Garbanzo Beans

Maybe I should just call this “garbanzo beans” instead of nuts. Or something like that.

I was shunted into two day programs for TWO YEARS after I got out of the hospital the first time.

While I was 20 pounds overweight at the time I received no counseling about what to eat and how to lose weight.

This was circa 1987 to 1989. I hope things have gotten better close to 30 years later.

I had to take initiative on my own to start sessions with an MD who had a private practice focused on health and nutrition.

This has me wondering about whether most individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia today have the courage to speak up and tell their treatment providers: “Don’t snowball me. I need real help.” Not to be strung along in an endless day program where they might give up hope of having a better life.

An actual journal entry I wrote at that time I inserted in my memoir Left of the Dial: “I feared if I stayed here any longer, I would give up on myself like the others had.” Strong words yet true.

I don’t call myself a “consumer” because I think that term is derogatory. I prefer to use the term peer if I have to talk about individuals with mental illnesses. This is because I’m not going to advance a dangerous agenda where I tell people not to take medication and to refuse treatment: like so-called consumers do.

Better treatment does exist yet it’s often hard to find. And what if a person doesn’t have the courage or has negative symptoms and isn’t able to initiate a conversation about health and nutrition?

I’m compelled to think we can’t let treatment providers off the hook. They need to be the ones to start talking about these things with their patients.

Better health=a better life.

I wrote about cucina povera in the Left of the Dial blog last Thursday. Mostly because I’m going to start writing about things I no longer will write about at HealthCentral. One of the things I want to focus on is how health trumps money every day of the week.

Since a lot of people with schizophrenia live on a low income I want to start talking about how to have a better life and to enrich your life during lean times.

I’ll end here with the idea that I’ll use the term garbanzo beans instead of nuts.

Who else I ask you is talking and writing about these things? I’d like to know. I’d like to hear from other peers whether anything has changed 30 years later.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

3 thoughts on “Garbanzo Beans”

  1. Hi, Chris.

    I am really, really interested in what you are writing about. So please continue this ‘series’. Thank you, Chris.

    I attended a day program on and off for about ten years. It met my needs sometimes, and that is why I continued going there. Many of my friends there — whom I loved very much — had those negative signs and symptoms of psychotic illness. Most hallucinated continually it seemed to me, and I could do nothing but admire their courage to live with those auditory voices, et al, day-in and day-out.

    Some of my friends were very unable to communicate, unless prompted. Some slept regularly throughout the day, often during the group sessions. From my point of view, I wished more were expected of a lot of the people there. Many stayed outside and smoked. And while I can understand the need for that in some people with illness, I wondered often if some of my friends, if asked to do more, if the bar were raised, could they have met that? I do not know. Truly, I do not know.

    In the later years, the program I attended really started to meld physical health and mental health.
    There was a program called Home Health, nurses started attending to chronic problems – diabetes (often a by-product of the meds), and smoking cessation. Many good things like that have been introduced. I am even a part of a study being done by Johns Hopkins, helping people with severe and chronic mental illness to moderate their risk factors for heart disease. Exercise was introduced into the weekly schedules at the program, and awareness came around food and eating. “Seconds”
    on food at meals were not allowed any more. Many people were very angry at that. But truth was, the food was decent, and prepared for us, and what a blessing, I always thought…….

    Lastly, I have a hard time with the word consumer, too. 🙂 🙂 I also rile at the term ‘behavorial health’: for me mental illness surely connotes behavior but what about emotional difficulties????

    Thanks, Chris, for listening.

    We look forward.

    Leslie
    Baltimore, Maryland

  2. Hello Leslie,

    I want you and everyone else to know I’m not critical of other peers. I’m only wary of business as usual in the broken-down mental health system.

    I respect that a lot of people have been in a day program or are in a day program now. I simply do not think that has to be a permanent way of life for everyone.

    Everyone on earth is trying and doing the best they can. I firmly believe this. I couldn’t judge any other person in this regard. As it is, I’m better able not to judge people. Judging people is not the way a person should go about living their life.

    The expression is: “Take what you need and leave the rest.” Wherever a person is in life if they can find the good in what’s happened and do the best they can with what they’re given that’s what counts too.

    I’m confident that most of all from my time in the day program I learned I had to fight for my rights. I learned by observing what went on. It was only about five years ago that I started to take a hard line stance against any “treatment” that is little more than a route to lifelong dependence and disability.

    I’ll end here by telling you and other readers that I’ve always believed people diagnosed with schizophrenia are capable of so much more than a lot of providers give us credit for.

    Regards,
    Chris

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