In September 2015 I ended my job as the Health Guide for a mental health website.
While I had been there easily over 9 years ago I wrote in a news article that there should be some kind of Nobel Prize given out for people living in recovery.
At that time the editorial team of the website posted this gem of advice:
“The only real failure is the failure to try.”
I think they might have stolen that from something I wrote.
How audacious it was to tell people diagnosed with schizophrenia this.
I riffed on this premise in a news article there.
I wrote that trying can be as simple as getting out of bed.
Or cooking yourself a meal. Or taking a shower.
That’s when I lauded the courage it takes readers living in recovery to set goals and to try to reach them.
In a world where outsiders and haters to this day persist in claiming that no one can recover.
I would like to start a carnival of blog entries here on the topic of recovery.
It’s more imperative than ever in the time of living through this pandemic to support those of us who are in recovery.
For some of us every day is a struggle. For others the war has been won.
In the spirit of spreading joy, love, peace, and understanding I will talk in coming blog entries about the beauty and benefit of choosing recovery as a life goal to shoot for.
And remember: you do not have to be in remission to recover.
I want to riff on where I left off in the last blog entry.
I always thought recovery must be self-defined.
In the 1990s I had a “normal” life with a corporate office job and an apartment. So on paper it looked like I had recovered.
Only I don’t think I had a better life until I turned 35 and started working as a librarian.
Proof that you can be in remission yet not have the kind of life you wanted to have until later on.
In this regard I don’t view recovery as the return to having a so-called “normal” life.
The Merriam-Webster definition of normal is:
Of or having ordinary or average intelligence; conforming to a standard or type; free of mental defect.
Does being average and conforming appeal to you? More power to you should it float you to be normal.
I always wanted to have “an artist’s life in the city.” That was my one true goal when I was in college
Often those of us with broken brains take a detour before coming to be where we want to be.
Thus I’m not keen to accept returning to having a “normal” life as the hallmark of whether a person has recovered.
Isn’t it a relief to know this?
Isn’t it more hopeful to know that you don’t have to fit a mold of what constitutes success?
That you and I can go our merry way having a life of our own design.
As the saying goes:
Sometimes the best raspberries come late in the season.
My stance is that you must decide for yourself with your own psychiatrist how you feel about where you are in your life.
Refrain from letting a so-called expert who hasn’t met you dare presume to diagnose a person from afar.
In this regard I’ve always taken E. Fuller Torrey, MD to task. This author of Surviving Schizophrenia claims a person who has a job or a spouse hasn’t recovered.
In his eyes you haven’t recovered unless you don’t need medication. I fear he is using the term recovery interchangeably with remission.
In his book he lists the statistics for what percentage of people recover. This is where E. Fuller Torrey claims a person hasn’t recovered even when they have a job or a spouse.
The fact is you can be in recovery and still have symptoms. People who have symptoms can hold a job or be married.
Does this mean you haven’t recovered simply because you still take medication?
I beg to differ for one strong reason: a significant number of people go without treatment before they get help.
We should not discourage such a person from making recovery a life goal worth shooting for. Even if they cannot get to being in remission.
I’ll end here by reiterating that you have the right to set goals with your psychiatrist and other treatment team members.
Only you and the mental health staff that you employ to serve you should be deciding whether you’ve recovered or not.
It can be hard post-diagnosis to believe that things can get better.
In a time of living through this pandemic it can be doubly hard to manage your recovery and have hope.
I make the case for having hope coupled with taking action.
To do what is safe while the COVID-19 outbreak is upon us.
Again I recommend staying in contact with friends and family and any neighbors you can count on via the telephone or on ZOOM on the computer.
This is a time that everyone will benefit from having compassion for ourselves and others.
The world has changed. We cannot go on the way it was before.
It’s more imperative than ever to work together to champion recovery as the goal after a person gets a diagnosis.
It’s time to find solutions to be able to fix the broken mental health system once and for all.
The day has come to recognize just how hard it can be living in recovery.
To act in the spirit of wanting to lighten this load.
The pandemic will end. It might not end soon.
This is all the more reason to renew our efforts to champion recovery for everyone post-diagnosis.
Having an Attitude of Gratitude makes all the difference in a time of crisis.
My refrigerator is more stocked with food now than it was before the COVID-19 outbreak.
I’m grateful for my good fortune.
In this time of hardship a friend told me to remember all that I’m doing to give joy to people who read my writing.
Life is bigger than your pain. Find what your purpose is for being here. Going and doing that can help you transmute your pain into something positive.
Early on in my recovery I wanted to turn my pain into a thing of beauty for other people.
Even though a lot of us and most likely a significant number of us are sheltering in place we are all together in this changed world.
It’s time to think of how we want to live and what we want to do after each of us returns to going outdoors.
Egotism and bigotry must not prevail.
Too late in the history of humankind to continue to engage in hate, killing, violence, and war.
War is not the solution.
Won’t you join me in committing to shifting the needle to the left of the dial after the pandemic has ended?
Today is the day to think of the day we’re going to return outside.
We can each of us decide to love.
Love wins. It always does.
While I’m no fan of the president who I’ve taken to calling Mr. Toupee over the years I’m impressed with one thing he said in a speech concerning life in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak:
“All Americans including the young and healthy should engage in learning from home.”
It impresses me that a president who rules the country via Twitter fiats urged us to flex your mental muscles as a way to cope.
Not only did Staples deliver my ink and paper so I could continue my writing projects at home:
Amazon is set to deliver a book to my house.
Reading books and magazines would be in my estimation a productive use of our mental energy when we’re sheltering in place.
For you watching TV might be a pleasant way to pass the time when you’re sheltering in place. By all means continue to watch TV should this give you great joy.
Watching TV sitcoms all day on a good day is my version of a great way to dull my mind if not outright damage my mental health.
To keep my mind sharp and alert I’m reading a book one of my friends published last year.
Talking on the telephone to my family also helps me ride out this crisis.
Like I said the number-one act of healing for me has been to use the creative process to express myself.
So when the ink and paper runs out I’ll fire up the credit card and order new ink and toner from Staples.
We’ll get through this together.
Americans have always been resilient in the face of hardship.
Flexing your mental muscles?
I’m all for this as a game plan.
Italians like I am eat to live more than we live to eat.
The Mediterranean Diet has been touted since the early 1990s as a healthful eating plan.
The number-one goal in a time of crisis as I see the goal is to keep up eating healthfully consistently every day.
From FreshDirect I order an organic CSA box of Lancaster Farms produce. It costs $39 and contains a mound of cheese and carton of eggs as well as 5 types of produce.
Either stopping eating or eating too much is the drawback in a time of crisis.
So far I’ve snacked my way through 3 bags of potato chips. Yes–you heard me right–3 bags of potato chips in 2 weeks.
I quickly threw out the 3rd bag of chips before it was all gone. The snacks are gone for good. And I won’t be ordering anymore chips at all from the online grocery.
Not bringing junk food into your house in the first place is the foolproof tactic for eating well in a time of crisis.
I’ve learned to cool it out with the chips and the pretzels.
Having breakfast lunch and dinner is imperative when you’re told to shelter in place indoors and not go out.
My goal is to have dinner before nine o’clock at night. Preferably by eight o’clock.
Eggs are great to have for breakfast.
Soup or salads are good to have for lunch.
Dinner can be as simple as turkey or chicken and a vegetable.
I was pleased to find out I could order healthful organic turkey burgers from FreshDirect online. They come in a 4-pack.
The CO-VID19 outbreak is no joke. Stay indoors when you must.
More to come in the next blog entry.
I would like to be checked in on while I’m sheltering in place because of the CO-VID19 coronavirus outbreak. To have a person dial on the telephone to check in on me to see how I’m doing. This isn’t often possible for those of us who have flown the coop of the “mental health system.”
In this time of crisis though I’m at least able to talk to a therapist on the telephone which counts more in keeping me going.
Five days before businesses shut down in New York City I had the good fortune to be able to go to Best Buy in person and schedule the delivery of a new computer.
My old computer had crashed. I lost a number of files that couldn’t be retrieved. Luckily in January I had bought an external hard drive for $70 to transfer my folders and documents to.
I lead up with this introduction because it’s worth it when you can afford it to have a computer at home.
My mental health has improved because I’ve started typing up and editing and revising a work of fiction I want to publish.
Every day I sit at the computer working on this novel.
Engaging in the creative process whether it is by writing, sketching or painting, cooking a meal, or decorating your apartment can be a great way to safeguard your mental health.
This was how I healed from an illness: by using the creative process to express myself.
Always I recommend doing what gives you joy to inoculate from pain and hardship.
I’ve begun writing this new novel. I have 7 works of fiction I would like to publish in the coming years.
Writing in a journal–it can be dashing off your thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook–is another great tactic for riding out this hard time.
In the coming blog entry I’ll talk more about using other coping skills in a time of crisis.
Healing and realizing your full potential is possible when you honor, accept, and embrace your individuality and that of others.
Yes you can have a full and robust life living in recovery with a job, home, and social life of your own design.
In June 2000 I obtained a Masters’ in Library and Information Science (MS) from Pratt Institute. Since then I’ve been a professional librarian in an urban public library. Ten years ago I found my niche in career services, helping library customers find jobs that use their skills and interests. In the last 10 years, upwards of 85 percent of the individuals I’ve coached have gotten job interviews that led to job offers. For five years I operated my own LLC as a career consultant.