15-Year Advocate Anniversary

This year I’ve been a mental health advocate for 15 years.

In this time it feels like I’ve been preaching mostly to the choir.

I’ve been attacked when I claim that most people can recover.

This fall I’ll have been in recovery for 30 years. In the summer I’ll have been in remission–that is symptom-free–for 25 years.

I’ll be 52 in two weeks. I’ve taken some kind of pills for these 30 years. Today I take Geodon which has been a miracle drug. Before that I took Stelazine for the first 20 years. Neither drug caused weight gain.

I credit that fact that I recovered to my mother’s one courageous act to drive me to the hospital within 24 hours of my break. Luckily, I was admitted and given medication. Three weeks later when I was released the symptoms were gone.

In the time I’ve been an advocate since 2002 there has been some progress–thought most of us would think the progress has been limited.

Wherever I go when I give a talk it’s an honor and a privilege to connect with peers and family members who share common struggles.

I’ve been in the vanguard in terms of what I’ve written and spoken about recovery. No one else has quite yet reiterated what I’ve championed.

I credit having made fitness my number-one priority as having made all the difference in the last six years of my life.

On the cusp of 52 I believe fitness must rightly encompass body, mind, spirit, finances, relationships, and some kind of career–even if it’s just working on your recovery and not a paid job.

For years now I’ve hailed the work of the cheerful cashiers in Rite Aid. Unlike most people, I don’t care about status and I don’t think we should judge a person by whether they’ve achieved traditional markers of success.

Not everyone can and should aspire to become a J.D. or a famous writer. The peer support guideline tells us: “We expect a better tomorrow in a realistic way.”

I’ve learned in the last 15 years from some kinds of failure that expecting a better tomorrow in a realistic way is indeed the way to go.

Lynn Tesoro is quoted at the end of the Bobbi Brown book Living Beauty. I’ll end here with what she said. Tesoro doesn’t waste time focusing on what’s not achievable.

That wisdom if you ask me is the secret to success in recovery as well as life.

It’s far better to focus on what you can do and be and have.

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