The Myth of Having Dangerous Gifts

It’s a myth that mental health issues are “dangerous gifts.”

Trust me there are people who love having mental health conditions.

I’m not one of them.

SZ is a burden, not a gift. It’s hell. It’s painful to bear. More than dangerous it’s simply destructive.

If I could live one minute without SZ I’d take back all the true gifts I was given–like my writing talent and anything else–for one minute of freedom.

I’d like to know what it’s like to be accepted; to be understood; to be given compassion not screw-faced looks.

I take no joy in passing as a normal person.

Meg Jay, PhD wrote a new book about people who compensate for their hardship:

Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience.

You can take the quiz in the book to see if you fit the supernormal criteria.

We’re in this camp because those of us who faced hardship work longer and harder to achieve what comes easy to regular so-called “normal” people.

We’ve compensated for our early hardship by yes passing for normal when our lives were anything but ordinary.

There’s a solution to accepting and embracing a life with SZ or BP or whatever you have.

Helping others is the foolproof way I know to help yourself have a better life.

“Service above self” is the antidote to pain.

Just remember: I don’t think our pain is a dangerous gift.

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National Recovery Month 2017

September is National Recovery Month. I’ve been in recovery for 30 years now.

The Sixth Edition of Surviving Schizophrenia by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. has good news about schizophrenia recovery at the 30-year milestone:

“In most patients with schizophrenia, the ‘positive’ symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and thinking disorders decrease over the years. A person who was severely incapacitated at age twenty-five by these symptoms may have only residual traces of them at age fifty.”

Long-term studies corroborate that the future can be rosier.

Yet forget the studies and listen to me–I’m 52–and I have a better life now than I did when I was 22.

It’s a myth that most people diagnosed with SZ die 25 years earlier. A good friend of mine is 73 and still alive and kicking. He rose up to become the CEO of corporations even though he was diagnosed when he was 13 and has taken medication since then.

I urge you to think for yourself about what is possible for you or your loved ones.

Other people might be proud to be Mad, and that’s their choice.

No–I’m not proud to have a diagnosis. As the years have rolled by, I’d take back every gift I was ever given if I could live one day without this illness.

No–I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish this on any human being living on earth.

Yet have no fear: the best is yet to be. I’m fond of saying that today is how it is and tomorrow can be better.

I’m living proof that you can have a better life when you’re older than you had when you were first diagnosed.

It takes time to get here. Expecting or wanting quick results will set you up to fail.

Now I find myself wanting to go back and talk about the early stages of recovery, using my experiences as an example.

You have no idea when you’re 22 and first diagnosed that one day you’ll be 52 and you’ll have a great life.

I’m here to tell you that this is possible.

There’s hope and healing for whatever you’re in recovery from.

Inspiration for Risking Change

Yes: I think that I succeeded because I have a diagnosis of SZ not in spite of it.

You have two options in how you respond to a diagnosis that could change your life plans:

Give up and buy what other people are selling: that there’s not much you can do.

Or like I did you can become more determined to defy everyone’s expectations.

That’s the difference: the diagnosis motivated me to try my best to succeed.

Before the diagnosis I always wanted to live an artist’s life in the city. After the diagnosis I quickly realized that I could do this because it was under my control whether I at least tried to do this.

As long as I gave my goals my best shot, it wouldn’t matter if I failed. The same goes for you. The only real failure is the failure to try.

As a kid, as a younger person, I lived on Staten Island–the borough where the cop killed Eric Garner in a choke-hold. It wasn’t the place I wanted to continue to live.

It was a world of white conformity in every way–devoid of color; devoid of culture.¬† I wanted to escape ever since I was in college.

After I was diagnosed I realized that if I acquiesced to the life plan I was being sold [collecting SSI forever and forced to live in public housing] I wouldn’t ever get out.

Take this tip from me as to what I did next:

I had the courage to risk change because I believed that tomorrow could be better.

Know this as I did then:

Whatever you want to do in life is under your control because it’s up to you to take action to try to get there. The choices you make today will help you get to where you want to be tomorrow.

Start your engines. The road is wide open.

3rd Anniversary of Flourish Blog

This month celebrates the 3rd anniversary of the Flourish blog.

In 2007, I started to keep the first incarnation of my blog. It’s out there; I just don’t know how it can be found. Google shut down an account of mine and this prevented me from continuing to post blog entries there.

The second blog I kept after that I chose to deactivate for public reading once I started keeping this blog.

This Flourish blog celebrates its 3rd anniversary this month.

I send out a million thanks to all my faithful readers and to the readers who come and go every so often. I send out a million thanks to all my loyal followers.

I keep this blog because I’m committed to advancing a positive portrayal of recovery.

Of what happens when “psychiatry gets it right.”

Not only that to show that each of us has the power to create our own version of a full and robust life for ourselves.

It might be true that if I were anti-psychiatry I’d get more followers or more clicks or more eyeballs.

Yet this is my blog where I choose to be in the vanguard as always by writing in a passionate voice about health, wealth, and happiness.

Right now I choose not to focus on illness, symptoms, and medication.

Other websites exist that focus on this information.

Instead, I choose to focus on fitness in all its myriad forms.

Fitness is comprised of mind, body, spirit, finances, career, and relationships.

My goal in the coming summer for this blog is to be bold and be innovative in advancing my agenda that peers can achieve their own version of a full and robust life.

This is going to be a different lifestyle for each of us.

Yet I think we can all agree that staying out of a hospital is a noble goal that can often be achieved for a lot of us.

Years ago–going back fifteen years ago–I was keen to tell people that the medication gave me a life worth living. Right now I choose not to talk about this aspect of my recovery. I choose to talk about lifestyle strategies instead.

This is because a person recovers not solely because of the medication. You recover because of the actions you take. Helping yourself–and reaching out for help when you can’t go it alone–makes all the difference.

In this blog and at the Left of the Dial blog I’m going to touch-up and refresh what I write about to remain innovative.

Here’s to the next 3 years!

Recovery is an Open Door

Tonight I’ve changed the wording in a couple of sentences in the book description for Left of the Dial on Amazon.com.

You live–you change your mind. I deleted the reference to achieving a “pre-illness dream.” I replaced it with wording that you can have your own version of a full and robust life.

Going on over two years since the memoir was published I’ve learned something profound, more realistic, and hopeful in terms of what is possible:

That when we get older we can discover that we have a new talent that we didn’t have before we got sick.

This is the real hope. The truth is that the illness can attenuate for a lot of us in our older years. So the point isn’t that to be considered successful we must–or can–achieve our pre-illness dreams.

The point is that I didn’t achieve my pre-illness dream of getting a Masters’ in Journalism.

This is the far more remarkable thing: that a person can have better life after they’ve had a breakdown than before. And this life isn’t always the one we wanted or expected to have.

Nothing succeeds like persistence. Recovery isn’t quick and it isn’t easy–it’s challenging and hard at times. Yet it can be a beautiful expression of the potential within each of us to do some kind of personally meaningful “work”–paid or not.

There’s an ending to the expression: “When one door closes, another door opens.” It’s this: “Yet we often look so longingly at the door that closed that we don’t see the one opening before us.”

It’s a mistake to regret what cannot be. It’s a gift to embrace what life has in store for us when we dare to walk through the open door.

No one else has stated in these exact words what I’ll be the first person to tell you now:

Recovery is an open door.

Mental Health Awareness Month 2017

Do you want to remain invisible for the rest of your life?

Do you want to NOT be there when they count out the dues?

Do you want that the decades-old status quo of no treatment, failed treatment, or delayed treatment continues on forever in American society?

By living in hiding we maintain the status quo of decades of inequality in healthcare; inequality in housing; and inequality in having the quality of life that other Americans take for granted.

To remain silent is to fail to be counted. To remain in hiding is to fail to be seen and acknowledged.

It’s 2017: there can be no shame, no guilt–about having an illness; a diagnosis; about having been attacked if you were a victim; about being the object of someone’s hate; about experiencing trauma.

We must demand an equal stake in the rules–that is the laws–the U.S. government imposes on us. We cannot continue to sit idly by while other people–and elected officials–decide our fate.

Ralph Ellison in his book The Invisible Man wrote: “I am an invisible man because no one sees me.”

The saddest thing is to become invisible to yourself–to keep making yourself smaller and smaller so that other people can accept you.

I say: we must tell our stories, or we won’t get funding for the housing, treatment, and research studies we need.

I find it interesting that a person who ISN’T “living with” a diagnosis of SZ could claim in a review of my memoir that no one can recover.

I’ve talked the talk as a mental health activist for the last 15 years. Now I’m walking the walk having created a business to help people recover.

I want to ask that book reviewer: what is your priority in life? If you think no one with SZ can recover why aren’t you doing anything to try to help us recover?

For too long, outsiders have been looking into the lives of people diagnosed and living with SZ and making judgments about our worth, our abilities, and our strengths.

They seem to be okay with near-endlessly deriding us for the choices we make (which might include taking medication for a lot of us).

They seem to be okay with not doing anything to help us recover.

They seem to be okay with near-endlessly parroting that we can’t recover.

They seem to be okay with standing in judgment of the lifestyle choices of those of us who do recover–as if we don’t have the right to choose the best option for our individual needs.

We need cheerleaders–not critics. We need people cheering us on. We need to be given compassion. We need to be listened to and understood.

Capisce?—as the Italians would say. Understand?

My goal for this spring–it’s an actual goal–is to use my persona to challenge what people think of a person diagnosed with SZ.

I’m tired of being singled out as some kind of exception. To what? I want to ask: To what am I the exception when I’m only being myself?

I’m Chris Bruni. I was diagnosed with SZ when I was 22. This August I’ll have been in remission–out of the hospital and with zero symptoms–for 25 years.

In October I’ll have been in recovery 30 years.

This is my story. What’s yours?

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.