A Million Thanks

I want to give a million thanks to everyone’s who’s bought a copy of Left of the Dial in print and Kindle e-book versions.

So far Amazon hasn’t changed the wording of the book description even though I requested this two weeks ago. I hope for the changes to go through by the end of this week.

I changed a sentence to “The book gives hope for healing by doing what you love.”

I cut out “achieve your pre-illness dreams” and replaced the end of that sentence with “have a full and robust life.”

That’s because the point of recovery isn’t that a person has to be able to achieve their pre=illness dreams. The point is that you can have a different dream that’s even better than your original dream after you’re in recovery.

I’m writing a career guide. I’m writing a novel. I will have more information about these books in the coming summer.

I’ll end here with a million thanks to everyone for tuning in to this blog.

Rebel Rebel

bowie-cover

I’ve installed David Bowie’s song “Rebel Rebel” on my iPod and set the alarm clock to wake me to this song.

Ordinary people in the world aren’t kind to those of us who rebel.

Early on in my life I rebelled the role of “mental patient.”

Thirty years later I tell you readers that living a counterfeit life is a mistake.

It comes down to being okay with not conforming to what has been designated as the norm in society.

Yet why do people think they have the right to brand others as–at worst “crazy”–and at best not normal? This intrigues me that most people fall in line to wanting to be normal or have a normal life–and expect others to follow suit.

I ask you: Is normal what it’s cracked up to be? I think not.

If you ask me there’s no safety in numbers–you’re just numbing your individuality to please people who won’t accept your true self.

I have thought often about the futility of seeking other people’s approval for who you are and how you live your life.

Way back in the 1970s David Bowie sung about how the girl’s mother didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl.

The lyrics about the torn dress; the face a mess–and how the young girl was there when the dues were counted out– it all reminds me of the story I told in Left of the Dial.

If you ask me “Rebel Rebel” is the perfect anthem for self-expression of bold stripes and of any stripe.

My high school art teacher told us that successful composition requires “unity with diversity.” That’s a great credo for the world right now.

God made us individuals. He thinks we’re divine just the way we are. We aren’t  supposed to be mirror images of each other.

“Rebel Rebel” was prophetic in its message:

That you can only be a success if you dare to be yourself.

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.

 

 

 

 

Dare to Be You

sdc10465

Years ago for my birthday my dear friend gave me this card.

I wonder about the mental and physical toll of bottling up who you are–and bottling up the truth about the illness. Stuffing down your feelings can’t be healthy because one day the lid will pop off and they’ll explode.

So much has been written about how churches try to convert gay individuals to acting as heterosexuals. Yet I might be the first person to write about the folly of squelching your personality when you have a mental health diagnosis.

Pretending to be someone you’re not over the long-term only leads to illness.

Yet it’s a mistake to conflate temperament with symptoms. For a lot of people with mental health conditions though we do worry about betraying our illness to others in how we act–especially if we have jobs and degrees.

As a professional told me years ago:

“When you’re high-functioning you’re aware that you’re different so the pain is greater.”

Really, if you have anosognosia thus don’t think you’re sick why would you be ashamed to think the CIA is after you? You wouldn’t. You’d be oblivious to the slings and arrows of stigma.

As a woman put it to me: “At home and outside–with friends and family–I can be myself and don’t have a filter. Yet who am I supposed to be at work?”

I’m writing about these things because no one else is and someone has to.

In the end the ethic of my memoir Left of the Dial boils down to this:

Dare to Be You–and you’ll be happier and healthier.

 

Merci – Thank You – Grazie

A mille grazie to everyone who’s posted book reviews on Amazon. A thousand thanks.

Left of the Dial is my story–I had no other story to tell.

I had long wanted to talk about other things in an SZ book–not dwell on symptoms and hell. I’m confident that it’s possible to have a hard life that is also a great life.

Plenty of bloggers talk over and over about what it’s like to be bombarded with pain. At HealthCentral years ago when I was the Health Guide there I wrote in detail about symptoms and treatment options.

A former therapist told me: “Suffering for the sake of suffering is bullshit.”

My perpetual point exactly is that getting the right help right away can halt the progression of illness–it can halt disability.

And my other point was to see the person in each of us first and to write characters that were original–not cardboard; not described in terms of their lack or deficits.

On the inside I will always be a rocker chic kind of girl and I wanted this passion to shine through in the memoir.

Elyn Saks was the first person with SZ to talk in her book about a career–she’s a law professor who joked that her department should have endowed her with a couch not a Chair.

I did not and would not and could not write what in the publishing industry is termed a “misery memoir.” I call these “hell-and-heartache” books.

There is often going to be some kind of hell at some point in our lives. The point is to understand how we can use that hell to transform our lives into something better.

Each day that we wake up that God has given us is the chance to do whatever we can to make our lives better.

I’ll end here by telling readers what I wrote at HealthCentral years ago:

Give yourself what I call a “lifeline” in which to achieve your goals not a deadline.

Recovery is the gift of a lifetime that we give ourselves in which to achieve self-growth.

Sagra del Libro

I sold copies of Left of the Dial at the Italian American Sagra del Libro or sale of the book.

It was early so I ducked into Angelo’s of Mulberry Street.

“Soltanto uno,” I told the white coat waiter. “Only me.”

“To drink?” He ushered me to a table.

“Aqua.” I unwrapped my thick pink boucle scarf and eased out of my coat.

CNN was playing on a TV on the ceiling. I ordered the mezza luna and escarole.

The waiter asked: “Italiano?” “Si,” I told him.

“Dove?” he asked. “Sicily. Naples.” I said. He shook his head.

“Calabria,” I continued. “Mi paesan!” He smiled.

Doppo cena / after supper I bought a pink scarf from a street vendor with the ubiquitous “cashmere” label even though it’s not likely cashmere for $5.

I was the first to read at the Sagra open reading. I read the Chills concert scene from the memoir.

You know it’s too cold when you wear the new scarf inside the coat and the old scarf outside the collar.

Spring is here in three weeks so hopefully the cold will be another season’s memory soon.

The event was filmed so stay tuned for where you can view the video where I’m reading from the book.

Mille grazie to all who stopped by.

Archetypes

I titled my memoir Left of the Dial to signal having an organic life where a person’s thoughts and feelings are in synch.

As a disc jockey, I read the VU meter to measure the level of sound intensity of the music. If the needle veered to the right in the red, it was too loud. If it was to the left of the dial the sound was in balance.

So too when your thoughts and feelings are noisy and chaotic–veering into the red–that could signal dis-ease. I co-opted the term left of the dial to connote that you can have a full and robust life doing what gives you joy. And that doing what you love is the way to achieve optimal mental health.

A book I’m reading corroborates what I’ve been writing about all along. The Carolyn Myss book Archetypes lists the features of the 10 primary archetypes. I’m all for honoring and nurturing everyone’s archetype(s) so that each of us can live a happy, healthy life.

Too often we convince ourselves to do or not do something and this could restrict us and make us ill. These are the “myths” the author talks about for each archetype. Failing to live up to your archetype can cause illness and dis-ease.

Not surprisingly I discovered I’m a Fashionista. For this archetype: “beauty and fashion carry projection of your journey of self-empowerment and inner growth to a degree unmatched in any other archetype.”

In Left of the Dial I documented this love of fashion. A couple of reviewers protested this. Yet scratch below the surface and how a person styles herself can be an act of freedom to be our authentic selves.

Myss rightly asserts that discovering your archetype(s) can free you to make the right choices in life–in a career, in a relationship, in how you live and act in the world.

I recommend that you go on the Archtypes website and take the quiz to determine your Top 3. Discovering them and living in tune with them could possibly help shift the needle to the left where everything is in harmony.

It’s a fascinating study and it appears eerily accurate just like the personality type quiz and other self-assessment measurements that are out there on the Internet–like the Kolbe A Index and the CareerMatchmaker I talked about in the Flourish blog.

I’m all for using these kinds of tools that can help a person in recovery live a balanced life of purpose and passion.

 

Flamed Out

Is it time to move beyond the concept of “difference” as a defining factor in a person’s life? Yes: I think now of celebrating the common like meeting at the Commons–a public park in Boston–where everyone shares space.

We all share space on Earth–on one hand we can embrace difference yet on the other I say isn’t it time to worship the invisible threads that connect human beings.

How most of us want to love and be loved; how all of us hurt and have pain; how we all experience joy.

I want to write about these invisible threads.

Why do so many of us feel like we’re different? Who else is the barometer of “normal” that we’re looking at and deeming ourselves to be different from?

Popular media glorifies same-ness. it celebrates what’s accepted and shuts out the individual.

I’ve championed going on over nine years in my blogging that a person does their own thing and does their own think.

We are individuals. It’s time to rejoice in our beauty.

The Saturday night entertainment at the educational conference was the band Flame. I bought their CD with the song “Someone Like You.”

One rain-haired woman danced and shook a musical stick.

The lead singer started off with “Brown-Eyed Girl.”

They are a professional band. I urge you to go on the Flame website and see and hear the beauty.

Good Humor Woman

The Good Humor truck used to roll ice cream treats down the street in the summer.

I’m all for acting in good humor when you’re experiencing a hard time. I sent a friend a greeting card with this message: “Hey Cowgirl–Have a Kick Ass Birthday.”

I always remembered a woman in my life who kicked ass. She has “exited the building” in my life. We were the dynamic duo: sneaking in past curfew, taking the Ferry into the City to enjoy a night on the town at Boxer’s–a pub in the West Village where frat boys mooned her with their eyes. I played the willing sidekick dressed in black and offering one-liners back punch-for-punch.

This is a scene from the memoir that shows the tragic comic milieu of the residence for what it was. In a way, she and I were only slumming there until our real lives began. I recommend you research, research, research your treatment options and choose what you think is the best one. The only “flavor” of treatment shouldn’t be vanilla everything. We should have choices.

_________________________

Bingo was popular on Sunday afternoons. Amy Lou, a counselor, would bring out the game and a kettle of Charles potato chips. Margot wore a sign on her head that said badass and lived up to that designation. The shout out of “O69” found her heckling: “Toothpaste, mouthwash.”

Amy Lou wasn’t an idealist. She couldn’t conceive of any of us ever acting normal, so she protested Margot’s innuendo, and that fueled my new friend even more. “I wish I were stoned,” she belted out.

That bait was fishing’s best lure, and Amy Lou took it even though she should know better. “Do you want me to write you up?”

“Be my guest.” Margot lifted her palms outward.

I knew she didn’t want to get stoned. Her secret fantasy was to lie on a beach in Hawaii sipping a tropical drink. One night Margot pointedly told me she didn’t do drugs. We had been in the basement lounge listening to drop-dead segues on WFMU from the ancient radio.

We spent Saturday nights down in the basement where no one else went because you couldn’t smoke down there. We sat on the frightful baroque sofa complete with plastic cover. We made a vow to get the hell out and stay out.

Bingo lasted for about an hour.

“Scope, Altoids,” Margot shot back one last time.

“You’ve lost your privileges,” Amy Lou referred to some mythical privileges that in reality we didn’t have. Our weekday curfew was ten o’clock, and our weekend curfew was midnight. A real stoner guy came in at 3:00 a.m. all the time, and no one did anything about it. Ironically, he was the first resident to move up to the next level of independent supported housing.

You were yoked to the staff, and any extended absence sent alarm bells ringing in their heads. You had to clear with them every outside event away from Lake House. I was glad I had traveled to San Francisco before I arrived here. Pretending to be somewhere you weren’t was the norm. They wouldn’t check up on you if you were back in time.

The counselors got us tickets for concerts at BAM in Brooklyn or the 92nd Street Y, and they herded us into the van clearly marked Lake House to the world. Only, I welcomed these excursions because it was a chance to bumble about the city. I got excited riding there in the early evening as the lights lit up the Manhattan skyline.

One woman who volunteered at the BAM ticket booth was tall and wore a chartreuse cardigan that I coveted. I fell in love with the life I imagined she led.

I came home from these trips deflated like a punctured tire. I wanted to drive the highway of life. Instead, I had to settle for bingo and chips.

Everyone got up to leave the dining table, and Margot cocked her head: “Basement?”

“Of course.” I followed her downstairs.

“That was fun,” she said. And turned the stereo up loud.

______________________

Left of the Dial Amazon page

 

 

 

Chronic Not Hopeless

I’m grateful to my peers for retweeting what I write on Twitter. I wanted to extend what I talk about to any chronic condition now.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer circa 11 years ago. A routine yearly mammogram detected a lump at Stage 0. Stage 0 is the best kind of cancer to have. She had an operation and has been in remission from breast cancer ever since.

I have only empathy for anyone living with a chronic medical condition–whether it’s a mental illness or heart disease or osteoporosis or any other kind of illness.

My life changed forever on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2004 when I experienced a minor version of PTSD related to a traumatic verbal attack I experienced while in graduate school. It’s the effect of the event on the person that renders it traumatic even if to another person it wouldn’t set off alarm bells.

The wind-up was in 2007 the Stelazine wasn’t effective anymore and I was switched to Geodon which has been a miracle drug for me. I said in the last blog entry that in recovery as in life nothing is guaranteed.

A chronic condition can often be kept at bay with medication–whether the condition is a migraine or symptoms of schizophrenia. And I know what it’s like to have a migraine. I once had a migraine so severe that a co-worker had to drive me home from work at noon. I went straight to bed shut the lights and lay under the covers with no light and no sound until midnight when I went to sleep. As soon as I had gotten home I had to throw up.

It’s been over eight years now since I had a migraine. I talk about this–I talk about the breast cancer–because IMHO getting the right treatment right away equals a better outcome.

Living with a chronic condition isn’t easy. I’m grateful for my peers who understand what it’s like.

I will quote Wilma Rudolph again: the gold medalist at track in the 1960 summer Olympics. She was born 4 pounds and sickly. They thought she would not ever live. Growing up her leg was crooked and she wore a brace.

Wilma Rudolph when she was 20 won three gold medals in track at the 1960 Olympics.

The greatest quote I ever read comes from this champion:

“The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”

I’m confident that a lot of people who struggle go on to have a ton more empathy and compassion than a lot of ordinary people living “normal” lives. I don’t expect anyone who hasn’t struggled like I have to truly understand and have a natural compassion. That’s why I’m OK that stigma exists because I don’t expect most people to understand.

A former friend once told me: “Maybe your role in this lifetime is to fight stigma.” It just might be.

Right now I will end this blog entry by stating that living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or any other chronic condition can often be like looking in a fun house mirror: our self-perception is distorted because the mirrors can often at first magnify how we feel about ourselves now that our lives have changed.

I propose looking in a different mirror: visualizing in your mind’s eye like a camera a more hopeful outcome. And remembering the magnificent story of Wilma Ruldoph. And remembering that self-pity and jealousy serve no purpose.

I’ll cap off this entry now with this quote from an Internet message:

“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is facing some kind of battle.”