See Who We Are

X had a song in the 1990s titled “See Who We Are.”

I’m a mental health activist because I couldn’t accept “business as usual” and the poor treatment of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

At first I wanted to be known as a schizophrenia expert and now I prefer the term mental health activist.

It’s because I’ve become wary of the assumptions masquerading as facts that are parroted by so-called experts.

Like that of an “internationally recognized expert” on mental health who regurgitated that no one with schizophrenia could recover. She didn’t go beyond that to give techniques that would help people recover. She didn’t give any ideas she had about how to change the broken-down mental health system. She simply kept stating over and over the same bleak information on schizophrenia recovery that gives no one hope.

I make the case for not stereotyping others. For not assuming things about other people based on how they look, or what kind of diagnosis or other “thing” they have. I challenge that expert to buy one of the homeless people with schizophrenia a hot chocolate on a cold winter day. Instead of writing a news article stating the obvious and not offering a solution for helping individuals with untreated mental illness that go homeless.

To truly see how another person is inside where it counts is a gift each of us should hone. Remember: no human being is a statistic. Take time to see and observe others. Break bread with people who are different from you.

Difference is beautiful. That in the end is why I titled my memoir Left of the Dial: to encourage people to celebrate their difference. To narrate the story arc of the life of a quirky, creative young girl.

Let’s face it: a lot of us have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Yet rather than deny this or get spooked by it, we owe it to ourselves to accept the diagnosis. It’s a part of our lives. Yet with good medication, therapy as needed, a fitness routine, and a support team, it is no longer a big part of our lives: it’s just something we have, no more than that.

I titled my memoir Left of the Dial because I wrote about music, fashion, books, and friendships. I wanted my book to be about a happy life lived in harmony even with ongoing hardship.

I implore everyone reading this blog who is an outsider, who does not have a mental illness:

See who we are.

There’s a human being experiencing this pain. We’re not nameless faceless shells. Our illness is not the sum total of who we are. We have real lives. We have hopes and dreams and needs and fears and feelings just like everyone does.

See who we are.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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