The Chicken or the Egg?

In my Theories of Personality class, I show “The Woodsman”.  It’s a 2004 movie starring Kevin Bacon as a pedophile who has just served a decade in prison and is now out and trying to turn his life around.  He meets a woman with whom he starts to have a sexual relationship, and after they are together a couple of times, she asks what is the worst thing he has ever done.  He says he molested girls and she laughs.  She can’t believe it.  He gets angry and when she sees his face, she realizes he’s telling the truth.  He says, “It’s not what you think…I never hurt them.”  Later, we learn he would put pre-adolescent girls on his lap, facing outwards, and rub against them until orgasm.


One day, he follows a girl to a park and after they speak for a bit, he asks her to sit on his lap.  She refuses but then says, with tears in her eyes, that she will if it will make him happy.  After all, she  she does it for her dad.  Kevin then asks if her dad makes funny sounds during the time she’s on his lap, and she says yes.  He sees the pain on her face, and it’s almost like an epiphany.  He sees her hurt.  Her real hurt.  Since his victims were always facing away from him, he never had to see their faces…see their tears…see their anguish.  But now he’s faced with it, and he tells her to go.  For him, this is the first step in changing his behavior.  Not that the impulse won’t be there, but he will no longer be able to justify or rationalize his actions by saying he never hurt these poor girls.

I was thinking about this the other day, and although I know this is a movie…and not real life…I wondered about the idea of hurt.  And here’s what I started asking myself:  “Are we so ready to point out the hurt others have inflicted on us, that we can’t see what hurt we have inflicted ourselves?”  And I also thought this:  “Can change really happen?  Big change?  Real change?  Lasting change?”

In terms of the hurt, I’m so guilty of doing that.  Hubby 3 used to accuse me of holding a grudge, and I’m the first to admit that’s true.  There are times where I just can’t let things go…and I refuse…yes, refuse…to see any part I may have played in the issue, or I excuse that part by saying the other person was worse.  “What he did was an ‘8’ and what I did was a ‘5’, so I win!  I hurt more!”  See what I mean?


Since being diagnosed with bipolar a few days ago, I’ve looked back on my life and saw how many times I inflicted hurt on others.  But instead of taking responsibility for it…apologizing for it…or making up for it, I’ve turned a blind eye to my faults, and have shown a spot-light on those of others.  So unfair, I know…and I’m ashamed.

My mom and I talked about this yesterday, and she said I needed to move on and quit thinking about the past.  I know that!  And I am!  I am so excited to see what my life is going to be like off this roller coaster, and I can’t wait to see how it affects my various relationships with family and friends.  But, this is a very new thing for me…a diagnosis that explains so so so much of my behavior from when I was a girl, that it’s impossible not to think about what my life would have been like without these highs and lows, and what mistakes I wouldn’t have made.

In depressed states, I would ruminate on the hurts.  Think about them time and time again.  And I don’t know about you, but the more I think about something, the more powerful it becomes in my mind.  And the more embedded.  And I go over that damn hurt again and again and again and make it bigger than it really needs to be.  And it becomes so much a part of my thinking, that it’s hard to let it go.  Then, when I’m in a manic state, I’ll blurt things out about the hurt and make sure the person knows I haven’t forgotten, nor have I forgiven like I’ve promised too.  And it’s a cycle.  A horrible cycle that I know has damaged many of my relationships.


But now that I’m understanding all of this better…and am seeing things a bit more clearly and forcing myself to re-examine things, I can see how I diminished any hurt I inflicted.  And if I did admit to the hurt, I only did it because it was expected, or in that moment, I saw the pain on the other person’s face.  Later though, I would bury my part yet again and focus on theirs.

Not gonna do that anymore!  Wait.  That’s too broad of a statement.  What I should say is this:  I’m going to TRY my VERY BEST not to do that anymore.  To be more cognizant of what my role is in arguments, hurt feelings, etc.  I want to take more ownership of my actions.  I don’t want to use this bipolar to excuse my behavior…I want to use it to understand it better.  More clearly.  More truthfully.

Now…about this change thing.  I thought that IF change is possible, what would I like to change about me?  [Don’t you think we always know exactly what we would change in others if we could…but don’t really think about what we would change in ourselves?].  Here’s what I came up with…and believe me…this is NOT a comprehensive list…that would take a hell of a lot more space.

  • Not blurt things out so readily and think about what I’m saying;
  • Not take things so personally but try to see things more objectively (this may be impossible for me…);
  • Not focus on others’ mistakes, but take responsibility for my own;
  • Learn to let things go;
  • Understand that the world does NOT revolve around me, and in the grand scheme of things, I’m just a little piece of DNA taking up space.  In other words, not take things so seriously;
  • To build up better boundaries, instead of opening myself up to everyone and everything because it’s extremely hard for me to say no;
  • To appreciate each day and focus on the positives and not the negatives;
  • To be a better mama, daughter, sister, friend, and professor.

Holy shit!  That seems like so much, and I’m wondering how to tackle this.  [And by the way, I have this printed out and hung on my refrigerator to make myself more compelled to follow through with these].  Should I go through them one by one?  Should I just take each as a situation arises?

But the big question…can I really do this?  Change these things?  Make myself not into a different person altogether, but a better person from what I am now?  And why is it that we can believe in changing ourselves, but are so skeptical when others tell us they are changing?  Does that mean we really DON’T believe in change…but are only giving it lip service?

Maybe I’ll be able to do these things and change some behaviors, patterns, and ways of thinking.  And maybe I won’t.  But I’ll tell you this…I’m going to try my damnest.  Because if I don’t try, I’ll never know.  And if I do succeed, a whole new me will be emerging.  How exciting is that?

Prof K ❤





And She Breathed a Sigh of Relief.

Throughout my life, I’ve been told different things…almost on a daily basis by husbands, friends, and sometimes, family.  Phrases include:  “Calm down!”, “Cheer up!”, “Quit being so sensitive!”, “Why can’t you just let things go?”, “What do you have to be so sad about?”, “Why are you being so unreasonable?” and the list goes on.  I can’t tell you how much I’ve beaten myself up over and over and over again when I haven’t been able to do just these things.  So many times, I’ve been hyper-emotional or just plain hyperactive, to where I make horrible decisions and say awful things.  Then, I’ll turn around and be so terribly sad I won’t be able to stop crying and feeling depressed, no matter how much I want too.

Saturday, my mom came over and I had just gotten done spending a couple of days cleaning my closets and basement.  Furiously.  I packed up my Jeep 3 times for donation stuff and then filled a dumpster at my friend’s apartment building.  Then, I cleaned every wall, vacuumed every cobweb, and scoured the floor.  After this, I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And I thought I was finally losing my mind.  Mom came over to see my ‘new’ basement, but she saw more.  She saw me so hyper I was sad…so emotionally spent I was depressed…and so manic I was scared.  And this is the life-changing sentence she said to me:  “Kristi (yes, I’m using my real name…), when you were a teenager, grandma told me she worried about you because you were either so happy or so sad.  She asked if I thought you might have manic depression.”  Could you?

This was in the mid-80’s when little was known about bi-polar and for my grandma to even know about this, let alone communicate it to my mom about me, blew my mind.  Then I started thinking and light bulb literally went off in my head.  Teachers used to tell my parents that I was way too hyper, yet I had few friends.  They would say how I would just cry out of the blue, and then complete my work as quickly as I could to try to be the first done.

In high school, I lost a few friends because they never knew what Kristi they were getting.   Was it fun, manic, hyper Kristi that would drink and party with them until I was so drunk, I’d have to spend the night at my friends?  Or, would they get the somber, sad, depressed Kristi who would bring them down and confuse them as to why I suddenly thought it was the end of the world?


This summer, when I was so depressed, I thought it was.  The amount of tears I cried were immeasurable, and as much as I ‘wanted’ to stop, I couldn’t.  But when I finally would for short bursts of time, I was so ‘up’ I couldn’t function then either.  When I contemplated and then attempted suicide (taking a handful of pills and then throwing them up a time later), I wasn’t wanting to die.  I was wanting this fucking roller coaster to end.  To finally end.  I kept telling my mom and best friend, Rich, that I was just so damn tired of the ride.  I’d been on it for all my life…and I was finally sick of it.  I wanted off.

I’ve always known what bi-polar was.  For piss sakes, I have a B.A. in Psych…all of the hours for a Clinical Psych masters, and was awarded my M.S. in Family Studies.  I’ve taught Abnormal Psych more times that I can count and the DSM is practically embedded in my brain.  But, I also didn’t want another label.  Another ‘excuse’ for why Kristi is just the way she is.  Another person saying, “Hey, I got bi-polar!”

Why didn’t I see this pattern for what it is?   Is it because I was so busy living it…trying to control it…that I couldn’t?  After a depressive time, I would be so happy I wasn’t as depressed that I considered the mania a blessing!  Yea!!  I could get things done…be my ‘bubbly’ self…get back to ‘normal.’


After mom and I had our conversation, I called my doc who has been working with me for the past year in trying to get my moods under control.  He had me take some inventories, he reviewed my medical history from the past 20 years that documented all of the times I was seen for emotional/depressive symptoms, and diagnosed me with bi-polar.  He has put me on a medicine for bi-polar and is confident it will get me off this roller coaster.  The ride will be over…or at least it’ll be the kiddie version of the roller coaster, and not the ‘Screamin’ Eagle’!

When doc said the words bi-polar to me, I started crying (go figure), and at first I didn’t understand why.  I was getting my answer!  The clouds over what has been ‘wrong’ with me for all of these decades were lifted!  A treatment was possible!  I wanted to celebrate and instead I was shaky and emotional.  I still am.  I got home and called mom who had been waiting to hear what doc said.  She was so relieved I got my answer but also understood why I was reacting the way I was.

For the last 16 hours, I’ve been looking back on my life (haven’t slept…look like crap…doing this in my pj’s…)  and I can see how this mental illness (another label…) has affected so many decisions, situations, and relationships I’ve had over these years.  I wasn’t honest with you all when I didn’t take enough responsibility in the demise of my 3 marriages, and I’m here to tell you that no matter how much I sugar coat it, I was very much to blame in all of them.  My impulsiveness led me to do things I am so ashamed of, that I ask God for forgiveness everyday.  I know he has already done that, but I can’t bring myself to do the same.  I see how I hurt my family by words I’ve said…things I’ve done…and I will never ever be able to make it up to them.  I see how I could have been a different mom.  I was a good mom…but I always felt different from the other moms.  They were so relaxed and ‘adult-ty’ while I always felt foolish around them.  I was either hyper like a kid…or down like I wasn’t happy with the little family I was blessed to have.  I can see how my moods affected my high school work so much…and how I could have gotten so much more out of those 4 years of my life.  I can see my over-reactions that drove people away.  I can see how I took others on this ride that no one should have had to go on.  I see how my mom has tried her best to understand me in impossible situations, and bail me out accordingly.  I understand my tendency to over-spend without thinking…motorcycles, elective surgery, clothes, cars, taking on pets I had no business having, running up credit cards, etc.  I can see me hopping on the latest trend and doing all I could to both fit in and stand out.  I cringe at how I’ve behaved inappropriately hundreds of times over.

I want to go back.  I want to go back to my 16 year old self.  I want my grandma’s words to be understood and I want to go to a doc that was knowledgeable in this illness during that time like my current doc is.  I want the treatment then, that I’m finally getting now.  I want to be different in school, in my family, with my friends…and especially in my marriage to my son’s dad.  I want to turn the clock back 15 years, and do it differently.  So bad I want to do that.  Have my little family still in tact and not have to admit to myself that I destroyed that for my precious son.  I want to be the mom, daughter, sister that doesn’t cause so many issues…so many worries…so many problems.  I want to go through those years and feel good.  Feel right.  Feel normal.

Because I don’t know what that’s like.  I’ve never had it.  When doc said I will be feeling so much better after the new medication kicks in, I told him I didn’t know what that would be like.  To be off the ride.  How does that feel?  To not be on top of a hill one day, and then drop the next?  Will I even know how to ‘walk’ after riding for so long?  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I do know there are some things I need to do:  I need to cut myself a little bit of slack, mourn the past, and know that all I can do is go from here.  I need to understand this illness and not use it as an excuse, but learn to work with the meds and be a part of the treatment myself.  I need to recognize what part of the kiddie coaster I’m on and communicate that to my family.  I need to forgive myself for the thousands of past mistakes once and for all.  I need to make sure this illness doesn’t define me…but just helps explain me.  I need to thank God that I finally have the answer I’ve been searching for all of my life, instead of asking him why the heck it took so long to see what was right in front of me.

Most of all, I need to apologize to my family.  My family who was forced to take a ride with me that was hellish at times for them as well.  I’m so sorry they had to endure this with me.  And I’m so so so sorry for what pain my ride caused them.  I’ll never be able to make up for that.  Never.

Prof K ❤