Chronic Not Hopeless

I’m grateful to my peers for retweeting what I write on Twitter. I wanted to extend what I talk about to any chronic condition now.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer circa 11 years ago. A routine yearly mammogram detected a lump at Stage 0. Stage 0 is the best kind of cancer to have. She had an operation and has been in remission from breast cancer ever since.

I have only empathy for anyone living with a chronic medical condition–whether it’s a mental illness or heart disease or osteoporosis or any other kind of illness.

My life changed forever on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2004 when I experienced a minor version of PTSD related to a traumatic verbal attack I experienced while in graduate school. It’s the effect of the event on the person that renders it traumatic even if to another person it wouldn’t set off alarm bells.

The wind-up was in 2007 the Stelazine wasn’t effective anymore and I was switched to Geodon which has been a miracle drug for me. I said in the last blog entry that in recovery as in life nothing is guaranteed.

A chronic condition can often be kept at bay with medication–whether the condition is a migraine or symptoms of schizophrenia. And I know what it’s like to have a migraine. I once had a migraine so severe that a co-worker had to drive me home from work at noon. I went straight to bed shut the lights and lay under the covers with no light and no sound until midnight when I went to sleep. As soon as I had gotten home I had to throw up.

It’s been over eight years now since I had a migraine. I talk about this–I talk about the breast cancer–because IMHO getting the right treatment right away equals a better outcome.

Living with a chronic condition isn’t easy. I’m grateful for my peers who understand what it’s like.

I will quote Wilma Rudolph again: the gold medalist at track in the 1960 summer Olympics. She was born 4 pounds and sickly. They thought she would not ever live. Growing up her leg was crooked and she wore a brace.

Wilma Rudolph when she was 20 won three gold medals in track at the 1960 Olympics.

The greatest quote I ever read comes from this champion:

“The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”

I’m confident that a lot of people who struggle go on to have a ton more empathy and compassion than a lot of ordinary people living “normal” lives. I don’t expect anyone who hasn’t struggled like I have to truly understand and have a natural compassion. That’s why I’m OK that stigma exists because I don’t expect most people to understand.

A former friend once told me: “Maybe your role in this lifetime is to fight stigma.” It just might be.

Right now I will end this blog entry by stating that living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or any other chronic condition can often be like looking in a fun house mirror: our self-perception is distorted because the mirrors can often at first magnify how we feel about ourselves now that our lives have changed.

I propose looking in a different mirror: visualizing in your mind’s eye like a camera a more hopeful outcome. And remembering the magnificent story of Wilma Ruldoph. And remembering that self-pity and jealousy serve no purpose.

I’ll cap off this entry now with this quote from an Internet message:

“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is facing some kind of battle.”

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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