Living Life in Balance

Life out of balance is no way to live.

I remember watching that 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi or Life Out of Balance in college. The Madonna “Ray of Light” video looks eerily like the animation in Koyaanisqatsi.

How human beings ravage the natural world is out of balance. How institutions in society treat people is out of balance. I have read books written by Conservatives and while their arguments appear bulletproof on closer analysis they are shot through with Swiss cheese holes.

It might be that I’ll always be a Lefty. It might be that my focus on fitness as a lifestyle is not popular and won’t ever be popular. I turned 46 and decided to make fitness a priority. I’m 50 now and I’ll say this: it’s to our government’s benefit if you’re in ill health and unable to be strong enough to become a citizen activist.

The lack of faith in the U.S. government according to studies is at an all-time high. We’re so disgusted that we don’t think anything we could do would change things. I certainly don’t think my letter-writing to my congressperson about mental health reform will change things. So those in authority are quite happy that ordinary Americans have given up

It starts and ends with fitness in my view because first of all each of us has to take care of ourselves in order to have a healthy, prosperous life. I define “prosperity” not solely in monetary terms. I define being prosperous in terms of having a bounty of strength, optimism, and what’s commonly called “agency”: a sense of purpose in our lives and the ability to do what we’re passionate about.

It comes down to fitness then.

I absolutely value having a fit mind and a strong body. This isn’t a stigmatizing belief. Everyone living on earth is capable of having their own version of a healthy recovery. Not everyone is going to dead-lift 205 pounds and that’s okay. That’s not the point.

The point is that achieving our own version of “well” is a noble goal to strive for.

Living a balanced life–what I call living life Left of the Dial–is also a noble goal if you ask me.

That’s why I say: forget the government. Forget elected officials who have memorized the Ayn Rand playbook. That is no way to live your life: expecting that any other person has the power to give you things.

I say: it starts and ends with each of us taking action in our lives to create a better life for ourselves.

I’ll end here by saying that now is the time for everyone living in recovery to expect great things. Now is the time to support each other in setting goals and going after what we want.

The days are long gone when we should have to ask permission from any other human being in order to have a better life in recovery.

Recovery is our right. Health is our right.

Living life in balance is something to think about.

 

Food and Fitness:

You turn 50 and you don’t want life to pass you by. You think about what matters most now.

I met a guy who is a political activist. I’m so jaded that I don’t think our government can fix what ails society. I favor Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Michael Jackson sang in “Man in the Mirror” that if you want to change the world you first have to change yourself. That’s an apt message for those of us who are 50. There’s still time. Better to take action now than to not do it and turn 60 or 70 and regret that yes life has passed you by.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

I’m a food activist and environmental activist first of all. The substances we put in our bodies and in our earth can harm us more than anything.

This is something everyone has control over. In New York, you can use food stamps at Greenmarkets. Do this and use a food pantry–you won’t have to resort to buying cheap processed food.

Meat belongs in no one’s diet–so right there you lower your food costs.

In New York a pack of cigarettes is $12. A week of organic oranges is $11. This is simple home economics.

We can thus all have a better life regardless of what our government does. There’s the real chance a Republican will be our next president–so it’s important we take matters into our own hands in caring and providing for ourselves.

I didn’t want to have to rely on the government–I didn’t want to collect a disability check the rest of my life. My political activist guy thinks the arc of history will progress. I’m skeptical it will.

Now that anyone on SSI or SSDI can set up a tax-free ABLE account we can have the money to buy organic food. A container of Earthbound Farms organic kale is $5. Buy tomatoes, chickpeas, and olives to add to the health. Voila–you have at least four salads for lunch for each week.

For $6, you can buy Amy’s Organic frozen meals instead of Lean Cuisine. No one is getting lean on tiny portions of standard frozen meals.

Now: I don’t want Mr. Toupee to become our next president. Yet he might well become our president. Anyone who doesn’t get out and vote–when Americans do have this bare minimum way to participate in our democracy–has to accept the outcome.

That’s why I’m firm in saying that each of us is truly the best change agent in society when it comes to changing the world.

If we can barely take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of the planet.

Which is why in my view success starts and ends with food and fitness.

Not with the political process.

 

 

A Long Life to You!

baby pink sweater outside
Cheers

You’re supposed to use photos in your blog entries so that Google ranks them higher in search. This photo is a little too big if you ask me.

I just say no to fillers, Botox, and lip injections. It all looks plastic to me when a woman over 40 has no wrinkles.

This photo was taken after a haircut. I recommend you have your hairstylist shoot your photo after a good haircut.

At 50 a woman should let her face breath every so often. The war paint look is aging. If you’re afraid to look at yourself, there’s more going on in your head than meets the eye. If you don’t like yourself, that’s sad when most likely you’ll have more years to live.

A guy I know who’s taken schizophrenia meds since he was 13 is now 72. A shortened life span is not inevitable. It’s a myth that needs to be retired. People who stay in mental health treatment become well enough to monitor any co-occurring medical health risks. Thus we live longer as a result.

The start is to quit smoking. My 72-year old friend didn’t ever smoke. Nor do I. I’ve always detested cigarette smoking from the time I was a young kid. I was easily nine or 10 years old when I had a distaste for cigarette smoking.

Give up smoking–I implore you to quit smoking now if you’ve taken up this life-ending habit. It’s not ever too late to quit smoking. Three women I know who smoked two packs a day for 40 years now sleep and travel everywhere with oxygen tanks.

Guaranteed to give you emphysema, COPD, and a drawn and gaunt, wrinkled-early face.

Give up drinking colas and sodas and soft drinks as the other thing you do if you still imbibe sugary or fake-sugar sweet pop. Doing only these two things–quitting smoking and not drinking colas–are the two best things a person can do. The proof is in how I look..I refused to start cigarette smoking; I refused to drink Coke or Pepsi.

Vanity is a legitimate reason for not doing any of this if you ask me. Living a happier, healthier, longer life is also a good reason for not doing any of this.

Besides…I have a date at a gastro pub that plays cool music.

A long life to you too!

A Life Beyond Illness

I’m going to start writing blog entries in here that are sketches of life beyond illness–I’ll start this on Thursday.

In a way I covet becoming invisible–getting to the point where managing your illness is not a full-time job that takes up every hour of your waking life.

Getting the right treatment right away can enable a person to have a full and robust life. Then it becomes their choice as to how and when they focus on the illness.

To be creative and act resourceful are foolproof ways to manage having an illness. That’s what I think: listening to yourself and your needs is an act of love. Daring to envision having a great life is an act of love.  Choosing recovery is an act of love.

I’m 50–I got here to having a better life and you can too. “Nothing succeeds like persistence.” You can have a better life at 50 than you did at 22. I say this because I regret nothing. I don’t regret a minute lived.

A guy arrived in my life who is a person of interest. Now you see that giving up is not an option. Giving up on yourself and your dreams is not a viable way to live. Risk avoidance is not a healthy strategy either.

You will if you’re lucky get to 50 like I have. The peer support guideline tells us “We expect a better tomorrow in a realistic way.”

Expecting that we can have a life beyond illness is now a realistic view of the future for a significant number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

I don’t tell people about what happened to me. I don’t tell the people I meet. I’ve chosen the media through which to reveal this part of my life–via the memoir the blog forums and public speaking.

Now that I met a guy I’m not keen either to talk about illness with him.

Having a life beyond illness is a noble goal. That doesn’t mean you’re discounting its effect on you–you’re simply not focusing on the negative and instead focusing on the positive.

I do think becoming invisible helped me succeed. Staying in treatment and taking medication helped me excel. There’s no doubt about this.

It’s what I wish for other people: joy and contentment in living their lives. I wish that one day revealing our illness becomes a choice not one we’re forced to make to prove something to other people about our ability and worth in society.

It’s not then a question of succeeding despite having an illness. The answer is that each of succeeds because we use the gifts we were given at birth to create a beautiful life for ourselves and others.

Let’s not forget that relying on others–either to praise us or to condemn us–is not the way to live. A person diagnosed with schizophrenia who doesn’t hold a job and does other things is just as beautiful as a person with schizophrenia who is a CEO.

That’s the beauty of living a life beyond illness: the diagnosis is not the be all and end all of of our self-worth.

Recovery at 50

Fifty reminds me of the song “Freedom” from the 1980s.

I turned 50: And I could give a rat’s ass about what other people do and say.

Anyone who cares one minute for what other people think has too much time on their hands. That time is better put to using it to do your own thing in your own inimitable way.

So you want to wear polka dots and stripes at the same time? Go right ahead. Fifty is the time to declare a war on changing yourself to fit into a version of a person that other people will approve.

Anyone else who dares spend their whole life sitting in judgment of you or me isn’t worth worrying about. Forgive them. Pray they one day “see the light.” Then send them on their way.

Besides in reality most normal people are too obsessed with their own perceived faults that they have no time left over to worry about you or me. Capisce?

I make the case for getting to the point where you stop being paranoid about how other people act towards you. This is one of the benefits of being in remission or in having minimally intrusive symptoms–the paranoia doesn’t influence your thinking and in some cases the paranoia is totally gone.

Imagine that: getting to the point where you’re not paranoid.

I firmly believe that acts of discrimination (traditionally called “stigma”) should not be accepted or tolerated.

We need however to differentiate between when we’ve been discriminated against and when we’re merely “reading into” the actions or words of other people.

At 50 years old: I don’t care about so-called stigma. Our lives should not be focused on pleasing other people who can set the hoops higher and higher that we have to jump through.

I’ll be 51 soon–my how time flies. Our fifties if you ask me are the time to get things right: to once and for all throw off the shackles that make us fear “stigma.”

To live the full and robust life that we’re entitled to live.

Fifty is when we’re asked to do things we feel passionate about: buy a home, enter into a relationship, travel, take up a cause–whatever the most persistent and urgent thing it is that our souls demand take expression before we’re gone.

Each of us is going to turn 50 at some point. All hail those of us who are 50 now. Fifty is too late in the game of our lives to continue to sit on the sidelines and not dare to get into the ring to try to achieve a goal.

Read the Theodore Roosevelt quote that I posted here in the quotes section. It truly is not the critic that counts only the person who has gotten in the arena and fought to have a better life.

I’ll return here on Thursday with information about a life-changing book I’ve read that might just help others in recovery find the freedom to be ourselves and live our lives free of stigma.

Hospitals in Winter

You’re 22 and you’re diagnosed with schizophrenia and start to go down a long and winding road to get to a better life.

One day you turn 50 and are confronted with the reality that you don’t know how long your parents will be here. You don’t think NAMI and other mental health agencies are doing anything to help people older than 50 achieve a better recovery on their own.

I picked up two bereavement and grief pamphlets at the APA convention I attended in 2014 and read them. At HealthCentral I wrote about geriatric psychiatry and recovery at mid life when no one else was tackling these issues.

This is how it plays out:

You visit a person in the hospital. You’re told to go into the solarium while he’s checked on. You don’t sit on the couch. You count the available seating in the room: 15 chairs. You circle around the coffee table over and over.

A TV plays some kind of Christmas sitcom. There’s a remote control built into an electrical outlet on the wall. You channel surf until you hit CNN which is a better though not by much alternative to FoxNews.

All the news reporters have attractive faces. You wonder if being photogenic is written into the job description as one of the requirements for getting a news announcer’s job.

Why aren’t there any plain-looking news announcers? you think.

You’re called back into the room. He’s old; 81 years old. Your mother has brought pignoli cookies and seven-layer cookies for him. The three of you have a brief conversation before you head out to leave. “I love you” you tell him.

The next day you tell your hairdresser. She takes 50 minutes to perfect your new haircut. It looks stunning. It’s better than a trip to the shrink. “I want you to leave here happy,” she tells you.

You duck into a store and buy yourself gifts with the holiday money you were given. It’s just another Christmas in recovery.

Luckily you recovered. What about the others? What will happen when their parents are gone? How will individuals living on SSI and Medicaid be able to function on their own when their caregivers are gone?

Riddle me this Batwoman: who will care about them then when no one cares about them now?

Humanity Inside Vanity

I don’t consider myself to be a superstar or celebrity. I’m an ordinary person.

What’s different is that I dared fight for my rights. I challenged the status quo. I rebelled the role of mental patient way back in 1990 when I dared to think I could have a better life than the one I was presented with. I didn’t want to collect SSI and live in a dangerous apartment complex on the edge of town for the rest of my life.

I was a creative, quirky young girl who listened to the Jesus and Mary Chain drowning her ears in Psychocandy until and after the day I needed real mind candy.

In the Zadie Smith link I offered last week, Zadie alluded to how an author sees each book in the rear-view mirror of her life when she was a different person writing it.

At 50, I’m drawn to the humanity inside the vanity.

Now I’m more interested in the beauty inside of us all. I wake at 3 a.m. and scan a fashion magazine. The Dolce & Gabbana dress reads per la mamma piu bella nel mondo. I know it is Italian for the most most beautiful mother in the world. At 50 I think it counts more that you can translate Italian into English than whether your face is wrinkle-free or you wear sunscreen every day.

I’m interested now in the stories of how women (and guys) put themselves together; like an author composes characters and their lives.

I also think: the goal is to get to 50 and be at a point where your illness doesn’t continue to dominate your life.

Now I differ from pop psychologists who urge everyone to “get happy” all the time every day. I’m the number-one fan of acting true to yourself. A person can be rude or crude and that could be who they are. So be it. That’s who they are.

Crafting characters in a novel is a gift. And like I wrote in here before truly seeing and observing and accepting and understanding how people are inside is a gift that we must hone.

The greatest gift we can give another person is to honor who they are.

The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to honor our nature.

Seeing the humanity inside the vanity: I’m all for this.