Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The theme of today's blog duet is feelings and healing.

Once a book came into the library titled Ceilings and a guy started singing: "Ceilings, whoah whoah whoah ceilings" riffing on the song lyrics.

Right now I'm not amused.

Nelson Mandela got it right: "There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you."

This all-time great also believed [and I've quoted this a million times]: "As we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

Why are flashlights in such short supply in the world?

When did it become acceptable to treat each other like big fat zeroes?

This is not. How human beings. Should act.

My second book is 156 pages now and I quote Nelson Mandela in one chapter.

In it I talk about a lesson I learned: about owning your feelings and recognizing them as true. You are entitled to your feelings. Nobody has the right to trample on you.


Sometimes: you need to make a graceful exit from a relationship that isn't working.

I walked away from a woman because of what happened to me when the Stelazine lost its effectiveness. How I see it: I could have been a better friend to her. I'm wise enough to know that should I be so presumptuous to think I could bop back into her life she might not want to let me in again. How could I be certain things would be different?

So you move on as we all do and you make your peace.

I have the confidence that I have not ever treated another person like a rook.

We should all have a flashlight equipped with working batteries and replace them when the light dies out.

The relationship you have with yourself deserves to be kind and generous as well.

The sad reality is I'm preaching to the choir here and I sing off-key.

This is also the truth: if you expect great things from a person he will rise up to meet your expectations.

You can get a flashlight real cheap: it's called a smile.



It is something that I do: seek justice.

We are all rooks-people diagnosed with SZ and other mental illnesses are treated like rooks. I cannot bring myself to describe what a rook is except to say it's a person who is less than zero-less than even a piece of____.

How can we hope to recover if our therapists and psychiatrists treat us like babies or worse-like rooks. You can read the poetry book by Gil Fagiani titled Rooks about his time at a military college where the freshmen were treated like ____.

This poet has out now a book El Blanquito in the Barrio loosely translated as a white person in Harlem about his experiences in the 1970s. I recommend you buy both books.

So I feel we have to fight back. The song "We're not gonna take it" comes to my mind now.

It was interesting that because of my earliest experiences in the mental health community-first at a day program and also at a residence in a housing project-I got out and stayed out. I kissed that life good riddance.

The idea that someone with a dx can only be a peer advocate rubs me the wrong way too. I believe we can all be mental health activists on our own terms not on the limits imposed on us by society.

This ties into my Left of the Dial philosophy: be who you are the one and only you.

I'm going to keep this blog entry short because I'm going to write another one when I'm done here. Today's feature will not be a silent movie.

There's this stereotype that if you have schizophrenia and you're not babbling or living on the margins that you were misdiagnosed and don't have a mental illness: that's how low some professionals think of us.

So how does a person fight back? First: you develop backbone. How do you do that? You take risks and do things that give you the confidence to take more risks. You start with one challenge and work on it and next you work on something else.

All the while: you do not give in to the people who say it can't be done or that your role in life is to be a mental patient warming a chair at a clinic or Clubhouse.

Expect success. Do the thing you think you cannot do: to quote Eleanor Roosevelt. Expect respect. Settle for nothing less.

Have a good day.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Breezy Point

Have you ever lost a weekend?

I spent my time yesterday and today working on the second book. It will be published by 2014 and is my latest obsession since the memoir is complete at 369 pages.

A writer cannot not write.

I wrote my Life List on the back of a bookmark that advertised how to create a Life List of things to do before you die. I call mine The Sand Pail List: To Grow Young Again-instead of the bucket list. The idea is that I want to collect memories in the pail and carry it home after a life on the beach.

I wrote a short evocative poem a couple of years ago:

Breezy Point

the little girl
in a red-stripe bathing suit
at the beach
with a blue sand pail
and a box
of ginger snaps

doesn't know
the life that awaits her

here she is--
forever innocent
in a photo
her mother
or father took

she is

and unaware.


The Sand Pail List - To Grow Young Again:

1. Sicily
2. champagne - often
3. driving down the Amalfi Coast
4. Maine for a seafood supper
5. San Diego - again
6. Spain
7. Day trips once a year
8. Diploma in image consulting
9. New School retired professionals writing workshop
10. fashion decorating and organizing consulting business
11. San Francisco - Sausalito - with a free mind now
12. paint oil paintings
13. volunteer work with Special Olympics
14. photography hobby
15. jewelry designer

Do you have a Life List? I recommend you write one on a napkin or a note card and keep it in a safe place for guarding.

Treasure what you have. Dream of a life beyond measure.

Check off your happiness.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tough Enough

Do you wonder who you would be if this hadn't happened?

That was the question posed to me today by a friend. Only because of how my life turned out I'm glad it happened.

She referred to a Buddhist monk who said that our anger is a part of our lives and we must cradle it like a baby. A radical idea.

It was a mix-up: she left a message on my cell saying she was waiting by the elevators only I was waiting by the elevators and she wasn't there. I had the intuition to ask the security guard if there was s second set of elevators and he said yes. So at that point I went to the pay phone to retrieve my messages to see where she was.

Luckily she was waiting for me and hadn't left although it took us an hour to connect.

Macy's truly is "America's Department Store."

I watched everyone exiting and entering the elevators.

The only thing I bought was a pink dot Tommy Hilfiger sheet set on sale: such a cheerful pattern for the summer.

We had this conversation: how we have to accept life on life's terms and go in the direction life takes us.

She understood I was like a scientist wanting to prove cause-and-effect only sometimes there's no reason why something happens only that you have a defective brain.

She echoed my sentiment that we must embrace the struggle.

To not do so you set yourself up for a lot of heartache.

I know these are revolutionary ideas I'm espousing here.

Each of us wanted to live a simple life unencumbered by the pursuit of material goods.

That's why my sheet set is Tommy Hilfiger on sale not Frette at full price.

The friend quoted a folk song:

Tis a gift to be simple
Tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come down to where you're supposed to be.

I have no great ambition or heights I want to scale.

Only to keep my feet on the ground and just keep moving.

I made the analogy of someone who has been languishing for years and is placed on Clozaril and has a miraculous turnaround and is forced to confront their old life.

It is as I told you: you do not know what the future has in store for you.

It can be even better than you imagined.

I submit that the struggle might always be there however when you change your perception of what's happening that is when your life will change. Using coping techniques is the way you have to put up your fists and duke it out.

You might ask why it has to be this way.

I have no answer for this. I can make the analogy of characters in a novel who grow and change through conflict. We all benefit from having a certain amount of stress to keep us on our toes. Standing still is not an option.

Do you see? Does this make sense?

When all else fails you head to Macy's for retail therapy because when the going gets tough the tough go shopping.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Silver Lining Theory

This blog entry will be devoted to an endless topic of fascination: hope.

How can I tell you that hope is a competency? Hear me out and decide for yourself whether it is true that your life can turn around.

Life at 30 was far different for me than life at 40 and life in my twenties was unremarkable. The psychic told me I went for years not using my talent and that I was supposed to use my talent in the coming years.

Do you want proof that things can change?

I submit to you this:

A woman living in a 5 apartment: the one good thing about her life in 1993- way back 17 years ago. A life lived in the moment. She attended the Summer Garden concerts at MoMa. Took adult education courses at the Learning Annex. Went back to school four years later in the fall of 1997. Obtained her degree and a good job in June 2000. Four years later started her freelance writing career. Six years later signed a contract with a literary agent.

That was the trajectory of my life in the past 18 years I've been out of the hospital. So I can tell you this: you do not know. You cannot throw in the towel. My life is proof: I remember when I was 28 and that time is in sharp contrast to when I turned 40. This was the time span: 12 years.

I urge you to give yourself the gift of 10 years. You simply do not know what the future holds. Every day is a stepping stone to your goal. Honor the dream that won't die.

My second book talks about an exercise I'll describe to you here: honoring your three selves: the one from the past and the person you are today and the one you'll be tomorrow. Write a letter to your younger self and send her on her way. Start where you are now and have compassion for your struggle. Be scrupulous and mine the rocky soil of the path you're on to uncover your diamonds-the good things you have right inside you to speed you on your way. Visualize a day in the future when what you want has already happened and you are living the life you always dreamed of.

So there: a way to honor the past and the present and the future.

I decided to write about this as a preview to my second book.

The idea for this exercise came to me when something someone said sparked me to examine my life in my twenties. It clicked that I needed to honor myself and to do that I had to reflect on the disconnect between then and now.

Are you still not convinced there is hope? Hope coupled with action makes all the difference. So I will always tell people to do at least one thing each day to move towards a goal.

Today I viewed an apartment for sale that turned out to be too small for my furniture. It had a large closet and a coat closet in the hall. Only the kitchen did not have enough cabinets for my dinnerware and glasses and the living room would not fit everything I owned.

Still: viewing the apartment was my one thing to write down in my greatful journal-oh a Freudian slip that is grateful journal. You get the idea.

Do your one thing today and do your one thing tomorrow and keeping doing one thing throughout the days of your life.

Remember: hope coupled with action will guarantee success. I have just given you proof of this. It is irrefutable.

I urge you not to give in to the voice of doubt. Hold a lantern up to your fear and examine what is holding you back. For people with SZ and other mental illnesses I submit the internal roadblocks are far worse than any stigma.


The phone rang when I was typing and it was a friend who I spoke to about my hope theory. He said it could go the other way and there could be a downturn. To that I said sure it's possible yet it's how you respond to the troubles that determines whether you're successful.

So be it. It is not my role in life to talk about the hell though. There will be plenty of sorrow for all of us in our lives. How do I propose we deal with this? With the courage to live true to ourselves and the understanding that we have everything we need right inside ourselves to succeed.

Every cloud is said to have a silver lining. We must look for the silver lining and stitch it into a coat to comfort us as the clouds pass by in our lives.

Hope is an almost irrational response when there is no objective evidence that things will get better.

One last thing I can tell you is that things might not get better what will change is that you can cope better with what goes on. Look fear in the face and do your one thing anyway. Changing your response is sometimes all that is needed to change your life even when external obstacles will always be there.

So you see.


Take action.

Carry on.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Harvest Moon


I went to a storefront psychic.

Her first words were:

"You're here to make a difference."

She said I would make two trips outside the country and that on one vacation I would have a life-changing experience.

Everything she said was true without my prompting her to reveal things.

Later I ducked into a Banana Republic where I bought a pair of elegant sterling silver hoop earrings. I wear them tomorrow when I run errands.

I consider a psychic to be an adviser like a financial planner.

You might not believe in these kinds of things however I find them helpful.


As I type in here I listen to the Eat Pray Love soundtrack CD. It reminds me of my disc jockey days: how I would intuitively mix disparate songs like blues and punk and reggae and modern rock.

The songs on this CD oddly flow. I like the song "The Long Road" with Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The sound of the instruments and the vocals is beautiful.

The Neil Young song "Harvest Moon" is a little happy number with an uplifting beat.

What guy would understand I live my life on the left and listen to the Eat Pray Love soundtrack and Sonic Youth and RadioSophie not Lite FM or Fresh FM or any of those FM pablum stations?

It's an odd CD that wants to make a point through music yet I'm not sure it will sell millions of copies as it's far afield from the mainstream. I'm not a fan of the CD yet it will do. It is kind of jarring.

Would like to see the movie too. Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt wrote the screenplay. She was featured in a write-up in the New York Times because she's a woman in the second act of her life who reinvented herself as a writer.

I recommend you read the book Eat Pray Love. I bought it in a bookstore in New Hope years ago.

Wonder now what kind of cover my memoir will have. I hope it entices readers to buy the book.



I wear the hoop earrings that make me smile.

Now that I spoke with the psychic I have such hope for the coming years. She told me she saw no sickness in my life and that I would not have children. Interesting.

It was too darn hot outside again. I bought sunflowers in the green market and heirloom tomatoes and peaches and whole wheat bread and fresh mozzarella.

The sunflowers are beautiful and droopy. The heirloom tomatoes tasted warm and sweet. You buy them bruised because that is how they come: they're not attractive.

Imagine: human beings are like heirloom tomatoes: our true beauty is on the inside. We have all sorts of eccentricities on the surface that repel others only when they see deeper we are beautiful.

I had this conversation with a woman. I understand that we're of different stripes and people don't always have the same idea of what's acceptable.

Would I say there is something heirloom about those of us who live our lives left of the dial? Of course. We are in the minority. Most people chase the things money can buy and raise kids who covet living in the lap of luxury yet for cultural creatives and others like people living in poverty you cherish the small things.

Like having enough money to buy tomatoes at a green market.

Like hearing a psychic tell you good things are on the way in 2011.

Should I sign a book contract in January:
I buy an iPod that can hold a wild amount of songs. That will be my one gift to myself.

The idea about the tomatoes has taken hold in my mind and won't let go. We are all humble little heirlooms hoping for love and light. We dance under the harvest moon in a joyous epiphany that we are wonderful beyond measure.

In keeping with this theme I remember dessert plates I bought that have fortune cookie designs with little fortunes sticking out:

Why not take responsibility for your greatness?

You think it's a secret but it's not.

Suppose you get what you want.

Love is worth the risk.

Yes: love is worth the risk and we need to take responsibility for our greatness.

I urge you not to overlook the bruised tomatoes of the world.

Enjoy your day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

All You Need Is Love


It is too darn hot outside. I'm back in the living room with the air conditioner and the fan blowing cool air.

The taxi cab yellow purse is mine: that is a reasonable copy that was only $35 not $298 like the original in the Sundance catalog. I will wear it next week when I go on a day trip with a guy friend.

A woman and I had this conversation: should we shoot for so-called normal guys or date peers exclusively? I told her I wrote in an online dating profile that I wanted to meet a guy who was healthy and committed to his recovery. The woman agreed with me that it was within my right to specify this requirement. She didn't want to wind up being a caregiver either and that is what would happen to us if we decided to date guys who continually messed up because they refused to take their medication.

I'm in love with normal now.

I walked about the store carrying various handbags to see which ones I liked the best and the yellow bag won out. I nixed a hot pink one and a large black one with flat silver studs. Could I go back for the pink one tomorrow?

Will you still love me tomorrow as the song goes I know I will love that pocketbook only I don't have room for it unless I donate to the Salvation Army one of my others.

It has been much easier to carry the same black purse to work every day and now I'm bored with it. Everywhere I go I carry that same black bag.

Will I wear the cheerful green cap next Sunday? I'll wear the skinny jeans. All's fair in love when you want to attract someone. So I wear the skinny jeans and the v neck tee shirt.

In Starbucks I once bought a great CD with cover versions of "All You Need Is Love"-the Beatles classic. The new songs sound better than the original. I revised a scene in my manuscript so that it now ends with a quote from magnets on my refrigerator.

I bought 10 years ago a book with a magnetic cover that contains letter magnets you could arrange into poems and stick on the book. Miraculously I found the book in my document bin this spring and was able to create this poem:

Listen You
We are the One
Just Do It

So those words end one of the scenes in my memoir.

The idea that we all want somebody to love and need somebody to love us is central to any good novel as it mirrors our real life quest to be accepted.

There's a romance at the end of Left of the Dial. Stay tuned.


Miracle of miracles: I steamed the wrinkles out of 15 items of clothing today. What possessed me? Did I have the energy? Was I in a sunny mood?

I've decided to donate one of the other pocketbooks to Sal's so I can go back tomorrow and buy the new bag. Mom gave me $50 so I feel I can do this.

A woman I used to know told me that Italian women have a pocketbook for every outfit. She just might be right.

I will go sign off soon because it is getting late.

Will tell you one thing:

I read the ending of the epilogue of my memoir to a woman who said she loved it. I hope it's an ending that will be a keeper. It hints of more to come.

SZ magazine promoted my Living Life column on the cover of its Summer 2010 issue with the tag line: Christina Bruni talks about recovery at mid age.

It's a great article you should subscribe to the magazine and read it. SZ now has a food section with tips and recipes for healthful eating. Next weekend I might try to make the bran muffins featured.

It pleases me that 2012 will usher in my literary life.

I will tell you as soon as I know the publication date of Left of the Dial. I feel I definitely want the subtitle to be A Life of Hope.

Have a good night.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scooter Girl

The image of the scooter girl has returned to me.

I told someone this is how my life turned out and I can only imagine how it would be were I a woman in stilettos who wears 14kt gold and eats dinner with her gal pals at Morrell's Wine Bar.

As soon as I said that it occurred to me there is another way: as a fiction writer I can inhabit a character's life for the experiences of the novel. I can momentarily be another person with each book I write.

So you see: the image of the scooter girl.

A woman told me: "You could be a scooter girl and ride around the neighborhood."

T.S. Eliot famously is quoted: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

On the movie screen of my mind I see a different life: like the one in a print advertisement with gorgeous people on a couch in a living room drinking Champagne.

The woman felt we were not freaks to be saved. She cheered on my fantasy.

That is what I tried to do in my memoir: create unforgettable characters who have personalities and lives apart from their diagnoses. Audrey is a living museum. Blair is a Capricorn.

Here too I remember the lines of a short poem I wrote about my younger self:

the long arm of my memory
reaches for you dear girl
to pull you out of the trash heap
of suburban fright
and plant you on firm soil.

The ending of Left of the Dial has a positive energy.

I do hope you buy the book. I estimate it will be published by 2012-in time for the beginning of the new world. You can read Astrology for Enlightenment about your horoscope leanings circa 2012 as a reflection of the Mayan philosophy of enlightenment and female consciousness.

The world is in a female era in this millennium.

I would like a turquoise blue scooter.

Imagine: that new life. Oh: I have tried in these days to imagine what other kind of life I could have. It doesn't matter. The idea still holds that I'm grateful for the struggle.

Any way I slice it or dice it I can only live through this because I'm a realist and I know I'm lucky. I checked out of the library a book The Story of Stuff about our obsession with things: buying things and replacing them with new things once they become obsolete.

So I tell you: this simple life suits me just fine. I don't need a tomb of gold or whole rooms devoted to dresses or collections of knick-knacks littering my apartment.

The 14kt gold woman can keep her place in the print advertisement.

I'll inhabit another world: where kindness is the ticket price and happiness a true commodity.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grateful Day

Years ago:

I would go with my parents to South Carolina where they had a condo on the waterfront. The K&W restaurant had an early bird special that attracted a lot of senior citizens. We used to rib my aunt-my father's sister-that K&W had a Venetian hour.

Today I was a K&W early bird.

I arrived to the retail district so early that the stores were closed. Luckily the tailor was open. He told me it would be too expensive to alter the Breton shirt and that I should just return it so I sent it back to J.Crew today. It was too big even thought the tag inside was stamped "16 yrs"-as in it was supposed to fit a 16-year old.

The book You Know You Want It has shipped so I should get it soon.

In August I go to Lord & Taylor to see if I can buy a structured black Petite jacket I can wear indoors in the fall and winter to replace the one I donated that was too big on me all these years.

In keeping with the Kinney's shoe store print advertisement that fashion is where you find it I bought for $7 a green v neck tee shirt with a tree design in Walgreen's. Yes: Walgreen's. The item was hanging on a rod at the end of the aisle close to where I was waiting in line. I will wear it tomorrow with my tailored skirt when I go see Dr. Altman.

Sephora beckons and I worry I will buy a lipstick to celebrate:

I've been out of the hospital 18 years.

Truly I'm grateful for my struggle.

How could this be? I see things differently. I knew by the time I was 35 that I wanted to spend my life in service to others.

The more remarkable truth is that I do all this even though it's hard. If everything came easy to me how could I possibly inspire other people on their own life path?

Listen: it is our right to keep certain things private. Nobody has to be any wiser about what's going on. Capisce?

So be it. Life isn't always tea and roses. A woman I know read my Connection blogs and commented that it brought tears to her eyes and yet she didn't once hear me complain. What good would that do?

You cannot change the music of your soul to quote Katharine Hepburn. She got that right. My old soul is tainted in this lifetime with schizophrenia. It will always be here.

Like a rebel I'm a scrappy little fighter challenging convention. Someone who lives her life left of the dial.

Tonight on the phone I spoke with my mother and she asked finally what the title of my book was. She understood it works on multiple levels. The word madness will not appear in the subtitle. Possibly the words A Life of Hope will be the subtitle yet not anything to do with madness.

For the simple reason I don't like the word madness because it invokes an extreme state that nobody can relate to. Yet I will always remember the night I had the breakdown. It is the first and most harrowing scene in the memoir.

I've been in recovery 23 years.

I will quibble with people who say you cannot recover from schizophrenia. You can recover even if you won't ever be cured. There's a difference.

I understand what it's like to struggle because to remember is to understand. Yet it is precisely because I know how hard it is to live life with schizophrenia that I make the case for considering yourself recovered should you get to a certain point.

It is possible I feel this way because I'm an eternal optimist who is now able to live life on her her own terms who feels each of us has the right to define the kind of life she wants to live.

That is the premise of my second book.

It will be hard to change most psychiatrists' minds that have a dim view of what their patients can achieve.

Mark Vonnegut is the son of Kurt Vonnegut and he has schizophrenia and is a psychiatrist whose book will be published in the fall about giving patients the right kind of medication: talk as well as drugs.

I will see if I can interview him at the Connection because this guy is on to something.

The idea that fashion and music can be forms of therapy is not far from my mind on most days either. I was in the elevator and the guy who did the electrical work asked me if I were a fashion designer because he saw my vision board with all the photos of well-dressed women leaning against the wall. I told him no I just loved fashion.

It might be Petite Bateau for me when it comes to tee shirts now especially if that vendor has a Breton stripe or some kind of other stripe that is elegant.

I'm going to wind down this blog entry because it's come full-circle.

The Eric Daman book has a section titled Closet Case about weeding out your closet. That kind of practical advice always fascinates me.

So let me go and log onto the Petite Bateau web site.

Have a good evening.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I regret to tell you Matt Pinfield is no longer spinning music on Saturday nights on 101.9 FM. I tuned in at eight o'clock and some no name disc jockey was mixing far inferior music and he couldn't hold a candle to Matt. Pinfield might now be on at midnight instead however I'm not going to stay up that late to find out.

Regrets I've had a few and this is one of them so I'm going to cry my tears and pick myself up and move on. Matt you will be missed. You were the only reason I listened to that radio station to begin with. Why did you have to go?

Oh well: I'm listening to my Diana Krall CD now.

I figured out an ingenious solution to draw the cool air from the air conditioner in the window all the way to the desk where I'm sitting: I faced the floor fan towards the side of the desk and now the computer area is delightful.

One way you can create such a cross breeze: place a fan facing your air conditioner and the room will be an ice box.


You Know You Want It

It has been 102 degrees round here so I was exiled to the bedroom with the air conditioner on. Mom bought a new one for the living room so now I can use the computer in this room again.

I want to return to a treasured topic: fashion.

I've been re-reading the Eric Daman book You Know You Want It and would like to buy a used hardcover copy from Powell's that is in good condition if I can find one there or on Amazon.

In his introduction he writes:

"We're going to discuss how important what we wear really is, how the world uses the way we dress to draw conclusions about us, and how to use all this knowledge to look our best."

Take heart:

"The key is that 'best' means the way you see it, not the way the world has imagined it. What I want you to come to understand is that your own life, interests, dreams, and inspirations are the building blocks for your personal style-and harnessing your signature colors and pieces will be the trick to creating your own amazing look."

He believes:

"Really, whether you realize it or not, costume design is what you do every time you get dressed."

Eric Daman is the costume designer for the CW show Gossip Girl.

I can tell you that I'm gearing up to revise my style once again. This fall I will buy one petite structured black jacket to wear to work and out to meet editors.

The Breton knit shirt that I exchanged for an XXS is still too big in the shoulders so I take it to the tailor to get altered and if he can't fit it to my body alas I return it and get a credit.

You see I've kind of changed my tune or possibly it was part of my ethic all along: I admire people who are rule breakers and set trends instead of following them. I'm not that kind of chameleon though I'm ready for a change.

I have a pink Oxford shirt and a white Oxford shirt and some long sleeved tee shirts the most elegant one has a low neck and leaf fringe at the neckline and is aubergine.

As a young woman I once borrowed a friend's purple tee shirt to wear to a concert. She was a dramatic kind of woman and I coveted her style.

You see: all my life I've been inspired by other women who dress well and aren't afraid to take risks through fashion. Perhaps this is because I have a Trendy accent style along with my Classic fashion temperament.

Oh: I broke my vow not to talk about the style types in here. Forgive me. I really do think fashion is a kind of shorthand for interpreting the things a woman values in her life and her own personality.

Only 23 years later after I left the radio station I wouldn't be so iron-bound in professing that "you are what you wear" although this is most likely true.

For example: to me a woman who wears a sweatshirt and jeans and sneakers all at once is telegraphing to the world that she doesn't care about impressing people and comfort is all that matters.

Though I would submit wearing sneakers and jeans together has to be one of the most uncomfortable and sloppy looks around.

I understand that a lot of women see nothing wrong with such a look so more power to them. I often remind myself it's not that they don't care how they look they simply feel that dressing that way is perfectly acceptable.

To me I feel kind of bummy in sneakers. I have a pair of brown suede Pumas with mint green suede stripes on them that I will wear with a long green skirt and I have a pair of black sporty walking shoes.

I have two words for you: walking shoes. There's no excuse for wearing sneakers unless you're going to the gym. Save up your money and splurge on RockPorts. You can walk a mile in them no problem because they are walking shoes.

At this point I'm sure a Coach pocketbook is going to be bopped on my head. I'm sorry: I have definite likes and dislikes when it comes to fashion.

Only today the stylist did not show up at the salon. I rushed over in my black pants that end just below the knee and the black sport shoes and and my coexist tee shirt. I wore the white cotton skullcap because I knew I was getting a haircut and didn't want to shampoo it in the morning.

This is the cap that everyone comments on. It's one of my bad hair day hats that I wear to work and running errands on those days when my hair would make little children cry. So the bus driver is Turkish and comments on the coexist tee shirt because it has a Turkish symbol on it and he wonders where I bought it.

"Last year at the West 4th Street fair."

It was my stop so I told him to have a good day and exited the bus.

This whole indirect blog entry is coming to the point I was trying to make: you dress to please yourself not someone else. It took me years to understand this. I still draw the line at green hair and piercings and multiple tattoos whether alone or together on someone's body. Yet I admire a woman who is not afraid to be bold.

As a young woman I was entranced with the goth girls with jet black hair and pale skin who imitated Siouxsie Sioux the iconic lead singer of Siouxsie and the Banshees-a band popular in the 1980s in the counter culture. I slathered on my own dark blue eye shadow and streaked blush and crimson lips that made my face look abused.

I was one of those Siouxsie girls.

That is how it is when you are young and in love with the music. When I heard college radio for the first time the sound rushed in my brain and I was hooked. It is true music can change your brain chemistry. It was like a drug I wanted to hear it and needed to hear it and decades later the music moves me.

It is a Saturday night. You can go on www.1019RXP.com and listen to Matt Pinfield spin the greatest music from eight to midnight.

You see. I've been writing for a half hour about life topics. There is more to life than the workings of a defective brain. All of this-fashion and music-was a way I could be creative and recently it was suggested that my being creative might have given me the adaptability to cope with my illness later in life.

This is true.

So I would tell anyone living her life in recovery to be true to herself.

Just starting out you might have to play by other people's rules in order to get a job or be taken seriously yet once you find your wings it is imperative you express yourself as only you can.


Even today I can admire someone who decides to color her hair green without needing to run out and dye my own hair green. That is the difference. I was impressionable when I was young as all young people are and my fashion reference point was the clothing the other female disc jockeys wore.

Is creativity an inborn trait or can it be developed?

Researchers have been able to directly link creativity and schizophrenia.

I read about this and a light bulb went off: cheers-this accounts for why I always felt like I was different: my brain was hard-wired in an unconventional way.

I will end this blog entry by giving you hope:

Schizophrenia is a medical condition that affects your brain chemistry. You are born this way and at some time in your life your brain is going to crack and you have no control over this. When your brain is ready to crack it is going to crack.

Understanding this I was cheered because it enabled me not to feel guilty for having gotten sick. It truly is the luck of the draw: a random happening yet could be triggered by stress like when my beloved Grandpa was in the coma when I was 22.

You Know You Want It.

I wanted more than anything to have a life worth living so that is why I was compelled to dare risk dreaming of having this life not the one expected for someone in my situation.

This blog entry I dedicate to the dreamers who refuse to settle for the status quo. To the women who desire to make their mark and won't take a backseat to anybody else.

Green hair optional.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Hot days for cool music continue in the City.

It has reached 102 degrees. My father came this morning to give me the new air conditioner for the living room. An inferno in there without the air so I will have the porter install it on Saturday morning. Otherwise I'm exiled to the bedroom where the original air conditioner was installed.

The river of my heart flows into a great sea.

You cannot really know what it's like for other people unless you hear it firsthand from them. I've been researching multicultural mental health and the reality I can't say was shocking it was disturbing. The only word that came to my mind was hurtful. I spent two hours on the Internet researching this topic for Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month and I was so upset I retired to the air conditioned bedroom.

I will spend all day tomorrow doing more research until I'm satisfied and after that I'll write the first July SharePost for the Connection. It will focus on African Americans and mental health care. I printed up a lot of documents to use to write this. My desire is to focus on solutions and not come across as angry although I was angry.

Will not spill the beans on this topic in here because I want you to surf on over to the Connection on the weekend and read it there. That to me is the appropriate forum for a lengthy talk about health care.

Although I will give you a preview:

You can Google "schizophrenia blacks" and find numerous web sites talking about a phenomenon that happened in the 1960s and 1970s during the civil rights movement. Before then schizophrenia was thought of as an innocent disease affecting white middle class women and wives who were cold and unable to perform their societal roles because they were schizophrenogenic and lacking in nurturing skills.

At the rise of the black power movement schizophrenia shifted to a violent disease. Young African American men were diagnosed with the illness "protest psychosis" and advertisements in medical journals showed black male faces the doctors could treat with medication to control their belligerence.

Jonathan Metzl who wrote the book about this trend in psychiatry was interviewed on those various web sites. The Psychology Today interview was the most detailed.

Today other reasons also account for why schizophrenia is overdiagnosed in African American males instead of affective disorders. The standard tests use to diagnose do not reflect how some patients can be wary of talking to a doctor and thus their hesitancy is interpreted as a negative symptom linked to poverty of speech and avolition.

Also: most psychiatrists who diagnose people do not ask about drug or alcohol abuse. Symptoms of withdrawal from drug or alcohol abuse mirror those of schizophrenia including hallucinations. I know someone who was lucky he was not medicated when he presented these symptoms because the staff knew he suffered from alcoholism not schizophrenia proper.

Another problem is that African Americans metabolize antidepressants more slowly than people of other races so when they are prescribed higher doses (which often happens) they experience toxic side effects.

This is what I remember reading from off the top of my head. I did read a paper that focused on solutions that go beyond the rhetoric of cultural competency and I will quote those solutions. I will also list at the end of the Connection blog entry the link to where you can find one of the Black Psychiatrists of America for treatment.

The last thing I can tell you from memory is that African Americans aren't often included in research studies that would reveal the impact of drugs on these patients.

Now you see. Why I needed a new air conditioner. It just got too hot to handle researching all this in my inferno living room.

This is how it is when you're tasked with writing blog entries for a web site.

You realize that of course this is true so you want to get up and fight.

You Google until your fingers are sore.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Heatin' Up

Summer is here.

My tactic was to order a tailored denim skirt from the J.Crew Web site so I can have something new to wear that I don't have to iron. It's been two weeks and counting since I kept telling myself I would steam the wrinkles out of the clothes.

I've agonized over these kinds of Hestia chores for quite awhile now. The solution of buying new clothes is an expensive one. So I watch out.

This topic is going to find its way into a humorous Bruni in the City column for New York City Voices because I feel I haven't done it justice in here. What's so funny about being a domestic chore derelict? I will make it funny.

Will write this column tonight and type it up over the weekend to send to the editor.

Be honest: you've bought a new shirt rather than iron a wrinkled one or instead of doing your laundry that day. Who among us hasn't?

I had to return the Breton knit shirt and exchange it for an XXS. Go figure. I can wear it with the tailored skirt on a cooler night in this hot town.

Also: I mistakenly bought two size S tee shirts from Ann Taylor on sale that I now have to donate to the Salvation Army because they're too big. I will get no empathy from most other women on this.

Though I used to be 20 lbs overweight when I first started taking the Stelazine. It took me six years to lose the weight so I do understand how a woman can be miserable carrying a few extra pounds. I was not a happy camper. Oddly: I refused to buy jeans until I dropped a size yet was perfectly comfortable wearing Esprit mini skirts.

Does the number on the scale matter? To most of us yes and that's the reality.

We need effective drugs that don't cause weight gain of upwards of 100 lbs. Only the kinds of drugs that cause weight gain are often the only ones that work to halt a person's symptoms.

I will ask the pharmacist when I see her next if she found out whether Saphris is also a weight-gaining contender because she said she's going to research this. It's the newest medication on the market to treat schizophrenia.

What's the solution? To stop taking the meds? To live a shortened life? I will always tell people to take the pills every day as prescribed to get the best results. This kind of trade-off isn't fair though.


Sunday afternoon I will paint my first painting. It will be a color block or else a sunflower copied from the design on a dinner plate. That will be my one activity this weekend. I will listen to music and paint.

Before I took pen to page I used to draw and paint in high school and college. I stopped after I got out of the hospital the first time.

So the soundtrack will be the Heatin' Up cool songs for hot days CD I bought in Starbucks. Perfect summer music.

As my art practice continues I will upload photos of the good paintings here.

For now I will retire the household dilemma topic.

This will be the season I do my art. Wish me luck with this.

Have a good day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Secret of Life


It is possible I have discovered the secret of life and I want to share it with you.

I decided to write this blog entry to tell you one thing: it is imperative to not accept trash in your life. You don't need it and you don't need other people talking down to you. You can do better and must strive to find people who get this.

I was inspired to write this because The 10th Anniversary issue of O magazine featured a column titled "10 Rules I've Unlearned" by Martha Beck. Number 6 was: It matters what people think of me.

She realized her anguish came from her hypothesis that other people's hypothetical hypotheses about her mattered. This insight paralleled a shift away from my own painful imagined fears that carried me through the years.

Happy Birthday, O!

I had this conversation with a woman who talked to me about control freaks.

I realized that we could stay in control when we recognize that it's our right and duty to brook no nonsense and not accept junk attitudes from people.

This has been easier for me to do all along as regards stigma.

Now I can hold this ethic dear with anyone I meet or come in contact with.

The amazing discovery was that I didn't have to forgive myself I had to pull no punches and decide not to co-opt other people's craziness. Their bull crap is not mine or yours to swallow.

It was crystal-clear to me all of a sudden that we cannot be passive recipients of stigma or violence or hate of any kind or rudeness or nonsense.

I understood this when the woman told me I was able to take on the schizophrenia as another thing to fight because I had survived bullying in middle school.

It's true: I fought the hardest battle of my life getting in the ring against the SZ. Anyone who doesn't give us credit for doing this I would strike out of my life.

So I dedicate this blog entry to all you scrappy little fighters out there.

The key to taking control is to get other people on board without their realizing they've done what you want them to. You seduce them instead of berating them and they will come around. I'm not talking about sex: I'm talking a different kind of union where others can't help but view you in a positive light because you've made yourself irresistible.

You don't need people telling you you're trash. God doesn't make junk. You're not that kind of pot or kettle: if they want to project their insecurities on you that's only a reflection of them not you.

This truly amazing discovery has carried me through the past couple of days as I walked about interacting with people.

The woman told me this process of changing would be a life-long one for me.

I have said it before that you should give yourself the gift of a lifetime in which to recover. Recovery is a journey not an endpoint although it is possible to consider yourself recovered from the schizophrenia.

So I urge you to strive to always keep growing as a person.

What can we do?

Give stigma the boot.

Give racism the boot.

Boot out of our lives any fear of what people think of us.

We can do this instead:

Decide to love.

Keep cool.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


The oil spill from BP that has slicked wildlife and polluted water is unforgivable.

Long ago I decided I didn't want to own a car because I didn't want to be dependent on Middle Eastern oil or for that matter any oil source.

The economic hardship and mental health stress on the people like fishermen who depend on the water for their income are hazardous side effects as well.

You ought to read Terry Tempest Williams book Finding Beauty in a Broken World where she talks about the utter disregard of the natural world and the genocide in Rwanda. From out of human annihilation she worked on an art project to help the people in Africa heal.

Today I was reminded of the peril of steamrolling over the natural world.

The book The Long Emergency is the most dire account of the coming end of the world as we know it that started when farmland was paved over to create shopping malls and industrial parks.

One place in the natural world that still exists is Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton New Jersey where I and the other women in my writing workshop read our work at an outdoor poetry reading. I read the Italy scene that is linked to on my author web site via an audio file. So if you click on the link you can hear me reading what I read today at the Poets Invitational.

One of the poets read about nature and he came up to us in the Peacock Cafe after the reading to tell us he liked our writing. We also praised him and started talking about the need to be in nature.

The peacocks strutted freely outside in the park. So beautiful. I marveled at how their strutting reminded me of the Nelson Mandela quote about letting our own light shine and in turn giving other people permission to shine.

The sole role of a peacock is to strut and I felt that it is often hard for people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses to strut their stuff in a world where their very existence is discounted. Long ago I rebelled the role of mental patient however traditionally that was the occupation prescribed to us.

We were told to silently pop pills and not make waves and collect a government disability check and exit the psychiatrist's office quickly so he could be done with us.

Ah: the proud peacock. We should all be so proud to strut our stuff without fear.

Did I nail this with my philosophy recorded here awhile ago: "here's the playing field. please join in."

It is why as I continue to add scenes to my memoir and revise the scenes I"m writing that I realize what I did was ultimately not about me: it was about shining my light so that others could feel they had the right to shine a light on themselves.

Hope is a competency. Hope can also be a kind of therapy that sustains us on the long road to recovery. By bringing my story to light I wanted to give others the hope that they too could have a life worth living.

So this is how my book differs: I don't have a Yale law degree. I'm just an ordinary person who did something she's convinced a lot of people diagnosed with schizophrenia could do too:

We can live a life of our own choosing. We can live life on our own terms.

That is how I defined the kind of recovery I wanted to have: to be able to do the things I want to do and to afford to live in my own apartment by working at a job or jobs I loved. Hey: to be able to buy a new Sade CD without going broke.

As soon as you start out on this road I suggest you define what your ideal recovery would be like and take steps to reach it knowing that in the future your definition will most likely change the farther along you reach.

I wrote in a recent Bruni in the City column for New York City Voices that the reason I succeeded in getting what I wanted is that I always had higher expectations for myself. Did I tell you in here to shoot for the stars because you could settle for the moon?

Set modest and realistic goals just starting out and as you achieve these goals begin to set goals that are just slightly beyond your reach.

I have been criticized by a peer who told me I was just a yuppie who got fumbled out by a waiter in a restaurant so popped into a program because it was the trendy thing to do. His self-stigma was something I could not forget and his comment stayed with me all these years.

Another guy who was a peer sent me an e-mail on a dating website when he had no intention of dating me. He wrote: I see your profile and wonder if you're all that. Who do you think you are? This was because I wrote that I liked yoga, walking, dinner parties, interior decorating and browsing museums. In my honesty I wrote that I was looking for a guy who was healthy and committed to his recovery.

Do you think I felt threatened or intimidated by these insecure guys? Heck no. I'm not going to date someone who continually screws up by not taking his medication or doing things counterproductive to his own recovery.

Apparently that was too much to ask.

I can pretty much shine a light on other people because that is my ethic. I see how it is in that when you or I let our own light shine we open ourselves to criticism.

Ah: the peacock.

He's going to strut his stuff and give everyone a glorious show.

We should all take a page from his book.

Enough said.

Good night.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Diamond Life

The Sade CD Diamond Life has the song "Smooth Operator" on it. The Patti Smith CD features all covers including "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The Pearl Jam CD Backspacer has the song "Just Breathe" that is so beautiful.

Now I have new music to listen to while I work at the computer on my second job. This will carry me through the day.

Always: music and light and going out. I would urge anyone in recovery to go to the edge of their comfort zone to grow as a person. Standing still is not an option. Move to the beat of life. Take one risk every day.

Life is good. I always hold out the hope that there can be joy. We have the right to feel good and to enjoy life.

You don't recover by lying on the couch watching TV all day. I recommend a person do volunteer work if she can't work at paid employment. One summer I volunteered my time at the Forget-Me-Not thrift shop for the Alzheimer's Association. I had gotten involved with them because my Grandma had this illness. I would sort the new arrivals, arrange the clothes on the racks and ring up the orders. I felt it was something I had to do that summer.

It was the in-between time when I was living in limbo drifting through time. I would tell anyone that this happens: a plateau or a wandering not knowing where you'll be next. Like a nomad I traveled from place to place.

You will not want to hear that it can take a long time to reach the goals you have for yourself. Yet that is how recovery is: it is not quick and it is not easy and I have said this before. It took me three years from the time I was diagnosed to the time I obtained my first job and a year later I moved into my own apartment.

Here's the deal: I don't measure success by outward signs that a person has arrived in the world. I keep time in my recovery to subtle signals: a day that I can go to the poetry reading or a day that is free. Paula Cole wrote about this in her song "The Road to Me" about how the car and the house are not who she is they are only steps along the way.

Everyone living in recovery has the capacity to live a good life. My definition of recovery is the ability to live life on my own terms. To not settle for less.

It's why I'll take one good day over 50 not-so-good days as the barometer of success.

Do you see how it is?

I will always refer in here to the idea that we have only one day.

My goal is to chip away at the marble to reveal some kind of insight to offer hope to others and to inspire readers.

So that one day a light bulb will click and someone will say: "I want to recover and I'm going to take steps to make that happen."

The first step is to take the medication although popping pills is not the sole measure of our success. Going out the front door and entering life is the next step.

Now you see.

Enjoy your day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Long Road


3 CDs: Patti Smith Pearl Jam Sade. A silver ring with a purple stone that the street fair vendor claimed was .925. The poetry book The Brother Inside Me.


I read a short scene from Left of the Dial at the poetry reading. The women in the audience loved what I read. Even among the Italians I feel like an outsider.

Eddie and I ducked into the Spanish restaurant afterward for dinner. We gave each other the high five before parting ways.

What do I know? You live with this. You live through it. You reconcile your checkbook in your head so you'll be able to buy the CDs. You remember the leap you took 20 years ago that enabled you to buy CDs every so often. It is the Twentieth Anniversary of Your First Job so you have been employed two decades.

That is my life: the life I chose in August 1990 when I went down this lonely road. Now I'm a voyager traveling with kindred spirits. I don't go by age or race or ethnicity. One of my best friends was once a woman who collected a disability check and watched WWF every Saturday. A friend once told me I embrace other people's differences.

Would I go as far as to say that? I would not want to puff myself up that way. It comes down to this: I have no expectations that people be other than who they are. A person who likes herself will be able to accept people without trying to change them.

So the short of it is that life can be painful living with the SZ and you know that life isn't perfect and neither are you.

I wrote in my notebook that God is my lantern on this long road.

It comes down to fifty extra dollars to buy the CDs and a royal obscene tip that Eddie and I give the waiter in the restaurant.

Your sorrow is real and so is your joy.

Tomorrow I will listen to the Pearl Jam CD before I head out.

I cannot tell you that it gets easier although in most ways it does.

You cherish your friends and your loved ones because they have traveled with you down this road.

Life is good. I would tell you that life is always good.

Be brave and live your life with passion.

It is not that I don't suffer. It is that I see no reason in dwelling on the pain.

I would not judge someone else unless I had walked in their moccasins along this road.

Do not be fooled: we have the choice: to do what life demands of us or to live in fear.

I suggest we take action to live true and to accept that this is not something we asked for or deserved or wanted yet we can make of it something positive.

In the end:

You have one day in time like a snowflake to treasure and catch before it slips by.

A day unlike any other to rejoice in because God made this day just for you.

In some ways it gets easier. In some ways it is always a challenge.

Listen to the music. Dance as if no one is watching you. Live true.



This morning I listened to the Corinne Bailey Rae CD The Sea on my iPod dock. She has a gorgeous voice and I would like to buy her other album.

Today I realized the new salon has yellow walls which pleased me because it is a joyous color. My haircut is new: a riff on Isabella Rossellini's and I bought the pomade to style it. Sophie told me I don't need a hair dryer to recreate the cut every day.

Tomorrow I will wash and set the hair in the new cut and wear my contact lenses to meet O. Miraculously I woke at 7:30 am and so had time to listen to the CD.

Last night I went to a new support group for the first time. I recommend peer support as an option for living a good life. You might have to search around to find one that is to your liking however I recommend you make the effort.

Sometimes it is too much to hear other people's woe so that is why you must have other outlets that give you joy. Like a beauty salon. A manicure. Treating yourself to a new CD. Next up I buy Pearl Jam's Backspacer with the song "Just Breathe" that is so beautiful. Shortly before my second two-week hospital stay I saw Pearl Jam at the Limelight. This concert scene made its way into my memoir too.

The psychic I went to early this year told me she saw Left of the Dial being published. I take this on faith even though it's hard for me to believe in anything that doesn't carry scientific proof. The word I would rather use to describe my hard work in writing the memoir is devotion: my unwavering commitment to doing what it takes to sell tons of copies of my book.

Devotion I can understand because it involves free will. With true faith you have to suspend your doubt and it's hard for me to do that. I prefer to see things in black-and-white and signed and sealed and written in stone and delivered on a tablet.

You've got to have faith even if it is as irrational as hope sometimes. I have faith that my memoir will be published because the woman who gave me the reading said it would be. So the next step is doing the hard work to revise and add scenes to the manuscript.

Did I have faith just starting out in my recovery that I would recover? In some ways my denial about the truth of having schizophrenia propelled me to take those early risks to live independently and get my first job. It was a coping mechanism because surely if I believed there was no hope for someone who had schizophrenia I would've been defeated.

The element of living in hiding was one I turned inside-out in order to succeed. Interesting: I don't consciously recognize that I keep the faith or have the hope that I can do other things in the future. Stepping out and doing those things is like drinking a glass of water. You drink a glass of water without realizing that water=life. It's just something you do to be healthy.

One thing I recommend you do is keep a grateful journal to record your tiny victories every day. I have recently begun writing them down in my Life's Little Reminders journal I bought in Starbuck's last year.

That is how you keep the faith: you boost your spirits by re-reading the things that cheer you about yourself and your life. It can be a beautiful life if you see the positive around you.

How you keep positive is to seek other people who willingly reinforce that you are a good person and can recover. A woman had this conversation with me: how I believed I would publish Left of the Dial because the psychic told me I would.

This is why an oncologist should not tell a patient she only has six months to live: it becomes a self-fulfilling outcome. Plenty of cancer patients live 12 years or more when given the option that this is possible.

So as I've said before I consider it unethical to tell someone diagnosed with schizophrenia that she can't recover and her prospects are limited because she will be bleached of hope.

It comes down to the Nelson Mandela quote I quote often in here:
"As we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

The way to do this is to lead by example.

My own quote is equally as inclusive:
"Here's the playing field. Please join in."

Today I hope you are having a good day. I hope this blog entry cheers you. I will go sign off now as I want to listen to some music.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hello Sunshine

June is in swing now: things are moving along.

How does a person go from feeling the world is so super sunny to crying for five nights straight? Then she sees the silver light shining through the window.

I prefer this kind of silver light that is peaceful to the glare of a day that is so super sunny. Susanna Kaysen in the ending of Girl, Interrupted spoke about a different kind of light. It was a beautiful ending. When you reach the end of your rope you hold on to the light. The silver light shining through your window is enough to get you through.

All is well: June is here. It's summer in two weeks.

The idea struck me that I will send out my clothes to the laundry center and pick them up later. I will also send my clothes out for a dry press at the dry cleaner instead of steaming them on my own. This week after the fall I was able to steam some pants and shirts only to continue is an effort. I will do what it takes to function well and that could involve having the laundry center do my laundry and having the dry cleaner press my clothes.

Otherwise . . . the energy and time it takes I don't have right now.

Life is to be enjoyed not spent on the Hestia chores of the hearth is how I see it. Once in a journal writing workshop the instructor read about four goddesses and told us Hestia doesn't have a persona because she's relegated to the hearth. I chose this goddess to write about because I was entranced with the myth of such a woman.

Like with all things-the bread and butter jobs of my life-I find myself needing to streamline or else the duties and responsibilities pile up mercilessly eating into my time. I would rather watch Property Virgins or House Hunters on HGTV.

This the goal for those of us in recovery: to have the kind of life where we can choose to send our clothes out and hire a housecleaner or do it ourselves if we are so inclined.

Trust me: I was always averse to domestic chores from a young age and resisted my mother's pleas that I help her with these kinds of things. Of course it is within her right to have told me to pitch in.

Yet I was not a Traditional woman that way and would rather go off to the library to check out books to read or curl up on the bed listening to the FM radio and writing in my diary.

So I'm interested in how other people in recovery from schizophrenia attend to the activities of daily living: cooking cleaning shopping doing laundry managing appointments. We could learn a thing or two from each other for sure so feel free to drop me a comment here. This will also be the Question of the Month for July at the Connection so surf on over there on July 1st and join the dialogue.

It comes down to experimenting to see what works for you and going with that routine and changing course when the routine no longer is useful.

You figure this out quickly because you need this parachute when the days are not so super sunny. All I need is my apartment a computer and a radio. Those are the essentials to live a harmonious life. Next up would be clothes.

The key for me was to find easy recipes to use to create different meals that don't involve a major pots-and-pans production and endless clean-up. Monday night I followed the Real Simple recipe for a turkey and avocado salad. I grated parmesan cheese on top of the Boston lettuce and shaved the hard skin off the avocado and sliced it and folded the sliced-thin deli turkey and added heirloom cherry tomatoes too.

So in under 20 minutes I had dinner: che bella!

I see where the summer is headed: to KISS or keep it simple sweetheart.

To have a guy clean the pots and pans I would always cook dinner no problem.

One way to save money is to buy salad fixings instead of paying$5 a pop at a fast food joint. It might be cheap to have a burger and fries every day only you risk your health doing so thus it's more expensive in the long run.

Other women tell me I always eat healthful foods and I would protest. My downfall is that I miss out on whole grains sometimes. It's why I like to cook the Kashi Mediterranean pizza to have for dinner once a week: it has 10 grams fiber and whole grains. Bob's Red Mill bulgur also has a significant amount of fiber and whole grains in one serving alone. Also wild rice is a whole grain and I stocked up on the Uncle Ben's wild rice mix so I will try to cook a package on the weekend.

You have to make things as convenient as possible for you to do. Give yourself enough time to prepare a good meal. Accentuate the positive: do only the things that reinforce your good humor in recovery and strive to halt involvement in acrimonious endeavors with other people.

The goal is to feel sunny even when it's raining.

Do you see what I'm talking about?

You can't do any of this when you keep resisting taking your medication or only sometimes take your pills. Though I'm preaching to the choir possibly in all of this.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the spring and have a good summer too.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Soldier of Love


The song "Party Like a Rock Star" blasted on the stereo system as the adults sat on the beige chairs at the table under the beige umbrella.

You're only 13 once. It was her party so she could listen to whatever music she wanted even if the lyrics were shouted over and over as if the band couldn't think of anything else to write: party like a rock star party like a rock star party like a rock star.

It's a different world: teens are connected at the hip to their iPods. I regret I bought my iPod shortly after it first arrived on the scene so I paid $250 and it can only hold 500 songs.

Now you can get an iPod for $250 that holds 10,000 songs or some other great amount. I listen to my iPod on the dock I bought that has an HD radio so I can listen out loud in my apartment instead of with ear buds.

Right now I listen to the Sade CD. "Soldier of Love" is the hypnotic song coming through the speakers as I type. I'm going to import vocalists to my iTunes library so I can have a long playing soundtrack for nights when rock-n-roll won't do.

The list:

Diana Krall

Corinne Bailey Rae


Norah Jones

kd Lang

Those are the ladies.

I have a Sting CD which is pretty good too: Sacred Love.

Would like to buy an early Sade CD with her classic songs on it. She hit the scene when I was a disc jockey in the 1980s and though I didn't play her on the radio I always loved her music. She was too mainstream to play on late night college radio.

A play list would look something like this:

The Chills

Naked Raygun

Das Damen

Sonic Youth

The Replacements

Dinosaur Jr

I will always remember my college years: they were the happiest time of my life and then I had the breakdown.

Can I say today is better? Yes.

You do not know when you are first diagnosed how your life will turn out. Your life could turn out to be better than it was before you got sick. That is the ideal to strive for: to live your best life.

I'd much rather listen to vocalists than noisy out-of-tune music. I will delete Soul Asylum and the others from my iTunes library and upload the vocalists instead. Will even nix u2's Achtung Baby because I've played that CD numerous times and it's gotten boring.

Gone will be the Everclear albums as well.

The music no longer appeals to me though the lyrics to "One-Hit Wonder" I will always remember: about how people can't hurt you unless you let them. That song is off So Much for the Afterglow a good CD. I used to like the early Everclear music too.

Goodbye, jumble!

All that loud music is gone.

As you move along in your recovery things change.

I'm not the same person I was when I was 22. Life changed me. I don't hold the same values. I aspire to live with compassion and forgiveness for all human beings. Will I fall short? OK: we all fall short.

My goal is to stay out of the hospital long-term.

The day the music died was a heartbreaking time in my life. I was forced to decide: remain stuck in the past or roll with the change and move into the future.

It can be liberating to let go.

Tomorrow I will listen to the new iPod music.

What fell away was not meant to be. We look so longingly at the door that closed that we are unable to see the door opening before us.

Recovery is a door. Music was the key that unlocked it. My first therapist told me that it's possible I didn't get sick any sooner because I was a disc jockey involved in a career that gave me great joy.

So I urge you: listen to the song of life. Dance when you get the chance.

You will get older. The old music will no longer do.

Be brave and change your tune.


Saturday, June 5, 2010


A friend coined the term champagne and complain because I don't drink yet wanted to drown my sorrows in something.

You know you're on to something good when you haven't steamed the clothes free of wrinkles yet you have a new outfit to wear. Seriously. I might just bring the clothes to the dry cleaner for a dry press.

Your life changes after you're diagnosed. You're less inclined to get hung up over things that don't matter. So you take a wrinkle or two in good stride. You laugh when you find out you accidentally threw out the new gift card you bought for a birthday gift and will have to go back to the store to buy another one.

Imagine that: I accidentally threw out a new gift card.

I'm reminded of a woman I met who told me: "I didn't ask for the schizophrenia." She had done well for herself even after the diagnosis. I could understand how she felt.

So sometimes you walk around the clothes on the floor and tell yourself you'll steam them at night when it's cooler. Then the night comes and you tell yourself you'll do it in the morning when you have more energy.

The SZ doesn't take a holiday: the medication can only keep the symptoms at bay.

Tonight I will listen to the Sade CD Soldier of Love. It's not advised to drink when you take Geodon so I'll have one flute only.

As much to celebrate as anything: I've been out of the hospital 18 years. That's a good long time to be free. I would like to treat myself when I celebrate my 20-year anniversary. It would be quite an achievement.

As the years go by I barely count them any more.

You come to the time in your life when forgiveness matters above all else.

A woman told me that people with SZ tend to be self-critical and this is a symptom. Of course. It's one thing to objectively know that you must forgive yourself and it's another thing entirely to actually do the forgiving.

She told me that Bono helped engineer the Product(RED) success story. The energy of the color red is a life energy that perfectly captures this mission to save the lives of people diagnosed with AIDS in Africa.

She protested when I told her I do what I do because it is just something I do. It was getting late so she had to leave yet I wanted her to stay longer to cheer me.

Funny I wonder if I met Bono if he would be receptive to someone diagnosed with SZ. I've been reading my numerology print-outs and I have numbers that indicate I have a humanitarian impulse so I would be in heaven if I met Bono.

I bought years ago a Product(RED) tee shirt that is red and has inspi(RED) written in white letters across the front.

One thing is certain like the U2 song lyrics suggest we have to carry each other.

This is a cruel illness that nobody deserves to get and we don't deserve the stigma either.

So I hope you find some comfort here in this blog and some good cheer to power you through the day. Not every day will be a good day so the goal is to have more good days than not-so-good days.

One time my mother told me that from an early age I had a self-preservation ethic. Living with the SZ you learn quickly what you need to do to recover and early on your life is devoted to calming your brain.

It gets easier with time in certain ways and in other ways it's still a challenge. You will live with this for the rest of your life.

So you amass a small fortune in baubles. You celebrate your freedom with a flute of champagne. You realize that the first step is to acknowledge you need help and so you can seek help now instead of waiting.

The clothes are still on the floor waiting for the day you get enough energy to steam them free of the wrinkles. You can live with the wrinkles and a little dust yet not with a mess.

You wash the champagne glasses before you go to bed. They are your favorite ones you bought at a dollar store: a quartet of classic flutes.

You store the two unopened champagne bottles in your wine rack happy that you'll be ready to celebrate anything at a moment's notice.

At least:

The moment is now.

You're still trying to figure out how to forgive yourself.

You are inspired to nail forgiveness down.

Here's to the next 20 years.

The toast you give yourself:

To prevail!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Food Rules


I absconded with the February 2010 issue of Lucky magazine.

In it the beauty closet editor Jean Godfrey-June writes: "I am one of those lunatics who use only natural deodorant." Is that supposed to be amusing? She claims natural deodorant doesn't work so knows people will question her sanity in using it.

The list of uses of that word could go on and on. It screams at you. The word should be retired pronto. Were you to be gripped with schizophrenia there would be nothing funny about it. Equating the poor judgment of using natural deodorant with losing your mind is a mistake.

I would expect better journalism from such a magazine.

Then again I would question an advertisement for 100 calorie snacks. There's nothing healthy about consuming 100 calories of empty calorie food either. If you need a 100-calorie snack you can buy a banana for under a dollar or a pint of skim milk. You can go in Starbucks and get a KindBar with slightly more calories that will undoubtedly fill you up unlike the 100 calorie packages of nonsense food.

This is not a swipe at any particular manufacturer. It's a gripe against any food marketer who would ply women with unhealthful snacks in the guise of not gaining weight.

I so rarely eat junk food now. When you start losing weight it's a disincentive to continue eating chips. I used to buy Sun Chips because they're the lesser of many evils and most likely in a pinch I would buy them again.

What is a good option: buy Triscuits and bag them in zipper bags so you can control the portions and take them with you on the go. Yes that sounds like a good idea: I will buy Triscuits tomorrow night to snack on during the weekend.

You can make your own healthier 100 calorie treats this way by buying zipper bags to take with you and thus the cost will be cheaper too. Bag almonds. Buy cherries and wash them and bag them too. Buy Luna bars or Clif bars.

I sometimes have a Clif bar for lunch with a banana or a glass of milk.

You have to draw the line somewhere when you dine out and order the banana cheesecake for dessert. Though I must say I left a quarter of the cake on the plate. You see if I'm going to splurge I'm not going to snack every day on mini pretzels. I'm going to wait two weeks and dive into the cheesecake.

A woman wrote a letter to the editor in O criticizing the magazine for using the expression: "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." She felt it would encourage anorexia.

I have gone around in circles on this when my point was that the word lunatic should be taken out of circulation not only in casual use but in any use. Then my SZ mind drifted to another page.

Nuts really are a good choice for a snack: especially almonds or walnuts. Walnuts have Omega 3 fatty acid if I remember this right. String cheese is another occasional lower-calorie snack that is also good for you because it has calcium and protein.

I'm not saying to have cheese all the time mind you.

The key is to eat what you eat in moderation. SZ magazine now has a food page that I'm going to read over the weekend. I printed up a Real Simple recipe that I'm going to try out next week too. I also photocopied some other recipes to try.

File this blog entry under strange. Don't get me started on the category of organic soda.

The take away from all this is that if we plan and prepare our snacks in advance we won't be tempted to chow down on junk food. This certainly benefits anybody on a weight-gaining drug. I have this theory that certain foods cause weight gain more than other foods. So I'm convinced if a banana has the same amount of calories as a bag of chips you should have the banana. It is not a scientific theory that pretzels cause a greater weight gain than a banana so don't quote me on this. Though I venture it's why you need to eat more pretzels to satiate your hunger than you do with healthful foods.

To me the goal is sustenance: food that is good for you can taste good. Everyone needs vitamins and nutrients to fuel her body. High fiber foods make you feel fuller than empty snacks do so you don't have to eat as much to get a big payoff.

I recommend the book Food Rules by Michael Pollan that is short and to-the-point. You can read it in under an hour if you're so inclined. I'm not the first person to rail against agribusinesses that would convince us high fructose corn syrup is really OK. I likely won't be the last person to lament that unhealthful food is so cheap and nutritious food is beyond the reach of many Americans.

What's the solution? Take back your power by voting with your pocketbook. Paying more for nutritious food is okay because when you eat less food to begin with you save money in the long term. This point was not lost on me when I read it in a review of Food Rules in a newspaper.

Now. I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. It's late and I must be going.

Enjoy your night.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


In drumming up ideas for this blog I decided I would try to be solution focused to show people a way of going from dreaming to doing.

I would like to recommend two techniques that work to help you create the outcome you desire. The first tactic is creative visualization: to rehearse in your mind a day when everything is going the way you want it to turn out.

In keeping with this you can create a vision board with just funky enough images to jar you into thinking about what you want to achieve. The June O magazine talks about this too.

Another tactic is to write down in detail where you see yourself on a certain date in time and to describe everything that has happened in your life by that date.

I know the tide had turned when I wrote in my notebook: The publisher will receive the final copy of my manuscript for Left of the Dial on June 15, 2011. The moment I could envision this happening is when a literary agent expressed an interest in working with me.

Along the line of these two techniques I also recommend writing down a mantra over and over. I have two running alongside each other right now: "I keep my feet on the ground" and "It's so super sunny."

First you must acknowledge where you are now and decide that you can get to where you want to be if you just believe you can. To cast off the self-doubt write such positive phrases in your journal. Write the events down as if they've already happened.

When I was 35 I wrote down that I wanted to become an expert in recovery from schizophrenia and seven years later I was offered the position as the expert blogger for the Connection.

So you see how it goes. Re-read your positive affirmations every day. Carry them on index cards and read them on the train or at the doctor's office or during your lunch hour.

The great thing about setting goals is that you can do it yourself. I was listening to Oasis on the radio with their song "Wonder Wall" and I realized that's what it's like to be your own wonder wall: you can trust you will succeed because you are your own rock.

I would tell you that nobody else can give you what you want you must go out and get it. Nobody can do this for you. It's your recovery and you own your victory.

I was able to save myself using these techniques. That's why I recommend them for other people. I started to tell myself "It's so super sunny" because I borrowed this term from the image of the taxi cab yellow leather slouch bag sold in the Sundance catalog. The sunny color inspired me greatly.

You might be a skeptic. You might not believe that by writing down what you want to happen it will actually come true. I urge you to suspend your disbelief. Try it and you might like what you discover.

Friday I bring my goals binder to Dr. Altman's office to talk to him precisely about my dream for the coming years. That's another thing: I'm sure not many people keep their goals in a binder yet I would tell you to do that and refer to it regularly. Or at least write them down in a spiral-bound notebook or a hardbound journal.

The key is to write down your goals and review them often.

I'd love to hear from readers about your take on this suggestion. What are some techniques you use to set goals?

I will use this blog entry to create a Question of the Month at the Connection so look for it in August. The June question will be about therapy and the July question will be about creativity and mental health. So surf on over to read those SharePosts and the comments people give in response to the questions.

Right now I will ask you: how can you not believe it's so super sunny if that is the energy you put out there in the world?

It begins with the words we put into our head.

You don't have to be a natural optimist either to take advantage of these techniques. The term "act as if" describes this tactic. In other words you fake it till you make it. The words you put in your head will influence your behavior. So given the choice wouldn't you rather act as if you were capable of succeeding as the precursor to achieving your goal instead of giving in to the self-doubt?

You see.

Yes indeed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fortune Cookie Blues


The chocolate brioche pudding with caramel ice cream.

Too late I realized I should have offered to buy my friend the Buffalo jeans he coveted. I could have treated him. Feel like such a heel now that it didn't occur to me until after he drove me home. He would look good in those jeans.

Instead I'm rattling through the night in my own way: listening to the rock-n-roll radio and browsing the Sundance catalog Web site. It's like a hobby now.

You'll see I've edited the other blogs I link to on the right. I want JM to be as uncluttered as possible. I hope you enjoy stopping by.

It is a good night of good fortune.

I'm reminded of a wise lyric to the effect that nobody can hurt you unless you let them hurt you. I doubt it would be far off for me to tell you people with schizophrenia are more sensitive than others. We cannot go against this sensitivity and must use it in a positive way: channel it into compassion for ourselves and others in the world.

So tonight's fortune would be that I understand there are two sides to the coin of living with SZ: we can crack open a hopeful message when we use our talents to recover. This is how I see it: you can recover. You can do great things for yourself as well as for others. It is not selfish to want to better yourself.

Today I picked up the Style A to Zoe book to have on hand. I will tell you now and I would tell you a week from Tuesday that surely dressing well enabled me to recover. I used my love of fashion to create a persona that meshed with who I am.

That is the way you smash the stereotype of someone diagnosed with schizophrenia: you live true. I framed a green greeting card with a fortune cookie print out of which a fortune read: Who cares what everyone else thinks. Be true to yourself. This is my life's motto. It is the only way a person can truly be happy: to live in sync with her self.

You will only be miserable trying to be someone you're not. I have a failed business career that proves this and one failed romance with a guy who thought normal was the holy grail. I felt normal's overrated and was glad when we went our separate ways. Just the word normal rubs me the wrong way.

As AC touts in her blog: "Let's put normal on the shelf and give different a fighting chance."

Possibly a lot of us fear being ourselves because we fear others will reject us if we don't fit in to some kind of mold. I was aware as early as 11 years old that I wasn't like the other girls in the neighborhood. You can resist your nature yet you do so at your own risk to your mental health.

Log on to my Twitter account that I link to on the right and you will see that the latest news touts the link between creativity and schizophrenia. There is proof now that people with schizophrenia tend to be more creative than other people. A reference was made to Dali who was eccentric.

This accounts for my love of the unusual music and clothes when I was younger. It lets slip that maybe you could think you're different precisely because you are different in some important ways starting with your D2 receptor.

This solidifies my dream of wanting to publish fiction and be a writer not a social worker in the coming years. Look for a SharePost at the Connection on this topic of creativity and schizophrenia to post in early July for some summer reading.

D. told me once: "We have a different way of seeing things" and I have no doubt this is true. It comes down to how information flows through our brains and how we process it and synthesize it and turn it back out to solve problems.

The more you educate yourself the better you will feel about your prospects living with SZ. That's how I see it because reading about this link allowed me to once and for all resolve that hey: it's okay to be different.

For too long first coming up in recovery I was in denial that I could be sick because I was embarrassed to have schizophrenia. I felt guilty and ashamed because there was a negative connotation to someone diagnosed with this condition.

Only now: I see that there can be no shame when you live true to yourself.

So I urge you to reconsider everything you think you know about what it's like to live with schizophrenia. Define yourself. Decide how you want to live and hold your hope up as a lantern on the long road ahead.

Recovery is about the journey not the destination. Be where you are now. Know that tomorrow you could be in a different place. Nothing in life is permanent. You can rest easy knowing that you can trust yourself to be your own rock.

So express yourself. Be creative. Be yourself.

Just be.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Twitter is like a new toy.

I much prefer it to Facebook right now although early in the new year I expect to have a Facebook fan page.

The short nature of Tweets I love to sprint through. I follow Real Simple magazine and download their recipes that way. The turkey salad with tomato, avocado and parmesan I'm going to try next weekend. It looks easy and healthful.

Another recipe I'd like to create is a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes. It's from the Mario Batali cookbook Molto Gusto. This would be good for lunch some day.

I have the opposite problem of most people with SZ: I don't feel like eating. I was lucky the Geodon worked. Tonight I ordered vegetables for dinner: imagine that.

This is the life: I can't wonder what might have been. You do the best you can with what you're given. Strive to do one thing each day to bring you closer to a goal.

You can get there from here. You just need to believe it's possible.

Always do the things that give you joy.

I found an interesting book on fashion called Style from A to Zoe. It was written by Rachel Zoe a stylist to celebrities. She is entirely too much yet the book gives some good advice so I ordered it from an independent bookshop to buy and keep in my own library.

Along with the fashion spin I want to resurrect Recipe Night once a week. The Mario Batali cookbook includes recipes for pizza that I want to try too.

Folks: I took down the Nelson Mandala quote and all the other clutter on JM to give it a more Zen appearance though of course it's not quite Zen or peaceful there's most likely an energy here. To simplify I added a short link to my Twitter account and deleted the GoodReads sidebar.

This blog is evolving as I go along so I hope you enjoy the ride.

The earrings arrived in the mail and I like them so I'm going to wear them tomorrow when I go to the Thai restaurant. I'm totally off the wall in my love of jewelry so I've put the caboose on my spending. For now. It's too much. This is what will happen come a joyous April 15.

I had this talk with someone: how doing good and making money can go together like a washing machine and Tide. We believe changing the world can be an activity that is an economic engine. That's the premise of Fair Trade and locally owned cooperatives in a place like Africa. The example I will give you is the hand woven basket that a woman in Ghana created that I bought at the holiday fair in the City.

We spoke of how people with mental illnesses have for too long been victimized in society. Along with that I know someone who steals fruit because he can't afford to buy it on his SSD check. Where's the justice? It is time to change things.

This is why I would not ever feel threatened by a peer who wanted to change her life for the better and took action to make that happen. People can and do have the right to bring themselves up in the world. You are not a sell out when you dare to go down this road. I only wish more people had this courage to challenge the status quo.

Does this matter to me? You bet it matters to me. If you can't afford fruit what kind of a life is that? Nobody diagnosed with a mental illness deserves the abuse she gets either.

The guy I spoke with told me a story. It steamed me and it upset him so we had to change the topic. All I can tell you is this: people with schizophrenia are more likely to be the victims of crime not the ones who commit crimes.

So when I go off-topic and talk about my interests and hobbies it is because they are important to me too. I would not be the same person had I not been diagnosed with schizophrenia. First you're angry. Then you get even. By taking your meds you show the schizophrenia who's the boss.

It's a power thing really: that's the bottom line. People with mental illnesses traditionally have been rendered powerless to have a say in their own lives. We take back control by envisioning the kind of life we want to live and doing one thing each day to move towards getting there.

Most people can recover from schizophrenia. At this point the question becomes: how big our sky?

In seventh grade there was a question in my science textbook that asked: "How far is up?" It occurred to me right then that up is as far as you can go.

In other words: shoot for the stars because you can always settle for the moon.

There's no shame in striving to better yourself. As a friend told me: "Your dreams are not dirty: they're natural and they're normal."

To those about to dream I salute you.

Do you see? Do you see what I'm saying?

It is 12:15 am by my computer clock and I fear I'm going to be up all night if I continue this blog entry.

Surely you understand? I hope so.

Now let me go sign off and wind down.