Choosing Goals

It’s clear to me that you and I won’t succeed if we succumb to thinking we have to do what other people tell us is the only right thing to do.

It’s 2017 and we have more and better options for living in recovery.

You’re only going to make yourself miserable and have ill health pretending to be someone you’re not just so you can please other people.

We should not be puppets–either of our government or of anyone else who attempts to pull the strings to get us to conform to a so-called norm.

We will only succeed if we are invested in the goals we set and have the starring role in deciding what we want to do with our lives.

When a person says another person has a ton of self-determination that really means that this individual had the courage to go after getting what they wanted without being deterred by whatever obstacle they faced.

Self-determination sounds like a fancy word however as I define it it’s simply the right of everyone living on earth to determine how they want to live their life and the direction they want to go in in their life.

No other person should be telling us what to do without soliciting our feedback on this course of action. Any treatment plan needs to be created with our input.

Choosing our goals should be up to us first of all. Yet really we shouldn’t set the bar so high that we can only fail. The dilemma is that historically for people diagnosed with mental health conditions the bar wasn’t set at all. We weren’t expected to be able to do much of anything.

2017 is here. It’s time to challenge this status quo. It’s time to speak out on the things that matter to us.

I say: engaging in goal-seeking behavior can make all the difference in a person’s recovery.

Choose your goals with care and attention. Choose goals that make sense to you.

Getting Real Help

I had a job as the Health Guide for HealthCentral’s schizophrenia website for nine years.

What I wrote for HealthCentral was in the vanguard of mental health reporting. What I wrote was always five years ahead of what other people and organizations were writing about recovery.

Years ago at HealthCentral I would write a series called Family Members Forum. In one of those news article I gave ideas as to how to help a loved one.

Point blank I wrote this: “Ask your loved one: “What do you need me to do right now to help you?”

In this way everyone in society needs to “get with the program” as the expression goes in how they interact with people living with and impacted by a mental illness.

I always wanted people to see me not my pain. Jodi Picoult is quoted: “People are more than the sum total of their disability.”

The producer Mark. R. Weber understands that maybe we can’t end homelessness and we can’t always give a homeless person money. Yet we can stop for a moment to talk to them to ask their name and show we care about them as a human being.

In this way too people need to start breaking bread with those of us who have some kind of mental health challenge. It’s a Catch-22 because a lot of us don’t go around telling people “Hi, I’m so-and-so and I was diagnosed with ______________.”

So a lot of times no one else knows what we’re going through unless we tell them.

What is the solution? Brene Brown wrote about this in her classic book Daring Greatly. We should tell only the people who have earned our trust.

I understand what it’s like to not trust mental health providers.

I had to quite seeing a doctor immediately because of his unprofessional behavior. This is revealed in a humorous scene in my memoir. I fled his office one night and didn’t ever return.

This lack of trust has extended to mental health service providers like state employment agencies for individuals with disabilities.

For at least five years now I’ve realized there was a need in the marketplace for my second book–a one-of-its-kind self-help book.

In September I will start to talk about this book and about a new business I hope to provide to peers linked to this pressing need that has historically gone unfilled.

I ask you: when has any other person asked you: “What would YOU like to do with your life and how can I help you do that?” Instead of telling us: “This is what you should do and there’s no other option only the one I deem appropriate.”

VESID in New York City would send people who were deaf to a printmaking program long after jobs in that field became obsolete. Peers were disillusioned with this state employment services agency for years.

There’s a better way. In this regard I want to start my own peer-owned business to fill this need that has gone unmet. Stay tuned in September for more news about this.


Hope Not Handouts

Mark R. Weber is the co-producer of Poverty, Inc.–a documentary about the failure and peril of Developmental Aid to evolving countries.

Tom’s Shoes is one such flawed model that perpetuates donor-recipient dependence. First of all I stopped buying Tom’s Shoes because they stiffen when you get caught wearing them in the rain. They cost at least $65 on the internet after shipping and tax and they fall apart after five months.

If they can’t hold up on New York City pavement: how are the shoes going to hold up for a person in need living through a monsoon that will soak their Tom’s shoes?

And presto–you and I now have another purpose for not buying Tom’s Shoes.

I see in this developmental aid dilemma a link to community mental health systems.

Mark. R. Weber is quoted:

“After all, one of the things we are criticizing is the very idea of the big idea. But if each of us starts by seeing each person and the fullness of who they are, their destiny, their potential trajectory, not simply their lack, then we will start to identify solutions that are much more effective.”    (my italics)

Tom’s Shoes was a Big Idea yet not an effective idea.

I’ve always believed–since 2002 when I started out as a mental health activist–that people can achieve their own version of recovery.

In all my incarnations of this blog I’ve railed against the very mental health staff that claim no one can recover. I’ve been attacked by a so-called international expert who claimed no one can recover. All because I shouted out that most people can recover.

Who wants a handout? I didn’t. I fought to have a better life than the one I was told was the only option: collecting SSDI forever and living in a crack-drug-infested housing complex on the edge of town.

Everyone has potential. Everyone has the right to recover. No one should be told we can’t have our own version of a full and robust life.

For too long mental health staff have reinforced in their patients that recovery is not possible and that we need to depend on them to tell us what we can and can’t do. That’s like failed developmental aid–it does nothing to help us develop our true potential.

My blog too has evolved over the years and years I’ve kept it. It’s evolved in response to my experience working with rude and lazy co-workers. From that I realized that having a job is no valid indicator of a person’s worth–when a robot could do the job better than a lot of people without a mental illness who hold jobs.

What does your version of “a full and robust life” look like? It might or might not include having a job at this point. And that’s not the point.

The point is that everyone has potential. If others can’t see your potential, if others couldn’t see my potential way back in the mists of time, we can’t let that derail us from daring to dream that a better life is possible.

I’m here  not necessarily to “help” people like a misguided developmental aid worker thinks she’s doing. I’m here to be an inspiration.

And as long as I’m here I’ll take up a megaphone to shout louder:

Listen to us and understand us. See who we are apart from our illness.

You and I are human beings. We deserve respect and dignity.

That’s all I’m saying.

Using Self-Empowering Language

not true

A friend and I talked over hot chocolate in a coffee shop. “Here.” T. reached into his wallet. “For you.”

“Thank you.” I accepted the black decal with white letters that read: This is not true—a slip like a fortune cookie.

“Joe Strummer gave these kinds of slips out. You like the Clash, right?”

“Sure do.” I thought the ticker would be a clever title for a blog: This is not true.

I’ve always had the idea to interview peers who’ve been through a hard time too—and post to my blog their talk about other things in their lives—without referring to illness or diagnosis at all.

This weekend I chose boldly not to use clinical terms—no diagnoses—going forward. First—those words scare people—and second it’s a trap. Identifying a person by their symptoms locks them into a no-win mental straitjacket.

Thomas Insel–the former director of NIMH–created the RDOC system to link research funding to clusters of symptoms not specific diagnostic categories like bipolar.

This inspires me now to take the bold leap into more positive language because in leaping the net will appear: a soft landing in recovery not on rocks and garbage. To be pelted with ignorance doesn’t have to be our fate.

So stand up and assert your rights. Tell others: “I’m a human being–treat me like one. You’re most likely not so hot yourself, so why do you think I’m less than zero?”

I’m going to continue to focus on today in the blog because today is the greatest day.

I’ll talk about health/salut and wealth/dinero and love/amore in ways that no one else is talking about these things.

Listen: what’s truly cray-cray is stereotyping everyone you meet because of your experience with one person or two or a few people with similar traits.

This is not true: that we’re so damaged by what happened to us that we can’t have a full and robust life.

This is not true: that we don’t deserve compassion and other people should cower in fear of us.

This is not true: that we’re so effed up that we’re beyond repair.

What is true: that how we live–what we do and say–has the power to make the world a better place.



Fifty and Beyond

I turned 51.

Fifty and beyond can be beyond measure.

I’m confident when I tell readers that life can get better as you get older.

It’s time to discard the old, the outgrown, the outdated.

Life demands that a person is open to what is possible for us at mid life.

I have a guy companion now. He appeared in real life like a soul mate. Not by checking off a list of traits on an Internet dating website to see if a guy matched every criteria.

Those guys’ photos on OKCupid look like mug shots.

The point is not that your soul mate has to be a wife or husband or other romantic partner.

I’m writing another book and in it I talk about a book at a library that talked about women’s sexual fluidity. I haven’t seen anywhere else on the Internet or in the mental health literature or in any other blog or in a blog featured on PsychCentral or elsewhere talk about sex and relationships in this kind of detail.

What’s often commiserated about is the idea that so-called normal people you take on a date think you’re “crazy” when you reveal you have a diagnosis. That’s so over.

Sex and relationships and talk about these things doesn’t have to be brought back to relating to the diagnosis if you don’t want it to.

What’s not talked about and should be is how income limits a person’s options more so than anything else.

Some women judge men by their ability to take them out for a 3-course steak dinner that costs at minimum $60 dollars. A friend had a woman chew him out because he didn’t take her to a high-end restaurant that cost at least $100. She thought the $60 he paid was too cheap. How offensive is that chica if you’re doing that–I think very.

Finding someone who’s compatible is not easy for a lot of us and it often has nothing to do with having a mental illness. If you’ve browsed OKCupid lately you’re aware there’s plenty of fish in the sea however most of them you wouldn’t want to swim near.

Becoming obsessed with finding a boyfriend or husband and settling for the wrong guy is a mistake.

At 50 and beyond we have the power–and women too have the power–to choose to focus on our heart’s desire.

Which for some of us might be walking down the alter and for others might be staying at home knitting a sweater.

I was supposed to write altar in that last sentence. Though alter can describe the kind of life some of us live.

I have seen no one else talk about this fluidity anywhere else. I have seen no one else talk about how income limits a person.

I have only seen in one other place a writer make the case for finding your true soul mate.

It was in the March 2016 Oprah magazine where a feature article talked about how a soul mate can be a friend or even a sweater or other article of clothing or a work wife or work husband as the expression goes.

It is time to talk about these things. It’s time to dispense with the usual discourse. It’s time to talk about having the courage to do your own thing–whatever your thing is–without fear of reprisal.

And if you don’t want to talk about illness except in a bare-bones way to the people you meet I say: go ahead–be discreet.

Judging other people is a crummy thing to do yet all too often it goes on and more so against people with mental illnesses. For reasons that are totally arbitrary.

Which is why I think each of us needs at least one soul mate who gets us on a divine level even if it’s not a physical level.