I recently spent three weeks visiting my parents in my hometown of Charleston, SC. The first week I was home, I felt homesick for Denver. Everywhere I went, I faced layers of memories. This is the place of my past, I thought. This was the home of Kristina Cooper, not Kristina Atkins. I’ve grown so much since I last lived there, twelve years ago. I’ve been through so much, faced my demons, gotten to know myself better. I’ve been married, become a mom, earned degrees and written books. I’m not the same person who lived in Charleston.

And yet … it didn’t take long to sink back into the rhythm of the South. To remember how to sit still, embracing the humidity instead of fighting it. To take slow bike rides under Spanish moss. To watch my children enjoying the freedom of the beach. To listen to the cicadas sing and simply be. I can make new memories here, I thought. And I did. I watched my children dig in sand and chase seagulls. They played in pluff mud and caught lizards. I biked with my husband along the Battery, took a turn down Market Street, and bought pralines. I remembered the beauty of slow living.

We’re not moving back. Our lives are here in Denver, and I love it here. But Charleston will always be a part of me. Every place you live leaves an imprint on your soul, but nothing compares to the mark left by your hometown. I’m forever grateful to call Charleston my home.


What I Remember About Postpartum Depression

This post was easy to write–because I’ve been thinking about it for weeks–but scary to publish.

Big deep breath … here we go.

I recently read this blog post from a fellow mother with bipolar disorder recounting her experiences with postpartum depression. It’s courageous and beautiful and painful–and brought back many of my own experiences. It also inspired me to write this post.

I don’t remember much about my postpartum with Turbo. I was so, so sleep deprived for 6 months straight. I remember at one point telling a friend I’d been living on 2-3 hours of sleep that whole time. So the sleep deprivation has erased many of those memories. I’m sure I’ve conveniently forgotten some as well. Here’s what I do remember:

I remember crying every single day for 6 months straight. Often multiple times a day.

I remember wanting to run away. Thinking about how much I hated being a mother. Wishing it had never happened. Then crying out of guilt the next minute because of course I wanted to be a mother, how could I ever think that?

I remember pleading with my child to please, please sleep. And please, please take the bottle so I could get back on meds.

I remember meds helping … but not enough.

I remember throwing the bottle across the room when he kept refusing to take it.

I remember noticing I was bouncing him quite hard one afternoon, and realizing for the first time how someone could shake a baby.

I remember setting him in his crib, still crying, because I couldn’t take it anymore.

I remember countless nights of insomnia. I was so, so exhausted and yet as soon as I got in bed, I couldn’t sleep.

I remember lying awake at night, making plans to get up, drive to the grocery store, buy some alcohol, come home and get drunk so I could shut my freaking brain off and finally sleep.

I remember desperately talking myself out of that plan time and time and time again. (I don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons.)

I remember slamming my head against the dresser behind me one night when Turbo had his umpteenth cold and I was trying to clear his nose out in the middle of the night so he could just please sleep, and he was crying and fighting me and not sleeping and not sleeping and not sleeping.

I remember many nights of laying in bed and talking myself out of going to the kitchen to get a knife to cut myself. But I had to self-harm, I was going crazy, so I “settled” by hitting myself in the head as hard as I could.

I remember spending two weeks of Turbo’s sixth month of life in bed. In the morning, I’d get him, grab his bottles and diapers, eat enough to sustain me, and crawl back into bed. He was literally the only thing that kept me going.

I remember so many out of body experiences. (This is a form of psychosis.) Two while I was driving. One in particular was scary because it was rush hour traffic and the cars whizzing past me seemed so harmless and far away. I remember telling myself, “Just get off the road. You’ve got to get off the road. Your baby–your entire world–is in this car and he’s depending on you.”

I remember Thanksgiving when my brother came to visit and I had a breakdown of epic proportions and he and the Mister had to pick up the pieces and finish cooking dinner while I slept off the insanity.

I remember dreading the night.

I remember dreading the morning.

When Turbo dropped to two naps a day, things got much better and the postpartum depression cleared. When I got pregnant this time, I had a plan. After Nugget was born, it took two weeks for me to get up to a viable dosage of my multivitamin, and in that time I could see that my postpartum was on a path to be much worse this time. But then I started taking enough, and the world was a brighter place. I still cry from time to time, because being a mom is hard, and newborns are really, really hard, but it’s not the same. I’m still tired, but it’s not the same. No more desires to run away. No more thinking I hate being a mom. No more dreading each coming day. I’m not happy every moment, and my body has readjusted so bipolar depression is hanging around the fringes waiting to pounce. But I am sane. I am mostly balanced–and when I’m not, I can get back in balance fairly easily.

I love my children. I love being a mother. I’m not happy every moment, but there’s a bud of ever-present joy nestled in my heart.

Hey, I feel like a human again!

Hello, blogland! Last I posted, I was 32ish weeks pregnant and 3 weeks away from moving into a new house. Well, it’s been 4 months, and I’m now in the new house and I have a new baby! Nugget was evicted on his due date, November 3rd, and now that he’s 2 months old he’s sleeping well enough that I feel like a human again. It’s a miracle, I tell you. Turbo was a terrible sleeper and napper until he was 6 months, so I was a zombie for a very long time. Nugget isn’t a perfect sleeper, but he’s good enough! Plus, I’ve got some amazing multivitamins (the ones I’ve mentioned before, specifically formulated for mental health) that are chock full of B vitamins, which help a ton. Night and day difference between this time and the last, my friends. Night and day.

It feels good to be blogging again. I’ve been itching to blog more about mental health, as well as vulnerability. And of course writing. And I can’t wait to reconnect with all of y’all out there. I’ll be commenting on your blogs very soon!

I usually start my year off with a post about my goals. I will do that again and soon. But I haven’t thought about it much yet. Still in survival mode to a degree, plus this week I got a wild hair and decided to potty train Turbo. How’s it going? Well, this week hasn’t been my finest, let me just say that. But he’s progressing, and doesn’t completely hate me, so there’s that!

How was your Christmas and New Year’s, lovelies?

My Latest WIPs

Hullo there!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s see, last time I posted was in April, and I signed off promising goals for the second quarter. And it’s been radio silence ever since.

But that’s because I’ve been busy, see! I finished rewriting the end of THROUGH CLOUDED EYES (much improved! though still needs work). I outlined ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT with a shiny new plot and have been (slowly) rewriting it. (And methinks I need to switch the POV from 3rd person past to 1st person past.) I went to the LDStorymakers conference in May which was AMAZING. (Definitely more on that!) I drove with my sister and our two kiddos (2 year old Turbo and her then-9-month-old daughter) to SC for a month of fun with my family. I started house hunting, physically looked at 85 homes, and we’re now under contract for a dreamy new pad. And, OH YEAH THIS:

I bought a new dress! ;)

I bought a new dress! ;)

I was planning on making the announcement on here when I turned 13 weeks, but I was still SO flipping nauseous, and as you can see, we’ve been busy, so it just got pushed to the way way way back burner. I’m currently 32 weeks along and due with another boy on November 3rd. We’re thrilled!

So now I’m in the last few weeks of pregnancy and we’re getting ready to move in 3 weeks. And also,Turbo’s birthday is in a month. And also we’re keeping our current home and renting it out, so we have lots to do to get it ready. Life is crazy! I can’t promise how much I’ll be active with the blogging for the rest of the year, but I will try so hard not to leave y’all hanging for 5 months again!

So how are all you lovelies?

I Go To Extremes

Originally posted on my personal blog on September 14, 2009, a month after I was diagnosed. Lyrics quoted are from Billy Joel’s “I Go To Extremes.”

“‘Darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes. Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens,'” I belted as we sailed across Wyoming. I suddenly stopped singing and giggled, glancing over to the Mister. “This song’s like my theme song.”

But the fact is I do know why I go to extremes. For a long time I thought it was my imagination. Or I was simply being dramatic. Or it was the hormones in my birth control. In reality, my extremes have a very solid cause. I have bipolar disorder.

‘Call me a joker, call me a fool

Right at this moment I’m totally cool

Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife

I feel like I’m in the prime of my life

Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast

I don’t know how long this feeling will last

Maybe it’s only tonight’

Looking back over the years, I was hypomanic my freshman year of college. I got entirely too little sleep, spent way too much money, and ate a ridiculous amount of food. I hung out with my friends constantly, thinking I was charming, witty and funny, when in reality I was probably more along the lines of loud and obnoxious. I took a wide variety of classes, from ballet to mass communications, public speaking to American Sign Language, chasing after various grand ideas. The year seemed to a great one but when it was done I was left with debt, horrible grades, and 20 pounds more on my frame. My euphoric high came to a screeching halt the day I broke up with my serious boyfriend.

‘Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot

Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got

Maybe I’m headed over the hill

Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill

Tell me how much do you think you can take

Until the heart in you is starting to break?

Sometimes it feels like it will’

There’s no question that I was depressed my sophomore year. I regularly slept in till 11, missing my morning classes. One day, in fact, I literally slept all day, not emerging from my room until 6 pm and only then because I was hungry. I hated myself. I hated my reflection. I chopped my hair in a vain attempt to be happy with my appearance. This produced an even worse image, and my spirits dove because of it. I rarely dated and when I did, I only wanted to make out. I didn’t see my friends much, but luckily I lived with my sister who helped me through this time. I also sought counseling, free thanks to BYU, which helped me recognize my experience and get through it. At the time I thought it was only situational depression. There was no chemical imbalance, or so I thought. With time, counseling, exercise, and my faith, I pulled through. Surely it was only situational.

‘Out of the darkness, into the light

Leaving the scene of the crime’

I was given a respite my junior and senior years. Two blissful years of sanity. I didn’t know well enough to cherish them like I wish I had. I don’t remember much about my mental state during that time, which proves to me it was a time of sane thoughts and healthy self esteem. The Mister and I found each other. We dated. We fell in love. We got engaged. With the oncoming marriage came birth control. I went on the ring, about which the nurse at the health center said she’d never taken anyone off of it because of negative side effects. It sounded like my cup of tea. After the initial adjustment period, things seemed peachy keen. We got married and moved to New York for what I thought would be a summer of love and fun. In many ways, it was. But I had no idea of the tidal wave that was coming for me.

‘You can be sure when I’m gone

I won’t be out there too long’

The poor Mister didn’t know what to do when it hit. I suddenly couldn’t sleep anymore. I cried. Often. I mentally and verbally beat myself up, in typical Kris fashion. I was cranky a lot. I felt listless and not useful. I felt like a waste of space. I was no longer the optimistic, cheerful young woman he’d married. I was someone altogether different. Somehow, we made it through the summer and back to Provo. That fall I was able to dive into a busy schedule of work, school, and LOL (my improv comedy troupe). I lost myself in the business of it all. This isn’t to say I was hunky dory. The Mister had to, more than once, literally pick me up off the floor and tell me that I could in fact pass the test, write the paper, go to class. I put my head down and pushed on. I spoke with the Lord often as I walked to class, sat at work, or entered another late night of studying. On my last day of school, on which I had to take 4 finals, I cried. However this was a healthy cry. I thanked the Lord for carrying me through that time. I cried for the beauty of the setting sun as I drove home to a napping husband. I sat in the parking lot and cried with sheer exhaustion. I was finally done. But now that my mind was no longer occupied with these healthier things, it found time to eat in on itself. On Christmas Day I hit a grand low, as I found myself crying miserably while all around me was love, happiness, my family, and celebration of our Lord. I looked at my mom and told her I’d had enough. It was time to get off the birth control.

We returned to Provo and I met with my doctor, explaining my plight. He immediately recommended I go on the non-hormonal IUD. It sounded like pure heaven to me. The initial physical pain was intense, but the immediate relief I felt emotionally was enough to outweigh it. I was finally free! It had been the hormones all along! Victory!

Unfortunately, not victory. I was OK for a few months. But then my moods started to go crazy again. I lamented to the Mister that my emotional-free days of high school were long gone. I found myself getting depressed again. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I decided to get help. But then hives sprang up and I decided I should see someone about those first. By the time my hives were under control, the depression was long gone.

‘Sometimes I lie awake, night after night

Coming apart at the seams

Eager to please, ready to fight

Why do I go to extremes?’

My family member is the one who suggested that I seek help. I hadn’t even realized I’d needed it. Yeah, I was suffering from panic attacks 3 to 5 times a week, but that wasn’t a big deal. I was very confident in myself. When we hung out with friends, I was witty and charming again. Now as I look back, I see that I was hypomanic and this bout of hypomania was increasing in severity. When I felt like such a fun person around our friends, the Mister told me that I was being a bit obnoxious. I was having fun buying clothing for myself in what seemed like months. And buying stuff for our house. And more stuff for our house. I thought it would be great to run a half marathon. Then to do a fitness competition. And why not go ahead and apply for grad school in a month? My panic attacks were increasing and the thoughts in my head swirled round and round each other. I started to get confused and dizzy multiple times a day. My thoughts were racing so fast I didn’t know how to attend to them, let alone gain control. Then my family member said I was “showing signs of mood instability” and that I should see a professional. I realize now that family member saved me. I saw a doctor who put me on lithium. All sad thoughts instantly disappeared. But I was suddenly angry most of the time. Some of the worst fights the Mister and I ever had were in this period. I told my doctor, who put me on zyprexa. The rage was gone. But I was still feeling manic. So she upped the lithium dosage. This was the visit when I asked my doctor what my diagnosis was. “Bipolar two,” she told me. I was floored.

Even though it was scary to hear something like that, it was also a relief. After all, it’s an answer. All of the experiences I wrote about, I had no idea what they meant. It is only now, as I learn more about this illness I suffer from, that they are making sense. The diagnosis is also like a solution. I can now take medication to treat my symptoms. Sometimes I get sick of being medicated. I spend my days sedated and there are times when I want to throw my pills in the trash. At those times, I force myself to remember what it’s like without the pills, what it’s like with the confusion, racing thoughts, and panic. Sure, the highs are intoxicating but I can’t experience them without the detrimental lows. As I embark on life with this new perspective, with the aid of modern medicine, I find myself relearning emotions and relying on the Lord more than ever.

WUW: Snowy Writing Days

What’s Up Wednesday is an easy and fun weekly blog hop that’s hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk. All you do is answer the four main questions, then visit the other participants’ blogs to see what they’re up to this week. Join us! Jooooiiiin uussss!

Bench Button (Final)WHAT I’M READING

We read Enchantment by Orson Scott Card for book club in February, and I’m terribly behind because I decided to try audio books. Aha! I thought, I can listen to books while I fold laundry and clean the kitchen! Except I hate folding laundry, so I kept avoiding it. Anyhow, I’m really enjoying the book. I read it back in high school and liked it a lot. I love re-reading books from my teen years because you respond differently as an adult, and it’s interesting to compare. I definitely recommend it.


Drafting is coming along swimmingly for THROUGH CLOUDED EYES. I’m at 46k words (out of a projected 80k), with a clear path to the end and good word counts every day. To finish the book by the end of the month, I need to write 1,161 words every day (except I missed Monday, so I’ll have to make that up sometime this week).

I also finally figured out how to fix ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT, and did a fairly-tight (for me) outline. I’m pitching it in May (ack!) and will start on my next draft in April. BECAUSE I WILL FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT OF TCE BY THE END OF THIS MONTH!!

For my weekly goal I’m going to continue on my 1,161 words a day, which will put me at least at 54k words next Wednesday. We’ll see if I check in though. I’ll try! :)


Okay, so, personal deadlines rarely work for me, to be honest. There’s no consequence if I don’t meet them. But with my pitch session in a couple months, I’ve found my fire. Something else I’ve done to keep me trucking along on TCE has been to have a friend (who is a reader but has no inclinations to write) read a few chapters every week. It’s good motivation because I have to get her something new every week(ish). I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well this has worked out for me. I’m not sure if she agrees, reading the very first draft and the accompanying terrible writing, but I’m certainly benefiting. ^_^


January and February were rough months, the kind where you keep your head down and plow through. The Mister worked every single day from December 28th to February 18th (with the one exception of Sunday February 1st), and worked past Turbo’s bed time most nights. Single parents and military spouses: I’ve always saluted you, but now it’s even more fervently. That was exhausting and I wasn’t the best mom all the time. But we made it through with a lot of play dates and LOTS of Chick-fil-A visits. We’ve had a ton of snow recently, which I don’t mind, but I’ve got an eye toward spring, my very favorite time of the year!

Let’s Be Real For a Minute

Happy New Year, y’all! I still can’t believe 2014 is over and gone. That had to be the fastest year of my life. I reflected back on it as I wrote our family Christmas letter, and concluded that it was a fantastic year. And it was, truly. We went on trips, and rode our bikes, and finally sodded our backyard and enjoyed the heck out of that grass. The Mister got a new job, and Turbo turned two(!). I made a breakthrough in my writing, and read some terrific books.

Yes, 2014 was a great year.

But as my reflection continued through the last week, I’ve realized something else.

2014 was a hard year.

I’ve mentioned bouts of depression and my dark night of the soul last summer, but in reality, I spent most of the year depressed. See, I have bipolar disorder. I’d planned on making this clever video when I came out about my illness, in which I talked about my story–and I still will do that one day because I’m passionate about banishing the stigma around mental illness–but, I don’t know, it just feels like it’s time. And frankly, I’ve had a crap week and feel like being real with y’all.

I don’t sugarcoat my life to make it seem perfect. I feel I’ve been honest about other struggles, and my Facebook account is littered with pictures of my nowhere-near-pristine home, but I am very personal about some things (total INFJ here), and emotional struggle is one of those things. I have a hard time opening up about it to anyone, including my sisters and the Mister, the people I’m closest to in this big, crazy world. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable, but this year I’ve learned that’s one of the things holding my writing back.

So I’m finally opening up. It feels good.

Anyhow, so, I have bipolar disorder, yes, and I’ve been in a long depressive episode … actually, for most of Turbo’s life. (Not because of him, because he’s wonderful and gives me so much joy and peace, but parenthood is hard, and also, sleep is very very important for my mental health, and it’s not as consistent these days.) But especially this year, and that’s because of one thing: we have been trying to get pregnant. Actually, since September of 2013. And in order to do that, I had to go off my meds. So, other than a brief bout of hypomania last January and February, and a few days here and there, the name of the game has been depression. It was steadily getting worse, until early this fall when my dad sent me a multivitamin specially formulated for mental health. That was a game changer. I have felt much better since then. It’s not as effective as my meds, but it doesn’t have any of the negative side effects–a trade I’m more than happy with. But, I’ve still dealt with the depression through the fall, off and on, though not as bad.

And it’s been mitigated by the fact that I’m still not pregnant. It took us a year to get pregnant with Turbo, and now we’ve been trying for #2 for 15 months, and let me just tell you … it sucks. I hate trying to get pregnant, really and truly. I know I need to relax, that it will happen when it happens, but that’s easier said than done. Much easier. Every month, no matter what my mental state was prior, when I found out I wasn’t pregnant, I’d get launched into (or further into) depression for a few days. It feels like this sticky spider’s web that I can never be completely free of. I’ll get some distance from it sometimes, and think I’m in the clear, then I lose my footing and it snaps me back into its hold.

So when I look back on 2014, I see two sides. The bright side, filled with memories with my family and friends, of all the fun I’ve had and all that I’ve done. And the dark side, the times I’ve cried (and there have been more than a few), the days I’ve spent unwashed, clad in my bathrobe, managing to take care of my child and little else. It’s quite the dichotomy for 12 months.

I was looking over my resolutions, and I blew almost all of them … except two: devote nap time to writing and leave nights for cleaning and reading. I did a pretty good job with those last year, and because of that, I wrote 40k words and read 25 books. That doesn’t sound like a lot, and I know other people did way more than that, but I’m proud of it.

This post is getting really long, and I’m worried it’s starting to sound whiny (another reason I don’t like talking about my struggles too much–I’m naturally an optimistic person). I doubt anyone has read this far, but I needed to write it. I need to be more vulnerable. In fact, I promise from here on out, I will be open about what I’m going through.

I made a decision earlier this week. There are so many things that aren’t in my control. Getting pregnant, my mental health (somewhat yes and somewhat no), my child’s behavior, the weather, my hair … there are so few things actually in my control. But there are some things. Like whether or not I write. So I need to take a tip from Elsa and let go that which I can, and take charge of what little is left. I’ve long touted the 100 Words a Day Challenge, and I’ll continue to stick by it … this time, with no excuses. Yesterday I felt like crap, but I managed 142 words (after typing stuff like, “blah blah blah I need to write what should I write let’s see last time we met Sloane, she was …”). They weren’t good words, but they were words, and I felt better after. Much better.

I’m going to make the best of 2015, no matter what it throws at me. And if I have another year like 2014, another year of stark contrast, of great joy and terrible heartache? Well, I’ll survive. And I’ll do it, in part, by writing.

No excuses.