Individuality

In my memoir Left of the Dial I have a short scene about riding the subway. How you don’t know what the person in the Calvin Klein suit sitting across from you is like in private.

It’s a two-sided coin: on one side you can have a person who looks odd and is normal under their facade. On the other side you can have someone who looks normal and is a rebel on the inside.

This is the beauty of individuals: no one is a cardboard character. Even a racist can have their good points. The goal is not to judge others even if it seems a lot of people tend to judge you.

The individuality of a person’s spirit is what makes them beautiful. This is an element of their humanity that no one should try to judge or to take away.

I say: we do away with the judging, with criticizing ourselves and others, with trying to change others to get them to conform to what we think is appropriate.

Celebrate individuality.

It’s what makes the world go around.

I will return on Saturday with a memoir excerpt.

Go For The Gold

The definition of normal is of average or ordinary intelligence, or conforming to a standard or type.

It’s well and good if this is what a person aspires to be yet I make the case for striving for excellence.

The stigma then has nothing to do with having others think you’re “crazy.” More likely, so-called normal people don’t want individuals with mental illnesses to succeed because when we do it reinforces their own insecurities about what they can do. Not a lot of people who covet having a normal life appreciate another person coming along who’s driven to excel.

They know we’re often more competent, more driven, more normal than the average person.

The traditional playing field that others compete on in society hasn’t been level for people with MIs. The fact is so-called normals designated the rules of that playing field and set it up so people with SZ couldn’t compete.

This is why for going on 9 years I’ve talked in my blogs and at HealthCentral about competing against yourself, because when you compete against yourself the playing field is truly level: you own that particular piece of land you’ve chosen as your playing field.

One of my favorite quotes from the book Imagine is: “It’s not enough to be good when you can be great.”

I say: kick the stigma to Mars. Boot it out of your life by daring to be yourself.

Dare to set your sights higher for what you want to do in your life. No victory you achieve can ever be taken from you. Own your achievements.

It’s just as easy to dream big as it is to settle for less.

So why not go for the gold?

Sunday Girl

A supervisor used to take me to dinner on Sundays.

We ate in an Italian restaurant famed for its penne vodka with shrimp.

The restaurant closed down and K. is no longer here. At her wake at the funeral home another woman told me K.’s dying wish: “that everyone love each other more.”

Sadly, the trend is hate and violence. A friend who is Jewish thinks Israel was wrong to attack Gaza, instead of doing an investigation and executing those responsible for the teens’ deaths.

If a butterfly fluttering its wings in South America can impact what goes on elsewhere, as the expression goes, it’s time to re-think turning a blind eye to what goes on in the world.

It’s time to honor the memory of a person like K. It’s time to consider that each of us can “be the change” we want to see in the world.

I firmly believe change starts from within, like Michael Jackson sings in the lyrics to “Man in the Mirror”: if you want to change the world, you have to first change yourself.

It starts with the man or the woman in the mirror. And it’s not ever too late to make a positive change in your life. Self-improvement has a ripple effect like stones thrown in a lake.

Changing the world by changing ourselves:

It’s something to think about.

I will talk in the Flourish blog soon about a technique that could help a person change their lives.

Hope Heals

Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection quotes a leading researcher who defines hope as a strategy not a feeling:

The act of setting a goal, taking steps to achieve it, and revising your plan or changing your goal when the original one doesn’t work out.

In this way: hope heals.

I stand in solidarity with others who were told subtly or directly that there was no hope for them because they had schizophrenia.

After I came out of the hospital, I was shunted into a community mental health system ill-equipped to help me. The very counselors who should’ve helped me stigmatized me.

This is why I’m no fan of the current “consumer recovery movement” as it now exists. I’m a member of the Positive Psychiatry Movement instead. There’s a difference.

The consumer recovery movement parrots opinions as if they were facts. Their denial of anosognosia as a real symptom is an opinion not a fact.

Anosognosia or the lack of insight that you have an illness is documented in over 15 research studies. It is caused by frontal lobe lesions in the brain and upwards of 50 percent of individuals with schizophrenia have it as a symptom.

I stand on the side of science and kindness in treating people living with mental illnesses. The idea that mental illnesses are not real medical conditions is also not a fact. It’s an opinion that can’t be proven either.

The consumers who champion community mental health systems as the best way to get treated are sadly mistaken in my humble view because of my experiences in this kind of center. Years ago on the Internet a staff member of a community mental health system wrote an article in which she claimed no one with schizophrenia could recover or achieve remission.

With staff like that, how are most community mental health systems equipped to help people?

I will report back in here what I think is a better option for a person newly diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It employs hope as the ultimate strategy.

Ah to Zucchini

The latest zucchini recipe I cooked was easy and I recommend it in the summer when the vegetable is plentiful at markets.

Slice in half two zucchini and scoop out the insides. Sprinkle generous grated parmesan on the zucchini. Bake in the oven at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into chunks to eat and enjoy.

I zoom in on zucchini in the summer. It’s one of the most healthful vegetable options and one of the tastiest in my estimation.

Another foolproof recipe is to cut zucchini into coins and sprinkle grated parmesan on it and saute in olive oil for about 5 to 10 minutes. You can check the vegetable’s firmness to decide how soft you want to cook it.

Voila: easy, cheesy vegetables that provide calcium, protein and vitamins.

Hospital Life

I expect my memoir Left of the Dial to go on sale at the latest on December 1st of this year.

As the date nears I will excerpt scenes from the memoir here. Today’s is a glimpse of life on the ward, a place I hope no one has the misfortune to land in.

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By my third week, my lipstick was worn down to a blunt slope, and I had the goal of leaving before the tube was empty. Zoe came into my life in a drop-dead segue between despair and hope. She arrived on Monday and made herself known. A wild earth kind of woman with manic depression, she was a fireball, igniting the other patients, and then flaming out on herself.

Caught up in her frantic good humor, I coasted along with her whims. Lucia, the recreation therapist, decided to take the patients bowling at Knotty Pines. I was reminded of the Camper Van Beethoven song “Take the Skinheads Bowling” that I played on my radio show. I liked the music, not the sport.

“Come on, we’ll have fun at the Nutty Pines.” Zoe didn’t skip a beat.

“Okay.” We lined up together to be escorted out. She gave me a pair of sunglasses (she had two) so we could cover up in case our friends saw us on the outside.

“I got a couple pairs from Jimmy. He has a case of them in his room,” she said. How did she know this?

The van rattled down Forest Avenue towards the desolate section of town. Truly, I hated bowling and wanted an excuse to escape. Once inside, I eased into a size five shoe and selected a ball that weighed the least. The tobacco-color interior was glum; the stench of cigarette smoke lingered. Lucia kept score.

“Darn, a gutterball.” I watched it slide down the side.

“Gutterfuck.” Zoe laughed.

Lucia told her to watch her language.

We ended ten frames and started again. Fidgety, I wanted to end it all so threw the bowling ball down the alley with careless conviction.

Lucia said, “Be patient. Don’t rush.” Zoe got a lucky strike and won the game.

After, we went to Pal Joey’s for pizza. We wore our sunglasses indoors.

“What are you, the Blues Sisters?” Lucia laughed.

I imagined our protest would go down in our charts.

“We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time,” Zoe chuckled.

If only we could’ve stayed outside a little longer. I missed the freedom of blue skies. Too soon we returned to Veronica Lane.

 

Left of the Dial Amazon Page