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.

Che Bella Figura

The Italian ethic of che bella figura is literally what beautiful figure a person makes in society.

It’s the often stylized theatrics of acting as if you’re successful long before you’ve arrived at the place you want to be. I alluded to this in a scene in Left of the Dial.

In one way I had certain expectations I was supposed to live up to: to go to college to better myself and go farther than my parents had. Though having owned their own business isn’t shabby.

I do think culture impacts a person in recovery. This has not been widely researched or reported on or at least I could not find a lot of information about it on the Internet.

I contributed a 10-page chapter “Recovery is Within Reach” to Benessere Psicologico: contemporary thought on Italian American mental health. That’s of course psychological well-being in Italian. You can buy this book on Amazon. It features three peer stories in the first-person recovery section of the book as well as interesting glimpses into research studies about ethnicity and counseling.

Yes: I’m proud to be Italian. I credit the love and support of my close-knit Italian American family as a prime factor in how far I was able to go in my recovery.

I remember dancing the tarantella at American Legion halls. I remember the parties hosted downstairs in my Nonna’s basement. Nonna’s food was sprinkled with garlic cloves as big as teeth. You could scare the devil with how hot the sauce was.

No: I don’t approve of the family-bashing that goes on in the consumer recovery movement. I don’t approve either of when family members call their loved ones “a schizophrenic.”

Above all my mother was quick to boot my ass to go out and get a job. She didn’t think I was a schizophrenic: she thought I could hold a job just like other people could.

In October I will talk about finding the career you love. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Stay tuned.