Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wear Your Love Like Heaven

I'm 45 now.

I placed a photo on the clip frame on my desk. It's a silver ball base with a wire clip that rises up from the ball to clip a photo on. I bought it in a museum gift shop. In the photo I wear my true navy floral raincoat and a friend wears a black raincoat with white dashes. We look like twins.

It will take at least a week to hear back the review of the manuscript.

I've been researching ways to promote the memoir in advance of its publication via social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. I will shortly have a Facebook fan page.

A wise woman guide told us that the key to using such accounts is transparency. That is when I realized I could no longer hide the truth of my diagnosis any more than I could cut off my right arm. Certainly I could be honest and open about this in the same way Elyn Saks is and deal with any repercussions down the road when I consider the kind of work I want to do.

The litmus test is that living an authentic life and speaking in my own voice is something I do for the greater good. You also cannot live by the what's in it for me ethic in the online age. The goal is to provide content for others to make their lives easier or help them with their own goals. Only then will they be able to help you.

This blog entry I dedicate to all the ladies out there who wonder if they should cross that line in the sand. I know why I do this: the cost of untreated mental illness is a great shame to society and is measured not only in billions of dollars but in millions of wasted lives. That is the greater sadness to me and why I do what I do.

You must compete against yourself and no one else.

I want to be a fireball igniting other people's dreams.

Do you think I have a big ego in this regard?

Well: you had to peel the other patients off the wall to get them to come out into the courtyard. A wallpaper life benefits no one. I coveted the blue sky freedom.

OK: I'm Sicilian and Calabrese so I'm a double teste dura-a real hard head. I'm stubborn: I'm convinced that if something worked for me it could work for other people. So I seek to enlighten people as much as inspire them. My life is the living laboratory in which to test what works and what doesn't. When I see I've had success with something I'm willing to use my experiences as material for SharePosts and magazine articles.

There. That doesn't seem so egotistical now does it? It seems downright altruistic. I want to be part of the solution not part of the problem of the stigma in the world. To show that it's cool to achieve things. To make living with SZ almost hip. That is how I submit I can best fight the stigma. I told a roving reporter that the best way to fight stigma is "To be brave and be yourself."

If memory serves a slogan from the sixties was: wear your love like heaven. Am I imagining that? The love you take is equal to the love you make. You must give the world the best you have. I also believe that having SZ hopefully makes a person more compassionate. I recognize there's a double standard: at all times I have to appear trustworthy because of the diagnosis and I cannot slip. The burden of the proof of my humanity is on me every day. That being so my ethic is a humanitarian one.

So. You see. It has nothing to do with ego.

I decided long ago [after years of grappling with the diagnosis] that rather than resent what happened to me I would turn things around and truly make it hip.

How now.


Thursday, April 22, 2010



I'm working with a creativity coach to update the blog.

I'm reminded of the quote on a dessert plate that featured a fortune cookie: You Think It's A Secret But It's Not.

Certainly altruism isn't a dirty word: if Lauren Bush the model can be an activist I find nothing unusual about ordinary people seeking to change the world.

The handwritten sign found on the wall of Mother Teresa's room tells it all:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; be successful anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous; be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow; do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give your best anyway.

For you see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

That manifesto I placed on my desk in one of those black metal frames.

I'm sure mother Teresa only did what she felt was right not what the world thought was right. The poor were her version of a target market. She gave no credence to others who would give up on the neediest members of society.

Not everyone comes to altruism as a life ethic. Others drive BMWs and live in mansions. A life I would not be comfortable living.

Sure: you're young and your brother has a BMW and it's the coolest thing to you. A friend envisions you as the editor of a magazine zipping through the countryside in a convertible. You told this friend she would make a good food editor although the dream would not come true for her and yours would be only that: a dream.

Life goes on.

You turn 45. You realize that Mother Teresa had it right. You tango with today because you danced with your demons early on and they are gone. Another era of your life is gone again.

So you cherish what you have even when it seems you don't have much. You don't need much to be happy: your apartment a computer and a radio. Music sweet music is the soundtrack of your life.

What a life it has been: you can't say it's been like angels on toast yet you're satisfied with how things turned out. You will not grace the society pages of Town & Country and that is OK. You will not be some high-powered someone.

Most days you feel lucky just to be alive and other days you wonder if that is all that really matters: you're alive. You tell yourself it does matter.

You remember that Louis Pasteur is quoted: "chance favors the prepared mind" because you don't believe in luck. A friend wants to brass knuckle any clown who tells her you were lucky.

So you believe the best is yet to be. You realize in only one important way you are lucky: the medication worked as soon as you were placed on it. You know that this gives you the duty to help other people recover. You believe altruism is cool.

Like Mother Teresa I don't place my faith in people who are negative or try to bring others down. You need a certain kind of Teflon to weather the slings and arrows. I understand other people will question my motives and that is OK.

I hope to publish the memoir in due season.

When I wrote it I wanted to tell a good story first of all. I wanted to leave a doubt in the readers mind about how it was possible I have schizophrenia.

Also: I wrote the memoir in the vein of literary nonfiction so it differs from the other SZ memoirs out there. As I re-read the manuscript I kept seeing new facets or devices that were effective. The voice of a book is everything.

It took me a year-and-a-half to find a literary agent who wants to work with me. She got it about the premise of my memoir: healing through creativity.

So look to see this blog take off in a different direction and also for light reading surf on over to Absolute Rouge.

I'll end here by telling you that you have to believe that something is possible. I understand that you might waver in your confidence. I like the Adidas marquee slogan: Impossible is nothing. It hints that doing the impossible is an ordinary thing.

So you need to reach higher every day because recovery is not only possible today it is probable.

Recovery is cool.

Just Do It.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

To Dare Greatly


I wanted to move in another direction:

I've decided to get a diploma in image consulting. This is a dream of mine I want to accomplish more than anything.

This month I'm working on writing projects.

In the fall I give a talk at a mental health conference. This will be something to put on a resume. I wish I could be a motivational speaker full-time alas publishing the books takes priority now.

In May I will be doing research for the second book and I want to have the bulk of another chapter complete by June 1st.

This writing life is my fate: I was born to write.

This reminds me of the slogan: that some women were born to shop. I ordered a pair of green jeans and a pair of white jeans and a spring jacket.

It is my great dream to study to become an image consultant.

Life will continue. What a good life it can be.

I still feel days later that the goal is self-improvement.

You must take it when you're given the chance.

I have this conversation with another woman often.

How I would do volunteer work if I couldn't work.

Though it didn't cross my mind to give up because I wanted to win. Once I worked in an office and I told the guy I worked for that I played to win. He said, "So you think winning is everything?" He didn't understand: to me there is no halfway effort.

That is because I have schizophrenia and I had an extra hurdle to clear. God gives us these hurdles. We emerge stronger on the other side.

You don't understand? Don't take my word for it. Take Theodore Roosevelt's:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

The quote has stayed with me since 1987 when my management professor in college gave all the students in his class that quote on a wallet card.

Some things you take with you throughout your life like the Theodore Roosevelt quote. They leave an indelible impression.

In recovery as in life there are no guarantees. You do the best you can knowing your best will change from day to day.

I've read that upwards of 75 percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia want to work. In a Boston University study of sustained employment among people with psychiatric conditions diagnosis had no bearing on a person's ability to do a job.

The changes might come slowly. Piano piano. I want to use my talents to help other people recover. That to me is the greatest good I could do in this lifetime.

How now:

I will use my background in image consulting to help peers look for work clothes when they go on interviews and find jobs.

I would tell anyone that the prime reason I recovered is that I found the careers I love.

Now then:

I abhor learned helplessness.

No counselor or therapist or professional should ever dissuade their clients from taking a risk to achieve a goal. I was lucky no one I worked with ever told me I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I would consider that to be unethical. It might take longer or you might have to come at it a different way yet always a dream is within reach when it's modest and realistic.

Of course you might ask: define modest. define realistic. I grant you that. It varies for each person setting her own particular goal.

I want to be a change agent in the world. I know that by going to work I reduced the impact of my disability. You can't argue with that. People with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses can take action to live well considering they have a diagnosis.

It begins with the desire to do this.

Quite simply I hope I can inspire others to desire to set goals and make positive changes.

To light their fire.

I will end here because this is the only way I can end this blog entry.

I have such hopes for everyone on earth.