Moving the Needle to the Left

I’d jumped into writing about the visionary book.

It seems I’d wrote that I’d write next about how to shift the needle to the left of the dial.

My intent in titling my memoir Left of the Dial was to demonstrate how doing the things you love can help you heal.

Living your life left of the dial–joyously, creatively, and passionately–if you ask me is a beneficial method of healing.

I’ve reckoned with the fact that becoming a trial attorney wasn’t in the cards for me in this lifetime. I was destined to go left when everyone else goes right.

Seeking emotional harmony between your thoughts and feelings is a way to shift the needle to the left. This can be via talking to a therapist. It can be via reducing the nonstop reliance on your electronic devices at all hours of the day and night.

What has changed my life for the better has been exactly this: shifting the needle to the left of the dial.

In the  book How to Make Disease Disappear Dr. Chatterjee recommends keeping a grateful journal. You can buy a hardbound journal to keep at your night table. Write three positive things that happened to you that day before you go to bed.

Dr. Chatterjee refers to a pioneer in the positive psychology movement who asked his daughter three questions every day: “What did you do to make someone else happy?” and “What did someone else do to make you happy?’ were two of the Qs.

Giving joy to others as a daily ritual is the foolproof way to feel good yourself.

We can’t control whether other people do good things for us or simply act for self-gain every day. This isn’t our concern. If we want to feel good, the best way I know to do this is to help others feel good.

Living a healthy life. Living whole and well.

These things are possible when you live in recovery.

That’s the ultimate premise of Left of the Dial: you don’t have to spend the rest of your life in endless hell. You can heal.

 

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The Truth About Recovery

No one else has written about this before either. Again I’m the first to tackle this dynamic in my blog. I want to talk about the truth about recovery.

Not everyone feels like they’ve recovered. This is the distinction. It’s an individual accounting of what your life is like.

In the 1990s I lived at home while I worked at a terrible insurance office job I was ill-suited to do. On paper it might have looked like I recovered because I had a j-o-b.

Only I told my mother: “I want a life.” She responded: “You have a life.”

Little did I know or could articulate then how my time on earth would be forever altered by moving to Brooklyn and becoming a mental health advocate.

It must have been in my subconscious that I understood there was more I was being called to do. Only trapped in that cubicle hell I couldn’t clearly see where the road ahead would take me.

This is partly why I think it’s a mistake to measure a person’s status solely by external markers of success like a house and car and job.

In the 1990s I hadn’t “recovered” in a way that was soul-enriching, life-affirming, and mood-elevating.

This begs for all of us the question: “What is recovery?”

Recovery should be a self-defined lifestyle. You should be the one who’s able to determine the direction of your life.

The question for each of us to ask is: “What kind of recovery do I want to have?” AND “What kind of life do I want to have?”

In the next blog entry I will talk about shifting the needle to the left on the VU meter of life–the theme of Left of the Dial.  This is how I was able to live the kind of life I wanted to have.

I will talk about how to take action in the direction of your dreams.

For there are a myriad ways to recover–as multitudinous as there are people living in recovery.

Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness

I’ve installed the book Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness on my iPad.

The author has a number of physical illnesses that aren’t visible to the eye. Yet her advice could also help individuals living with mental health issues.

Her no-nonsense advice about when to disclose to a romantic partner is specific to those of us with physical woes. Yet it might just be good practice for those of us with mental health conditions too.

A therapist has told me not to disclose too quickly.

You can see my blog entry at the Left of the Dial blog for my take on this: reel the person in on your fishing line with your real self apart from the illness. After they’ve taken the bait, introduce mental health into your conversations.

Talk about how Kanye West has revealed he has bipolar. Talk about a person in your own life who has an emotional illness. Then bring up your own diagnosis in the bare-bones way. You don’t have to reveal every single detail of the symptoms you’ve had.

Ilana Jacqueline’s refreshing take on disclosing early in the dating game intrigued me though. How soon is too soon? How long is too long to wait?

It depends on what your gut or your intuition is telling you is the right time to reveal your condition.

Either way, Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness is a short yet informative read that I’m confident could benefit mental health peers in other ways too. Like for disclosing on your job and requesting a reasonable accommodation. And for creating a job where you can work from home.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to give this book 5 stars on Amazon.

I recommend this book without reservation.

Left of the Dial

My goal in writing Left of the Dial was to chronicle everything that happened after I recovered.

I wanted to dramatize the events that led me to where I am today.

Stories of young people who received the right treatment right away document that a few of them no longer needed medication.

I wasn’t so lucky.

I’m here to tell you that there’s no shame in taking medication to be well.

There’s also no shame if you don’t become a librarian like I did or do the things that other people do.

My goal in telling my story was to offer hope for healing and having your own version of a full and robust life.

In 1988 when I was first diagnosed it was unheard of for a person with schizophrenia to live in her own home and have a full-time job.

Today as of August 2018 you’d better bet it’s possible for more people living with mental health issues to have their own home and work at some kind of job.

This is predicated on getting the right treatment as soon as you need that treatment.

Over the years there’s been near-endless rhetoric about the broken mental health system. About the fate of peers whose illnesses are chronic and persistent and severe. About how their disability progressed to a permanent state because they were denied treatment. Over the years copious amounts of press have been devoted to this.

With no disrespect to anyone I simply wanted to document my story to dramatize what happens when psychiatry gets it right.

Before the Elyn Saks book and before my book there were few positive portrayals. The other first-person accounts hewed to the “misery memoir” genre. This emboldened me to want to publish Left of the Dial.

I say: the goal isn’t to become a famous Ivy League attorney or to become a famous author. The goal is to take inspiration from our stories to craft your own recovery.

Elyn Saks has ongoing symptoms by the way. Proof that you don’t have to be in remission to have a good life.

The truth is that a minority of peers won’t recover as well as I have or Elyn Saks has. This makes it more imperative to advocate for those less fortunate.

The way I see it those of us who are doing well owe a debt to society to do what we can to help others recover.

By telling my story I wanted to show what happens when psychiatry gets it right.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk in more detail about the myth of being a superstar.

26 Years in Remission

I’ve decided I want to act as a storyteller to tell stories from my own life. I’d also like to have other people tell their stories in this blog.

As always, I don’t have a license to practice medicine–I’m not an M.D.

So I can’t give medical advice. I can’t tell people to take medication. Nor can I give instructions on how to discontinue medication.

My goal in telling my story is to uplift and inspire others that there’s hope for healing and having your own version of a full and robust life.

Ann Bartlett at HealthCentral years ago told it like it is:

“Healing is as potent a medicine as a cure can be.”

The reality is critics have attacked me for writing about how taking medication helped me heal.

There’s a whole contingent of anti-psychiatry folk who champion that people have the right to be psychotic. Underneath their contempt of what I write there’s most likely a grain of envy.

They don’t like that I’ve done great things in my life precisely because I take medication. This disproves their claim that medication causes disability.

If I went away, if I watered down my vision to please these people, if I sold my vision to the highest bidder (Pfizer et al), nothing would change in society.

Peers who need to hear my message of hope and healing would be left in the dark. Families would think there’s no hope for there loved ones.

This is my story:

I’ve been in remission from schizophrenia–with zero symptoms–for 26 years as of this month.

This has been possible because I take a dose of maintenance medication.

The details about my recovery are out in the open in my memoir Left of the Dial.

What’s different about my story is that when I was only 22 and first diagnosed I dared think a better life was possible than the one presented to me: living in public housing and collecting a government disability check forever.

I’ve written in here before a blog entry that if I remember right was titled the Myth of Competitive Employment.

One anti-psychiatry critic denounced my success as impossible for most people to achieve.

If that were so, why would I dangle in front of peers a goal that can’t be reached?

Those of us who are doing well–most of us who are doing well–don’t have the courage like I do to talk about this publicly. So it can seem like no one’s able to recover.

The point–as expressed in The Myth of Competitive Employment–is that each person’s definition of recovery is going to be different.

Each of us can find our own version of well inside the illness. My version of well is simply my story. Your version of well is your story.

I really wish more people would come forward to tell their stories.

I wanted to publish Left of the Dial to show how getting the right treatment right away can create a better outcome.

I’ve been in remission 26 years as as of this month.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk about the book in more detail.

Getting Happy

How it went down: I told a person I was going to the gym. She said: “Why don’t you go to a movie?”

It was a gray, rainy, soggy day. I could detect a lack of understanding about my preferred get-happy activity.

For the cost of a $15 movie ticket I’d rather install an e-book on my device that I can read over and over.

You see in little and big ways a lot of people won’t understand you. They could resent that you do your own thing, not what other people tell you that you should do.

The foolproof method that gives me joy is going to the gym. I’ve lifted weights for over seven years. I’ve been a member of the gym for going on 15 years.

One effective tactic for rising above hateful or hurtful comments just might be finding what you love to do and going and doing that.

Engaging in goal-seeking behavior is a good way to feel better as you cross an accomplishment off a list.

Again I’ll refer to the book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions. The winners who cross their finish line execute each of the five steps in the correct order over a 90-day time period.

I’m convinced that most people don’t like to exercise. They simply give up their efforts to get in better shape after two months. They work out religiously then stop.

This is because they’ve done what other people tell them to do or what they think they “should” do: go to the gym.

In tandem with using the Changeology method I think discovering The Fitness You can make all the difference.

Lindsey Vonn the gold-medalist Olympic skier writes about The Fitness You in her book Strong is the New Beautiful.

Vonn gives readers a strategy for finding the kind(s) of exercise you’ll enjoy. Hint: you don’t have to set foot in a gym to get fit.

Recently in here I wrote about setting up a home gym. That’s one alternative option.

Getting physically and mentally fit is the goal.

Unlike most people who simply stop going to the gym and move on:

I don’t feel so hot when I miss a week of exercise.

That’s why I champion finding The Fitness You.

That’s why I endorse engaging in goal-seeking behavior.

It might not be lifting weights that helps you defend yourself against the slings and arrows other people shoot at you.

Thinking in terms of having fitness of body, mind, spirit, career, finances, and relationships is the way to go.

There’s so much more to life than being handed a prescription and sent on your way.

Yes–I might try to find my handout on the Eight Dimensions of Wellness.

I’d like to refer to it in the coming blog entries.

Just remember: lurking inside a hurtful comment is a pebble of what’s bothering the other person.

Happiness is the vaccine that can inoculate us from feeling poorly about ourselves.

Giving Stigma the Boot

This discovery just in:

I figured out why most people don’t understand you.

Their lack of compassion comes from a place of hurt.

Think long and hard about their envy, their critical nature, their attacks.

Doing so you’ll most likely find they feel threatened.

You’re able to have or do something they can’t have or do.

Be empathetic; be ethical in how you interact with these and other people.

Yet remember: you are a person of worth equal to others in society.

You are worthy, regardless of whether you’re in remission or not.

You are a human being and are entitled to be treated with dignity.

Are you struggling? When will this end you might think.

It’s foolish to assume that other people have it easy. You don’t know what’s going on behind their closed door or in their head.

I say: try to have compassion for people who don’t seem to have compassion for you.

One day they could be tested by getting ill. Then suddenly they’ll be clamoring for a way out of pain and for others to understand.

I’ve said it before in my blogs and I’ll say it again: the role of stigma in impeding what a person can do is overrated.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to bounce back from rejection. About how to feel good about yourself when it seems other people don’t understand what you’re going through.

Meet me in the next blog entry for info on how to soldier on in the face of the heavy artillery of other people’s hurtful comments.

They just don’t understand. Get it? I no longer expect outsiders to understand what it’s like. We can’t expect the impossible from other people.

We can only expect ourselves to do the best we can with what we’re given.

I choose to make a lemon meringue pie out of the lemons life throws.