pretty hard to find.  How sad that is.

    Kristi xoxo

    My Lesson in Schizophrenia.

    So, Hubby 3 has a nephew named Jack (I changed his name for privacy!) and he is a paranoid schizophrenic.  A few years ago, when Hubby and I were married, his sister came to town from Florida (where she lives) with Jack (25 at the time) to visit her and hubbies mom who was suffering with lung and breast cancer.  Right before she left, she came to us and said this:  “I’m not taking Jack with me.  I rented an apartment, and it has a 6 month lease.  I can’t handle him anymore.  He’s yours now.”  And there we were with the responsibility of Jack for 2 years.

    The first thing we learned was that Jack had no medication for his schizophrenia.  We got him set up with a behavioral health facility here in town, and he was quickly put on  anti-psychotic medication.  This really helped, and for a while, we thought he could maintain his apartment, with us checking on him daily.  We had no idea how serious his schizophrenia was at that point.

    A couple of weeks after getting him settled and hooked up with services, we bought him a bus pass and a cell phone.  We wanted him to be able to get to us and around town easily as well as call us anytime.  But, instead of him calling us one day, it was his landlord.  He said the apartment Jack was living in was a “shithole” (his words) and he was kicking Jack out.  We went to talk to Jack, and found what the landlord said was literally true.  Within a week of us not seeing the apartment (he had been visiting us), we were shocked by what we saw.  There was poop smeared on the walls because he had run out of toilet paper, rotten food on the counters with maggots beginning to develop, and garbage strewn all over the place.  We also saw Jack wasn’t taking his meds, and was clearly not able to live on his own at all.  After talking with his caseworker, we got him into a great group home where he would be supervised, given his meds, and taught the general  life skills he needed.

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    By the way, Jack didn’t want to live with us.  He wanted more freedom than we would have allowed him and since both of us worked full-time, he wouldn’t have gotten the supervision needed.  Jack lasted about 3 weeks in the group home, and then got kicked out for not following the rules.  So, with more calls to his caseworker and other agencies, we got him into a subsidized apartment with  home visits scheduled as well as us checking on him everyday.  He had also been taking his meds at the group home and he swore to us he would continue (of course, we knew that wouldn’t happen…Jack didn’t like them).  He got kicked out there within a month, and one day, we went to check on him and he wasn’t there.

    All of this time, he’d come to visit us.  I’d always have a supply of t-shirts, underwear, jeans, socks, etc. since he seemed to lose his own or get them so dirty or torn they were unsalvageable.  I also made him take a shower when he got here ,while I washed his laundry.  The first time he showered, he was out within a minute and I shouted to him if he had used soap.  He told me I hadn’t told him too, so I explained in detail what to do and he learned to shower “Aunt Kristi’s way”!  I’d also make him his favorite meal:  grilled cheese with soup or chili.  According to Jack, I made a mean cheese toastie!  Sometimes, he’d start pounding on it with his fists “to kill the bugs on it” or study the chili to look for any evidence of tampering.  Once he looked and then I assured him everything was OK, he’d eat.  I’d usually have a new phone for him too; he went through them at about one a week, so I bought a few burner phones with minutes on them from Dollar General.

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    During this time, he moved around from friend to friend, and finally, he ended up homeless.  We hated this and begged him to go back to the behavioral health facility and get back on meds, which might have allowed him to go back to the group home.  He wouldn’t.  He liked being homeless.  He said he liked the people he had found and being on his own, living on his wits.  We usually knew where he was during the day (our local homeless day center) and then had ideas of where he was living on the streets.  We’d drive around until we found him, would offer him food or anything else he might need,  and then he would say he needed to get back to business.  This consisted of him making ‘traps’ (they were harmless stacks of boxes, etc.) to catch the spies who were out to get him.  Once we took him to the psychiatric floor at our local hospital, but he was discharged in days with meds that he pitched after we left him.

    One day, I got to the day center to say ‘howdy’ and he wasn’t there.  I talked to some of his friends, and finally one said this:  “Some people said they took him to the woods and killed him.”  Now, this was coming from another guy with schizophrenia, so we didn’t know how seriously to take this info.  We called the police and they said they would investigate but in the meantime, to see if we could find him because he was most likely alive.  Hubby walked parks for hours and hours each night while I drove all over town.  As the days wore on, the police took the info more seriously and interviewed a couple of people who said where his body could be found.  Along with the police, we looked and looked, but nothing.

    The news station ran a story on Jack and there was also an article in our local paper;  we wanted to know if anyone had seen him.  Here’s what happened:  social media blew up with the most horrible comments I’ve ever read…in fact, I have tears in my eyes just remembering.  People said things like this:  “Why waste resources on this sack of shit?”
    “Homeless people get what they deserve.”  “I hope he’s dead so he quits draining our system.”  “They’re all fucking drug addicts.”  “Fuck him…I ain’t wasting my time looking for this asshole.”

    When I started reading these, I was gobsmacked.  Truly.  These were people I knew!  See, Jack’s last name is different than Hubbies, and people didn’t know he was my nephew.  So, I wrote a post myself talking about how Jack was my family, that I loved him, how he was mentally ill, and that he needed help.  All of a sudden, the tide changed.  “OH…I didn’t know he was YOUR nephew.”  “I’m sorry!  I wouldn’t have said those things if I had known that.” and blah blah blah.

    Really?  What the fuck?  It’s OK to wish someone dead if you DON’T’ know them?  It’s fine to say a mentally ill young man is a ‘sack of shit’ unless he’s Prof K’s nephew?  What the hell is wrong with this?

    Finally, police in Iowa found Jack…he had literally joined the circus!  We had had one in town and he went with them to ‘help with the animals’ when it moved on.  We were so relieved, and I don’t think he could understand why we hugged him so much when he was brought to us.  Long story short (finally), he’s back with him mom in Florida, and still doing about the same.  I miss him.  I really do.

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    As an educator all of my life, I try to see the lessons in experiences, and as much as I tried to teach Jack things, he actually taught me so much more.  Jack brought out a compassion in me I had never felt before, and he could break my heart with just a look.  He taught me that happiness can be anything…just enjoying a whopper on the curb of a street is reason to smile.  Jack taught me how to see the world through completely different eyes…a different reality.  It was his reality, but I needed to understand we all have our own reality, and no one’s is more or less than anyone elses.

    But most of all, Jack taught me how cruel, insensitive, degrading, and ignorant so many people are when it comes to mental illness; and, how superficial they can be when expected to say the ‘right things.’  When we’d be out together, people would look at Jack like he was disgusting.  They’d sniff the air because he often smelled.  They’d look away as if by ignoring him, he’d simply not exist in the world they wanted to keep ‘crazy’ free.  I’d listen to radio shows and read articles in the paper about the city needed to ‘get rid of the homeless’ downtown because they made people uncomfortable.  REALLY?  Sleeping on the fucking streets?  Bathing in a fucking sink?  Shitting behind a building because that’s all there is?  That’s what’s uncomfortable, assholes.

    Did you know there are 10,363 homeless shelters in the U.S., and 13,500 dog/cat shelters and sanctuaries?  As much as I love love love dogs, this is wrong.  ‘Nuff said on that.  We need more resources for the homeless.  More acknowledgment of how much help is needed for those who are seriously mentally ill.  Better education amongst the masses so that maybe, instead of ignoring the problem, we could instead start to solve it.

    Love ya forever, Jack, and I’m sure I’ll see you again when you pass through sometime.

    Kristi xoxo

     

     

     

    What the Hell?

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    So, I teach Sociology at our local community college, and now that the nation is practicing social isolation, I am working hard to get all of my on-campus classes switched to online learning.  This isn’t necessarily a big deal for me, since I’ve taught online classes forever, but as I’m working on lectures and content for my Sociology of Deviance class, I am getting a bit angry…perplexed…wondering about what we consider to be deviant in our culture.

    First, deviance is an act or behavior that goes against societal norms (rules) we have in place; and it isn’t always an easy thing to recognize since it’s dependent on so many variables like culture, context, place, etc.  Also, a behavior/act isn’t necessarily considered deviant even if it goes strictly against a societal norm; instead, we take into consideration the ‘label’ society has placed on it; for example, does this behavior cause anger in people?  Scorn?  Disgust?   And finally, sometimes you don’t even have to ‘do’ anything to be labeled a deviant.  You simply ‘are.’  People with physical or mental disabilities are often considered deviant.  Labeling people like this as deviant stigmatizes them.  It connects them to negative stereotypes which can cause them to be ostracized ; looked down on as outcasts.

    Now, think about this.  SOCIETY can ‘say’ a person is deviant simply because the person is ‘different’.  Or simply because the person ‘is’.  Because they exist.  Because they are them.   “Holy crap, Batman…what the hell is this?”

    “Let me tell you, Robin.”  This means that ANYONE can be labeled deviant…have a stigma put on their head…and be treated as such at anytime in their lives.  Right?  First, let’s take a look at age, simply because (God willing) we will all experience this eventually in our lives.

    Oh, Lord…I hate talking about age.  As a woman who is (cough cough) 53 (I know…that’s a really BIG number!), I have seen the way I’ve been looked at over the last 10 years or so, and can’t believe the difference!  When I turned 40, it was a celebration!  “Girl…you are in the prime of your life!!  40 is the new 30!”  Actually, it isn’t.  40 is 40.  30 is 30.  And so on…you get my point.  But when I turned 50?  I was almost ashamed!  What do you say to a 50 year old?  “Ummm…you look great FOR 50!”  That’s about it!  And what a horrible sentence to hear!!  Let me translate it for you:  “Kristi…I don’t know what else to say, so I’m going to tell you that you look OK for being 50…but if you were 40, you’d look like hell!”  Hmmmm…what a compliment.

    Look in ANY women’s magazine.  Know what you see?  Products that work from the ground up to make sure nothing on you looks old.  Nothing.  We’re talking younger looking feet (which I rarely show off)  to younger looking hair.  And face creams?  If I tried everyone that was advertised AND that promised to wipe away my years, I’d go broke.  Quickly.

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    But why would I want to ‘wipe away’ my years?  Why is it deviant to get old?  Why does society tell us our worth is less as we grow up more?  Why is a natural aging process a bad thing?  And why, because of these messages, should us older people (more so for women than men in our society…much more so) feel guilty if we have wrinkles?  I don’t get it.

    Mental illness is considered deviant too.  Because face it, being mentally ill makes others feel uncomfortable.  We’ve all heard the words.  At least I have.  People use crazy or nuts as a synonym for bipolar all of the time.  Even Katy Perry, in her song Hot and Cold, says “…love bipolar” for a crazy type of unhealthy/game playing love.  So, I’m deviant because I’m mentally ill too?  Because I have a brain disease I did absolutely nothing to get?  Because I might cry?  Or be angry?  Or be depressed?  Or be manic?  These make people uncomfortable?  Scornful?  So I’m LABELED deviant.  LABELED.

    Guess what labels do?  Labels make us see ourselves through that mirror.  Like sociologist Charles Cooley described in his “Looking Glass Self” theory, we see how we appear to others, and reflect back what we’ve perceived.  Don’t believe me?  Then why are so many people ‘ashamed’ to talk about their mental illness?  Reluctant to let their friends know how much they are suffering on the inside?  Hesitant to tell people they’ve dated for a while because they fear it will negatively affect their relationship?  Afraid they will be treated differently by colleagues?  Worried they might be passed over for promotions?  Embarrassed to say their Dr.’s appointment is with their psychologist?  Humiliated when words like ‘psycho’ are used to describe behavior tied to their own mental illness?

    And for people who have cut…have attempted suicide (2 other groups I fall into)?  Wow.  The stigma is fierce!  How dare I have been in so much psychological pain, that I felt the only relief came from using a razor blade on my legs.  How could I have hurt myself, even though the physical hurt took away some of my mental hurt?  AND, what an awful person I am that I was in so much pain and so much anguish, that I truly felt, at that time, being with my grandma and grandpa in heaven was better than my life on earth.

    These labels…this stigma…is something we have to endure.  Not because of what we have.  But because of how we’re seen through the attitudes people have.  Opinions.  Reactions.

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    Dammit.  I don’t know about you and what you might endure in terms of stigmas, but I’m tired of feeling ‘less than’ over issues I can’t help.  Yes, I’m old.  Yes, I’m mentally ill.  And that’s just to name 2, or this blog post would be so long, I’d have carpal tunnel after all the writing (and probably be stigmatized for that as well).  And NO.  I will NOT be made to feel demeaned because of these things.  I refuse too.  I will continue to talk about being bipolar.  About why I used to cut.  About why I took a handful of pills.  About all of my struggles, and all of my successes.  I will do this again and again, because until we all speak out against stigmas (and in my case, mental illness stigmas), we will never see them gone.  Until we all learn to accept everyone for who they are…what they might have…how they might be ‘different’, we’ll never see the change I think we need to see most in this world.

    Acceptance.

    Kristi xoxo

    The Importance of being Honest.

    So, I’m cycling through a pretty bad depression right now.  It started in the Fall, and it’s been hanging on a long while.  Hopefully, I’ll start to be back up again soon, but with bipolar, you can never tell.  And depression is a hard fight, because so much of it is out of our control.

    Depression (and mania) aren’t ‘moods’…they are states.  And there’s a big difference there, one I wish was recognized more because calling ‘depression’ a MOOD disorder isn’t technically correct.

    Moods are temporary feelings of whatever emotion is there:  happiness, sadness, grieving, gloomy, cheerful, energetic, and the list goes on.  And we all experience a huge range of moods!  We have happy days and sad days, but those days don’t last.  The SITUATION underlying the emotion (which causes the feelings that are ‘saturated’) doesn’t last, because for the most part, that’s what they are based on.  Getting a raise makes me feel happy.  Getting rejected makes me feel sad.  But, these moods pass as others take their place.  That’s why people will say to those who are sad:  “Cheer up…this will pass.”  And they are right!  It will pass.  Although I think saying “Cheer up” nullifies the person’s emotional mood and makes it appear to be insignificant, I get what they are saying.

    But states are different creatures.  They aren’t place dependent.  People dependent.  Money dependent.  They are simply there.  And they are more than just the feeling that’s being projected.  For example, people who might be sad for a while may not experience anything else but that sadness.  Whereas people who are depressed also have trouble sleeping, have changes in eating, are restlessness or lethargic, have slowed thinking and memory issues, experience trouble making decisions, entertain thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and the list goes on.

    The causes of depression are different too.  A major life event can trigger depression in someone, but there are underlying issues at work as well that go along with that stressor:  According to Harvard Medical “Certain areas of the brain help regulate mood.  Researchers believe that, more important then levels of specific brain chemicals, nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits have a major impact on depression”.

    So once again, like we see with so many mental illnesses, depression is in the brain.  Not in the situation.  That’s why for depression, meds are needed to regulate this brain chemistry and function, as well as counseling in order to learn better ways to cope with what is happening.

    Last night, I was feeling extra down, and put on Facebook that I was really struggling with depression.  So many people reached out to me, and just knowing there is so much support and care out there really helps.  It doesn’t make me ‘less depressed’, but it does make me feel important and loved.  Anyone can use that anytime!

    A couple years ago, I never would have posted anything like that because I was still trying to pretend my way through life, and hide the pain I often experience with bipolar.  But like I’ve said before, how can I expect to work against mental health stigma if I’m not genuine myself?  How hypocritical that would be!  When I was in Florida, I posted about how people on the beach were looking at the scars on my legs from when I cut myself.  Once again, if I can’t put issues out there that are related to mental illness, what am I preaching ‘lessen the stigma’ for?

    I bought this artwork, created by the Chariho Youth Task Force for their Mental Health Awareness Campaign.  Digital copies of this art can be purchased here for $5 and all proceeds go to mental health programs and information.

    BUT, maybe there are people who think it’s OK to talk about depression.  That’s not ‘ugly’.  However, how can you even mention that you’ve cut?  That’s bloody and gross and scary.  Here’s the thing though, cutting does go along with my illness.  It just does.  I hate that I’ve done it.  I hate my scars.  I hate how people look at me when I’m at a pool or my shorts ride up a bit.  Even more though, I hate having an illness that has made my brain so confused at times, that cutting is the only outlet given for any type of psychological relief.  I know how hard that is to understand.  I don’t understand it.  But I know it’s a demon to fight when it rears it’s ugly head, and that at times, I’ve lost the battle.

    This reminds me of my Human Sexuality class and what we were discussing the other day.  I was lecturing about development from pregnancy through birth, and when I got the part about what pregnant women often suffer, everyone was OK until I said the word “hemorrhoid!”  EVERYTHING  else was met with nods…but this??  Shouts of UGH and looks of horror!  WHY?  Because hemorrhoids are ‘icky’…nothing we really want to think about!

    There are a lot of things about mental illness that are ‘icky’ too.  But we need to hear it all.  The way it really is.  That’s the only thing that will help people speak up and out about mental illness, and then get the support and help they need.

    The mentally ill should not be living in a society where there is shame in having a disease/disorder/illness that’s out of their control.  We have the control to get help for it (if it’s available and affordable…2 BIG ifs), and learn better ways of coping with it.  But it’s always there.  Always.  Just like diabetics can be medicated appropriately and watch their diet.  Even if the diabetes is controlled though, it’s still there.  It’s a lifelong disease.  It’s not going to disappear.

    The mentally ill don’t have diseases that will just disappear either.  And, the mentally ill won’t disappear, no matter how much we try to NOT talk about the issues that aren’t easy to face.  Don’t we all have the right for care, support, and understanding, regardless of where our disease or illness originates?  Don’t we all have the right to talk about our illnesses?  Our struggles?  Without stigma or shame? I believe we do.  And I’m going to keep doing it until everyone can do the same.

    Kristi xoxo

    Can we start the conversation?

    Ever notice how anxious some people get when the subject of mental illness comes up?  It’s funny to me how people throw around words and say things like “She’s so anorexic…eat something girl!”  Or, “God, how bi-polar!”  Or even, “Yea…people who have that are crazy!”  THEN, you tell them you have a mental illness.  And all of a sudden, things change!  “Oh…I didn’t mean YOU!  I meant…you know…other people who are ‘really’ sick!”



    Hmmmmmm…

    So I have bi-polar.  Not self-diagnosed; really diagnosed…neurologist, psychiatrist, etc.!  And I say that because it’s almost fashionable to have this now!  Someone feels good one day, and not so good the next, and suddenly BAM!  They think they are bi-polar.  Nope.  You’re just experiencing the highs and lows of life.  And that’s good!  You don’t want this brain disease which is what it really is.  MRI’s show differences between bipolar and normal brains, and take a look at this: 

    A new study shows that the blood of bipolar patients is toxic to brain cells and may affect the connectivity ability of neurons. … Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe and complex mental illness with a strong genetic component that affects 2% of the world population.”  



    Even when I was a little girl, I felt different.  Like there was a flaw people could readily see in me, even as young as kindergarten.  I didn’t really understand how to interact with my peers like I saw others do, and there was something inside of me I couldn’t explain but could feel.  Other kids could brush things off but I was always so emotional.  

    In the 3rd grade, I completed a story called “All About Me.”  There are a couple of tells I wrote, that in retrospect showed whispers of a mental illness.  One was the question:  What do you wonder?  While other kids wrote “Why the sky is blue” or “Why giraffes have spots”, I wrote: “I wonder why I’m alive.”  Another question asked what confused me, and I wrote “When 2 or 3 people are talking at once.”  There was just too much going on in my head for any voices to be heard.

    High school was tough for me. There were so many things that would go through my mind, that at times I thought I was going crazy.  Like a blender full of fruit and ice, on full blast, but without a lid.  I was just all over the place.  To feel like I had some control over my life, I started dieting, and developed anorexia nervosa within months.  When my boyfriend broke up with me my junior year, I crashed my car into a tree because the emotions were too overwhelming for me to process.   


    Decades later, after my 3rd divorce (!), a few things happened.  I still loved my ex-husband and missed him terribly.  My mentor and friend from the community college where I teach passed, and I got involved in an abusive relationship.  At the same time, my nephew was killed on the USS McCain, a man started harassing,  threatening, and stalking me for which I was being blamed, and I had surgery for precancerous cells.  This was too much for me and I broke down.  

    Before this, I never really ‘believed’ in nervous breakdowns.  Now I do.  I started cutting myself pretty badly.  I stopped eating.  Stopped showering.  Attempted suicide. Finally after working with doctors and counselors, I was  diagnosed with bi-polar and the “me” inside myself began to make sense.  The emotions, the roller coasters, the busy head, the bad decisions, the impulsivity, the confusion, the hyperactive behavior, the obsessive/compulsive behavior, the out of control spending, everything.  

    Being diagnosed was such a freaking relief!  I knew I had something, and even though I am a Professor that teaches Psychology, I COULD NOT admit that something as serious as bi-polar was in me.  I didn’t want it.  I tried to fight against it all my life, and because of that, I lost husbands, friends, and even family members at times.  How could anyone understand me, if I couldn’t understand myself?  

    So, am I all better now?  Ha!  Nope.  Not at all.  I’m in the process of changing meds and will be seeing a psychiatrist in a couple of weeks.  My meds aren’t as effective, but mood stabilizers have caused me suicidal ideation in the past.  We’re not sure what to try.  Some meds that are out there now have such terrible side effects.  It’s almost a process of weighing which is worse??  The depression or losing muscle coordination?  The mania, or having the compulsion to cut myself?  I know side effects are so different in people, but psychotropic meds truly are scary.  Hello!  They are working in your brain!

    I see a counselor every week, and she asked me yesterday how I’ve been able to function all these years like I do.  I’ve been teaching for 25 years, and raised my son.  And here was my answer to her: “I’ve had too!”  I didn’t have a choice!  I was the one that usually was a main support in my marriages, and there was never a question of me having to work.  And, I’m single now, and my future is dependent on only me.  My retirement that I have to keep working towards for a few more years.  

    But here’s the thing:  people don’t see the struggle on the inside, when you are presenting what you need to do on the outside.  Simple as that.  There are days I force myself out of bed to face the day.  I collapse when I get home from school because I’m exhausted and I need to take my meds.  When I wake up from that nap, I usually feel terrible.  And it takes me a long while to get myself up again for the evening.



    Working out helps with some of this…but can also feed (no pun intended!) into my eating disorder.  

    SO…I created this space for all of us. And any of us.  We can talk about mental illness here with no judgement.  No stigma.  We can be ourselves.  We can take off any masks we wear and be genuine.  I’ll always listen.  And I thank you for doing the same with me!  🙂




    Kristi xoxo