Common Sense

I will going forward post memoir excerpts on Thursdays and commentary on Tuesdays.

As a mental health activist, I realize that I have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Nothing would change in society if I caved in and didn’t publish my memoir.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, told the world he’s gay a couple weeks ago. To be a leader, you have to accept that people are looking to you to be an authentic person, not a person who tells their followers to “do as I say, not as I do.”

It’s a civil rights issue for individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses. We’re not objects to be trapped in a metal box. We’re not second class citizens; nor do we deserve to be treated as “less than zero.”

By the way, Marc Jacobs, the famous fashion designer, is gay too. In the same way a person’s disclosure about their sexual preferences is coming out publicly in a time of advancement for LGBT individuals, we need leaders to come forward who are diagnosed with mental illnesses.

I no longer doubt the need to publish a memoir about how I got the right treatment right away and as a result I’ve been in remission from schizophrenia for over 22 years.

There is still a great risk in America to “come out,” because of court rulings given against same sex marriage. LGBT individuals and those of us with mental illnesses face common struggles to be accepted, understood and given the rights so freely accorded “normal” or “heterosexual” individuals.

I want to be a role model for mental health like Temple Grandin is for autism. I want that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar and other mental illnesses can be leaders, like Tim Cook or Marc Jacobs, who are not afraid to be honest.

Marc Jacobs also had a publicly-acknowledged street drug addiction. So did Mark Wahlberg, the esteemed actor who won a Golden Globe. He was addicted to cocaine by the time he was 13, yet he turned his life around.

Normal? Forget it. There is no normal. Everyone’s just a human being living their life, doing the best they can with what they were given.

I didn’t chose to have schizophrenia. Tim Cook and Marc Jacobs didn’t choose to defy societal norms. A friend of mind had a decal on his wall that proclaimed: God Made Me Gay. God certainly did give each of us a a life. God gave us gifts. We were made in God’s image, remember?

Why. Are people in American society. Against same-sex marriage. Against giving equal opportunities to anyone who has been disenfranchised, like those of us with mental illnesses?

You have to question this prevailing narrow-mindedness. You have to question the hate in the world. It’s not stigma; it’s discrimination. The correct term is discrimination.

God made each and every one of us who we are. We have nothing to be ashamed about.

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.

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