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I’ve paid to remove the ads and create a URL for the blog.

Years ago I read the Kim Gordon memoir Girl in a Band. She was the bassist and vocalist for Sonic Youth while the band performed.

They are my favorite band of all time. Dating from when I played them on the radio when I was a disc jockey in the 1980s.

To get readers to go out and buy Gordon’s memoir I want to quote from the book.

Kim Gordon wrote:

“I believe the radical is more interesting when it appears ordinary and benign on the outside.”

Reading that sentence and thinking about this for a long time I was inspired to want to publish a second memoir.

In keeping with the title Girl in a Band I thought about talking in the new book about what it’s like to be a Girl on the Left.

A person asked me if the title Left of the Dial referred to politics.

It refers to doing your own thing–my literary agent understood the theme was “Enjoy your quirkiness.”

In the last week I have been thinking about this some more. And thinking about it again: how I always wanted to live an artist’s life in the city.

It can be a challenge when as a woman you rebel the role you’re expected to play:

Suburban breeder with two kids two dogs a Land Rover and white picket fence house with a porch.

Though hey if you want to raise a family and bake brownies for your kids that’s okay too.

I’m fascinated by everyone’s personality.

There’s a reference in my memoir to where I’m riding the subway and wondering about the inner lives of my fellow straphangers–the other riders.

Those of us who are ordinary and benign–I say watch out for us!

The Beauty of Individuality

The online Merriam Webster definition of stigma is “a mark of shame or discredit.”

I’m not keen to use the term stigma to describe what is in effect a lack of compassion for people who are different, who might not look like you, who might have an illness.

Too often the word stigma is framed as the cause of people not seeking help for mental health issues.

My memoir Left of the Dial chronicles my own fear of not being normal.

In 2020 I would like to be part of the solution to what’s going on in the world.

For too long narrow-mindedness has ruled in society.

I can identify with individuals who were subjected to “conversion therapy.”

I can relate to people who were told to conform and give up their dream of being an artist.

What I’d really like to do is contribute to the dialog about how to heal from stigma.

No one should feel guilty or ashamed because they don’t fit the mold of what other people think is acceptable.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of internalizing this stigma.

On the cusp of 55 I’ve decided to promote individuality as the remedy.

The only way to succeed in life is to be who you are not who others would like you to be.

In coming blog entries I’m going to talk about the beauty of individuality in more detail.

Dawn of 54

I will be 54 in the spring.

I’ve discovered the Accidental Icon blog I’ll link to at the bottom of this blog entry.

The goal is to admire not envy others.

In mid life it’s time to accept the things you cannot change.

And to change the things you’re able to.

I’m only 5 feet tall. I couldn’t possibly wear obdurate dangling earrings that steal the show. I would look ridiculous in a rust coat too.

Yet I find that observing that look I can take from it my own distinct variation: maybe my lightweight gray coat and the designer sunglasses picked up at a discount store.

It’s time to get wise to the Instagram-worthy selfies that others post on social media.

Research says that younger people are winding up depressed. Most likely it’s because they’re viewing the perfect-seeming feeds of peers.

“I admire people who seem to have a charmed life,” I told a woman I consider a friend.

Seem to. That’s it. There’s no charmed life,” my friend shot back.

On the cusp of 54 it’s time to start liking yourself and your imperfections if you haven’t already made peace with these things.

I’ll only ever be 5 feet tall. I won’t have perfect hair ever.

Now I think trying to emulate another person who is supposed to be inspirational as a role model is a myth.

Trying to follow fashion trends is a myth too.

In your fifties you have to trust that you have enough and you are enough.

Regardless of what other people insinuate about your worth.

It’s called self-worth because it comes from within.

The Accidental Icon blog is my new added attraction.

I’m keen to riff on things this other blogger talked about.

Stayed tuned for my own city girl take on getting older.

 

Christmas Rapping

Venus Williams was right in advocating that you ask yourself: “Do I feel good?”

I made myself miserable trying to work in corporate office jobs and have a so-called normal life.

The title of my memoir Left of the Dial was intended to sum up my manifesto for having a healthy lifestyle doing what you love and acting true to yourself.

If you don’t feel good, it’s hard to be happy and your mental health suffers. Trying to be someone you’re not will backfire every time.

Venus Williams alludes to allowing yourself to fail, rise up, and try again. Doing this you can gain equal footing with men who think they’re hot shit simply because they exist.

My goal is that by reading Left of the Dial you’re empowered to dare dream of having a life defined on your own terms.

First of all, I wanted to tell a good story people would enjoy reading. Then I wanted to create a character readers could root for.

Left of the Dial chronicles all the failures I experienced along the way.

Speaking your truth can be scary because there’s a lot at stake. Only I had no fear because I believed in my vision of Recovery for Everyone.

This might be an impossible goal yet it’s the one I shoot for.

The secret to having a successful recovery is choosing to be happy even when the circumstances of your life are less than ideal.

Success lies in liking yourself even when it seems no one else does.

These elements flow in the Left of the Dial narrative.

With time and (for most of us) a consistent daily medication routine, it’s possible to have a better life and to achieve goals.

I”m committed to telling my story to help the very people who need to hear my message of hope, healing, and recovery.

If you want to feel good and if you want to transmute your pain, there is no better tonic than service to others.

You will get the things you want that you’re supposed to have when they’re supposed to arrive. Not a minute sooner or later.

It’s the journey that counts not the destination.

So I tell you at whatever age you are now (20? 32? 45? Older?) to ask yourself if you feel good. What can you do to give yourself joy and to give others joy?

That is the secret to feeling good.

That is the ultimate definition of success: feeling good about yourself and having empathy for others.

 

Radical Chic

I’m fond of this sentence Kim Gordon wrote in her memoir:

“I believe the radical is more interesting when it appears ordinary and benign on the outside.”

This rock star/artist/author (the former Sonic Youth singer and bassist) wrote a great book, Girl in a Band. I urge you to buy this memoir.

Sonic Youth are my favorite band–I played them on my 1980s radio show.

Her words are prophetic, because you can’t judge a person. How we look on the outside ultimately tells others nothing about our character, our personality, and the things that matter.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s dressing in trendy clothes was my way of telling the mental health establishment: “Screw you, I’m not going to conform to how you think a person diagnosed with SZ should look and act and live.”

That’s the truth folks: I rebelled the role of mental patient. You should do the same–and the sooner the better.

I think of this now as 53 beckons in a couple of weeks. Not all of us are destined to get dressed every day like we’re Nicki Minaj performing on a concert tour.

There’s a benefit in only looking like we conform when in reality we’re rebels, dreamers, and free thinkers marching to a different drum on the inside.

It can be liberating to fool others with our persona. We don’t have to be who they want us to be. We can and should only be ourselves.

Acting true to yourself will always be in style. Act true to who you are today. Reserve the right to be who you want to be tomorrow.

You don’t have to dress like a Pop Diva to make a statement. You can be radical dressed in ordinary clothes like Kim Gordon admires.

I too admire everyone for having the courage to get up in the morning, choose clothes, and get dressed in a way that is true to who they are.

The older I get I’m less impressed by what passes for normal in society. The mundane–in thinking, acting, dressing, and living–isn’t something I covet having.

Thus the title of my own memoir: Left of the Dial.

So you could say I look ordinary–yet I’ll always be a Girl on the Left Side of the Dial.

You can be radical and chic.

A woman in her fifties should leave people guessing.

 

Be Brave and Be Yourself

At the end of April I turn 53. I’m devoting a blog entry to a hot topic that no one else has ever talked about before. What I write is for peers to read first of all. If outsiders chance to read it I hope you will be moved to understand and have compassion for us.

It’s a reflection on how a friend is in awe of a woman with a formal serious office job. Yes I understand how she could covet another person’s life: that’s exactly what fueled my desire to have an insurance broker career: when my first boss developed a career plan for me.

I told my friend we should start a “F*ck You!” Club and dare to not conform to other people’s expectations. Who are either of us kidding thinking we would be happier being (or could even be) another person?

This I’m confident is the age-old dilemma of anyone with an MH diagnosis–going in the opposite direction to prove you’re normal–only to return to where you started as your original self.

I’m living proof that it all comes down to finding the job and workplace where you belong. I didn’t belong in insurance office jobs wearing “power-blue straitjackets” as I described that attire in my memoir.

The more I tried to prove I was normal, the more it backfired.

So it becomes imperative to find the place where you belong. That’s going to be a different environment for each of us. A good friend of mine rose up to be the CEO of corporations. He wore thousand-dollar suits and all that. More power to him for rising up. This is possible for some of us and not possible for others.

Either way it’s precisely when you turn 53 that it’s time to tell others: “F*ck You! I’m not buying what you’re selling about my worth. I’m NOT less than zero. I’m 24-Karat gold. Mess with me at your own peril.”

Or as a woman told me once: “You’re a diamond, not a rhinestone. Remember that.”

I’ll end here by telling readers:

Be brave and be yourself. There’s no other way to live.

Shine on.

The grass isn’t greener over there.

Honoring Martin Luther King’s Legacy

Ever since I was younger I have always had an affinity with Martin Luther King, Jr. and his message even though I was only 3 when he was killed.

It might be that as a person diagnosed with SZ I understand the plight of other people.

Racism got started by looking at a person’s skin color and stereotyping them.

I think about this now because of how people with SZ are stereotyped.

The fact is at 22 I had a minor breakdown. At 27 I had a relapse after a 3-month drug holiday failed.

I identify as a person with SZ because of having had these two experiences in my life.

A woman in the comments section below a news article I was quoted in wrote that I must be the exception.

To what or whom am I the exception when I’m only being myself?

If a person can’t do what I’ve done or what you’re able to do that’s not the point. Corralling everyone with SZ into the same homogeneous stereotype of what we’re capable of or how we act does a disservice to peers and others alike.

Frankly it upsets me  that so-called normal people often don’t have the decency and compassion to really SEE Who We Are–Who Each of Us Is–apart from the SZ.

To deny that people diagnosed with SZ are as unique as our thumbprints is to in effect render us invisible even though we’re standing right in front of other people.

Again it also upsets me that so-called normal people parrot that NO ONE can recover. Why aren’t they taking action to help us recover?

This is at the heart of what drove me to publish my memoir Left of the Dial: every other SZ memoir focused on chronic illness, symptoms, and long-term hell.

The pathology in the memoirs overshadowed the personality of the individuals.

Yes–I wanted to entertain readers not make them depressed.

The whole of success in life lies in SEEING who a person really is on the inside.

If you’re interacting with people and making judgments about them before you get to know them you’re contributing to stigma.

Stigma is a form of mind pollution that has infected human relationships for too long in society.

It’s 2018. MLK must be crying in his grave over how people still treat each other.

Let’s honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by reaching out and getting to know other people.

Let’s SEE.

Healing Ourselves to Heal Our Planet

After watching the video Normal is Over I was more energized and committed to continue telling my own story.

This is my story–Left of the Dial–it’s the only one I have to give you.

The ultimate purpose in championing living life Left of the Dial was to show how creativity healed me.

Art and music and fashion and writing and exercise have been the 5 things in life that helped me heal from a mental health condition.

I’m not going to back down and I’m not going to give up in advocating for “Recovery for Everyone.”

I don’t want to ever be so mentally or physically ill that I lose my power to take action to create a better world and better options for myself and my fellow human beings.

If we want to heal the planet we first have to heal ourselves.

At the end of a HealthCentral news article I wrote years ago I stated:

I”d rather be dead than psychotic.

If we don’t seek to improve our own lives we’re in no position to help others have a better life.

So the shocking cost of our own ill health is that we’re defenseless and powerless against those in power who control the economy.

Hence those in power will always control our resources of any kind–whether it’s our mental health resources or our natural resources.

Unregulated corporations have been given free reign to destroy our planet in the pursuit of profits.

Standing by while the world collapses is not a good thing.

Allen Frances, M.D. has published this year Twilight of American Sanity. The books details how our collective psyche is in denial about climate change and other pressing issues.

Frances rightly states and I agree with him: Mr. Toupee is not the problem.

The problem is that people have put their trust in beliefs that I would argue along with Frances are insane. They’ve elected a president who plays loose and easy with “facts.”

Not allowing women to control when they want to get pregnant is one such belief.

Overpopulation is the second leading cause of the ravaging of our natural resources.

The collapse of our mental healthcare system has been documented widely. It’s been going on for decades now that people are prevented from getting the right treatment right away.

I will go to my grave telling my story of getting the right treatment right away and being able to recovery fully.

I refuse to remain silent on the things that matter.

In the next blog entry I will talk about how I think mental health advocates can learn a lesson from climate change activists.

The time to act is now. It’s time to wise up and get real.

Everything I’ve written in this blog entry is interconnected. Therein lies what I think would be an effective approach to coming up with solutions.

Living Left of the Dial

You’re normal when the whole world’s going off and you can keep your wits about you.

My left of the dial lifestyle is linked to having the needle in the green not the red on a VU meter that measures the intensity of sound on a DJ’s mixing board.

This left of the dial metaphor I employ to signify that your thoughts and feelings are in balance—that you have a healthy body, mind, and life.

It’s keyed into doing your own thing, regardless of whether you conform to the so-called “norms” in society.

Choosing to be your own version of healthy is all that matters when hate, violence, and killing seem to be standard operating procedure in the world.

The comedian Sarah Silverman is quoted: “Humor can change people’s minds more than anger.”

In coming blog entries I’m going to write about positive people who have made a difference in my life.

These Everyday Heroes–and they truly are heroes–deserve recognition.

Self-Acceptance

Years ago a Nike print ad featured athletes with the tag line “Make Yourself.”

In the end, that’s what a person does in recovery: you have the chance to make yourself into who you want to be.

You don’t have to get a J.D. or M.D. You don’t have to do what I do.

You just have to be the kind of person that it gives you joy to be (regardless of the number on the bathroom scale).

Surprise–I think about the beauty and benefit of “self-acceptance” as a mantra in recovery.

If you’re not happy being you, ask yourself why exactly you’d rather be someone else. Change what you can of what you don’t like, and live with and forget the things you can’t change.

I’m 52–next week I will write about my 25th anniversary of being in remission.

Here now I want to write about self-acceptance because it’s the secret to feeling good about yourself. It could help to define what makes you a true original.

I would say my personality is “creative-kinetic.” Like the athletes in the Nike ad, I understand that there’s a power in creating yourself.

What I’m possessed with right now is a Deborah Harry quote. In a magazine, she said that all artists go “inching and crawling” towards their situation.

That sums up recovery: it too often involves going “inching and crawling” toward each goal; each milestone; each victory.

I will write more about recovery in here in my own inimitable way in the coming weeks–because it needs to be said what I have to say.

I’ll end here with this prelude: if you’re an artist, you cannot ever not do your art.

If you’re in recovery, you have to be true to yourself.

A good first step to embracing who you are is to remember that a mental health diagnosis is simply a tool for getting the treatment you need. It’s not who you are.

I call using your diagnosis to define yourself–I call this an “identity straitjacket.”

The beauty of living in recovery is that you get to decide how you want to describe yourself. That’s how I hit on my own two-word statement.

Try out your own self-definition. Meet me here next week when I talk about how I’ve been in remission for 25 years.