A Blanquito In El Barrio

In Memory of Gil Fagiani

blanquito

Poet Extraordinaire and Beautiful Human Being

Gil Fagiani wrote one of the two book reviews on the back cover of Left of the Dial.

I had wanted him to write a book review because one of his own poetry books was titled Serfs of Psychiatry.

That book is an autobiographical account of his earliest job in the mental health field.

A Blanquito in El Barrio graphically conjures his descent into street drug abuse.

Gil is one of the people who lived to tell and was able to stay clean for decades.

He treated me come un figlia.

In his name (as was requested) I’m making a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I urge you to read Blanquito and any other of his books that you can find.

He is the third person I have lost in three years. Each of them to life-ending illnesses.

Our lives are like the song lyrics to “Big Yellow Taxi.” You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. All that remains of paradise in that song was a parking lot.

One day all that will be left of this planet is burnt earth.

It’s time. For days now I’ve been thinking of the quote: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

You and I don’t know how much time we’ll have here. We don’t know how much time we’ll have with our loved ones, friends, and others we’re close to.

Make every day a day when you wake up and choose to love.

There is no other way to live.

One day things could change. Love is a life preserver. Acceptance is a safety net.

Make every encounter with another person a positive one.

Find the good: In life. In other people. In your situation.

Take a cue from Gil Fagiani’s remarkable life:

Fight the good fight. It isn’t over until it’s over. Treat everyone you meet with kindness.

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Healing is an Act of Love

My decades-long vision that recovery is possible animates my role as an Advocate.

My goal in life is to advance this vision of Recovery for Everyone. I believe recovery is possible from whatever setback a person has experienced.

Healing is an act of love.

Woundology, as I wrote about in here before, is the refusal to heal because you get a payoff in being ill.

The root of my vision of recovery lies in my belief that healing is possible.

For years I’ve been in recovery from a traumatic attack. I’ve also recently been in recovery (as an older woman) from the self-scrutiny of how I look without any foundation covering my face : )

This is to say that a person can be in recovery from different kinds of setbacks.

Advocating for recovery goes hand in hand with advocating for universal love as the twin engines that drive my life’s purpose.

It was an act of love that drove my mother to drive me to the hospital to get help not once but twice when I was younger.

Seeking help is an act of love for yourself or your loved one. Yet too often the door to recovery is slammed shut before you get to open it. Treatment is often denied just when a person needs it.

A lot of people are unable to recover because they don’t get the right help right away when they first experience mental or emotional distress.

It can sound radical to do so yet I frame stigma not only as discrimination I view it as hate. Is the absence of compassion for people with SZ and other mental health issues tantamount to being a form of hate?

You decide. I think it is. Society needs to heal from the disease of stigma.

The hate a person gives out only serves to damage the hater more than their target.

My vision of Recovery for Everyone has been attacked. A woman billed as an “international expert” (who curiously didn’t have her own website) attacked me twice for claiming that most people can recover.

No surprise she had claimed that no one can recover from SZ. How can any so-called expert claim that most people aren’t in treatment who need it?

We have no statistics to prove that people aren’t recovering. This is because there’s no way of counting the number of people who aren’t in treatment who need to be.

This is also to say that diagnosing a person from afar just because you think they have a mental illness isn’t the way to go either.

My decades-long vision of Recovery for Everyone is predicated on empirical evidence: the real mental health peers I’ve met and talked with who are doing just fine.

Nobody in power seems to see fit to count successful peers in their statistics of who’s actually doing well and who isn’t.

Am I the only one to state this truth in a logical way? Because the arguments claiming that no one can recover sure aren’t rational or based in reality.

My life’s purpose and work extends to more than just mental health. This should be apparent to loyal blog readers who have followed my talk for years about healing the planet too.

I’ll say it again: healing is an act of love. Getting treatment for yourself or a loved one is an act of love. Choosing to love yourself and others is a form of healing.

I believe that universal love must reign over the ongoing hate in the world.

Won’t you join me in championing Recovery for Everyone?

Won’t you join me in advancing universal love as a form of healing?

 

Autism Acceptance Month

I’ve been schooled in how to refer to April: as Autism Acceptance Month not Awareness Month.

Self-advocates think having awareness of autism is only a halfway measure—almost there. Autism advocates prefer the term Acceptance. At first I didn’t understand this because not everyone with autism does well.

It comes down to seeing the glass as half full (not half empty) and wanting to drink up. Advocates attribute their strengths to their autism. These advocates don’t see their illness as a tragedy even though there are struggles. They choose to focus on the positive.

The term is neurodiversity with typical and atypical expressions of this.

Those of us with an MH diagnosis need to get over our self-stigma surrounding the medical terms used to describe our condition. You don’t see advocates lobbying to change the name autism to something else. They accept what happened to them and advocate for full inclusion in society—something I did decades ago in the 1990s for MH peers.

Hell yes though—I’d be the first in line if a cure for SZ was available. I’m not one of the “I love my disability” folk.

No—I wouldn’t wish SZ symptoms on anyone as a permanent lifelong mental state. Having been there, I understand what it’s like. Having lived through the worst I would rather be in remission than symptomatic.

Give me a cure—okay? Give me the term SZ any day. Are people still spooked to have a diagnosis? In the early 2000s I railed against this and lobbied for acceptance.

Readers—I urge you not to get twisted over having a diagnosis. Next month I will advocate for changing May’s theme to Mental Health Acceptance Month.

We need to do this because without acceptance full inclusion remains a hollow dream. It isn’t the end for outsiders to have awareness. Awareness is only the beginning. Acceptance is the goal.

We need to accept the role the MH condition plays in our lives. This doesn’t signal that we have to like having an illness. No–I don’t like having an illness.

Yet hey, I say take a tip from the autism self-advocates: lobby for acceptance and inclusion.

Focusing on how having an illness has given us strengths sure beats dwelling on the negative.

I might not like having a diagnosis. Yet I appreciate all the good things I’ve gotten and that I’ve done because of it.

 

Radical Chic

I’m fond of this sentence Kim Gordon wrote in her memoir:

“I believe the radical is more interesting when it appears ordinary and benign on the outside.”

This rock star/artist/author (the former Sonic Youth singer and bassist) wrote a great book, Girl in a Band. I urge you to buy this memoir.

Sonic Youth are my favorite band–I played them on my 1980s radio show.

Her words are prophetic, because you can’t judge a person. How we look on the outside ultimately tells others nothing about our character, our personality, and the things that matter.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s dressing in trendy clothes was my way of telling the mental health establishment: “Screw you, I’m not going to conform to how you think a person diagnosed with SZ should look and act and live.”

That’s the truth folks: I rebelled the role of mental patient. You should do the same–and the sooner the better.

I think of this now as 53 beckons in a couple of weeks. Not all of us are destined to get dressed every day like we’re Nicki Minaj performing on a concert tour.

There’s a benefit in only looking like we conform when in reality we’re rebels, dreamers, and free thinkers marching to a different drum on the inside.

It can be liberating to fool others with our persona. We don’t have to be who they want us to be. We can and should only be ourselves.

Acting true to yourself will always be in style. Act true to who you are today. Reserve the right to be who you want to be tomorrow.

You don’t have to dress like a Pop Diva to make a statement. You can be radical dressed in ordinary clothes like Kim Gordon admires.

I too admire everyone for having the courage to get up in the morning, choose clothes, and get dressed in a way that is true to who they are.

The older I get I’m less impressed by what passes for normal in society. The mundane–in thinking, acting, dressing, and living–isn’t something I covet having.

Thus the title of my own memoir: Left of the Dial.

So you could say I look ordinary–yet I’ll always be a Girl on the Left Side of the Dial.

You can be radical and chic.

A woman in her fifties should leave people guessing.

 

Be Brave and Be Yourself

At the end of April I turn 53. I’m devoting a blog entry to a hot topic that no one else has ever talked about before. What I write is for peers to read first of all. If outsiders chance to read it I hope you will be moved to understand and have compassion for us.

It’s a reflection on how a friend is in awe of a woman with a formal serious office job. Yes I understand how she could covet another person’s life: that’s exactly what fueled my desire to have an insurance broker career: when my first boss developed a career plan for me.

I told my friend we should start a “F*ck You!” Club and dare to not conform to other people’s expectations. Who are either of us kidding thinking we would be happier being (or could even be) another person?

This I’m confident is the age-old dilemma of anyone with an MH diagnosis–going in the opposite direction to prove you’re normal–only to return to where you started as your original self.

I’m living proof that it all comes down to finding the job and workplace where you belong. I didn’t belong in insurance office jobs wearing “power-blue straitjackets” as I described that attire in my memoir.

The more I tried to prove I was normal, the more it backfired.

So it becomes imperative to find the place where you belong. That’s going to be a different environment for each of us. A good friend of mine rose up to be the CEO of corporations. He wore thousand-dollar suits and all that. More power to him for rising up. This is possible for some of us and not possible for others.

Either way it’s precisely when you turn 53 that it’s time to tell others: “F*ck You! I’m not buying what you’re selling about my worth. I’m NOT less than zero. I’m 24-Karat gold. Mess with me at your own peril.”

Or as a woman told me once: “You’re a diamond, not a rhinestone. Remember that.”

I’ll end here by telling readers:

Be brave and be yourself. There’s no other way to live.

Shine on.

The grass isn’t greener over there.

Spring Cleaning Outside of the Closet

The spring is the perfect time to start over.

Outside of the closet sometimes you have to cull your beliefs or your relationships as well as your clothes.

It’s not easy to let go of a friend or lover yet at times you must to reclaim your sanity.

It’s possible this person’s trash talk towards you has depleted you of energy.

I call such people “energy vampires” because they steal any good feeling you have about yourself.

Each of us deserves better. We deserve to be treated with kindness and empathy.

You can feel like you’re all alone after a breakup. Yet remember: their negativity is no longer seeping into you.

It comes down to what you’re comfortable with.

It might surprise readers yet a couple of years ago I decided to fade away from a person who made an objectionable racist comment out loud when we were in public together.

I felt it wasn’t right what they said. I won’t repeat the comment and this is because I don’t want to set off readers.

We need to lift each other up not bring each other down.

Our friends shouldn’t verbally attack us. They shouldn’t attack other people.

As hard as it can be to let go I’ll end here with this:

You can meet a new friend or lover in due season.

I’ll be 53 in April–I’ve been around this block for too long. The older I’ve gotten the less inclined I am to mollycoddle haters.

In coming blog entries I’ll talk about”The Change”–the M Word–menopause.

Living through “The Change” can be challenging yet it can bring on renewed happiness and a sense of new purpose.

I want to talk about “The Change” because no one else is doing this for mental health peers.

National Clean Out Your Closet Week

tie rack alternative use

The third week of March is National Clean Out Your Closet Week.

To free up space in your closet you can get creative with alternative uses for common storage items.

In the photo you’ll see a tie-and-belt rack has been re-purposed to store watches and a pocketbook as well as belts.

In the spirit of spring cleaning I recommend donating clothes and other items to the Salvation Army or the charity of your choice. You can get a receipt if you itemize deductions on your tax return.

Engaging in clutter control should bring a smile to your face. If you ask me organizing as you go along each week is the antidote to not doing it at all and facing a big pile-up down the road.

It’s harder to tackle a big mess so why not do a little every day to tidy up before things get out of hand?

I love the Container Store for a multitude of products.

The store even sells metal lunch compartment boxes instead of plastic ones. It sells reusable strong plastic bags so you don’t have to keep buying and using and throwing out the common plastic zip bags.

What did me in this time around? Counting up every pair of shoes I owned–37 pairs before I threw out a pair of booties with cracked heels.

Too I say the goal is to be able to keep your clothes long-term. Instead of buying things over and over and having to keep donating them because you don’t wear them anymore.

Buy what you love and will last for years. Keep your clothes in good condition.

As regards those shoes: an expert tailor can shine them so that they look like new after years of wear. I go to a shoe repair guy that is a miracle worker.

He’s going to waterproof two pairs of shoes. He can revive shoes. He can put taps on the heels. Absolutely–the shoe repair guy in your town is your best-kept secret.

Your shoes can make or break how you look. So can your clothes.

Now that National Clean Out Your Closet Week is here why not do a good-for-you spring clean?

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk about spring cleaning your life.