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.

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Kate Spade – A Tragedy

Today Kate Spade–the designer of iconic handbags–took her own life.

She had everything going for her in terms of external success.

It’s a tragedy that inside at her core she wasn’t doing very well.

A year or two ago in my Flourish blog I wrote about the phenomenon of “smiling depression.”

Women are suffering all alone because no one takes them seriously.

“How could you be depressed when you have a great life?”

“Just pray and go to church and you’ll be fine.”

“Get married and have babies and raise a family.”

That last sentence contains actual words a young woman was told years ago.

The other two sentences are oft-repeated ill advice that women are given too.

I remember vividly when I was going on a job interview in the 1990s.

I rode the elevator up to the office with another woman. She held a Kate Spade tote against her shoulder. I coveted that Kate Spade pocketbook.

It wasn’t until this spring that I dared splurge to buy myself a Kate Spade pocketbook.

I bought it at a reduced yet not cheap cost at an off-price discount retailer in New York City.

Kate and her husband sold their company years ago. Yet American women have coveted the Kate Spade handbags since their first creation.

Disability is no joke.

Mental health issues strike everyone from all walks of life.

It’s a tragedy that Kate Spade and hundreds possibly thousands of nameless faceless individuals feel the only way out of their pain is to end their life.

What if Kate Spade could’ve gotten treatment? What if she had bipolar or another mental health issue that wasn’t diagnosed?

A part of Kate Spade lives on in the pocketbook I bought this spring.

Yet that’s no consolation for the fact that another human being’s life ended in tragedy not recovery.

God bless you Kate Spade. God bless everyone living with a mental health issue who suffers. You are not alone.

The Suicide Prevention Helpline can be reached at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

You can use the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Please. The pain you are in can be healed. People care about you. Help is available.

There is a way out of the pain that will enable you to live a better life.

There’s no shame. What you feel is real and true. What you feel can be healed

 

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.

 

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.

15 Things I Learned at 52

Style is forever and fashion fades so with this in mind I present 15 Things I Learned at 52:

  1.     Turquoise eye shadow is  not ever a good idea.
  2.      Thirty is the cut-off age for wearing mini skirts.
  3.      Stay away from ripped and torn jeans.
  4.      Mid-rise dark-rinse denim is your new best friend.
  5.      If you wore it the first time it’s not for you the second time around.
  6.      5 or 6 lipsticks total are all you need.
  7.      Only wear red lipstick if it suits you.
  8.      Dark lipstick is not your friend post-40.
  9.      The shoes make the outfit.
  10.      Low-hanging earrings aren’t attractive. (Better a modest stud than a torn earlobe.)
  11.      A woman shouldn’t ever apologize for her existence.
  12.      You should leave the era before it leaves you.
  13.      Wire coat hangers? Of course not.
  14.      Smile more…you’ll feel better.
  15.      Who you are matters more than what you wear.

Wearing a Cross on Halloween

cross halloween

It’s time to fight the hate.

I urge you:

Act with love.

Speak with kindness.

Wear your hijab.

Confirm your sexual identity.

Walk down any street in America.

Wear your cross.

The first time I ever wore this featured cross in the photo out in public was yesterday. It was Halloween in America. Wearing a cross was a brave act considering that a guy driving a truck killed 8 people in my hometown of New York City.

He has been indicted on charges as a terrorist fueled by ISIS propaganda.

Thus it seems strangely bold and daring that I wore a cross out in public yesterday.

As a Christian wearing a cross, I could’ve been targeted.

It feels like a perverse synchronicity (unbeknownst to me on waking in the morning). I had no idea that later in the day a terrorist act would happen.

I had no idea that wearing the cross would have any significance beyond making a fashion statement.

I pray that haters–in society, in the world, wherever they are–come to their senses and choose love instead of bombs and compassion instead of killing.

Right now wearing a cross could’ve gotten me killed. I had no idea that wearing a cross would turn out to be an unwitting political statement.

People come here from other countries to have rights.

Women come here from the Middle East so they can drive a car. Can you imagine not being allowed to drive a car because you’re a woman? In 2017?

This is why good people come here to raise their sons and daughters.

They’re American now and don’t want to be subjected to “guilt-by-association” any more than I do.

New York City is famously touted as “The Greatest City in the World.”

In all my time here (I was born here and still live here and won’t ever leave) I must have interacted personally one-on-one with thousands of Muslim Americans. I’m confident when I say thousands not just hundreds.

We must stand together now in solidarity to tell the haters:

We will not tolerate your crimes against fellow human beings.

We will not condone your hate. We will not live in fear.

We will live together as one human family on earth.

We will uphold the rights of everyone living in America–and I do mean everyone–regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, mental health diagnosis, and any other thing that has historically marked us as different from each other.

Now you see: why I dare to live my life Left of the Dial.

Why I dare to identify with other people who have mental health challenges.

There can be no shame in being who you are. There can be no shame in living and acting true to yourself. There can be no shame for any of us.

New York City is my hometown. Everyone is welcome here.

It particularly saddens me that 5 tourists–college buddies–from South America were killed.

Reminiscence

bracelet purse

This quote sums up to me the 1980s and that era in music and fashion:

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T. S. Eliot

The other day I ducked into an Urban Outfitters store.

This was a cheaper bracelet purse I found. What’s not to love about cheaper?

Are they solely a New York City thing? Or throughout America?

Browsing Urban Outfitters reminded me of shopping in Unique Clothing Warehouse in the 1980s.

Remember Zoot? Antique Boutique? Trash and Vaudeville?

All were clothing stores in New York City in the 1980s.

They vanished like Manhattan over the years.

Now there’s a Starbucks on every corner.

What’s sad is that Tom Petty died. There was a tribute to his music on a WAYO show.

For a burst of music reminiscent of the 1980s you can go on WAYO FM.

The Sunday afternoon show streamed live via their Internet website features songs like the B-52s “Give Me Back My Man.”

Kate and Michael host the show. They’re two great disc jockeys.

The radio station broadcasts from Rochester, NY.

As of today, I’m writing a second memoir. I’m keeping its contents under wraps like a pashmina. I hope to publish this second memoir later in my fifties.

Just to say here it will be a version of Left of the Dial in overdrive.

With music, clothes, and boys.