Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day.

If you click on the veterans category on the right you might be able to still find the CNN video with one of the Marines who served on Iwo Jima in World War II.

My father was a veteran. He served in the Army. Then he served in the Reserves when I was a kid.

We need to honor and remember those who served our country. We need to honor and remember the soldiers who are still serving our country.

CSA Boxes

A CSA is Community Supported Agriculture.

In New York City you can get a CSA box delivered to your house or apartment via Fresh Direct instead of having to travel to an inconvenient location to pick up a CSA box and then schlep it home.

The photo below features a salad created with CSA box produce: red romaine lettuce, red oak leaf lettuce, greenhouse tomatoes, and french breakfast radishes.

You can buy the indispensable book Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop.

I go running to this cookbook all the time in Greenmarket season.

Also in the box was kohlrabi and I’m going to make a recipe with this vegetable too.

The box contained yellow chard and baby red bok choy too.

greens

This is the spring table decor. A joyful table can put you in the mood to linger over your food.

I didn’t post the zucchini recipe. I realized I had posted a blog entry with this recipe years ago. It might be in the recipes category link on the right.

I will return in the coming week to topics I refer to in my upcoming non-fiction books.

Schizophrenia Diagnostic Tests

What a clueless book reviewer and others don’t seem to realize is that for close to nine years I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website. While I was employed at that job I wrote news articles that featured unbiased factual information. Of course I always wrote articles there about what I thought could be useful strategies for living in recovery too.

Today I’m compelled to crib the information from a slide slow I published at HealthCentral circa 2014.

I ask you: do you think I would want someone to take medication if they didn’t have to? Do you think I like having this illness? Do you think one-size-fits-all treatment is the way to go? The answer to these questions should be NO.

Now here’s the slide show I wrote in 2014: (Yep–no one else on either side of the aisle dared write this. I was the only one.) It’s a little long to scroll down on a cell phone yet I didn’t want to break it up into two entries.

To diagnose schizophrenia certain tests must be given. 

First of all, a brain tumor or herpes encephalitis should be tested for to rule out that the person has one of these illnesses that mirrors schizophrenia.  The following information was taken from Surviving Schizophrenia, 6th Edition by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.  I recommend you buy this book to have on hand.  It’s the most recent version of this Family Manual that was first published in 1987.

It’s better to put your mind at ease about yourself or a loved one rather than jump to the conclusion that schizophrenia is always the cause of psychotic symptoms.

A diagnostic workup should include:

History and Mental Status Examination.

A review of organ systems will turn up illnesses that mirror schizophrenia.  Asking the kinds of drugs a person is using will turn up evidence of street drug use that could cause the psychiatric symptoms, or of prescribed drugs that have these kinds of symptoms as a side effect.  A mental status examination is where the individual is asked such questions as “Do you know where you are?  and What is today’s date?” As well as abstract questions like “What does the expression ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss?’ mean?”

Physical and Neurological Examinations.

Asking a patient to draw a clock or write a sentence can identify individuals with other brain diseases like brain tumors or Huntington’s disease.

Basic Laboratory Work: Blood Count, Blood Chemical Screen, and Urinalysis.

A blood test can turn up pernicious anemia, AIDS, or lead intoxication.  A thyroid function test should be ordered as well as a routine test for syphilis.

Psychological Tests.

This kind of test can be useful in early or borderline cases to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

MRI Scan.

According to E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. “An MRI scan should be done on every individual who presents with psychosis for the first time.”  Multiple diseases picked up by an MRI mirror the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Lumbar Puncture.

For patients experiencing certain symptoms such as headaches, rapid onset of psychotic symptoms, visual or olfactory hallucinations, neurological signs or symptoms of central nervous system disorder and concurrent or recent history of flu or fever.

Electroencephalogram (EEG).

This is used like the lumbar puncture to rule out or confirm other diseases.  It should be ordered for individuals with a history of meningitis or encephalitis, birth complications, or severe head injury; also for individuals that had episodic psychotic attacks with a sudden onset.

Other tests may be warranted depending on the presenting symptoms.  Make sure you or your loved one gets a full diagnostic workup.  To turn an expression on its head, all roads do not lead to Rome.  Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical in the treatment of schizophrenia or any of the other diseases that might be occurring.  Getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.  Forming a preconceived idea about the type of illness a person has can lead to ineffective treatment that can make things worse.

 

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.

Cooking Meals

Here it is the miracle product:

red copper

This is the Red Copper frying pan you can get in Rite Aid for $20 or so.

It’s easy to clean–you can’t use S.O.S. or Brillo–not a wool pad. Use dish detergent that you scrub with a scrubber sponge and then rinse off.

I had no idea the ubiquitous status of this humble frying pan.

Until I saw the woman who was the spokesperson for Red Copper hawking one of the baking pans for $59 on TV.

Everything cooks quickly in the pan featured in my photo. Eggs especially so you have to watch over them while they’re cooking.

If I remember right this Red Copper pan doesn’t use chemicals to make it non-stick. You can find non-stick frying pans that don’t have chemicals.

I would like to return here on the weekend with a seasonal recipe that I delight in cooking from June through September.

It features zucchini–my favorite vegetable.

I think Greenmarket season is a magical time of year for buying a bounty of fresh, local, and organic produce that you can cook with.

It’s true: the food you eat can boost your mood.

 

 

 

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?

Budgeting for Food

People who hang out shingles as personal finance experts will tell you to allot only certain strict percentages to categories of spending like utilities and food and entertainment.

I say: that’s bull crap. You can absolutely spend more in one category as long as you cut down and reduce or halt spending in the categories that don’t matter to you.

Case in point: though I’m a single person I spend a ton of money on food each month. My contention is: it’s better to exercise and eat right even if that costs a lot–than to wind up in ill health and have to pay a hospital bill.

Now that the Greenmarket season is here I’m going to reiterate like I do every year: in New York City you can use food stamps to buy produce at Greenmarkets.

This is a great thing. Other people might judge a person who uses food stamps to buy expensive food. That’s not right. Poor people deserve to eat healthful food. Poor people deserve to be healthy too.

Wherever you live you might have an online grocer like PeaPod that delivers food. In New York City FreshDirect delivers food and household items.

This beats walking or driving to a food market, wheeling a shopping cart around, and standing in a long line. Plus you’ll use up a lot of gasoline making weekly trips to a food market.

I’m all for curbing or ending our reliance on foreign or other oil supplies.

In the next blog entry I’ll write about a miracle product that you can use to cook food with.