Home Sweet Home

Again our government is cutting funding of mental health. There’s been a paltry effort by those we elected to increase hospital beds and to increase supportive housing.

In one of my books I talk about housing. I’d like to talk about this now.

In New York State if you have a psychiatric diagnosis you can get a 4 percent interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage to buy your first home or co-op or condo apartment.

You submit verification of your diagnosis. You attend a financial empowerment workshop. Then you can apply for a SONYMA Home of Your Own (HOYO) loan as a first-time home buyer.

The good thing is SONYMA gives you a closing costs loan that is forgiven if you stay in this home for 10 years. This can shave $2,000 to $3,000 dollars off your upfront costs.

If I remember the HOYO loan requires that you have a credit score of only 620 so it might be easier to get this kind of loan if you don’t have spotless credit.

I want to cry when I meet a person who says they’ve been institutionalized for 12 years or more. No one should have to live locked up on a ward long-term.

It can be a near-endless battle for a person with a mental health challenge to find suitable housing. We need to keep lobbying for increased funding for supportive housing for those of us who can’t afford to own our own homes.

Yet I write about the HOYO loan because we need to give a shout out to states that are progressive in addressing the needs of people with mental health challenges to have full inclusion in society.

Supportive housing would help do this for those of us who need cheaper housing. Often supportive housing rent is just one-third of your income.

It’s true: There’s No Place Like Home.

I’ll talk more about this in the coming blog entries.


Smiling Depression

Before I go into things from my other books I want to take a detour into talking about a feature article in Women’s Health magazine. Every year the May issue focuses on Mental Health.

There’s a thing: smiling depression. In the May issue you can read about how this silent suffering affects women.

I could relate to having a persona that masks what’s really going on. In here before I wrote about squelching your personality to fit in–and how that can damage your soul.

The Peer Support guideline is: “We judge no one’s pain as any less than our own.”

Yet the women in the May issue were told in essence to buck up–that they had done great things so shouldn’t be depressed.

One woman’s friend told her: “You’ll feel better if you pray.” Yet prayer doesn’t cure a person’s mental health issue. The woman’s Pastor had the good sense to tell her to see a therapist.

That’s the toll it takes on a lot of us to live in hiding. Our therapists are complicit in telling us not to disclose at our jobs. Good advice. Yet that’s precisely why we need to find our own tribe of kindred spirits to talk to about what’s going on.

Smiling depression is a thing. It deserves our attention. Those of us who have smiling depression deserve our compassion.

Go subscribe to Women’s Health if you want to–it’s a great magazine and I read it every month. I like Self too–yet I think Women’s Health is even better.

Reclaiming Ourselves in Recovery

Keep on taking action in the direction of your dreams. A goal is a dream with a deadline according to a fortune cookie message I cracked open.

I’ll be 52 soon. I can tell you that the future can be better. There’s no crystal ball to peer into to predict what will happen of course. Yet it makes sense to have hope.

Each of us is capable of having our own version of a full and robust life.

As I get older I remember the city of my youth that has been long gone. You’re only young once. Yet it’s possible to have a youthful outlook your whole life.

I want to publish three other non-fiction books in addition to this second one I’m writing now. What I want to write in here in the blog now is about some of the topics of these other books that await wings.

Reclaiming ourselves in recovery is possible.

I will always maintain that I succeeded despite my time in the CMHS–Community Mental Health System–not because of it. Today we have more and better options and we can create our own options too.

The goal as I see it is to be happy and take joy in living. Sometimes  you need to have a Plan B when what you wanted to do isn’t working out. It takes guts to give up one thing and start to do something else.

Yet the older I get in my life I see the beauty in focusing on the elemental: having a core set of values that determine what you prioritize as being meaningful work you want to do now.

Get rid of the extraneous things and the negative people that weigh you down. Do only what suits you. My motto is: be bold. Be innovative.

To that end I have created another idea about goal-setting that I’m testing out now to see if I want to include it in a book.

In the coming blog entries I’m going to talk about some of the things I’ve written in the next three books.


Nutrition Action


I want to talk about food and nutrition again. We’re coming up on Greenmarket season in New York City. Here you can use food stamps at a Greenmarket and there’s even an incentive for doing so. I think you should if you get food stamps buy fresh produce at a Greenmarket this time of year. Or year-round if a market is available in the winter.

The pasta is fresh angel hair pasta. The mussels are Newfoundland rope organic mussels. I order from an internet grocery that delivers. I had splurged for Mario Batali tomato sauce yet won’t do that again–it cost a ton of money for one jar.

I sloshed the mussels in red wine. You can fill a large saucepan with just enough water and place the mussels in the water. The water shouldn’t be so high that it goes into the shells. Steam the mussels for 25 minutes or so. Pour the wine over the mussels halfway through.

One time I was eating mussels in a restaurant. As you might know I’m Italian. So I’m eating the mussels and the woman at the table next to me tells the young girl with her: “Italians love their mussels.”

I was astonished. There I was Italian and I’m eating mussels.

The table decor is the spring tablecloth and vase and candlesticks. I firmly believe in changing your table decor at the start of every season. It can give a lift to your spirits.

I eat mussels. I have muscle. I doubt the two are connected. Yet enjoying good food  can improve your mental health too.


Blog of Interest

Hi there–I can’t say I really know how to track back to another blog. One person has wanted me to do this. What I can do is give a link to her blog here about her own life.

Now that I’ve been a mental health advocate for 15 years I’m no longer keen to battle it out with the haters and anti-psychiatry crowd that have taken over the media.

Instead I will talk about taking pills in my own life only when it seems right to do so.

The blog I link to I haven’t read all the posts for yet the ones I’ve read seem amazing. Just read it for yourself to decide.

This fall I’ll have been in recovery for 30 years with no ill health–absolutely no ill health–from taking medication.

We must all accord each other dignity. Thus the purpose in having part of my vision stated thus: “To champion the freedom to choose our own life path.”

I choose to take medication. It’s gotten me where I am today. For others, a different option is possible.

We’re not to attack each other for the choices we make.

Respect me and my choice. I’ll respect you and your choice.

15-Year Advocate Anniversary

This year I’ve been a mental health advocate for 15 years.

In this time it feels like I’ve been preaching mostly to the choir.

I’ve been attacked when I claim that most people can recover.

This fall I’ll have been in recovery for 30 years. In the summer I’ll have been in remission–that is symptom-free–for 25 years.

I’ll be 52 in two weeks. I’ve taken some kind of pills for these 30 years. Today I take Geodon which has been a miracle drug. Before that I took Stelazine for the first 20 years. Neither drug caused weight gain.

I credit that fact that I recovered to my mother’s one courageous act to drive me to the hospital within 24 hours of my break. Luckily, I was admitted and given medication. Three weeks later when I was released the symptoms were gone.

In the time I’ve been an advocate since 2002 there has been some progress–thought most of us would think the progress has been limited.

Wherever I go when I give a talk it’s an honor and a privilege to connect with peers and family members who share common struggles.

I’ve been in the vanguard in terms of what I’ve written and spoken about recovery. No one else has quite yet reiterated what I’ve championed.

I credit having made fitness my number-one priority as having made all the difference in the last six years of my life.

On the cusp of 52 I believe fitness must rightly encompass body, mind, spirit, finances, relationships, and some kind of career–even if it’s just working on your recovery and not a paid job.

For years now I’ve hailed the work of the cheerful cashiers in Rite Aid. Unlike most people, I don’t care about status and I don’t think we should judge a person by whether they’ve achieved traditional markers of success.

Not everyone can and should aspire to become a J.D. or a famous writer. The peer support guideline tells us: “We expect a better tomorrow in a realistic way.”

I’ve learned in the last 15 years from some kinds of failure that expecting a better tomorrow in a realistic way is indeed the way to go.

Lynn Tesoro is quoted at the end of the Bobbi Brown book Living Beauty. I’ll end here with what she said. Tesoro doesn’t waste time focusing on what’s not achievable.

That wisdom if you ask me is the secret to success in recovery as well as life.

It’s far better to focus on what you can do and be and have.

The Right Line

In remembering my time as the Health Guide at the HealthCentral website one thing stands out: I corresponded with people from all over the world– India, Africa, Saudi Arabia–everywhere.

The great thing about the Internet is this type of human connection without borders. We have the chance to hear each other’s stories and take away from these stories a bit of hope for our own lives to matter to others.

I have a photographic memory–no cognitive impairment–and I remember the people that wrote to me and corresponded with me.

We’re all human beings doing the best we can with what we were given. I submit that we all want the same thing: for someone’s eyes to light up when they see us; to be acknowledged; to be accorded dignity and have our worth affirmed.

There’s still a lot of hate in the world–and the media loves to give the haters a platform for their hurtful rhetoric and stigma.

The great thing about the blogosphere in particular is that anyone anywhere in the world can speak out and be heard and listened to and hopefully the compassionate writers will gain a following.

I have decided what the purpose of my life’s work is going to be from here on in regardless of whether anyone else pays me to advance this vision.

My vision is framed thus:

To affirm the dignity and worth of all human beings; to honor and embrace our individuality; and to champion the freedom to choose our own life path.

The day is here to rise up and be heard. A blog is a creative medium for self-expression yet it’s more than this. Keeping a blog is an honor I don’t take lightly and it’s because we should choose our words carefully.

Finding what I heard called “the right line” is imperative. We must choose our words carefully and we must choose how we act towards other people carefully.

Today we can chart our own course.

We have the choice to reject the hate and violence.

We have the choice to defy other people’s expectations.

We have the right to be here living on earth alongside everyone else.

Forget the so-called stigma.

This is my credo:

I believe in the power of love to ignite hope and healing.

I believe in the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity.

Today is the day when each of us can make a difference.