Mental Health Month Preview

I’m going to publish a last blog entry right now about Mental Health Month.

The mental health feature article in Women’s Health should win an award for best-of-its-kind journalism. The Oprah magazine’s reference to schizophrenia was about 650 words in that magazine’s series on mental health and it did not do justice to the topic because it conveniently glossed over the reality that most people diagnosed with schizophrenia have to take maintenance medication.

I have a friend/companion now. Even he thinks most people with schizophrenia should take medication. Yet nowhere in current reportage on mental health has any magazine gone into detail about the true reality of the human cost of mental illness in terms of lost productivity (valued at circa $192 billion–you read that right) and human suffering.

The front cover of Women’s Health lists that on p. 174 the magazine is going to stomp on stigma. The feature article uses at least 25 photos of real women who live everyday with mental illness. No grainy images in shadow–no fake names to protect anyone’s identity–no skirting the issue of the effect of these illnesses on the women who experience them every day.

Like I said I do not disclose in the ordinary course of my life. I have had jobs where rude coworkers who are hostile to customers and staff members alike are championed as model employees. As long as management turns a blind eye to this shoddy and shabby customer service–yet it can’t be called customer service–this service with a sneer continues to go on.

I said it before in here and I’ll say it again: people diagnosed with mental illnesses have to be twice as good. Not only in the workplace. We have to be twice as good in society to be taken seriously–and we have to work twice as hard to get often half as far as others who are the reigning kings and queens of popularity among so-called normals.

The time is now when I’m considering disclosing in the ultimate brave and courageous way.

Chirlane McCray–the wife of New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio–is at the forefront of championing better mental health for everyone living here in the five boroughs. McCray has started up the Gracie Book Club–named after Gracie Mansion where the mayor and his family live. I want to contact her to give her my book to read and see if she can have me talk about my success story.

I’m going to lead the way to speak out about how getting effective individualized treatment as soon as you first have a break can result in a better outcome.

I’ll end here by saying something that a person diagnosed with schizophrenia shouldn’t say: anyone who stigmatizes me or messes with me is a fool because I can dead lift 180 pounds at the gym. Thus I could most likely take out a creeper if I had to.

That’s the word to describe idiots: creepers.

Yet the truth is people diagnosed with mental illnesses HAVE TO act as model citizens. We don’t get a get out of jail free card like you get in a Monopoly game. We don’t get out of anything in life with a free meal ticket or a pat on the back or an “Atta boy!” or “Atta girl!”

We toil every day in what for a lot of us can be a private hell. I have for close to 15 years talked about the benefit of family support and practical career counseling and medication when it’s required and peer support.

I talk about dead lifting because it’s imperative that those of us living with mental illness every day develop fit minds and strong bodies first of all to be able to have a better version of recovery.

On Monday I’ll talk about how lifting weights was the number-one thing that turned my life around for the better when I was 46. I’m the family member of a loved one with a mental illness as well as a peer with a mental illness.

Each of us needs to commit to a fitness routine.

The prime root of why I don’t disclose in my ordinary interactions is that I don’t want the focus of my life to be on illness.

I choose to focus on how each of us can achieve our own version of well. My own version of well is to live my life Left of the Dial.

What’s yours?

 

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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.

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