Mix Tape

In the early 1990s you’d make a mix tape of songs you recorded on an old-fashioned cassette tape. You’d meet a person in a club and he’d send you a mix tape of his band.

This was the prelude to a playlist on iTunes.

The chapter titles of Left of the Dial are mostly song titles, and they’re short, catchy titles.

I present here the “mix tape” of the songs should you want a soundtrack to the book. The songs have lyrics that relate to what was going on in my life in the chapters.

Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
Head Like a Hole – Nine-Inch Nails
Cotton Crown – Sonic Youth
Crazy – Seal
Roadrunner – Modern Lovers
November Spawned a Monster – Morrissey
Hybrid – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Transmission – Joy Division
Too Much – Fetchin’ Bones
Personality Crisis – New York Dolls
Chill Blue – the Chills
Walk On – U2
Just Like Honey – Jesus and Mary Chain
Funky but Chic – David Johansen
Unwell – Matchbox 20
Mysterious Ways – U2
I Wanna Be Sedated – the Ramones
Left of the Dial – the Replacements
London Calling – the Clash
Regret – New Order
Into a Swan – Siouxsie
Wonderwall – Oasis

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Good Humor Man

I think differently from everyone in my family, from most people in the world.

I keep my mouth shut when a person makes a comment that makes no sense to me. The tired rebuttal about how whites didn’t protest after O.J. was acquitted makes no sense to me.

Knee-jerk reactions don’t impress me. It’s not about race. It’s about violence. No one should be killed by any other person who fears an unarmed person.

You fear other people: you need your head checked. You fear the stigma: that’s ridiculous.

I recommend strength training because when you can power lift 205 pounds you’ll have the last laugh. You’ll be able to stand on your own. You’ll have no reason to fear narrow-minded people.

Yet better to take someone out with your caustic wit than your bare arms. Humor is the way to go. I’m related to a guy that can’t stop cracking the jokes. As soon as he enters the room, he’s joking about something. As soon as one of us enters the room, he’s joking about us.

Having a sense of humor and being able to deploy it at will is one of the all-time greatest gifts you can use in your recovery.

The secret strength in my life is that I find the humor in things that shouldn’t be funny.

My memoir, Left of the Dial, is not harrowing. It’s not negative. It’s not the story of a woman who still has major ongoing episodes. I use humor in the memoir, which no other SZ memoir does.

I find joy in life even when life is hard. I laugh, because laughter is the best medicine.

Truly what’s different about the memoir is the razor-sharp wit. I urge you to consider going to a comedy club or writing and performing your own stand-up comedy routine.

Laughter is what makes the world go around. It can inoculate us from all the negative things that go on.

I urge readers to try to have a sense of humor about what goes on.

Have the last laugh. Put stigma in its place by refusing to cower when other people are narrow-minded.

Smile.

Find the joy in life, because being angry and focusing on the negative ages a person faster than anything.

Grit

It takes grit to persevere in the face of challenges.

How long do you think it took me to conceive of, write and bring to market my memoir Left of the Dial?

13 years. No kidding.

I will shortly in here write other blog entries under the writing life category.

No one, not you nor I nor anyone, should give up on our dreams.

I was sitting in a chair in the waiting area before being called into an interview. A portly guy came over and sat down next to me and asked if I was going on an interview.

“Yes,” I said. He asked me how it was going. “It’s like this,” I said. “You get nine no’s and on the tenth try you get a yes. So you shouldn’t give up.”

He was impressed with my answer. I always thought he was planted there to see how I’d respond to his question. A little paranoia, yet that’s what I thought.

Quitting isn’t an option when it comes to achieving your life’s goals. The things that aren’t supposed to happen you can allow to end or fade from your desire.

Life goals: you must carry on to try to achieve them.

It’s my contention that every one of us was put here on earth in this lifetime to do one thing. When you find out what your one thing is, go after it with gusto.

My mother’s one thing was to drive me to the hospital within 24 hours of my break. My one thing is to publish the memoir.

Your one thing will be a glorious expression of why you were given this life to lead.

So don’t give up the fight to make it happen.

Live your life with a purpose and passion and you won’t regret a minute that you lived.

Making A Left Turn

My question to readers is:

Why should we care about stigma? Why should we live in fear of narrow-minded people judging us for who we are and how we live?

I say: find your tribe. Do your own thing.

Left of the Dial chronicles my early career in the gray flannel insurance field. It was an unwitting detour from the artist’s life in the city that I had wanted to live.

It takes guts. It takes grit. It takes perseverance to arrive at the kind of life that’s perfect for you.

I don’t recommend working at any job that requires a person to have an hour-and-a-half or a two-hour commute each way. That’s inhuman. It gives you no time to establish a fitness routine. It gives you no time to be happy at night to come home for at least an hour to do your own thing.

I realize that the artist types among us are often told: “Be an accountant. Do something practical to earn money.”

I’m here to tell you that you can earn a living doing what you love. Even if you have to work two jobs to afford to pay your rent. So be it. It’s better to be happy than to be miserable.

There are no accidents or coincidences in life. I firmly believe our lives evolve by divine design. It might take a person longer to get to where he or she wants to be. Yet the sweetest victory is often the hardest-won.

Always be hopeful. Not only does hope heal, it carries us through the hard times.

We need to have faith in ourselves. Finding our purpose for being here and then going out and doing that is what the world needs.

The world doesn’t need another person pretending to be someone she’s not just to try to be accepted by others.

Have faith and hope that the tide can turn.

It gets better. Truly life gets better the older you get.

Remember: you don’t have to make yourself miserable in a soul-sucking job just to try to prove you are normal.

There is no normal. Each of us deserves to have a life of our own choosing.

I’ll end her by stating I totally relate to anyone who took a detour in her life because she wanted to prove she was normal.

Yet that’s the quickest route to being unhappy.

A mental illness diagnosis is just a word nothing more than this. It’s just something a person has. It’s a straitjacket on our self-perception only if we let it be one.

Defy the stigma. Do your own thing. You’ll be happier in the long term.

Slinky Dresses

The start of the return of the hell. It’s not worth the risk in my estimation. A person might try one drug holiday yet if it fails it’s not advisable to go on another.

Elyn Saks went on at least 3 drug holidays and got sicker and sicker after each relapse. Her book description on Amazon states she still has major ongoing episodes. Is that any way to live your life if you can avoid this scenario by staying faithful to your daily meds?

Here’s the scene in my memoir that sets it all up. It’s most likely going to be the last memoir excerpt I post here for now. I will return with details about Left of the Dial: the premise that is the root of this lifestyle and the power that each of us has to take back our lives after illness strikes.

______________________________________

On a Friday night, seated in the buckled chair across from Dr. Santiago, I felt spangled with hope because I did some research and found out that there was a 2 mg. Stelazine tablet. I could take this, lowering the dose, and eventually come off the meds completely.

He asked me the usual questions: How’s your sleep? Are you eating okay? What about your thoughts? “I mostly sleep six or seven hours. I make mac and cheese with broccoli or hot dogs or pasta. I’m on an even keel.”

“Good.” He lit up a cigarette. “What are your goals?”

“Oh, I’d like to lower my dose to two milligrams and then try a drug holiday.” I had come straight from the city in a wool skirt and eggplant jacket, working the persona of a successful woman down to my black briefcase and matching pumps.

“Okay, I’ll write out a new prescription and monitor you until the end of the year. If you’re stable on the lower dose, I’ll consider stopping the meds.” All he could see was a different me, polished and poised, and so that was what he had to go on in the fifteen-minute session—only this: a pretty face.

The closet door of my mind was shut. He couldn’t know what was hanging out in there because I failed to enlighten him. The thoughts were like slinky dresses, easy to slip into, and I had no idea the cocktail party I’d been invited to was a setup. So what could I reveal? Nothing seemed unusual.

“Thank you.” The glittery feeling subsided, and I felt calmer.

One of his miracle patients, I wanted to write about what happened to me to inspire other people. No one should have to live on the margins. A better life is possible. I’ve seen this with my own eyes: first Margot recovered and then me.

“Do you have any plans for fun things, social outings?” Dr. Santiago asked.

“I want to travel to London or maybe Italy.” I didn’t know why; I had decided I wanted to see the world. “Maybe I can save up some money each month and go in the fall.”

“You should go.” He ground out his cigarette in the cloisonné ashtray on his desk. “Whatever you used to do before you got sick, if you’re capable of it, you should do now.”

This heartened me. Work was the daily grind, and it was time to live a little. Maybe Margot or Zoe could travel with me. We’d take London by storm, riding the underground. Or we’d explore Rome, drinking a morning cappuccino.

“I’m pleased that things are working out. Here’s your prescription, and I’ll see you in three months.”

“Thank you.” I rose. He opened the door for me.

A segue to true freedom, this minor victory deserved a celebration. I walked to Joe & Pat’s for the shrimp parmigiana.

My Signature Story

My signature story that I’m going to tell every chance I get is that I received the right treatment within 24 hours of my breakdown and as a result I recovered. Recovered.

Getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.

I dare speak out against living with symptoms. Getting the right treatment right away can enable a person to live without symptoms or else have minimal symptoms.

I’m not a fan of glorifying illness nor of coveting living with symptoms instead of taking medication.

If getting and staying in treatment will allow a person to live without symptoms, I’m all for this.

Certainly a person will have an easier time of it if he or she doesn’t have symptoms or the symptoms are minor.

The reality is, for a significant number of people who take medication, the illness is in effect gone from their lives.

I firmly believe that a person can be recovered, past tense, precisely because he or she takes medication.