Having a Plan B (And Plan C)

Your life can change after you get a mental health diagnosis. I’m here to say that though your life is different it can be better.

Having a Plan B when your Plan A doesn’t work out  is critical. You should also have a Plan C and D. Heck, you can have two plans going on at once.

In my twenties I had the dream of rising up to be a corporate Executive. That didn’t happen. So I went back to school to get a library degree. Now my goal of publishing the second book is taking longer.

No one has ever talked about how to proceed after a setback when you have a mental health thing. I’ll tell you here: you have to figure out if it’s the goal itself that is not right–or if the method for achieving the goal is wrong.

A nifty way for figuring out the life path you should go down might be met with skeptical response. Yet I firmly recommend studying the life work of Caroline Myss. She created a philosophy of Archetypes and Sacred Contracts.

Like what happened when I was in my twenties a lot of us pine to be someone we’re not. No–I wasn’t cut out to be an Executive–I didn’t have that archetypal pattern.

My theory is that when a person understands how their archetypal patterns interact they are better able to figure out what the right goals are to have if they want to succeed in life.

I’m going to talk about archetypes and sacred contracts in a coming blog entry.

Casting your Chart of Origin and analyzing how your archetypes express themselves through you might just be as helpful as taking any career quiz.


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.

Latest Book News

I’m working on a second book titled You Are Not Your Diagnosis.

It’s a school and career guide for mental health peers.

To this end I have started up my Facebook Author page again.

The link to the Facebook page is at the very bottom of my website christinabruni.com

Since I’m starting to publish numerous books both fiction and nonfiction I’m committed to using my Facebook Author page more consistently.

I’m a reluctant user of Facebook after a person signed me up for an anti-psychiatry Facebook Group without my permission circa four years ago.

This person didn’t ask me if I wanted to join. She signed me up without my knowledge. When I found out I deactivated my personal account.

I still don’t like to interact with people on a personal Facebook page.

My intent in having a Facebook Author page is to communicate information and inspiration to mental health peers.

This to me is a great way to stay in contact with readers and give people who Like my page a valuable service.

For better or worse social media is here to stay as a relationship-building tool.

Since I find my always-optimistic preaching that “There’s always hope” isn’t always welcome on certain Facebook Groups:

I decided the best way to communicate my message is to start up my Facebook Author page.

In this blog over the last over three years I’ve championed “Recovery for Everyone.”

I will always maintain that the goal to shoot for is to have a full and robust life.

I’m a family member as well as a peer with lived experience.

I understand that coping with our loved one’s illness can be a roller coaster.

Still I maintain: there’s always hope.

Recovery for one person might involve being able to get up and take a shower and go to a coffeehouse for for the day.

Recovery for another person might indeed be having a job as a CEO.

Everyone struggles. There’s a purpose in the pain though that purpose might be hidden.

I simply want to create things of beauty to share with others to make them feel good.

Giving others joy: I say YES to giving others joy.

We don’t need anymore negative chatter in the world.


Just Say No to Permanent Psychosis

I’m an actual Visionary.

I think differently and I see things differently.

It occurred to me in a bout of my typical unusual thinking that there would be one very effective way to get the government to enact mental health treatment:

Tell our elected officials that when individuals access medication we’ll be lining the coffers of pharmaceutical companies.

Our elected officials would rally around this particular economic flag if treating first-episode psychosis immediately would make drug companies rich.

In case you’re not keen to side with me in this atypical argument I want to offer you other proof that continuing to stand by and do nothing while individuals are left to get sicker and sicker is NOT the answer.

I have had the misfortune this morning to be told that a person who had 2 psychotic breaks in 3 years is permanently damaged and nothing can be done about this.

Even Elyn Saks the celebrity schizophrenia person who obtained a JD from Yale and is a law professor at the University of Southern California stated in her memoir that she’ll never be recovered.

It can’t be a coincidence that she stated this after writing in her book that she discontinued her medication at least 3 times and wound up psychotic after each time.

“I’m done” with not talking about this.

I’m done with standing by in silence while Mad People who are proud to be psychotic champion that no one should take psych medication under any circumstance.

I’m done with talking about stigma and not doing anything to solve this ongoing hate and discrimination against mental health peers like you and me.

I will go to my grave championing getting the right treatment right away when someone undergoes first-episode psychosis.

It’s the premise of my memoir Left of the Dial:

My mother drove me to the hospital within 24 hours of my breakdown. A day later I was given Stelazine and three weeks later the symptoms were gone.

In April 1992 I discontinued the medication under my shrink’s guidance. Within three months I relapsed and wound up in the hospital for almost two weeks.

Since July 1992–for over 25 years so far–I’ve taken a maintenance dose every day.  For over 25 years I’ve been symptom-free and in remission.

Again I’ll repeat Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote:

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Those of us who are recovered and doing well owe a debt to society to try to help make things better for others who are less fortunate.

Again: I was told today that a person who had 2 psychotic breaks in 3 years is now permanently damaged with no hope.

On the Mad in America website a mother whose daughter developed SZ wrote these exact words: that the mother wished she had allowed the progression of the disease instead of medicating her daughter.

This is what we’re up against folks: people who think chronic disability is acceptable.

I’m on the side of the person who told me today that their loved one had 2 psychotic breaks in 3 years and is permanently damaged.

Pfizer can take my money for the rest of my life.

Any questions?


New Law Seals Up to 2 Convictions in NY

A new law in New York seals up to 2 convictions for non-violent and non-sex offender crimes

According to the Wall Street Journal article:

The law will let New Yorkers apply to seal up to two convictions, including one felony, for crimes other than sex offenses and violent felonies, starting 10 years after their sentencing date or release from prison.

MacMillan, ThomasAuthor InformationWall Street Journal, Eastern edition; New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]06 Oct 2017: n/a.



New Year New Hope

The New Year is here.

This year 2018 offers new hope for all of us to move closer to what we want to get in our lives.

My literary agent will soon pitch to editors a second nonfiction book.

Stayed tune for information about this in early February.

Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been writing fiction. I would like to publish this first novel within 3 years along with the second nonfiction book.

Three weeks ago the novel was only 60 pages and today it is 225 pages.

Yes–it’s true–I haven’t ever had writer’s block. Alas, I often get in “the flow” of inspiration. At all hours of the day and night images and sentences and dialogue come into my head quickly and freely.

It can be eleven o’clock at night and I’ll be struck with inspiration and have to get everything written on paper.

The idea of being in “the flow” state as has been described in the literature is a myth.

Getting struck by inspiration at all hours of the day and night is actually akin to being locked in a cage unable to get out.

You don’t know when this “flow” of ideas is ever going to stop.

You get your trusty pen and hardbound journal. You start writing one sentence and then another sentence. Then you’re writing other sentences and this madness doesn’t stop until three o’clock in the morning.

For someone possessed with this kind of gift “the muse” commands you to keep writing and not stopping.

You write and write at all hours of the day and night.

That is how I have come to start writing my first novel.

That is how I have come to have written a second nonfiction book.

My goal is to publish the second nonfiction book this October 2018 which is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The book is a school and career handbook for mental health peers.

I will tell you more about this book in early February.

In the coming weeks I will talk again about setting goals and resolutions.

Happy New Year!