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.

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Rebel Rebel

bowie-cover

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.

Tu B’Shevat

tu-bshevat

A friend invited me to celebrate the New Year for Trees.

Today is the New Year for Trees in the Jewish Calendar.

The Torah says: “Man is a Tree of the Field.”

Olives, dates, figs, and pomegranates are the fruits of the trees that are eaten on this day.

The pine tree photo is my creation. Not confident that you can make out that I used glitter on the leaves.

This of course is not my religion because I’m not a member of any organized religion that meets in a church.

How interesting that everyone was painting because in the New York Times yesterday there was a news article about art therapy. Apparently the second lady Karen Pence wife of our vice president has taken an interest in art therapy over the years.

Professional art therapists wonder if Pence echoes her husband’s anti-human rights stance and will try to get art therapists to convert gay people to heterosexuals. Others in the art therapy profession laud the second lady’s attempt to promote their field.

We painted and ate dried fruits and nuts.

Let’s celebrate the New Year for Trees for what it can be:

A reminder that we are human beings and part of the natural world. That when we water the soil our trees bear fruit. We also bear the fruit of our goals when we water and nurture our imagination.

I’ve written about friendship at HealthCentral. I’ll be publishing a Bruni in the City column about friendship in early 2018.

It’s true–and I’ll end here with this–that often those of us with a mental health challenge do best in artistic environments.

A verified significant number of Artist/Creatives have mental health conditions. Far better to encourage these gifts and use them to create things of beauty to share with others.

Sketch, paint, sculpt, write fiction, cut hair, apply makeup, sing, dance, act–it’s all good.

 

 

 

 

Optimism

optimism

Years ago I wrote in a prior incarnation of this blog about the New York City subway MetroCard fare card that I saved with the word Optimism in black letters on the white back.

Two or three years ago I attended an art class and created the above collage with the word Optimism.

The significance in choosing to make a collage of letters spelling Optimism is this: At the same time I had read the book The Difference by Jean Chatzky that details what financially well-off and wealthy individuals have in common in terms of traits.

It turns out that having optimism is one of the traits shared by people who acquire great fortune in life–and I dare say it helps us emotionally as well as financially to be optimistic.

My great friend has turned around my thinking in this regard. His nonchalance about the turn of events in America has prompted me to want to focus on the positive.

Hence the reproduction of the word Optimism as the banner for this blog entry.

I still think as I’ve always thought that the government can’t solve society’s ills.

Yet each person living in America has the potential to change their lives for the better.

The hypocritical thinking and the inconsistencies in policies that plague Republicans are going to be left by the wayside in this blog even though I’m tempted to reprise exposing them.

Instead I will focus on the positive: you want to amass a ton of money for yourself?–Be an optimist. Optimists live longer too.

When the glass is half full it’s time to drink up.

We should all be so fortunate in America that our only dilemma right now is that our iPhone doesn’t send photos to our e-mail as soon as we upload them.

Thus I went with Plan B: uploading Optimism.

Christmas and Hanukkah arrive in five weeks and Kwanzaa is right around the corner too.

Time to remember those of us who are less fortunate. Time to remember that all things considered it’s still a great time to be living in America.

Time to remember those who are gone and to carry on their legacy.

I’m a big fan of the Kwanzaa principles by the way. One of them is cooperative economics.

We all should be sharing our wealth–and share the wealth of our God-given gifts and the wealth of ideas we have for making the world a better place.

Becoming wealthy in more ways than just financially starts with health: having a fit mind and a strong body.

So in this regard I will start to post on the weekends new blog entries about nutrition and fitness over at the Flourish blog.

Salut!

Environment and Mental Health

The band Savages sound like Siouxsie and the Banshees.

You can see how I could bomb out of a career in the gray flannel insurance field.

Environment has an impact on mental health and can definitely trigger an MH challenge.

Being cut off and restricted from expressing yourself–living and working in a buttoned-up environment with a power hierarchy–I submit is not the way to go for a lot of creative folk with an MH challenge.

There is a place for you in this world. There is a place for everyone.

Finding the place where you belong is the number-one factor in having a successful recovery if you ask me.

 

rx-photo

All-American Social Club

July 9, 2016

All-American Social Club

This was my America inside the club:

A dreadlocked Adonis in Nike trainers chatted up a chica.

An Asian woman in Breton striped danced with a lightning-haired guy.

An African American woman in a purple shirt danced magnificent with a white woman to the cover band.

This is the America I know: free souls at the social club choosing to buck the system that divides us.

We keep on rockin’ in the real world.

 

A Life Beyond Illness

I’m going to start writing blog entries in here that are sketches of life beyond illness–I’ll start this on Thursday.

In a way I covet becoming invisible–getting to the point where managing your illness is not a full-time job that takes up every hour of your waking life.

Getting the right treatment right away can enable a person to have a full and robust life. Then it becomes their choice as to how and when they focus on the illness.

To be creative and act resourceful are foolproof ways to manage having an illness. That’s what I think: listening to yourself and your needs is an act of love. Daring to envision having a great life is an act of love.  Choosing recovery is an act of love.

I’m 50–I got here to having a better life and you can too. “Nothing succeeds like persistence.” You can have a better life at 50 than you did at 22. I say this because I regret nothing. I don’t regret a minute lived.

A guy arrived in my life who is a person of interest. Now you see that giving up is not an option. Giving up on yourself and your dreams is not a viable way to live. Risk avoidance is not a healthy strategy either.

You will if you’re lucky get to 50 like I have. The peer support guideline tells us “We expect a better tomorrow in a realistic way.”

Expecting that we can have a life beyond illness is now a realistic view of the future for a significant number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

I don’t tell people about what happened to me. I don’t tell the people I meet. I’ve chosen the media through which to reveal this part of my life–via the memoir the blog forums and public speaking.

Now that I met a guy I’m not keen either to talk about illness with him.

Having a life beyond illness is a noble goal. That doesn’t mean you’re discounting its effect on you–you’re simply not focusing on the negative and instead focusing on the positive.

I do think becoming invisible helped me succeed. Staying in treatment and taking medication helped me excel. There’s no doubt about this.

It’s what I wish for other people: joy and contentment in living their lives. I wish that one day revealing our illness becomes a choice not one we’re forced to make to prove something to other people about our ability and worth in society.

It’s not then a question of succeeding despite having an illness. The answer is that each of succeeds because we use the gifts we were given at birth to create a beautiful life for ourselves and others.

Let’s not forget that relying on others–either to praise us or to condemn us–is not the way to live. A person diagnosed with schizophrenia who doesn’t hold a job and does other things is just as beautiful as a person with schizophrenia who is a CEO.

That’s the beauty of living a life beyond illness: the diagnosis is not the be all and end all of of our self-worth.