I’m going to feature here an every-so-often series of short quirky blog entries that are taken from actual fortune cookies.

The blog entry titles will be linked to the theme of the fortune cookies.

Today’s fortune:

What’s more important–your goal, or others’ opinions of your goal.


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.

Happy Turkey Or Other Food Day

I’m taking a break from the memoir excerpts this week.

Here too I will thank each and every reader of my blogs for tuning in and posting comments when you’re able.

Whatever food you eat, I hope you enjoy abundance in this harvest season.

More than this, no on should be starved for happiness, companionship and empathy.

Glad tidings to you as you go about your days in this holiday season.

Life Is Beauty Full

On Thanksgiving I will not post a memoir excerpt. I will return to doing this in December.

Today’s blog entry focuses on what I think is a secret to success in life as well as in recovery.

I saw in a store an oversize throw pillow with the words: Life is Beauty Full.

One way it can be is when you remember that you hold in your own hands the keys to changing your life for the better. A secret is to be self-reliant and trust that you can take action to do this. Living through the hard times by embracing the struggle and moving through it with the knowledge that setbacks are often only temporary.

Living your life Left of the Dial involves self-acceptance. You realize you will succeed when you compete only against yourself, because then the playing field is truly level. You own the particular piece of land you’ve designated as that field.

You can get on your field and compete every day to be and do a little better than you were and did yesterday. You compete with whatever strength you’ve got today, knowing that your best will change from day to day. You accept that today is what it is; at the same time, you recognize that tomorrow can be different, can be better, because of the action(s) you take today. If today you fail in your attempt(s), you can have hope for tomorrow, because every day you wake up is a second chance to change your life for the better.

Believe in yourself when it seems no one else does. Cherish and respect and honor the things that make you who you are.

Remember: Live is Beauty Full because you’re in it. It’s Beauty Full because all human beings are beautiful.

God doesn’t make junk.

Moving Out

I spent 29 months in a residential housing system from 1988 to February 1991. I recommend this option only as a last resort. I favor getting a job that enables a person to rent or own a free-market apartment outside of “the system.”

The memoir excerpts will continue here through mid-December. It’s my goal to have Left of the Dial go on sale in early January 2015.


On a cold winter day, I drove around the island looking at apartments. A woman showed me a dark and dirty place in Westerleigh. A garden apartment in Dongan Hills was too far from the train. A basement room in Arrochar was the size of my childhood closet.

The last studio I saw was near the amusement park on Sand Lane. This apartment rocked. Light flooded the room from two big windows. A sink, stove, refrigerator, and cabinets lined one wall, which extended farther than the main area to create a dining nook. I took in the good-sized closet and the utility closet that I could have my father attach a rod to so I could hang more clothes. The bathroom was spotless. Mostly, the sunlight coming through clinched the deal.

“I’d like it,” I said, not aware that maybe the landlord had to decide if he wanted me as a tenant. “Great. It’s four hundred per month like I told you on the phone. I prefer to be paid in cash.”

“Could I come next Saturday with the deposit?”

“Sure. The lease will start February first, and the rent is due on the first of the month.”

“Great. I’ll be by in the morning.”

“See you then.” He closed the door.

When I returned to Holland Avenue, I raced into the office to see Viola. She had been waiting all day. “I can tell you found something. You have a glow.”

“Oh, it’s wonderful. The light streams through the windows. It has two big closets.”

“You deserve this success. You took what you were given and wouldn’t let it defeat you. I can only imagine that you’ll use that determination in whatever comes your way in the future.”

“Oh, I’m so excited; I can’t wait.”

“I’m confident that you have what it takes to fly solo.” Viola looked at her watch. “I’ll let you go now. I have to write up your discharge papers.”

When I got back to the residence, I sat at the dining table and wrote down a list of everything I’d need to do, buy, and secure: Change my address at work and at the post office. Get a sofa bed, dresser, and kitchen table. Hook up the utilities.

Wow, I’ve finally done this: I’ve recovered. It took just over three years, and I have found my way back.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page


In December I will talk about my Left of the Dial philosophy on Tuesdays. Starting today I will give an idea of what I’m talking about.

It goes back to a quotation from the 1990s: “The only power a person has over you is the power you give him.” This too: “The only power a diagnosis has over you is the power you give it.”

Having the courage to be your own person and do your own thing isn’t easy. People in the world who covet being normal–and most people do–are not kind to those of us who are different. We’re shamed, made to feel guilty if we don’t toe the line; if we don’t conform to how others think we should be, act and live. Most likely, those of us who do our own thing threaten others who are secretly envious that we’ve opted out of “the rat race,” that we’ve dared to be ourselves.

The Left of the Dial ethic signals that we can be proud of who we are and celebrate ourselves.

Michelle T. Johnson, the author of The Diversity Code, is quoted to the effect that honoring individuality is the highest form of achieving diversity.

It starts when we dare to be ourselves in a world of fake people; in a word of people competing with each other and pretending to be someone they’re not to get ahead

You don’t have to act trashy to win at the game of life. You can compete in traditional arenas with other people, if you want to and choose to. Yet whatever you do, you don’t have to sell your soul.