Having a Full and Robust Life

I’m not a fan of labels like psychiatric survivor. To me a survivor is merely someone who survived an experience. I’d rather be a winner: a person who got in the ring and fought the illness and was the last one standing.

In recovery as in life there are no guarantees. We have to treasure what we have because it could be gone tomorrow. That’s what I would tell anyone who doesn’t have a mental illness too.

I want others to focus on the humanitarian work I do not on what I’ve achieved for myself. I use my experiences to uplift and inspire others–true–yet my goal was not to claim that everyone can do what I’ve done or has to do what I’ve done to be given credit in society.

Since I first started blogging years ago I’ve championed that each of us figures out what makes us happy and goes and does that. Your blueprint for living your life is going to be different from mine.

My ulterior motive was to show how I rose up against the stigma the mental health staff tried to reinforce when I dared tell them I wanted to get a job and live independently. My contention has always been that a person diagnosed with schizophrenia should not settle for less than full participation in society on equal footing with everyone else.

Most people covet having a “normal” life or covet being “normal.”

The book flap for Kelly Cutrone’s Normal Gets You Nowhere defines normal as:

“according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle / conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern / of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development.”

That doesn’t sound like something I ever wanted to be though at one point I wanted to be “free from mental defect” another definition of normal.

Like I said I consider myself to be an ordinary person. I simply wanted to do great things. That’s the difference: each of us has gifts we were born with to use to better ourselves and others in the world.

Everyone has God-given gifts and talents. No one is better than anyone else because in this regard we’re all equals: we have gifts and talents. Daring to use these strengths to create a better life for ourselves and others is the secret to success in recovery.

I make the case for striving to have a full and robust life not just surviving hell and living a life of anger and resentment.

A trend has come on to champion having an ordinary, average life in recovery. Yet I don’t think a person is ordinary or average even if they have a “normal” life. I think greatness lies in each of us regardless of whether a person has a masters degree or is a JD or MD.

That’s why shortly I’m going to feature other peer stories in here. I promised this a couple of months ago and I should be able to start this in September.

A lot of people still cling to using a label like psychiatric survivor. My goal is to showcase peers who have real lives apart from their illness and apart from their diagnosis.

Having a normal life doesn’t appeal to me: having a full and robust life does.

That’s what I intend to do: feature peers who have full and robust lives. Stay tuned.

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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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