A Life Beyond Illness

I’m going to start writing blog entries in here that are sketches of life beyond illness–I’ll start this on Thursday.

In a way I covet becoming invisible–getting to the point where managing your illness is not a full-time job that takes up every hour of your waking life.

Getting the right treatment right away can enable a person to have a full and robust life. Then it becomes their choice as to how and when they focus on the illness.

To be creative and act resourceful are foolproof ways to manage having an illness. That’s what I think: listening to yourself and your needs is an act of love. Daring to envision having a great life is an act of love.  Choosing recovery is an act of love.

I’m 50–I got here to having a better life and you can too. “Nothing succeeds like persistence.” You can have a better life at 50 than you did at 22. I say this because I regret nothing. I don’t regret a minute lived.

A guy arrived in my life who is a person of interest. Now you see that giving up is not an option. Giving up on yourself and your dreams is not a viable way to live. Risk avoidance is not a healthy strategy either.

You will if you’re lucky get to 50 like I have. The peer support guideline tells us “We expect a better tomorrow in a realistic way.”

Expecting that we can have a life beyond illness is now a realistic view of the future for a significant number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

I don’t tell people about what happened to me. I don’t tell the people I meet. I’ve chosen the media through which to reveal this part of my life–via the memoir the blog forums and public speaking.

Now that I met a guy I’m not keen either to talk about illness with him.

Having a life beyond illness is a noble goal. That doesn’t mean you’re discounting its effect on you–you’re simply not focusing on the negative and instead focusing on the positive.

I do think becoming invisible helped me succeed. Staying in treatment and taking medication helped me excel. There’s no doubt about this.

It’s what I wish for other people: joy and contentment in living their lives. I wish that one day revealing our illness becomes a choice not one we’re forced to make to prove something to other people about our ability and worth in society.

It’s not then a question of succeeding despite having an illness. The answer is that each of succeeds because we use the gifts we were given at birth to create a beautiful life for ourselves and others.

Let’s not forget that relying on others–either to praise us or to condemn us–is not the way to live. A person diagnosed with schizophrenia who doesn’t hold a job and does other things is just as beautiful as a person with schizophrenia who is a CEO.

That’s the beauty of living a life beyond illness: the diagnosis is not the be all and end all of of our self-worth.

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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