People Have the Power

Individuals with SZ are seen as interchangeable with no identities of our own apart from the illness and its symptoms.

The reasoning goes: we’re not able to recover so why bother trying to help us do this if it’s impossible?

NO. That thinking doesn’t fly with me.

We should be trying to help people recover.

I don’t accept chronic disability as the fate of any human being.

My point exactly is that getting the right treatment right away can enable an individual to bloom–to do better–to be able to have a full and robust life.

I’m not a fan of the all talk and no action to create solutions MO of so-called normal people. They don’t have a vested interest in my life and health and in yours and other people’s who have MH issues.

I titled this blog entry “People Have the Power” because we have control over the dialogue. It’s also the title of my favorite Patti Smith song.

I’ve written before that I think no one we elect in government can ultimately ever do things to remedy societal ills.

So it’s up to each of us to take action to create the kind of life and health we want for ourselves.

It’s up to each of us to help each other.  Martin Luther King called this creative altruism.

I ask you:

Are you willing to remain silent?

Are you willing to accept chronic disability?

Are you willing to accept the status quo?

I’m NOT able to buy into the myth of helplessness and hopelessness.

There’s a better way: having the courage to speak the truth to power. Telling our stories.

Doing something to help those of us who WANT to recover have the OPPORTUNITY to recover.


The Shortest Guide to Mindfulness You’ll Ever Need

Years ago my shrink told me I should practice mindfulness.

No kidding–it’s not a trite concept and it’s not pop-psychology babble.

It works–mindfulness is a valid healing practice. How do I know this?

Having had a severe cold for one week was no joy. As I started to be on the mend I was able to do things. This inspired me to have a weekly mindfulness practice and to make mindfulness a daily habit too.

You don’t have to read a 300-page book on this topic.

Just read this one sentence: Mindfulness at its heart is simply paying attention to what you’re doing and not doing things on autopilot.

That’s all it is.

Thinking about mindfulness can conjure up meditation or another behavior that seems hard to implement successfully.

The truth is–there is no right or wrong way to do or to practice anything–just the way that works for you.

In terms of mindfulness, it can help to focus on the 5 W’s: the who, what, where, when, and why of what’s happening in your life at this particular moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh a famous monk author uses the classic example of washing dishes with awareness of what you’re doing.

Feel the plate and sponge in your hand. See and listen to the water.

Really experience what you’re doing instead of doing it mindlessly.

To this end I’ve started a mindfulness practice.

I was motivated to do this by the simple act of washing my makeup brushes when I had gotten over the severe cold.

Simply washing makeup brushes with care and attention can spark joy.

The truth is, if what you’re doing doesn’t spark joy and you don’t have to do it–I say stop doing it.

Stop doing busywork and start doing the things that are important to you and align with your values.

I’ve come to see the beauty and benefit of practicing mindfulness.

For women, I recommend hand washing bras and washing makeup brushes 1x/per week.

When I decided to practice  mindfulness it was like I was hit on the head with a piano falling from the roof of a building in a TV cartoon.

It occurred to me that mindfulness begets mendfulness. That to mind what we do can be the first step to mend what’s not working.

I for one don’t want to live my life on autopilot anymore.

Finding Your 5 Commitments

Years ago I read a book that Leo Babauta of ZenHabits wrote.

In it he urged readers to make a list of their 5 commitments.

Limiting the focus of your life to 5 things was appealing.

What saved me?

Art and Music and Fashion and Writing and Exercise.

These 5 things were and always will be integral for  enabling me to recover as fully as I have.

What are your Top 5 commitments?

Find what gives you joy and go do that.

I wouldn’t be so quick to be pessimistic and give up.

I wouldn’t be so quick to throw yourself a pity party.

I wouldn’t be so quick to be jealous or envious of another person or to compare yourself to them.

I think EVERYONE living on earth has good traits and God-given gifts.

None of us is any better than anyone else.

We each of us need to believe in ourselves first of all–to take pride in who we are not what we are able to do.

Not being able to hold a job doesn’t preclude a person from being able to do other things.

It goes back to the concept of woodshedding when you’re in a plateau and in a valley not on a peak.

I wrote about woodshedding in one of the first blog entries I posted here over three years ago. This is a term taken from the jazz world where musicians would go into a woodshed or other private space to practice their instrument until they could perfectly play the piece or had greatly improved.

That’s what the early years of recovery are often like: we could require solo time to rest and reflect so that we can heal.

I would say that hibernating in your apartment for years and years isn’t healthy. Yet going off to be by yourself when you need to rest and recuperate might help.

Practicing woodshedding when it could help you to do so is one tactic for making productive use of a plateau when you’re in a valley not on a peak.

Focusing on limiting yourself to 5 Commitments might also help you.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about another technique that I find useful in recovery.

Here’s a link to the ZenHabits blog.

The Truth About Early Intervention

I often wonder if I get flak because I have a vagina–that is, because I’m a woman speaking out and not a man with the proper plumbing down below speaking out.

In this blog entry I’m going to tell the truth about early intervention. It works. Period.

You can click on my RAISE Study category to read about research that indicates getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.

The PIER early intervention program in Maine had great success OVER A DECADE AGO. One woman no longer needed to take medication long-term after being treated in the early intervention program.

In my own life I was on a very low dose for 16 years–only 5 mg. The longer you wait to get treated you might need a higher dose and the medication might not be as effective because your symptoms are entrenched.

Here today I wanted to continue talking about getting the right treatment right away.

Too many people with mental health issues who don’t get treatment right away turn to street drugs to self-medicate. This makes having a better recovery harder and sometimes impossible to achieve.

It’s high time (an apt pun) to legalize marijuana use. Non-violent drug offenders need long-term addiction and mental health treatment not a lengthy jail sentence.

Years ago at HealthCentral I wrote about something I called The Triangle of Mental Health: having a support system, getting appropriate medication, and obtaining practical career counseling.

The RAISE Study findings corroborated that the Triangle of Mental Health is a key factor in achieving a positive recovery outcome.

In my life I’m not afraid to state that taking a low dose of medication has given me a competitive advantage in achieving my goals and having a full and robust life.

For some of us like me medication heals. For others they are lucky and don’t need medication as a continuing part of treatment.

Either way the time has come to tell our stories of how getting the right treatment right away aided us in having a better recovery.

I’m not the only success story out there.

Yet I’m confident when I say that giving up hope isn’t ever an option.

Some of us even have miraculous recoveries after years of being ill.

I know people who were at the bottom and their lives turned around.

Giving up hope isn’t an option.

Either way recovery is possible.

I stand by my belief that recovery is possible.

Peaks and Valleys Go Hand in Hand

I’m the family member of a loved one who has it much harder as well as a peer with lived experience.

I understand that the expression “roller coaster ride” perfectly describes your life coping with the ups-and-downs of your loved one’s recovery.

It IS a roller coaster.

You know there’s no “rock bottom” because it seems like an abyss–a bottomless pit–into which your loved one is falling ever-deeper down.

When will it end?

When will you or your loved one be able to get on the right track in recovery?

It can be heartbreaking standing at the top and seeing your loved one doing well, only to have them crash and have a setback two weeks later.

Yet I figured out the solution: to plan for and expect setbacks.

I subscribe to the newsletter that a boutique gym owner sends out via e-mail.

In it he said the very same thing: “You can’t have peaks without valleys.”

Setbacks are par for the course.

So if you think a person can “always” be well and “never” fall back once they’ve gotten to the top, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak.

Planning for and expecting setbacks is the key to improving how you feel.

I know that changing my perception of the nature of the roller coaster has helped me.

What is the one thing that can improve the outcome in a person’s recovery?

Getting the right treatment right away. Getting the right treatment before you or your loved one turns to street drugs.

I got the right treatment within 24 hours. My loved one didn’t get mental health treatment until far far too late.

As a family member as well as a person with lived experience:

I refuse to kow-tow to the anti-psychiatry crowd that is against any kind of mental healthcare that requires medication.

At the HealthCentral SZ website when I was the Health Guide there I wrote news articles about The Positive Psychiatry Movement.

That’s the term I used to describe championing the best and brightest in the field who are working to promote Recovery for Everyone.

In the coming blog entries I will talk about how The Positive Psychiatry Movement is predicated on getting the right treatment right away.

I will talk about the real experiences of people who got early intervention and fully recovered.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I’d like to expand on the last blog entry.

Recovery is an individual lifestyle for each of us.

Each of us has a divine purpose for being here in this particular lifetime.

You are here to do You better than anyone else could.

I’m here to do Chris because she’s the only person I get to be too.

Really I do think getting the right treatment right away has enabled me to have a better life.

Life isn’t supposed to be easy for anyone of us. Yet nothing worth having comes without effort.

Giving up on ourselves or our loved ones isn’t an option.

The fact is recovery is still possible even if you got delayed treatment. Positive change is possible at any point in your life or your loved one’s life.

What becomes the option if you or your loved one got delayed treatment?

Developing work-arounds to use to have as happy and healthy a life as possible given that you might have it harder.

Settling for less than optimal health is the route to a miserable life.

Sometimes you have to fire a treatment provider–either yours or your loved one’s–and find a better shrink or therapist who’s more competitive in wanting to see their patients do better.

In my memoir Left of the Dial there’s a scene where I have to flee an unprofessional doctor and seek treatment elsewhere.

I don’t advocate being rash in doing this. Yet if your intuition tells you and in your judgment you think you’re not getting the best possible care:

I recommend researching new providers.

Resources to Recover in the NY NJ CT MA area has a provider referral directory.

Family member and peer-reviewed recommendations are available on the Resources to Recover website.

Like I said I will go to my grave championing getting the right treatment right away.

In a coming blog entry I will talk about my experience as a family member of a loved one as well as a peer with her own lived experience.

Recovery for Everyone

I’m an Author Advocate and Visionary.

I believe in my vision of “Recovery for Everyone.”

Recovery is not and cannot be a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Today I realized the dilemma I face in championing recovery for everyone:

Not everyone WANTS to recover. I found this out on Monday.

It seems hard to believe – yet I have met a person who doesn’t want to recover.

If you’re basing “recovery” on becoming a CEO like a friend of mine did you’re setting yourself up for an impossible standard.

The point of recovery is not to achieve status in the world with a traditionally accepted job or relationship or lifestyle.

Rather the goal if you ask me is: “To Thine Own Self Be True.”

Recovery is possible when you first like yourself and are willing to go down your own path to get to where you want to be.

If you ask me it’s a realistic not just noble goal to want to do a little better and be a little better every day.

I will always get flak. It’s because I’m a Visionary who dares think recovery is possible.

What I know to be true–that having your own version of a full and robust life in recovery is possible–is often not accepted in the mainstream. My critics don’t accept this view of what’s possible.

Wanting or expecting to become a CEO isn’t in the cards for every one of us.

Yet whatever our individual limitations are we can and should develop “work-arounds” to make our lives as happy and healthy as they can be.

I will go to my grave championing that getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.

Getting the right treatment right away has the potential to halt or totally stop disability in its trajectory.

Need I say more?

Yet regardless of the degree of disability that any of us face:

I say giving up hope is a mistake.

I’ll talk more about getting the right treatment right away in the next blog entry.