“I want you to show me the way…” ~ Peter Frampton

So, I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a guy I dated for a while around a year ago. We didn’t end on great terms which bothered me a lot because we started out as really good friends. Anyhoo, what he wrote made me cry but in a good way.

In his message, he said he had gone back and watched the TedX talk I did about being bipolar and also thought about things I told him about this mental illness. And this is some of what he said:

“The combination of your past experiences, coupled with the struggles you deal with every minute of your life, made our entire interaction both too impulsive and too similar, from your perspective, to past abusive experiences. 

I know you have times where you say things differently than you would at other times. Another part of your struggle. I see many of the things you said to me as heavily influenced by those times and your illness. My hurt and pain over some of those things was real. But, when I take all things into consideration, I realize that you ARE the sweet girl I remember from school. You suffer from bipolar disorder that causes things to be said and done in a way that the sweet girl wouldn’t ordinarily say or do them. It can’t be helped. And it’s not intentional.”

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that this man diligently worked to understand what being bipolar is like and how it affects my interactions with others. I also think it’s insightful of him to see how my past experiences have shaped me as well. BUT, I know that being bipolar doesn’t justify what I said or did. Justifying means proving yourself right…and I was NOT right in so many things we struggled with. However, understanding bipolar sheds light on my behavior but doesn’t absolve me to not take responsibility.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Being in a manic phase does make you feel ‘high’ so to speak, but can also make you irritable and touchy (😳). Couple that with racing thoughts, impulsive behaviors, and incessant talking, you can see it’s a recipe for disaster in any relationship (BTW: did you know that 90% of marriages with a partner having bipolar end in divorce? Hmmm… 🤔). Another issue with mania is delusional thinking; for example, feeling extra important and talented (my Oscar speech is ready to go…all I need is to get a ticket to Hollywood, find an agent, learn to act, get an audition, make the film, and then walk up on the stage. Very do-able…right?? 🙄) . What this can do is make us feel better than others, and as we all know, this is the foundation of passing judgement on others. It makes me sick…literally (I hate this word…except it actually fits right now)… to know I’ve been that way. I am the FIRST to say: “Hey! Don’t judge me! It’s not my fault I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar!” Yet, that same bipolar has caused me to judge others at times…something I would never do out of that manic state. I feel horrible for that and have tears in my eyes as I’m reflecting on this.

On the other hand, being depressed makes you feel hopeless and worthless. You don’t feel like having sex, going out, or doing anything fun; plus, you see the world as being one big disappointing poop-fest (which right now, it kind of is…🤨) and feel pessimistic about everything. Charmed, I’m sure.

But I’m not always manic or depressed and I’m just ‘me’. Kristi. My brain is calmed and I can be much more in control of who I am, what I say, and what I do. These breaks of euthymia can last from days to months. So, in a nutshell, the people around me have no idea ‘who’ is going to show up on any particular day and how long that Kristi will last. Will it be manic Kristi…Oscar winner extraordinaire? Depressed Kristi who wants to hide in a cave and never come out? Or just Kristi? Average, mousy, plain old Kristi? It’s a crap shoot and I know how confusing that can be! It confuses me as well!

Me and Pop when I thought I was great at photo editing!

My dad, step-ma and I were having breakfast the other day and talking about mental illness since it’s such a cheerful subject to peruse over omelets and pancakes at Perkins. Pop is mentally ill himself and also has bipolar. I knew he did because I can see what I go through in him, but this was the first time he said it to me directly. When I look back at my life with pop growing up, I was always wary of which pop I’d be getting on any given day. Sometimes pop was the funniest, most energetic parent ever and other times, sissy and I would walk on eggshells not knowing what was going on. I know he understands how bipolar has affected his relationship with his daughters and I also relate since it’s certainly affected my parenting as well. Pop is a great parent…actually a very kind, helpful, generous man in general. But he’s mentally ill…and it’s going to affect his life and relationships regardless. (I love you, pop! 🥰).

Now, I also have anorexia which isn’t too surprising since there’s a pattern of comorbidity (I just love using words that make me sound smart 🙄) between eating disorders and bipolar. This makes sense since both have genetic components and we can see similar symptoms between them like compulsiveness (over-exercising for me), loss of appetite when manic, feeling worthless when depressed which causes me to be very hard on myself in terms of how I see me, and then being more touchy overall. One comment that I’ve put on a few pounds will reverberate through my brain again and again until I take action. I also think it’s a control/dysregulation issue as well: emotional dysregulation with bipolar and eating dysregulation in anorexia both involve the pre-frontal cortex as well as the neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine. In many ways, these 2 illnesses go hand in hand.

So, what effect does anorexia have on my relationships with others? Well, among other things I can be judgmental of the weight of others. It truly doesn’t come from disdain but from envy. I would absolutely love to eat something…anything…without thinking about how many calories are going into my body and how that will affect my weight. When I see bigger people, I am wishing I could eat more freely and with more enjoyment, and not beat myself up if I choose to have a dessert. This jealousy has caused me to say some pretty bitchy things; however, using that judgment against others might once again be understandable but it’s definitely NOT justifiable. At all.

You know, having this fucking bastard (ma…you know if I say it once, I’ll say it again…🙄) of a mental illness, times 2, makes life hard for me, but I also realize life is so much more difficult for others. Believe me, I know how blessed I really am! But honestly, bipolar sucks balls and sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I wonder why in the name of all that is holy, I have to have it. Why I have to go through so many ups and downs and problems and breakdowns and horrible thoughts of suicidal ideation and times of self-mutilation, etc. Why I have to be at the mercy of a brain that seems to not know what the hell it wants. But I think I’m finally beginning to understand the purpose of it. At first, I thought it was ‘simply’ to do what I could to help break the stigma of having it. But now, after reading the e-mail I got, I realize this: it’s more important to promote an understanding of the disorder. Breaking the stigma means getting rid of the ‘shame’ associated with bipolar (and all mental illnesses!) and that’s such an important thing to do! But understanding means to be empathic, considerate, and forgiving of the people and associated behaviors of those who have a mental illness because you’ve learned what these illnesses entail. And peeps, that’s what I need to promote. See the difference?

Yes, I have mental illness and it affects all of my interactions the vast majority of the time. And to have someone understand that, and then apologize for not recognizing that earlier, humbles me. But it’s really not their apology to make. No matter what is going on in my brain and how bipolar (and anorexia) affect me, I still am responsible for me. For what I say. For what I do. And to anyone and everyone that has been affected by that, I’m truly sorry.

Kristi xoxo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi xoxo