Defining Ourselves and Determining Our Fate

In the late 1980s and early 1990s when I first came up in recovery I railed against using the term schizophrenia to describe me.

Of course at the time I wanted to be seen as normal not mentally ill.

Yet more to the point is that I must have subconsciously realized the danger of using externally applied labels to define who a person is.

Why couldn’t we define ourselves using our own terms? Why should we give others the power to control our fate simply because they used the diagnosis to determine what we could do–which in the mental health staff’s eyes was not very much.

Even today I wince when a label like LGBTQ is used to describe people. Why use any kind of label at all?

The International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) had a newsletter column where it asked the female members “Who Are You?” Everyone was supposed to write in and chime in with “I am…” This is how it’s supposed to be.

In my eyes the diagnosis is helpful as a tool to help people get the right treatment for the symptoms they’re experiencing right now. Yet this judgment is not infallible–a lot of us go through years of hell and misguided treatment because the diagnosis isn’t the right one.

Let’s place that aside for the moment and focus on this: we have the right to define ourselves using our own terms. We have the right to determine our fate. Doing this is a form of fitness.

Who are you?

I’m Chris: an independent spirit in chic fashion.

I’m a defender of truth, justice, and the right to bare arms after you’re 50.

I’ve been a mental health activist for going on 15 years this February 2017.

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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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