25 Years in Remission

This week I celebrate having been in remission from SZ for 25 years–out of the hospital and having had ZERO symptoms for 25 years.

In 1987 when I got out of the hospital the first time I went shopping at the local Macy’s in the Mall. There’s a grain of truth to the expression: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.”

What I bought: a black suede zebra-print embossed pocketbook; a light gray sweatshirt with black tipping on the bottom, neckline, and sleeves; and an interesting sterling silver necklace that I’ve kept all these years.

Most of what I bought is gone yet won’t ever be forgotten, just like I remember nearly every significant item of clothing I bought and wore in the late 1980s and 1990s.

I think striving to be in remission is a noble goal to achieve. It certainly makes things easier when you’re not burdened with permanent symptoms the rest of your life.

Yet I will always stress this above all else: you can hold a job and be successful in life even though you might still have symptoms.

I know people who have jobs and still hear voices occasionally.

In my life I’m grateful to be in remission, a status I don’t take lightly.

I got here because I take a dose of medication, yet as a professional told me: “You recovered more so because of the actions you took.”

Which proves the premise of the Rachel Roy book I reviewed in the last blog entry.

Ten years ago when I first started blogging I wrote too:

“It’s not the enormity or severity of your challenge that determines your fate, but how you respond to it.”

So back then I had stated in my own words what Rachel Roy also told readers: the choice is yours how you want to live your life.

I chose in 2002 to become a mental health advocate.

Years later I consider myself simply to be an Activist because I’ve branched out into a focus on fitness, which encompasses fitness of mind, body, spirit, careers, finances, and relationships.

As well as  helping keep our planet fit and free from environmental destruction.

My goal is to be the change I want to see in the world.

To that end I’ve been focused on getting a second non-fiction book edited that I hope to publish within three years.

I hold this above all else to be true and will go to my grave championing this:

That getting the right treatment right away can enable you to have a better life.

It might include taking medication or it might not.

Yet when you’re in emotional pain, when you’re suffering from mental distress, you really shouldn’t wait it out and allow your hardship to progress so that it becomes a permanent disability.

If any of my readers fit this scenario, I urge you to get professional help right now.

Yes–I’ve been in remission for 25 years.

I hope to live at least 25 years more to continue to uplift and inspire everyone I meet.

My message is clear and simple:

Now more than ever it’s possible to have a full and robust life living in recovery–with or without symptoms.

Design Your Life

desing your life

I’ve been vindicated yet again in my focus on fashion.

I’m going to tell you about a truly inspirational book that Rachel Roy–a premier fashion designer–wrote titled Design Your Life.

How much do I love this book? Let me quote the ways by quoting Rachel Roy. My intent is to get you to buy this book and use it as a reference guide.

You think focusing on how you dress is foolish, frivolous, or unnecessary?

Here goes Roy at the start of the book:

“There is so much we wish to accomplish, so much we place on ourselves to achieve, and what I know to be true is that every circumstance, every situation that has been put in front of us, is there to teach us something about the person we are meant to become. What I also know to be true is that we are in control of how we respond to each situation, therefore we create our life based on our choices.”

Roy ends the book with this ammunition:

“Despite the dated principles and more we may have been taught to internalize, we do not have to be everything to everyone, and we do not have to sacrifice who we are in order to make others happy. We just have to be exceptional at pursuing our passions and be 100 percent authentic to ourselves in every aspect of our lives–take the risk of actually being you.”

I rest my case now and forever. Design Your Life: Creating Success Through Personal Style is a delight to read–at least it was for me.

In the next blog entry I hope to post here on Tuesday morning I will write about having been in remission for 25 years now.

Absolutely true story:

The first thing I did when I got out of the hospital in 1987 was go shopping at the local Macy’s.

Stay tuned on Tuesday when I open the long-ago closet doors to reveal what I bought. One item I still own 30 years later.

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore

authors clothes

Now you see my focus on fashion and music wasn’t so far-fetched in my memoir Left of the Dial.

A book has indeed been written about authors and clothes. I’m now not the only one linking our sartorial bent to our creative success.

That is Joan Didion on the cover. She is the author of The Year of Magical Thinking, a best-selling memoir.

The ultimate truth about fashion and aptly individual style has been corroborated on the Visual Therapy website.

Co-founder Joe Lupo wrote there:

“We stand by the idea that style isn’t just about the clothes–it’s about the people in them. Using style and clothing to express the most authentic superstar version of yourself will give you the confidence you need to reach for your dreams and goals.”

Co-founder Jesse Garza reinforced:

“We always say that when image (the outer) and identity (the inner) are aligned, the result is clarity that will bring you places and help you reach your goals in all spheres of life.”

From firsthand experience I’ve seen that when you’re at odds with your clothing, it could be because you’re at odds with yourself.

Hiding behind your clothes is a way to hide you from yourself.

Finding the items that fit and flatter is like coming home to yourself.

Research non-traditional careers if you’re loathe to wear a suit and pumps to work.

I’m revising and editing my second non-fiction book.

I will return here in the coming weekend if I’m able.

The Thoughtful Dresser

Catherine Hill was a holocaust survivor.

After she got out of the concentration camp she made fashion her passion–and recovered because of it.

Her life story proves that fashion isn’t frivolous. You can read in detail about her life in the Linda Grant book The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Fashion Matters.

An image consultant I employ recommended this book. It’s right up there in the pantheon of great fashion books.

Sent to the camp, Catherine was given a cotton sack dress to wear. She cut the hem into a strip and tied it around her head like a bandanna. The Nazis didn’t like that of course.

After she moved to Canada, she opened and ran for years a successful high-end fashion boutique.

At her husband’s request (he was soon to be her ex) she had the yellow star tattoo removed from her arm.

The yellow star is a reminder of how hate turned the Nazis against Jewish people, against those with disabilities, and against the infirm.

As soon as I was diagnosed with SZ I thought to myself: “Right–and if I lived in Germany during WWII–as a person with SZ I’d have been sent to the gas chamber.”

That was one of my first thoughts after getting the diagnosis I kid you not.

Catherine Hill survived–I hear she’s writing a memoir and I’d love to read it.

I met a senior citizen holocaust survivor 17 years ago for about five minutes. I was so distraught that she’d been in a camp. Yet the better thing was that she got out and lived to an old age.

I know another guy whose mother fled with him to escape the Nazis–and they were able to come to America.

I think of these things now. The point of writing this blog entry is that each of us needs to challenge the haters in society and in the world. We need to actively take a stand.

We are on the cusp of the destruction of human rights all over again–a far greater threat to our planet than any environmental hazard.

Acting self-serving, promoting a self-interested agenda–is not the way to live our lives. The level of hate in society–the divisive rhetoric– has reached a tipping point.

Hating a person you haven’t ever met, calling them a racist, or in the opposite killing them or imprisoning them–is the new Great American Shame.

When Mr. Toupee applauds cops, we’ve sunk to a new low. When AG Jeff Sessions institutes mandatory minimums for prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, there’s no hope for repairing what’s broken in society.

It’s also a great shame that I or you or anyone can be the object of hate by someone who hasn’t even met us.

The yellow stars might be gone, yet they can’t be forgotten.

George Santayana was oft-quoted: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Happy Birthday

The singing waiters sang  “Happy Birthday” to me in the Red Lobster as the free vanilla ice cream with whipped cream was brought to my table.

They had pleasant voices and had been called into service numerous times because in the short time my family sat at the table we heard at least five or six neighboring “Happy Birthday” tunes at other tables.

The highlight of the day was finding two clothing items I could buy in Boscov’s. Is there a Boscov’s near you? My mother wanted to get me a birthday gift so took me to this store that anchors a shopping mall.

What is the attraction to cheaply made and poorly constructed chain store garments? If you can’t afford better clothes shopping here only makes sense if the clothes are on sale.

My mother balked because one of the items–a simple blue tee shirt–was originally marked $38 dollars. How could that be you wonder? A tee shirt that costs $38 dollars and it’s not in Target or H&M? Luckily it was on sale for $15 dollars.

Numerous trips to the dressing room proved almost futile. For starters, the smallest size jeans in Boscov’s are often a 4 or 6 so they’re too big for me. (The horror–you’re laughing at this. Go on, laugh.)

Anyway, a size 6P pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans fit so I snatched them up before anyone else could take them.

A woman came out of the dressing room and told me: “These pants don’t fit. I’ve gained weight. Yet I refuse to buy a larger size.”

Honey, I wanted to say, the size on a clothing tag is no measure of your worth or whether you should like yourself or how you look.

I thought the woman who came out of the dressing room looked beautiful. She didn’t look sloppy or slovenly to me, which is what counts more than what you weigh.

By the way, I have gone into H&M and couldn’t fit into their size 8 regular pants. Only a Barbie Doll could fit into those pants. They were a size 8 regular and I couldn’t get them over my knee.

Have I now convinced you female readers once and for all that sizing is arbitrary and makes no difference as long as you LOOK GOOD in your clothes?

Submitted for your amusement–because it amuses the heck out of me–is that now I’m the proud owner of four different sizes of jeans hanging in my closet. I own a 0P, a 2P, a 4P, and now a 6P–all Petite sizes no clowning around so this shouldn’t garner me any sympathy.

Yet this panoply of clothing sizes should make it clear that the number on a tag is arbitrary. With good reason you might ask what causes this variation in sizes? Well, it is laughable more than anything that one woman could fit into four different sizes.

Which proves that not only is age only a number–I’m 52 now–the size on a clothing tag is only a number.

I wish the woman who came out of the dressing room could’ve seen it in her heart to buy the next size up in the pants. The pants really did flatter her–I saw her in the smaller size and she already looked good in them.

Retail stores are closing down all over the place. Penney’s is closing something like 123 stores this year. You wonder why? The clothing looks cheap, and finding clothes that fit and flatter is near impossible.

If video killed the radio star according a song in the 1980s it’s also true that Alfred Dunner killed retail stores in the 2010s. Alfred Dunner–need I say more?

I do buy cheaper clothes. I only buy clothes with a coupon code of at least 30 percent off. The difference is these clothes don’t look cheap. And you won’t see a mirror image of yourself wearing the same clothes going up and down the street.

It’s possible to look good in clothes that don’t cost a lot of money. You just have to be a detective to track them down. You have to use your eye to see whether the clothes flatter you.

I’ve bought for only $35 after tax online a denim jacket. I’ve bought for $44 dollars after tax from GAP online a pair of jeans. Which makes paying $69 for these items in a no-name chain store really ridiculous.

Cost isn’t the issue. Looking good is the issue. Trust me what woman wants to spend hours in a dressing room trying on pants and jeans and blouses that she winds up looking awful in?

None of the blouses I tried on in Boscov’s fit and flattered by the way. I was glad as heck to get out of that store pronto with two items of clothing that looked good and fit good.

Yes, I’m 52 now.  I’m glad to be 52. And at this point, I doubt I’d care if I gained any weight. How much a woman weighs is besides the point.

Living Out Loud

bookmark-shoppe-2015-solo

I’ve chosen this blog entry’s photo to make a statement.

Now with Mr. Toupee endorsing the denial of women’s rights and human rights I’ve struggled with how to make sense of the hate in the world that has risen up.

It’s always true that in order to love other people you first have to love yourself.

For those of us who’ve always felt different the truth is most likely we ARE different.

How can we come to terms with the hate in the world right now?

I’ve figured out a solution that is simple, effective, and oh-so-easy to execute right now:

We must stand up for ourselves and refuse to take a backseat.

I figured out that dressing in fashion can be a political act too.

We can create the person we want to become by dressing the part.

I for one think boycotting Ivanka Trump products and her fashion line is called for.

Dressing in a way that stands out is a way to rebel the hate that has become standard operating procedure in so much of society.

Dressing in a way that pleases ourselves first of all is the ultimate way to take charge of our destiny.

What better way to stand up for ourselves than to stand out walking down the street?

It signals that you can’t be messed with when you’re making a fashion statement.

Pastels? Muted colors? I just say no to all that. First of all because of my dramatic Mediterranean features.

The premise of titling my memoir Left of the Dial was also because blending in doesn’t really get a person very far.

Conforming to how other people expect you to live and act and dress at the expense of your own happiness is the surefire route to ill health.

I say: dare to be different and do your own thing. You’ll be a lot happier and healthier.

You and I should not live in fear of having our rights taken away.

I’ve decided I might join a protest at some point.

The antidote to this ongoing hate is self-acceptance. Once we can be happy with who we are and like ourselves it won’t matter what other people think of us.

The time now is to get up and stand up for our rights.

The very act of living in recovery is in itself a political act.

To speak the truth to power and say:

I’m not going away. I’m not going to join you in accepting hate as a lifestyle option. I’m not going to accept ill treatment.

Emile Zola is quoted:

“If you asked me what I came into this world to do–I would tell you–I came to live out loud.”

Live out loud.

That’s an effective strategy for combating hate.

Simply by walking down the street with our heads held high we can effect positive change.

 

 

 

 

Fear and Clothing

Marshall McLuhan’s book was famously titled The Medium is the Massage.

I’m reading a great guide that proves his title’s point: Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style by the bellicose lettres author Cintra Wilson.

She writes in the most clear, specific, compelling way–better than I ever have or could–about the connection between our clothes and our personalities.

She understands as I always have that young people try on clothes as they go about identifying themselves.

For me how I dressed as a young woman was a way to take on the world. I was told I couldn’t get a job. I was told there was no hope for a person like me.

My fashion choices were a way to arch my brow and say: “So? I can’t get a job? Then I’ll be the best-dressed chair-warmer at the day program.”

It was true that the mental health staff didn’t know what to do with a quirky creative young person like me. I abhorred the vanilla thinking of the time that proscribed women to getting married and breeding kids living in a picket fence house.

Dressing trendy was a way to send a direct message: I wouldn’t submit to the vanilla expectations that the gatekeepers of my success had of a person like me.

Wilson calls how we style ourselves “fashion determinism” because it’s clear that we can become whoever we want to be simply by dressing in the clothes we choose.

Wilson relates: “If there is anything I have learned…life is too short to wear disguises that hide you from the world, because these choices can end up hiding you from yourself.”

Deploying your clothes in a confrontational way really won’t get a person anywhere. You see wearing Fright Night makeup won’t garner you any fans of whatever message you’re selling (unless you’re in a Goth band catering to vagabond vampires).

As I got older I understood clearly that it’s true the medium is the massage. Fashion is a medium–an art form at its highest elevation. How we compose ourselves speaks volumes–and our clothes are the loudest first expression of who we think we are or want to be.

Cintra Wilson traveled all across America to scoop what people are wearing and deconstruct their lives behind the seams.

I’ll end here with one interesting theory Wilson espouses: that people who live in cities like New York where buildings are high and vertical tend also to be built like rails–skinny. People who live in places like Iowa with wide expanses of land tend to be voluptuous.

Do I think this is true? I think it might be true insofar as city dwellers have easy access to gyms for the most part…and living in a city can be a competitive sport.

I will continue to write about fashion when it strikes my fancy to do so. I recommend buying Fear and Clothing which is why I quoted from it. Cintra Wilson’s irreverent whip-smart voice is the prime draw.

Making Life Easier in Recovery

The past is over–it had an expiration date. Only today matters. We each of have one day–today–in which to do things to create a better life for ourselves.

Linda Ellerbee is quoted: “Change is one form of hope. To risk change is to believe in tomorrow.”

It’s my contention that each of us can do things to make our lives easier living in recovery. Like I said there’s no one path that we have to take. Detours are to be expected. If we reach a dead end we can back up and go a different way.

A couple of people criticized me for focusing on fashion in my memoir Left of the Dial. Yet I maintain that having a love of fashion enabled me to recover just like having the job I love enabled me to recover.

I firmly believe that doing what makes us happy can make our lives easier.

George Brescia wrote the book Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life. It’s a great book. You don’t have to believe me.

Here’s what George has to say: “Our clothing has the power to help us manifest the goals, dreams, and desires we hold closest to our hearts.”

I recommend buying the book and reading it.

So often getting rid of old outdated or outgrown or worn-out clothes is the first step in making room for the new and improved in our lives: whether that new thing is one new item of clothing, a new person, or a new belief about what you’d like to do in the future.

I say: whatever a person can do to make their lives easier is worth trying out. If it doesn’t work, you can try something different.

It’s precisely because life in recovery can be so hard that I’m all for doing little things that can make our lives easier. Call these life hacks if you want.

It could take experimenting with new hobbies or new routines to figure out works to commit to. Like throwing spaghetti against a wall to see if it sticks as the expression goes.

In this regard I’ll end here by suggesting that you can better find out what’s going to stick by getting help figuring it out. The book Born for This I recommend as a great catalyst in helping readers find their right livelihood and right life hacks.

 

Black Friday Blues

A lot of people are aghast that stores open on Thanksgiving now.

Yet if I had no family to celebrate with I might dip into K-Mart to shop.

The idea that celebrating the holidays is a normative experience for everyone is what I don’t like.

Though it seems right to me that in New York City schools are now closed for Eid and Ramadan as well as Christian and Jewish holidays.

I was able to buy two pairs of pants for $50/each last weekend.

What I’m against is supporting companies whose products cause people ill health. I don’t want my money invested in Coca-Cola or the latest version of Phillip Morris or in Monsanto or Synerga or Dow.

You get a higher return investing in stocks yet we should be aware of where our money is going.

I say: take advantage of using discount codes on the Internet when you shop. Timing what you buy right you can get clothes for 50 percent off.

This rings true to me too: no one should go into debt to support their lifestyle.

I realize the economy has forced families into homeless shelters and might have forced people to charge necessities on their credit cards.

In New York City gentrification has forced life-long residents of certain neighborhoods out of the City when people with easy cash start moving in. Trendy stores and boutiques pop up. Landlords raise rents and in some cases fail to make repairs in the hopes that poor tenants will give up and move out.

You can read about this in the New York Times.

I’m against how poor people are pushed out of neighborhoods. I’m against how the City now caters to millionaires with ultra-luxury hi-rise apartments.

The Black Friday blues are all too real for a lot of people who can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses.

I say: refrain from chasing the things money can buy. Like experts tell us: buying experiences gives us joy.

So buy lasagna to serve at a dinner party. Buy your poor friend a shirt for the holiday. Buy a train ride to take a day trip to watch the fall leaves turn color Upstate.

You can be happy living on very little money. You can be healthy even if you’re not rich.

Health trumps money in my book.

Happy Tuesday!

Living an Organic Life

One definition of organic is “denoting a relation between elements of something such that they fit together as parts of a whole.”

This is what I’m referring to in the Mission Statement link on my author website. Living an organic life is the true premise of Left of the Dial: where our thoughts and feelings, actions and values are aligned and in balance.

I’m interested in how elements fit together as part of a whole. The goal as I see it in recovery is to be whole and well. You can have a full and robust life.

In this regard I don’t discount that a lot of times a person’s life is changed forever after they’re diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia or another mental illness. Yet here too life can be beautiful even though it’s hard.

The goal as I see it too is to find what gives you joy and satisfaction and go do that as long as it’s healthy.

One thing I firmly believe: it’s not the enormity or severity of a challenge that determines a person’s fate but how they respond to that challenge. It’s possible to find pockets of joy even though a person struggles or is in pain.

In this regard I have been famously assailed because of my love of fashion and makeup. Yet I can tell you without a doubt that my interest in fashion was one of the prime factors that helped me do better in my recovery.

For you it might be painting or sketching. For another person it might be hiking a mountain trail.

The point is it’s interesting to me how these elements come together in an organic way. And when our lives are out of balance it’s often because we’re caught up in busywork that is out of synch with who we are.

I will write in here about my theory on this next week.