Write Your Story to Heal Your Self

Today I presented a memoir writing workshop at the 12th Annual Peer Conference at the NYU Kimmel Center. The title of the session was Write Your Story to Heal Your Self.

I firmly believe everyone can be creative. The premise of my workshop was that you can heal the self-stigma by writing your story.

Michael Jackson sang in “Man in the Mirror” that if you want to change the world you first have to change yourself.

Healing yourself is the start of healing the planet.

I told attendees that I healed via self-expression using art forms. My love of music, writing, books, and fashion helped me heal.

Here I’d like to reprint the questions listed on page 2 of the handout I gave attendees.

Feel free to Write Your Story to Heal Yourself using these Qs as a guide:

You’re a true original.

How do you define yourself?

Language is power. Written and verbal communication are a playing field.

Whoever controls their self-definition has the power to create their future.

A fortune cookie message tells us:

The sure way to predict the future is to invent it.

Here are some questions to get you thinking.

Jot down whatever comes to mind after reading them.

What is your diagnosis? How old were you when you received it?

How did your life change after the diagnosis?

What is it you don’t like about having a mental health issue?

In what way has good come of living in recovery?

What’s better about your life now?

Write about something you have that the illness didn’t take away.

Write about an event that was one of the happiest times in your life.

If you could have a super power what would it be and why?

What do you like about yourself?

What makes you a true original?

What’s your favorite color and why?

What are you the proudest of in your life?

To sum up write a six-word memoir. Use only six words to talk about yourself and your life.

Advertisements

Marching On

The founder of MomsRising wrote a book Marching On about how to be effective in lobbying for change. Everything she talks about is right.

This will be the last political communique for now. I want to move on.

For today I want to add my own thoughts to the author’s.

In July 1999 I fled Staten Island for Brooklyn.

The Verrazano Bridge was known as the Guinea Gangplank because Italians moved to Staten Island from Brooklyn.

I drove over the bridge in the opposite direction long before it was popular to live in Brooklyn.

For years I had a taste of Conservatism in my own family. I couldn’t abide the Republican mentality on Staten Island.

I had a preview of what was to come: about five years ago a cop killed with his bare hands Eric Garner in a choke hold on Bay Street.

The guy’s only crime was selling loose cigarettes.

Five white guys assaulted a guy I know in a bar down on Bay Street. And none of them were arrested even though one was identified in a police lineup.

They lived; Eric Garner died.

I simply can’t–okay–understand the defenses other people give to justify that cops kill mostly unarmed People of Color.

I try to understand these arguments and can’t.

Here’s the real deal: if you’re a cop who is strong enough to kill a guy with your bare hands then you don’t need to shoot a person to remain safe.

If you’re not strong enough to subdue a person without a gun should you really be a cop?

This is what I think. Years later I’m still thinking of Eric Garner.

I won’t join a protest in the streets. This is because I take medication. If I were arrested and sent to jail I’d deteriorate without treatment.

Since I can’t protest in the streets I will use this blog to speak out when I’m able to.

The cost of silence is too high for any of us.

I used to live on Staten Island. I used to walk on Bay Street. I fled that outer borough as soon as I could.

I can’t breathe thinking of what happened to Eric Garner.

This is all I wanted to write about before returning to my “regularly scheduled programming.”

Yet be aware I will most likely return to political commentating in the future.

I urge American readers to buy and read the book Marching On.

Change is possible. It starts when each of us has the courage to speak out.

The View from Flyover Country

Today I find myself veering into writing about topics I hadn’t wanted to cover.

The stakes are higher for one thing. To remain silent on things that matter is something I cannot do for another.

I installed on my iPad The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from a Forgotten America by Sarah Kendzior.

I recommend that everyone reads this book whether in print or electronic form. You can check it out of the library should you not be able to buy it.

It’s sad that I’ve given up on our government officials as being agents of change.

Now I only hope that others will join me in reading books like Flyover Country.

I hope that readers will write to your elected representatives on issues that matter to you.

In my own life I won’t take part in a protest in the streets. This is because I have a medical condition. Sent to jail I wouldn’t have access to medication that would keep me healthy.

Instead throughout the years I have used this blog on and off to talk about what goes on. A couple of years ago I stole from a newspaper and listed here the names of over 30 people cops have killed.

Here too I also wrote that when one of our rights is taken away (like access to birth control) the dominoes of other rights will fall down one after the other.

How I wish I didn’t have psychic ability.

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled against unions, thus weakening their power to advocate for the rights of their workers. Now employees will not have to pay union dues even though they’re members of a union.

Recently Mr. Toupee has also said that migrants shouldn’t be given due process under the law. In case you don’t remember the U.S. constitution guarantees due process to all people within the U.S.

For the life of me I don’t understand how the rights of so-called “unborn babies” are deemed greater than the rights of those already living. Thus causing people to vote into power a person who is taking away the rights of you and me every day.

The View from Flyover Country tells the unvarnished truth.

I’ve decided to write in here about these topics because I’m interested in getting the word out to people who might not ordinarily think about these things.

I had predicted that Mr. Toupee would win the election and nobody believed me. How could they not see what I saw?

Sarah Kendzior in Flyover Country predicted his rise long before I did in the book essays that were originally written from 2012-2014.

As ordinary citizens, we cannot blame each other for our misfortunes. The root cause is the decades-long deprivation of rights by our elected officials.

At a time when adjunct professors as well as service workers are sinking into poverty–as documented in Flyover no one is immune from earning cheap wages–it’s time to get real and take action.

I’ll end here with this: you know something’s not right when Kendzior writes in her book that U.S. veterans aren’t paid living salaries when they return from war.

They wind up on food stamps.

Reproductive Health Choice Statistics

Here I’ll give statistics from Trust Women about women’s reproductive health choices:

91.6 percent of abortions happen in the first trimester.

73 percent of women indicate they could not afford to have a baby at that point in their lives.

74 percent cited interference with their education or job/career or responsibility for existing children or other dependents.

49 percent of women who had abortions in 2014 were living below the federal poverty line.

95 percent of women terminating pregnancies think it was the right decision for them.

Between 50 and 60 percent of women who have abortions were using some form of contraception the month they got pregnant.

60 percent of women who have abortions already have children.

I’ll end here with this according to Peters:

“Women also face a host of barriers when trying to obtain birth control: cost and lack of insurance..difficulty accessing a pharmacy…challenges in getting prescription contraception..in scheduling appointments and getting to a clinic or doctor’s office.”

These barriers were greater for women living below 200 percent of the poverty line.

I recommend that readers go out and buy and read this Rebecca Todd Peters book.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about my own life as a women with a diagnosis and how my own health narrative has informed my choices.

 

New Reproductive Justice Book

As a Lefty, I want to talk about a new 2018 book Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice by Rebecca Todd Peters.

This will be a 3-part blog carnival. To start here I’ll tell readers that I have always understood and aligned with people viewed as The Other.

My own life narrative is atypical. A woman I hired told me my story was “unusual.”

I don’t think and act like a lot of people of my race and gender do. I’ve always gone Left when everyone else goes Right.

First I’ll give an overview of this minister-author’s rationale. Then I’ll quote statistics. Lastly, I’ll talk about my own life.

I quote from Trust Women to encourage readers to go out and buy the book.

Rebecca Todd Peters asserts:

“The public rhetoric that insists women must justify their abortions represents a thinly veiled racial and class bias that does two things: It attempts to impose white, middle-class values about marriage, sexual activity, and childbearing on everyone. And it focuses on individual women’s behavior while effectively obfuscating the complexity of their day-to-day lives and the viability of their various choices.”

Instead the Christian minister proposes:

“Public policy ought to focus on addressing systemic social problems rather than attempting to police and control the behavior of women and their bodies.”

In her view the real issue is that women who have abortions are told they need to take responsibility. The truth is that “difficult real-life moral decisions stand in contrast” with the prevailing white, middle-class politicians and anti-choice crusaders perception that women who terminate pregnancies need to take responsibility.

In the next blog entry I’m going to quote statistics that reveal the real issues facing ordinary women tasked with deciding whether or not to give birth.

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.

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.