The Secret to Aging Well

Sometimes a fresh swipe of lipstick can swizzle your mood.

If I can look in the mirror without judgment I’m going to have a better day.

The key is to have the self-confidence to stand tall and shout:

“This is who I am, take me or leave.”

We don’t need critical people in our lives. We don’t need to have other people judge us.

Tony Robbins is quoted to the effect:

“If you judge another person you lose the power to influence them.”

If you judge yourself you give others permission to not like you either.

As a 52-year old woman I strive to be gracious towards others. I act as best I can without judging anyone else for I can’t see inside their heads.

Mid life is the best time to meet new people, do new things, and adopt new beliefs about what’s possible.

To do this we have to let go of the past and re-frame our perception of who we are and who we can become.

Self-neglect is the foolproof way to age yourself faster than the expiration date on a carton of milk.

Liking yourself is the key to changing your life for the better.

I think the key to success at 40 and beyond is to have a restlessness; a desire to “see the world” with a fresh outlook.

Success at mid life involves not getting stuck. It requires weekly exercise of the body and mind and spirit.

The way I see it: to always be moving forward is the goal.

To not remain stuck we must move our bodies and move our minds out of their comfort zones.

That is the secret to aging well.

Making room for others in our hearts and making peace with our imperfections.

This is all part of remaining youthful regardless of our chronological age.

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Change Starts Today

At some point you really have to say:

“This is who I am. Take me as I am–or leave.”

We cannot control what other people think of us.

I’m learning this lesson now.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what people think of us. Seeking their approval is a no-win game.

Thinking you know what another person thinks about you is circular failed logic.

In effect, you’re judging that person without knowing the truth.

As a mental health peer I realize that holding so-called normal people up as valid arbiters of our worth is a form of internalizing the stigma.

Holding anyone else up as a judge in terms of how they view us is also not healthy.

We need to like ourselves first of all and in turn have compassion for other people.

Each of us living on earth is doing the best we can with what we were given.

Change starts today. Often if we want to change our lives we first have to change our minds.

I’ll be 53 in April–in just over 5 months. This is what I’ve learned so far:

Judging people isn’t the way to go. Stereotyping people isn’t the way to go.

The way to go is to understand that those of us living with mental health challenges are worthy friends, lovers, and support folk.

I for one have gotten over thinking that having a so-called normal guy as a boyfriend is the way to go. I’ve given up for good trawling OKCupid for a mate.

I don’t expect anyone who doesn’t have a mental health challenge to truly understand.

We need to seek love companionship and empathy from people who are able to give it.

We can’t expect to change the hearts and minds of people who are stones in how they treat others.

It would be great if people would come to their senses and treat everyone they meet with love.

While we wait for this to happen we can help make it happen by acting on our own to model compassionate behavior.

The older I get I’m trying to make a difference in the world.

I call this ethic placing “service above self.”

Acting with love will show others the benefit of acting with love.

One thing I know: people can change as their circumstances change.

People can become more loving and generous towards other people.

I’ve seen that this is true. It’s entirely possible for another person to wake up.

Change starts today. It starts today for all of us.

We have only today in which to make a difference.

God has given us this day. Let’s use it wisely and for the benefit of everyone.

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.

The View from My Poltrona

I wanted to write a blog entry about microaggressions.

They’re hateful and hurtful. I don’t consider them to be “micro” anything; I consider them to be actual racist comments.

The last I checked my calendar at home it was 2017. What is the year on your calendar where you live? 2017?

That’s right: it’s 2017, and it’s time to stop hate in its tracks.

I suggest critically attacking the person who has told you something that is hurtful or hateful. They need to be told why what they’ve said is wrong. This is because unfortunately they’re clueless–they have no idea of the hateful magnitude of their comment.

I stand in solidarity with anyone who’s been oppressed.

In 2014 when my First Person Account was published in Schizophrenia Bulletin I linked to this column on the NAMI LinkedIn Group.

A woman who uses a fake name on social media responded thus: “Why do you identify as a person diagnosed with schizophrenia. You obviously had a once-in-a-lifetime never-to-be-repeated episode.”

So, this armchair psychiatrist diagnosed me from her poltrona (the Italian word for armchair).

That is how low the bar is that other people set for a person diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In the late 1980s when I was shunted into “the system” I was told there was not much I could do precisely because I had this diagnosis.

Thus, I’m no stranger to the guilt-by-association tactic that linked everyone with SZ into the category of “capable of not very much” except warming a chair in a day program for years and years.

That’s why when I hear a guest speaker on an unrelated topic reveal that they were the victim of a microaggression I can’t help getting upset.

The guilt-by-association tactic is alive and well in Mr. Toupee’s America, as evidenced by his Muslim-country ban that ascertains you’re guilty of possibly being a terrorist simply because other people from that country are terrorists.

Is this really the climate we want to live in? Stereotyping everyone who’s different and continuing to set the bar low for what you expect from everyone who shares a similar background is still going on.

Check your calendar again–it’s 2017 not 1864.

My stance now is this: we need to confront the haters. I’ve changed my mind about this. Yes, I think we need to tell the haters in no uncertain terms that their low opinions of other human beings aren’t going to be accepted anymore.

I identify as a person diagnosed with SZ for this number-one reason:

I hold accountable for their beliefs and actions the mental health staff that dared tell me I wasn’t capable of holding a job.

I was judged; I was stereotyped.

My intent in identifying as a person with this diagnosis is to be in their face, to tell them: “See? You told me there wasn’t much I was capable of. Who’s sorry now? I’m having the last laugh.”

We must each of us hold others accountable for their behavior towards us.

It’s 2017–that’s the year on my calendar and it’s the year on your calendar too.

We can’t hold it all in and let the hate eat us up or tear us apart any longer.

Won’t you join me in speaking out?

My real name is Christina Bruni, and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 22.

Take this, or leave.

Hate is off the table in my house.

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.

Using Your Clothing to Speak Your Mind

It’s curtains for any stigma. The show of hate has closed down.

An image consultant wrote a 5-star review of my memoir Left of the Dial.

Now more than ever I stand by my assertion that the role of stigma is overrated.

Followers, everyone knows. And the kind people, the compassionate people, don’t care.

[You think it’s a secret but it’s not.]

The haters are jackasses. Do you really want to waste one minute of your life trying to get a jackass to like you and approve of you?

In the wise words of John Maxwell: “They can’t hurt you unless you let them.”

If you allow the haters to dictate how you feel about yourself, that’s a form of internalized shame.

You are kinder, you are stronger, and you are braver than that. You are wise and you are worthy.

Fight for your rights if you’ve been discriminated against in obtaining housing or other legal opportunities because of your mental health diagnosis. Put on your boots, because like Nancy Sinatra sang, those boots can walk all over another person.

Make no mistake: other than legal violations, wasting time worrying about potential stigma will rob you of having a full and robust life.

Repeat after me: the people who are kind and compassionate don’t care if you have SZ or BP or DP or whatever you have. Seek out friends and lovers who aren’t afraid.

The ones who are going to get spooked by your diagnosis have issues. You don’t need them in your life.

The only baggage I covet is Louis Vuitton. Better yet, make mine a Sac du Jour.

I’ll end here with this story:

I watched on TV as Letitia James–the first African American woman to hold the position–was sworn in as Public Advocate of New York City.

She now holds the second highest ranking elected office in the City.

She wore knee-high boots to take the stage at her inauguration.

Take a tip from Letitia James:

Use your clothing to speak your mind.

Any questions still about designing your life through personal style?

The Magnolia Story

Read it now: The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino.

I’m able to watch HGTV’s Fixer Upper house decorating and remodeling show. It features the husband Chip and wife Joanna who have four kids.

The show was an instant sensation. The book is a revelation.

The Magnolia Story is more uplifting and inspiring than any book I’ve read recently.

I recommend buying the book and keeping it on hand to read and savor.

Joanna’s wisdom is the prime selling point for buying the book:

“It was such a blessing to find myself thriving in the middle of the pain. Unless you find a way to do that, there’s always going to be this fake illusion that once you get there–wherever ‘there’ is for you–you’ll be happy. But that’s just not life.

If you can’t find happiness in the ugliness, you’re not going to find it in the beauty, either.”

I’m buying a copy to give as a gift.

More than this, the underlying theme of perpetual miracles given to Chip and Joanna Gaines can seem impossible for others to obtain.

The duo kept having an endless spate of triumph just when the hard times threatened to do them in. It’s best to overlook that they were luckier than a lot of people have been. Their financial struggles came through loud and clear in the book. It proves that they were not privileged; they were just fortunate to have benefactors who believed in them.

Finding your own benefactors could be the sole topic of a book of its own.

I say: use this book to your advantage in crafting your own “magnolia story” for yourself and your loved ones.

Be joyous when others succeed. Be proud when you succeed. Get support from others and give support to others in times of need.

Power your own flowering story’s book with love and compassion.

That’s the true message of The Magnolia Story: kindness can be a raft carrying us over to a better place.