Schizophrenia and Dating

I want to know:

Where is Mr. Normal?

A psychic told me I’d meet a lot of turkeys before the right guy came along.

And any way you slice it I don’t want those “turkeys” on a deli sandwich–or anywhere in my life.

I do not say this in a vain or boastful way–it’s simply a fact that I’m skinny and have a pretty face. This causes OKCupid guys to send me messages because they only want to go to bed with an attractive woman.

Some are 0 percent matches. Others don’t read my profile essay.

Either way you slice it, dice it, slather on mustard and slap it between two slices of bread the term is turkeys to describe a lot of so-called normal guys.

I should respond to those blatantly horny guys with the message:

“I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Now do you want to f*ck me?”

Seriously. It’s why I’m so over coveting having so-called normal guys accept me when I go on a date and could worry they’d think I’m crazy.

Hearing the word crazy has no power over me because I know I’m not–so I don’t imbue that word with meaning. You want to call me crazy–go right ahead.

It’s because a lot of people without mental illnesses aren’t normal either.

I think it’s garbanzo beans that the only guys that send me messages are tools. Now you see: normal isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Women diagnosed with schizophrenia deserve better.

The day is coming when I respond to those guys by saying:

“See my gorgeous body? Well, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia–and this is what a person diagnosed with schizophrenia looks like.”

My own hairdresser insisted you can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have a mental illness.

I’ll end here by saying those turkeys could be sandwiched between two slices of Wonder Bread yet who would want to eat them?

We should not live in fear that deli meat thinks we’re crazy.

Really: normal people shouldn’t hold sway over us as being the arbiters of our self-worth.

Give me a real Thanksgiving dinner not unhealthful food loaded with nitrates.

Deli meat indeed.

Finding Our Tribe in Recovery

I say that finding our tribe in recovery is one of the best kinds of “treatment” along with therapy and medication for those of us who require medication.

This month I turn 51 years old. I’m confident when I tell readers that you can have a better life now than you did when you were younger.

A poster on a gym wall beckons: Reinvent Yourself. That’s a great strategy for mid-life: not giving up on ourselves. Setting the bar. Reaching out to try something new to discover a passion that has taken hold: whether for a guy or gal, a house, a career–whatever passion project you want to fund in your fifties.

Giving up is not an option. I have a core posse of friends. One guy has come on the scene like a possible soul mate. If you ask me developing friendships–and possible romantic partners–is the way to go in recovery.

It’s not ever too late to take up new friendships or new projects or new careers. And you can have more than one career at the same time or different careers at different times in your life.

On your birthdays when you’re 50 and older: make an impossible wish. Dream big. Reach for the stars because you can settle for the moon.

Having great friends in our lives can inoculate us from illness. If you ask me isolation breeds illness. I say: as hard as it is to do this: reach out and try to strike up a friendship or romance with a person you’re interested in.

I’m making an astonishing wish on my birthday. I’ll keep it a secret.

My mother’s aunt turned 80 and we celebrated with a party outdoors at a farmhouse. Wooden tables in the yard. Organic food fresh from the farm.

Aunt A. told us she looked forward to every new birthday–and she was 80!

Take a tip from this women: celebrate yourself at any age.

The older a person gets the more important it is to maintain social connections.

I’m going to celebrate with friends.

Fifty-one is a great time to be alive.

Schizophrenia and Human Rights

I tried to strike up a friendship with a woman–JB–and she bolted after I disclosed.

I moved on–it didn’t upset me either way. Some people look at you and they don’t see who you are–they see an illness–like you’re a walking billboard for your diagnosis.

You could’ve at one point dead lifted 205 pounds–you could’ve done any number of impressive things–yet those people close the door on finding this out because their minds are closed to you as a human being.

This is a human rights violation: the sloppy shorthand people use to link you with your symptoms. Mental illness stereotyping is a human rights violation like any other.

Though I think if you make your happiness and your self-worth dependent on whether people like you that’s a form of self-imposed ill-ness right there.

You have to like yourself first of all because if you do it won’t matter that other people don’t like you. I learned this early on from having been bullied as a kid.

Yes: I understand–I get it–that most people want to love others and be loved back. They want to feel like they belong–like they’re understood and accepted for who they are.

Listen: I understand this need a lot of us have. Yet I’m going to go so far as to say that the people who post hateful comments on social media ARE CLOWNS. Give them a red plastic nose and they could perform with Ringling Brothers in the circus.

No amount of “splaining” is going to change their minds so I don’t care to even try to set them straight. I’ve been there; I’m so over it–when I disclose to a person–and they suddenly have a negative opinion of me even though I’m the same person I always was.

Their stigma is a cop-out. They can’t be trusted to value what each of us brings to the table: our sense of humor; our kindness; our courage to fight a battle every day–whatever positive traits we have..

Yet I say–go ahead–reach out to try to be a friend or lover with another person. Just go into it if you ask me with the approach that you’ll make mincemeat of the stigma if it happens.

Open-minded, positive people do exist in the world. I’ve found them; you can too.

I’ll talk in the next blog entry about finding your tribe of kindred spirits.

Buona Pasqua

Buona Pasqua–is Happy Easter in Italian. Though most likely it could be titled Happy Eater.

I went to my cousin’s. Her mother my Aunt and her sister were there. The amount of food could feed a small nation.I knew there would be too much food so I wasn’t worried that I couldn’t eat whatever meat was served–I knew there would be a ton of other food like vegetables. And the antipast’–a banquet before the main meal.

We are Italian, so there was a cheesecake, Russell Stover chocolates, a multitude of cannoli, other pastry, sorbet, chocolate chip cookies…and the list goes on.

It’s all relative…as to who your relatives are…when you are Italian. We consider them as true as blood. An Italian woman I talk to gave me this advice about a guy I like: “Kiss him. You’re Italian. You know how this goes: we’re Italians and we kiss people.”

The spring is coming: beautiful weather to be out and about. The tour guide in Rome told us it’s all “kissy-kissy” when I traveled there.

You turn 50 and think: it’s all about famiglia because you don’t know how much longer you’ll have with them.

I say: honor the parents who gave you birth. Except if there was outright abuse our parents most likely did the best they could. Honor them and protect them and care for them in their old age.

Buona Primavera. A Happy Spring to you!

Healthy Relationships

The number-one predictor of health, happiness, and a long life is creating and maintaining healthy relationships, according to a study going back to the 1930s..

Interacting and doing things with friends, family–and romantic partners if we so choose–is the secret to success in life.

It clicked when I read this week the Internet article quoting research about how having positive relationships inoculates a person from ill health.

Talking with a friend can be better than taking a happy pill.

Having social support in the form of friends, family, and romantic partners is the way to go.

The participants with rock-solid relationships had better health and a lot of them lived to be in their nineties.

Even when I was employed at HealthCentral I made the case for making friends and finding your tribe of kindred spirits.

It’s true that a friend–not a romantic partner–can be a soul mate. And who’s to say we can’t have more than one soul mate linked to different needs each person fulfills in our lives?

After reading the news article about how social support and relationships are linked to better health, happiness, and a longer life I thought: “Sign me up!”

Imagine spending six hours with a true friend and feeling incredibly happy doing so.

I say: Go for It–because emotional riches count more than money.

Beauty is in the Eye

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

I once went on a date with a guy old enough to be my grandpa. I couldn’t get past his eyeglasses–they were cheap cut-rate eyeglasses. (There–you can whack me with a pocketbook for saying this.)

You and I can see the same person and have different reactions. One of us might like that guy and the other isn’t interested.

Readers: I met a guy in person that I’m attracted to. I like looking at his face most of all because he is kind and caring.

Now I don’t care how rich or good-looking a guy is. You might want to date a person who has a good job. I know two women who mercilessly judged guys as “dogs” and wouldn’t date a guy that wasn’t good-looking. That was their criteria.

Throw your diagnosis into the mix and it’s sketchy how a person will respond on a date.

I’m lucky I met a guy I can do things with. He’s aware of the diagnosis yet he’s okay with this. He can hold his own interacting with other people. He’s a Lefty, like I am.

Looking for love is like a numbers game at times: you have to meet a lot of guys or gals before the right one comes along.

Always be hopeful because love is worth the risk.

A roving photographer once asked me “What’s the best way to fight stigma?”

Twelve years later I stand by what I said: “Be brave, and be yourself.”

It’s true: Be brave, and be yourself–and the right person will come along.

Schizophrenia and Disclosure

My point is that I recommend only revealing what you think is prudent and what you feel comfortable revealing. That was the rationale in my poem “What She Said” that started off my memoir Left of the Dial as the prologue.

I haven’t ever been compelled to tell the people I meet that I have a diagnosis. In some ways, using a diagnosis to describe what happened isn’t helpful. Yet if I met a guy I wanted to date I would tell him this in a bare-bones way.

My point in being quoted in the Yahoo news article is that we are all of us with or without a diagnosis people first. I’m my own person. You’re your own person. Others are their own person.

Pigeonholing people into being representatives of their illnesses reinforces a stereotype.

I was quoted on Yahoo that “narrow minds are a prison”–thus I was branded a liberal.

The quicker a person reveals that he or she is spooked by your diagnosis the better off you are because you can move on to the next person. Rejection hurts a lot of us because we take it personally how people treat us when they believe the stereotypes.

Yet I just don’t care what people think. I don’t expect them to understand. So I look for the positive people because they are out there.

I met a guy so I can tell you there’s hope. I talk about my experience on Thursday. It’s possible to find a guy or gal that likes you and accepts you as you are.

Mental Health and Hooking Up

At HealthCentral years ago I wrote a news article detailing a study that indicated people diagnosed with schizophrenia have HIV/AIDS in greater numbers than other people in society.

Circa two weeks ago a study revealed that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to mate with other folk with schizophrenia–and people with bipolar were more likely to mate with other bipolar folk–and so on according to the mental illness you had.

Yet as the Health Guide at HealthCentral I had to field responses from women whose psychotic boyfriends or husbands were violent or tried to strangle or kill them. These guys weren’t taking medication.

Often times I would write “Get away from that guy right now.” Those guys gave every other guy diagnosed with schizophrenia a bad name.

I was quoted in a Yahoo news article on dating when you have a mental illness.

Though I was positive and proactive the comments below the article were mostly stigmatizing. One person branded me a liberal because I would only date a guy with an open mind.

A woman who commented thought I was the exception. To what? I wanted to say. How is wanting to be in a positive and nurturing relationship anything unusual? I had lamented that I couldn’t find a guy and that it had nothing to do with my diagnosis.

What’s unusual is that I won’t date a guy with schizophrenia who isn’t taking medication. That is off the table right from the start.

One guy who commented said he wouldn’t date any woman with a psychiatric history. As if every woman diagnosed with schizophrenia acts the same way.

The truth is no normal guy wants to date an actively psychotic woman. And no woman wants to date an actively psychotic guy. That’s a leap of faith that I doubt is happening often in society.

I’m going to continue to write about mental health and relationships in the coming blog entries because no one else is doing this.

I’m the only one talking about this too in a way that is not the usual screed about having other guys and women think you’re crazy when you go on a date and tell them you have schizophrenia.

What I write is the exception because I’m in the vanguard in what I write and how I see things. My contention is that the routine judging of others that most people do in society has to stop.

My contention is that a diagnosis is irrelevant to who a person is on the inside where it counts. It only matters to the degree of its effect on a person’s life. Thus my lifelong belief that getting the right treatment right away can enable a person to have a full and robust life.

A life where mental illness doesn’t dictate our potential. A life where no one’s labeled an exception when they’re simply their own person. A life where I or you or anyone else is not the standard bearer for everyone with schizophrenia.

In seven months I’ll have been in recovery 29 years. If I’m not talking about these things who will? If not now when?