Wearing a Cross on Halloween

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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.

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Living Left of the Dial

You’re normal when the whole world’s going off and you can keep your wits about you.

My left of the dial lifestyle is linked to having the needle in the green not the red on a VU meter that measures the intensity of sound on a DJ’s mixing board.

This left of the dial metaphor I employ to signify that your thoughts and feelings are in balance—that you have a healthy body, mind, and life.

It’s keyed into doing your own thing, regardless of whether you conform to the so-called “norms” in society.

Choosing to be your own version of healthy is all that matters when hate, violence, and killing seem to be standard operating procedure in the world.

The comedian Sarah Silverman is quoted: “Humor can change people’s minds more than anger.”

In coming blog entries I’m going to write about positive people who have made a difference in my life.

These Everyday Heroes–and they truly are heroes–deserve recognition.

Self-Acceptance

Years ago a Nike print ad featured athletes with the tag line “Make Yourself.”

In the end, that’s what a person does in recovery: you have the chance to make yourself into who you want to be.

You don’t have to get a J.D. or M.D. You don’t have to do what I do.

You just have to be the kind of person that it gives you joy to be (regardless of the number on the bathroom scale).

Surprise–I think about the beauty and benefit of “self-acceptance” as a mantra in recovery.

If you’re not happy being you, ask yourself why exactly you’d rather be someone else. Change what you can of what you don’t like, and live with and forget the things you can’t change.

I’m 52–next week I will write about my 25th anniversary of being in remission.

Here now I want to write about self-acceptance because it’s the secret to feeling good about yourself. It could help to define what makes you a true original.

I would say my personality is “creative-kinetic.” Like the athletes in the Nike ad, I understand that there’s a power in creating yourself.

What I’m possessed with right now is a Deborah Harry quote. In a magazine, she said that all artists go “inching and crawling” towards their situation.

That sums up recovery: it too often involves going “inching and crawling” toward each goal; each milestone; each victory.

I will write more about recovery in here in my own inimitable way in the coming weeks–because it needs to be said what I have to say.

I’ll end here with this prelude: if you’re an artist, you cannot ever not do your art.

If you’re in recovery, you have to be true to yourself.

A good first step to embracing who you are is to remember that a mental health diagnosis is simply a tool for getting the treatment you need. It’s not who you are.

I call using your diagnosis to define yourself–I call this an “identity straitjacket.”

The beauty of living in recovery is that you get to decide how you want to describe yourself. That’s how I hit on my own two-word statement.

Try out your own self-definition. Meet me here next week when I talk about how I’ve been in remission for 25 years.

A Million Thanks

I want to give a million thanks to everyone’s who’s bought a copy of Left of the Dial in print and Kindle e-book versions.

So far Amazon hasn’t changed the wording of the book description even though I requested this two weeks ago. I hope for the changes to go through by the end of this week.

I changed a sentence to “The book gives hope for healing by doing what you love.”

I cut out “achieve your pre-illness dreams” and replaced the end of that sentence with “have a full and robust life.”

That’s because the point of recovery isn’t that a person has to be able to achieve their pre=illness dreams. The point is that you can have a different dream that’s even better than your original dream after you’re in recovery.

I’m writing a career guide. I’m writing a novel. I will have more information about these books in the coming summer.

I’ll end here with a million thanks to everyone for tuning in to this blog.

Rebel Rebel

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I’ve installed David Bowie’s song “Rebel Rebel” on my iPod and set the alarm clock to wake me to this song.

Ordinary people in the world aren’t kind to those of us who rebel.

Early on in my life I rebelled the role of “mental patient.”

Thirty years later I tell you readers that living a counterfeit life is a mistake.

It comes down to being okay with not conforming to what has been designated as the norm in society.

Yet why do people think they have the right to brand others as–at worst “crazy”–and at best not normal? This intrigues me that most people fall in line to wanting to be normal or have a normal life–and expect others to follow suit.

I ask you: Is normal what it’s cracked up to be? I think not.

If you ask me there’s no safety in numbers–you’re just numbing your individuality to please people who won’t accept your true self.

I have thought often about the futility of seeking other people’s approval for who you are and how you live your life.

Way back in the 1970s David Bowie sung about how the girl’s mother didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl.

The lyrics about the torn dress; the face a mess–and how the young girl was there when the dues were counted out– it all reminds me of the story I told in Left of the Dial.

If you ask me “Rebel Rebel” is the perfect anthem for self-expression of bold stripes and of any stripe.

My high school art teacher told us that successful composition requires “unity with diversity.” That’s a great credo for the world right now.

God made us individuals. He thinks we’re divine just the way we are. We aren’t  supposed to be mirror images of each other.

“Rebel Rebel” was prophetic in its message:

That you can only be a success if you dare to be yourself.

Living Out Loud

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I’ve chosen this blog entry’s photo to make a statement.

Now with Mr. Toupee endorsing the denial of women’s rights and human rights I’ve struggled with how to make sense of the hate in the world that has risen up.

It’s always true that in order to love other people you first have to love yourself.

For those of us who’ve always felt different the truth is most likely we ARE different.

How can we come to terms with the hate in the world right now?

I’ve figured out a solution that is simple, effective, and oh-so-easy to execute right now:

We must stand up for ourselves and refuse to take a backseat.

I figured out that dressing in fashion can be a political act too.

We can create the person we want to become by dressing the part.

I for one think boycotting Ivanka Trump products and her fashion line is called for.

Dressing in a way that stands out is a way to rebel the hate that has become standard operating procedure in so much of society.

Dressing in a way that pleases ourselves first of all is the ultimate way to take charge of our destiny.

What better way to stand up for ourselves than to stand out walking down the street?

It signals that you can’t be messed with when you’re making a fashion statement.

Pastels? Muted colors? I just say no to all that. First of all because of my dramatic Mediterranean features.

The premise of titling my memoir Left of the Dial was also because blending in doesn’t really get a person very far.

Conforming to how other people expect you to live and act and dress at the expense of your own happiness is the surefire route to ill health.

I say: dare to be different and do your own thing. You’ll be a lot happier and healthier.

You and I should not live in fear of having our rights taken away.

I’ve decided I might join a protest at some point.

The antidote to this ongoing hate is self-acceptance. Once we can be happy with who we are and like ourselves it won’t matter what other people think of us.

The time now is to get up and stand up for our rights.

The very act of living in recovery is in itself a political act.

To speak the truth to power and say:

I’m not going away. I’m not going to join you in accepting hate as a lifestyle option. I’m not going to accept ill treatment.

Emile Zola is quoted:

“If you asked me what I came into this world to do–I would tell you–I came to live out loud.”

Live out loud.

That’s an effective strategy for combating hate.

Simply by walking down the street with our heads held high we can effect positive change.

 

 

 

 

Dare to Be You

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Years ago for my birthday my dear friend gave me this card.

I wonder about the mental and physical toll of bottling up who you are–and bottling up the truth about the illness. Stuffing down your feelings can’t be healthy because one day the lid will pop off and they’ll explode.

So much has been written about how churches try to convert gay individuals to acting as heterosexuals. Yet I might be the first person to write about the folly of squelching your personality when you have a mental health diagnosis.

Pretending to be someone you’re not over the long-term only leads to illness.

Yet it’s a mistake to conflate temperament with symptoms. For a lot of people with mental health conditions though we do worry about betraying our illness to others in how we act–especially if we have jobs and degrees.

As a professional told me years ago:

“When you’re high-functioning you’re aware that you’re different so the pain is greater.”

Really, if you have anosognosia thus don’t think you’re sick why would you be ashamed to think the CIA is after you? You wouldn’t. You’d be oblivious to the slings and arrows of stigma.

As a woman put it to me: “At home and outside–with friends and family–I can be myself and don’t have a filter. Yet who am I supposed to be at work?”

I’m writing about these things because no one else is and someone has to.

In the end the ethic of my memoir Left of the Dial boils down to this:

Dare to Be You–and you’ll be happier and healthier.