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.

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Mental Healthcare Change

To start a more productive conversation about mental healthcare change we must talk about the root of societal ills: the economic growth model exposed in my Left of the Dial blog recently.

America–a capitalist society–has as its economic foundation the growth model.

Only the economic growth model is ravaging the earth, causing resource depletion, and human rights violations too.

This economic model has also created a prison employment sector that exploits “the justice-involved”: incarcerated individuals, their families, and communities.

It’s the “school-to-prison” complex that disproportionately has a greater effect on low-income communities and people traditionally called minorities. (I detest using the word minority to describe a person.)

I’m thinking now about how to create positive lasting changes. As I’ve not ever thought our government will ever be invested in catering to ordinary citizens instead of Citizens United corporations.

How then can we get positive mental healthcare change enacted? What can we do? Talking about injustices hasn’t corrected this imbalance of power.

Today peers are still criminalized, winding up in jail not treatment for crimes committed while symptomatic. While in jail there’s no medication given. That’s how a guy with SZ was able to self-amputate his tongue while locked up.

It’s no joke.

All of this is ultimately linked to the economic growth model. The prison industry actors make tons of money when people are jailed–and these corporations have the big bucks to lobby the government to do their bidding.

“Anything to make a buck” is the prevailing ethic of capitalist America.

Psych hospitals have been closing down for decades now. In New York City where 8 million people live there are only 112 psych beds available for those of us in crisis.

Insurance companies offer limited psych coverage–so psych hospitals won’t get rich treating patients. Even hospitals operate on an economic growth model!

What’s not right is that in America profits come before people. As long as profits come before serving humanity, no societal ills will ever be vanquished.

Those of us who have the big bucks and want to serve humanity should consider running for elected office. Those of us with the big bucks should consider opening up and operating a psych hospital.

Until this imbalance of power is reversed (I fear it won’t ever be) we have to continue to exert pressure on our elected officials.

Join your local Community Board, get active in mental health and other initiatives in your community.

You’re Not an MD So Stop Giving Medical Advice

Chris Bruni is not an MD. I refuse to give medical advice.

Telling someone to discontinue their medication and offering a method to do so is practicing medicine without a license.

I’m not here to tell people what they should do. The story I tell–the only one I have to give–is my story. I can and will talk about how taking the SZ medication every day enabled me to be in remission for over 25 years so far.

A friend of mine who doesn’t have SZ I consider to be my soul mate. He discontinued his psych medication under supervision and is perfectly fine years later.

What gladdens me is that although he’s been successful he doesn’t give people medical advice. He thinks most people with SZ need to take medication.

My friend hasn’t attacked me–like so many anti-psychiatry folk have done–for choosing to take pills.

I want to be very clear to readers now: telling people they should discontinue their medication is practicing medicine without a license.

At this point I won’t even tell people they must take medication because as said I’m not an MD.

We can only share our stories with each other. It’s up to each of us to decide what we want to do.

If someone asked me I would tell them that I think discontinuing SZ medication is too risky to chance it. That’s my belief and my friend’s belief.

You can decide for yourself if this makes sense to you. You have the choice.

Yet I also think that choosing psychosis over health is a big mistake.

No one I know who discontinued their SZ pills got better. They started hearing voices again. (I’m lucky I didn’t ever hear voices.)

Yet even stating this I cannot tell you or anyone else what to do or how to do it.

I urge you if you’re a paid peer specialist as your job not to dispense medical advice without a license. You’re not an MD. You’re not licensed to diagnose and treat illnesses.

In the coming blog entries I’m going to talk about practical career information again.

My goal is to publish You Are Not Your Diagnosis in October 2018 which is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

5 Benefits of Taking SZ Medication

Here I’d like to talk about something I referred to in my employment talk at the 2016 NAMI-New York State educational conference.

For those of us who could benefit I want to offer a positive perspective on taking SZ medication.

In my firsthand experience and from observing others it’s my firm belief that most people diagnosed with SZ need to take medication to have a better chance at living a full and robust life.

Taking medication can give a person a competitive advantage in succeeding at setting and achieving goals in the real world.

Here now I’d like to talk about the benefits of taking medication for those of us who need to:

Side effects can be managed.

As soon as I switched the dose time to taking the tiny dose in the morning and the high dose at night–voila–I was wide awake every single day and no longer falling asleep on the job.

You’re in control.

I guy I love told me that he feels “calm, in control, and focused” when he takes medication.

Exceptional M.D.s and therapists can be found treating mental health conditions.

You can go on the Resources to Recover Website to view the directory of family-endorsed providers in the NY-NJ-CT-MA area.

True mind freedom is possible.

With clarity of thought and balanced moods it’s easier to live your life.

People who take medication can have better health and live longer.

One study revealed that peers who took medication were better able to stay on top of their health and actually lived longer.

A friend of mine with SZ is now 72 and he’s taken medication since he was 13.

On Thursday I’ll return with details about how the employment talk went and things I talked about. It was a smashing success.

 

The Triangle of Mental Health: Appropriate Medication

One of the three parts of what I call the Triangle of Mental Health is appropriate medication.

Not everyone requires medication yet for those who do I advocate getting appropriate medication given out by a reputable professional.

A study indicates that those who take medication live longer because they’re mentally healthy so that they can navigate keeping medical appointments and attending to their health overall.

My stance has always been that people who require medication shouldn’t be attacked. No one should be critical of any of us peers for the choices we make in recovery.

Research also indicates that giving patients high doses of medication isn’t good.

The earlier a person is treated it’s more likely they can take a lower dose.

Yes: I’m against the historically sanctioned practice of giving patients high doses of medication and no individualized treatment and no practical career counseling.

Those are the other two parts of the Triangle of Mental Health and I’ll talk about them next: quicker individualized treatment and practical career counseling.

 

Exercise for Schizophrenia Treatment

I reported on the link between exercise and improved cognition for people diagnosed with schizophrenia. At HealthCentral three years ago I reported on a study linking interval training to a reduced waist circumference in people with schizophrenia.

I’m confident that strength training has turned my life around for the better. I was 46 when I started to train at the gym like a madwoman. Strength training or as it’s called resistance training is the best way to maintain a better weight.

Though I lost only about five to seven pounds this is because I gained muscle. So even though I didn’t lose a significant amount of weight I dropped one pant and skirt size.

More than this it’s true that engaging in lifting weights conditions your mind as well as strengthens your body. You develop what I call “emotional spine.”

Having this strength enables us to take care of our loved ones who are getting older or who have a mental illness.

Having emotional spine allows us to live strong and not get blown apart by creepers who post hateful comments in the comments section below Internet news articles.

I’ll trust that those creepers are worth listening to when they say something that actually makes sense. A so-called international expert on PsychCentral attacked me in a comments section below her own news article there when I posted my own comment.

The hate in society–against people diagnosed with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses–I want no part of it. Most likely these haters aren’t kind to anyone they meet. This is their karma they’re experiencing in this lifetime. In a future life they’ll most likely come back as a person with an illness.

I’m not a big Facebook fan. I deactivated my personal account after a woman I friended nine years ago added me to an anti-psychiatry Facebook group without my permission. Social media–and the Internet–can be a tool used for advancing the good of humanity. Yet it can also in rotten hands be used to spread hate and fear and narrow-mindedness.

Everyone has the choice how to treat people. In instances of real discrimination that is when we should take out a lawsuit. Ordinary comments below an Internet news article should be taken with a grain of salt.

I’ll end here by saying that if you want to lighten your load in life you can make this happen by lifting heavy loads in the gym. Or by finding and committing to whatever fitness routine makes you happier and healthier.

I read yesterday that giving yourself a name to describe yourself–like fruit eater–helps make the behavior stick and gives you motivation to continue.

Just call me the Dead Lift Queen.

Getting Treatment is Everyone’s Right

I used to be the Health Guide at HealthCentral’s schizophrenia website for the last nine years.

I reported on the seven diagnostic tools that are to be used to rule out or confirm a person has schizophrenia.

One woman wrote a memoir Brain on Fire. She documented how an astute MD correctly diagnosed her sudden illness that caused psychotic symptoms as being something other than schizophrenia.

I’ve also reported at HealthCentral on the body of long-term research that indicates 25 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia can achieve remission without medication.

I’ve been in remission over 23 years because I take medication.

And even though I’ve written elsewhere that a minority of people don’t need to take medication I’m still attacked.

My point is this: if you are able to choose not to take medication and still be able to function: that’s different. You’re in the minority.

My concern is this: for a significant number of people with schizophrenia who have anosognosia or that is the lack of insight that they have an illness: going without treatment is the quickest route to life-long disability.

I will go to my grave advocating that psychosis is NOT a normal life experience that people should want to experience the rest of their lives. Most people who are psychotic cannot function.

Yes: I dare say the treatment focus should be on individuals who have chronic mental illnesses.

Individuals with chronic schizophrenia who need effective treatment should not be left by the side of the road to fend for themselves while their symptoms worsen and ravage their mind.

Individuals with schizophrenia who are capable of going to work or school should not be told recovery is not possible.

Whatever camp a person is in: none of us should be told that we should accept psychosis as the outcome for the rest of our lives. And this is too often the message we’re being given: don’t take pills. Be proud to be psychotic.

We’re told our lives don’t matter.

While I was employed at HealthCentral I was not a rubber stamp. I didn’t tell people what they might have wanted to hear: that it’s okay not to take medication and it’s okay to disregard upholding the social covenant to act as a responsible citizen.

I wrote easily nine years ago that when it became clear I needed to take medication that I gave up my rights to do what I wanted. Most of all: I don’t want to be psychotic. Psychosis is not a right. It’s a disease.

You’re psychotic: you have the right to get treatment. You don’t deserve to wind up sick, jailed, or homeless. Everyone is worth saving.

I don’t care if only a tiny minority of people are sick, jailed, or homeless. It’s high time these people get treatment.

The Oregon shooter might not have had a mental illness. He might have been a psychopath.

Yet we can no longer be shocked at mass shootings. Outrage without action won’t heal or help individuals who should’ve gotten help in the first place.