I’m proud of my Italian heritage.

I wrote at HealthCentral circa a year or two ago in October on how culture impacts recovery. October is Italian Heritage Month.

Though I might be biased, I think culture does play a role in a person’s life and in a person’s recovery. Some things can’t be a coincidence if you ask me.

Allure–the women’s beauty magazine–recently published a feature article on ballerinas titled Amazing Grace. After I read it, I decided I wanted to write in here about culture. In the memoir, I credited the love and support of my close-knit Italian American family as a factor that enabled me to succeed.

The feature on ballerinas reveals a little-known Italian ethic: sprezzatura, or the art of concealment. It’s why I’m a big fan of keeping the details of your illness private and maintaining decorum in your own life. Knowing who to tell and when is your right. Yet I see no benefit in random widespread disclosure to everyone you meet.

Ballerinas make it look easy and I might make it look easy too.

The Allure feature article sums it up thus:

“The combination of hidden discipline and apparently effortless grace is the secret to ballerinas’ enduring appeal. They have sprezzatura, Italian for the art of concealment. We know that what they do is hard. We know it takes enormous work. We even know it hurts. But they make us forget all that. They make the extraordinary seem natural. And that’s quite a special effect.”

Recovery is hard. It takes enormous work. It can hurt to be in emotional pain. It can hurt when other people don’t understand us or accept us or give us compassion.

I understand what it’s like to have a mental illness. I know how hard it is to get up every day and have to work twice as hard to get what you want when it seems things come easy to other people.

I’ll end here by telling you again that jealousy serves no purpose and self-pity serves no purpose.

Be grateful for what you do have and what you are able to achieve. Recovery is not a race, nor is it a competition.

And if it is a ballet, I want to be the dancer that makes you forget.

I want to bring readers moments of joy and grace and beauty.

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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