Wearing a Cross on Halloween

cross halloween

It’s time to fight the hate.

I urge you:

Act with love.

Speak with kindness.

Wear your hijab.

Confirm your sexual identity.

Walk down any street in America.

Wear your cross.

The first time I ever wore this featured cross in the photo out in public was yesterday. It was Halloween in America. Wearing a cross was a brave act considering that a guy driving a truck killed 8 people in my hometown of New York City.

He has been indicted on charges as a terrorist fueled by ISIS propaganda.

Thus it seems strangely bold and daring that I wore a cross out in public yesterday.

As a Christian wearing a cross, I could’ve been targeted.

It feels like a perverse synchronicity (unbeknownst to me on waking in the morning). I had no idea that later in the day a terrorist act would happen.

I had no idea that wearing the cross would have any significance beyond making a fashion statement.

I pray that haters–in society, in the world, wherever they are–come to their senses and choose love instead of bombs and compassion instead of killing.

Right now wearing a cross could’ve gotten me killed. I had no idea that wearing a cross would turn out to be an unwitting political statement.

People come here from other countries to have rights.

Women come here from the Middle East so they can drive a car. Can you imagine not being allowed to drive a car because you’re a woman? In 2017?

This is why good people come here to raise their sons and daughters.

They’re American now and don’t want to be subjected to “guilt-by-association” any more than I do.

New York City is famously touted as “The Greatest City in the World.”

In all my time here (I was born here and still live here and won’t ever leave) I must have interacted personally one-on-one with thousands of Muslim Americans. I’m confident when I say thousands not just hundreds.

We must stand together now in solidarity to tell the haters:

We will not tolerate your crimes against fellow human beings.

We will not condone your hate. We will not live in fear.

We will live together as one human family on earth.

We will uphold the rights of everyone living in America–and I do mean everyone–regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, mental health diagnosis, and any other thing that has historically marked us as different from each other.

Now you see: why I dare to live my life Left of the Dial.

Why I dare to identify with other people who have mental health challenges.

There can be no shame in being who you are. There can be no shame in living and acting true to yourself. There can be no shame for any of us.

New York City is my hometown. Everyone is welcome here.

It particularly saddens me that 5 tourists–college buddies–from South America were killed.

The View from My Poltrona

I wanted to write a blog entry about microaggressions.

They’re hateful and hurtful. I don’t consider them to be “micro” anything; I consider them to be actual racist comments.

The last I checked my calendar at home it was 2017. What is the year on your calendar where you live? 2017?

That’s right: it’s 2017, and it’s time to stop hate in its tracks.

I suggest critically attacking the person who has told you something that is hurtful or hateful. They need to be told why what they’ve said is wrong. This is because unfortunately they’re clueless–they have no idea of the hateful magnitude of their comment.

I stand in solidarity with anyone who’s been oppressed.

In 2014 when my First Person Account was published in Schizophrenia Bulletin I linked to this column on the NAMI LinkedIn Group.

A woman who uses a fake name on social media responded thus: “Why do you identify as a person diagnosed with schizophrenia. You obviously had a once-in-a-lifetime never-to-be-repeated episode.”

So, this armchair psychiatrist diagnosed me from her poltrona (the Italian word for armchair).

That is how low the bar is that other people set for a person diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In the late 1980s when I was shunted into “the system” I was told there was not much I could do precisely because I had this diagnosis.

Thus, I’m no stranger to the guilt-by-association tactic that linked everyone with SZ into the category of “capable of not very much” except warming a chair in a day program for years and years.

That’s why when I hear a guest speaker on an unrelated topic reveal that they were the victim of a microaggression I can’t help getting upset.

The guilt-by-association tactic is alive and well in Mr. Toupee’s America, as evidenced by his Muslim-country ban that ascertains you’re guilty of possibly being a terrorist simply because other people from that country are terrorists.

Is this really the climate we want to live in? Stereotyping everyone who’s different and continuing to set the bar low for what you expect from everyone who shares a similar background is still going on.

Check your calendar again–it’s 2017 not 1864.

My stance now is this: we need to confront the haters. I’ve changed my mind about this. Yes, I think we need to tell the haters in no uncertain terms that their low opinions of other human beings aren’t going to be accepted anymore.

I identify as a person diagnosed with SZ for this number-one reason:

I hold accountable for their beliefs and actions the mental health staff that dared tell me I wasn’t capable of holding a job.

I was judged; I was stereotyped.

My intent in identifying as a person with this diagnosis is to be in their face, to tell them: “See? You told me there wasn’t much I was capable of. Who’s sorry now? I’m having the last laugh.”

We must each of us hold others accountable for their behavior towards us.

It’s 2017–that’s the year on my calendar and it’s the year on your calendar too.

We can’t hold it all in and let the hate eat us up or tear us apart any longer.

Won’t you join me in speaking out?

My real name is Christina Bruni, and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 22.

Take this, or leave.

Hate is off the table in my house.

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.

Using Your Clothing to Speak Your Mind

It’s curtains for any stigma. The show of hate has closed down.

An image consultant wrote a 5-star review of my memoir Left of the Dial.

Now more than ever I stand by my assertion that the role of stigma is overrated.

Followers, everyone knows. And the kind people, the compassionate people, don’t care.

[You think it’s a secret but it’s not.]

The haters are jackasses. Do you really want to waste one minute of your life trying to get a jackass to like you and approve of you?

In the wise words of John Maxwell: “They can’t hurt you unless you let them.”

If you allow the haters to dictate how you feel about yourself, that’s a form of internalized shame.

You are kinder, you are stronger, and you are braver than that. You are wise and you are worthy.

Fight for your rights if you’ve been discriminated against in obtaining housing or other legal opportunities because of your mental health diagnosis. Put on your boots, because like Nancy Sinatra sang, those boots can walk all over another person.

Make no mistake: other than legal violations, wasting time worrying about potential stigma will rob you of having a full and robust life.

Repeat after me: the people who are kind and compassionate don’t care if you have SZ or BP or DP or whatever you have. Seek out friends and lovers who aren’t afraid.

The ones who are going to get spooked by your diagnosis have issues. You don’t need them in your life.

The only baggage I covet is Louis Vuitton. Better yet, make mine a Sac du Jour.

I’ll end here with this story:

I watched on TV as Letitia James–the first African American woman to hold the position–was sworn in as Public Advocate of New York City.

She now holds the second highest ranking elected office in the City.

She wore knee-high boots to take the stage at her inauguration.

Take a tip from Letitia James:

Use your clothing to speak your mind.

Any questions still about designing your life through personal style?

The Magnolia Story

Read it now: The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino.

I’m able to watch HGTV’s Fixer Upper house decorating and remodeling show. It features the husband Chip and wife Joanna who have four kids.

The show was an instant sensation. The book is a revelation.

The Magnolia Story is more uplifting and inspiring than any book I’ve read recently.

I recommend buying the book and keeping it on hand to read and savor.

Joanna’s wisdom is the prime selling point for buying the book:

“It was such a blessing to find myself thriving in the middle of the pain. Unless you find a way to do that, there’s always going to be this fake illusion that once you get there–wherever ‘there’ is for you–you’ll be happy. But that’s just not life.

If you can’t find happiness in the ugliness, you’re not going to find it in the beauty, either.”

I’m buying a copy to give as a gift.

More than this, the underlying theme of perpetual miracles given to Chip and Joanna Gaines can seem impossible for others to obtain.

The duo kept having an endless spate of triumph just when the hard times threatened to do them in. It’s best to overlook that they were luckier than a lot of people have been. Their financial struggles came through loud and clear in the book. It proves that they were not privileged; they were just fortunate to have benefactors who believed in them.

Finding your own benefactors could be the sole topic of a book of its own.

I say: use this book to your advantage in crafting your own “magnolia story” for yourself and your loved ones.

Be joyous when others succeed. Be proud when you succeed. Get support from others and give support to others in times of need.

Power your own flowering story’s book with love and compassion.

That’s the true message of The Magnolia Story: kindness can be a raft carrying us over to a better place.

 

Choose Love

Last week I attended an open mic where I read the poem “What She Said” that starts off Left of the Dial.

The host started the evening by quoting Audre Lorde on self-care:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Self-care–in whatever healthy form it takes–is an act of love and healing. That’s why fashion and beauty aren’t frivolous pursuits.

I ask you: without self-care how can a person really feel and look their best? In this regard it’s imperative that each of us treats ourselves and the people we meet with kindness and compassion.

At the open mic I was witness to stories of tragedy and the overcoming of tragedy.

Ashley Smith, a fellow blogger, has alluded to the idea that we’re all in recovery, from whatever it is we’re in recovery from.

A breakdown; an illness; a diagnosis; an attack–all these can be a traumatic event.

Though I’ve only been 52 for two weeks I suddenly have zero tolerance for the hate, violence, and killing in the world.

I want to talk about this now because when you hit your fifties you’re faced with a choice: continue on the same path (that might include having negative thoughts or unhealthy behaviors)–or choose empowerment through having empathy for yourself and others.

You can’t afford to go down a path of ill health when you’re in your fifties. Now is the time to intensify your efforts at self-care.

If you’ve suffered a trauma–be it a mental health challenge or something else–please be good to yourself. You can’t blame yourself. Self-care is a necessity not a luxury.

There can be no shame and guilt involved in having a diagnosis. There can be no fear of reprisal when you choose how you want to live your life.

I bought a silver necklace that spells out: CHOOSE LOVE.

That’s the message I want to spread in the blog now:

Choose Love.

Tu B’Shevat

tu-bshevat

A friend invited me to celebrate the New Year for Trees.

Today is the New Year for Trees in the Jewish Calendar.

The Torah says: “Man is a Tree of the Field.”

Olives, dates, figs, and pomegranates are the fruits of the trees that are eaten on this day.

The pine tree photo is my creation. Not confident that you can make out that I used glitter on the leaves.

This of course is not my religion because I’m not a member of any organized religion that meets in a church.

How interesting that everyone was painting because in the New York Times yesterday there was a news article about art therapy. Apparently the second lady Karen Pence wife of our vice president has taken an interest in art therapy over the years.

Professional art therapists wonder if Pence echoes her husband’s anti-human rights stance and will try to get art therapists to convert gay people to heterosexuals. Others in the art therapy profession laud the second lady’s attempt to promote their field.

We painted and ate dried fruits and nuts.

Let’s celebrate the New Year for Trees for what it can be:

A reminder that we are human beings and part of the natural world. That when we water the soil our trees bear fruit. We also bear the fruit of our goals when we water and nurture our imagination.

I’ve written about friendship at HealthCentral. I’ll be publishing a Bruni in the City column about friendship in early 2018.

It’s true–and I’ll end here with this–that often those of us with a mental health challenge do best in artistic environments.

A verified significant number of Artist/Creatives have mental health conditions. Far better to encourage these gifts and use them to create things of beauty to share with others.

Sketch, paint, sculpt, write fiction, cut hair, apply makeup, sing, dance, act–it’s all good.

 

 

 

 

Sparking Love Kindness and Joy

love-mugkindess-mugjoy-mug-ellen

(Lineup of Ellen mugs that tell it like it is.)

We need to spark love kindness and joy for ourselves and others.

Now I think of how Ellen Degeneres “came out” in the 1990s on her TV sitcom.

Since then she’s had a remarkable career. Ellen doesn’t seem unkind or hurtful–she appears to be a genuinely compassionate person.

We need in the mental health community to have our own “Ellen” who can take on the bigotry against people with SZ and BP and other MH conditions.

The more members of our tribe earn our success alongside people without diagnoses we’ll hopefully have the clout to obtain the equality and excellence in relationships that we’ve demanded for years now.

Yet I don’t think only successful people should get this free pass. Those of us who are doing well should fight for the rights, opportunities, and dignity for peers whose faces aren’t in the news or in blogs and who struggle in the shadows.

We’re at a point in the history of the world where speaking out is imperative. We must start telling our stories first to each other and then to the people we meet.

We need to make it known that we’re not going away; we won’t take anyone’s bull crap; we’re here to stay.

This starts when we accept the diagnosis and get comfortable with it–because then we can be casual about it with the people we meet–slip it into dialogue as if it’s a natural thing.

If you ask me we haven’t often gotten anywhere because we’ve been spooked about having a diagnosis and this rubbed off on and spooked other people.

So: Be Kind to Your Mind. Love Yourself. Love-bomb the haters.

I would like to be the Ellen Degeneres of mental health.

That’s a tall order. Yet I’ve been a mental health activist for 15 years now and there’s so much more I want to do.

I want to stomp on stigma with my Missoni Converse.

I want to get people talking about mental health on the front porches of America.

I want to show peers that we have choices and lifestyle options.

No longer do we have to be relegated to collecting SSI forever and living in dangerous low-income housing on the edge of town.

Are you in?

Dare to Be You

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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.

 

Living Life

close-up-matt-party

You’re supposed to use photos in blogs so that Google ranks you higher.

I say: as hard as it can be: get out of your apartment or your house.

There’s really no benefit in ruminating on what’s not working or on being jealous of others who seem to have it all. Most people bluff rather than admit that they’re not doing well. No one is going to tell you that they feel like they’ve fallen down.

Just think this: life isn’t easy for any of us not even people who seem to have it all.

If you’re idolizing Kim Kardashian that just might be the dilemma: you have too much time on your hands and aren’t doing things of your own to bolster your self-esteem.

Living life–in recovery from whatever you’re in recovery from–involves taking risks. You will not always be in the mood to go out the front door.

Yet this is exactly how a woman I know met her future husband–they were innocently set up after a friend needled her into going to a pub.

A guy at the pub had his friend come over to meet her. They started talking and the rest was history. She had originally resisted going out and was pulled dragging her high heels into the pub.

I’m revising and editing my second book that I want to publish within two years. In it I’ll talk about how to thrive in your life in recovery.

Really–should we be aspiring to to emulate the Kardashians? Should we be buying their products and making them rich?

The CUNY Graduate Center journalism Masters’ program has an admissions test. You’re supposed to define what the people listed on the exam are famous for. I kid you not one of the people listed was Kim Kardashian.

I don’t admire anyone who is famous for being rich and beautiful.

Not even as a form of mindless escape watching a TV show. The sad reality is that more people adore Kim Kardashian than Michelle Obama. I greatly respect and admire all that Michelle Obama has done.

Has Kim Kardashian done anything to help save the planet or try to cure childhood obesity? I rest my case. Now turn off the TV and go to the pub.

You don’t have to drink alcohol when you go out either. Just go out and have a good time.

I tore out of an Oprah magazine a page with a photo of a huge yellow flower with the words Have Fun in black on the top of the page.

That is what we should all do:

Have fun.