21 Months Later – A Life Lesson

The daily hardship of living through the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone. It must be true that everyone has been challenged not just me.

21 months later I’ve learned a life lesson. Courtesy of having had no energy in the last year.

When the day has been too long and it’s only 7:00 a.m. that is when my Anthropologie dress comes on. Paired with the amber sunburst necklace and knobby amber ring.

The word sediment popped into my head to describe the slow thoughts. Feeling down in the dumps when there’s a colorful snowdrift of clothes piled on the bed.

Let’s face it: when you have no energy things fall by the wayside. Storing clothes away at night. Cleaning your apartment. Cooking dinner for yourself.

This week I realized that my energy was returning. Grateful I was to have a modest wellspring of stamina. No longer fatigued by 6:00 every evening.

The life lesson I learned was to conserve my energy for doing the things that I want to focus on doing in my life.

There’s no place for mindless soul-numbing and treadmill-busywork in my life.

How I regained my energy was telling:

I started planning for the day I want to retire from my job.

Presto: I committed to publishing a book I want to bring out in the spring.

Writing reviews of books on Amazon was also exciting. Serving as the web mistress for the website of an organization energized me too.

The difference is to seek professional help when you think your life has gone out of bounds and is going too far in an unhealthy direction.

Cutting out the non-integral activities from my weekly calendar was the ultimate energy liberator.

It comes down to this:

Understanding and accepting that on some days you just won’t have it in you to do anything at all.

On those days I say: Figure out what your one “job” is for that day.

No one can be expected to keep up living in “whirling activity mode.” When your head is spinning and you’re so busy that you forget to breathe.

This is where conserving your energy comes into play. Knowing that you’re not supposed to run around frantic and exhaust yourself in so doing.

Coming up: a blog entry on the Italian ethic of Dolce Far Niente: the Sweetness of Doing Nothing.

Inspiration for Risking Change

Yes: I think that I succeeded because I have a diagnosis of SZ not in spite of it.

You have two options in how you respond to a diagnosis that could change your life plans:

Give up and buy what other people are selling: that there’s not much you can do.

Or like I did you can become more determined to defy everyone’s expectations.

That’s the difference: the diagnosis motivated me to try my best to succeed.

Before the diagnosis I always wanted to live an artist’s life in the city. After the diagnosis I quickly realized that I could do this because it was under my control whether I at least tried to do this.

As long as I gave my goals my best shot, it wouldn’t matter if I failed. The same goes for you. The only real failure is the failure to try.

As a kid, as a younger person, I lived on Staten Island–the borough where the cop killed Eric Garner in a choke-hold. It wasn’t the place I wanted to continue to live.

It was a world of white conformity in every way–devoid of color; devoid of culture.  I wanted to escape ever since I was in college.

After I was diagnosed I realized that if I acquiesced to the life plan I was being sold [collecting SSI forever and forced to live in public housing] I wouldn’t ever get out.

Take this tip from me as to what I did next:

I had the courage to risk change because I believed that tomorrow could be better.

Know this as I did then:

Whatever you want to do in life is under your control because it’s up to you to take action to try to get there. The choices you make today will help you get to where you want to be tomorrow.

Start your engines. The road is wide open.

Confidence: Getting It and Using It

The InStyle December issue features an interview with Cate Blanchett the Oscar-Award winning actress in its I Am That Girl column:

“How do you define confidence?

I think confidence is the acknowledgment of doubt. Fear is a natural state. You can’t truly achieve a creative life without it.” – Amy Synnott

It’s true that fear is part of being creative like Blanchett says. You can only achieve great things if you risk becoming uncomfortable when you do new things.

Failure is the cost of taking risks. Not everything you try to do will work out. I bombed out big time in the gray flannel insurance field.

Fear should be welcomed–not paranoia–the kind of fear where you’re not certain you’ll succeed but you have to try because the goal is too important to you to not risk trying.

All of us should be terrified to do something that has the potential to give us a better life.

Giving ourselves a challenge is the ultimate confidence-booster.

There’s no safety in playing it safe. There’s no triumph in conformity if you ask me. Sometimes you have to go out on a limb to see how far you can go.

Shakespeare wrote: “Cowards die many a time before their death. The valiant only taste of death but once.”

That’s not how I want to live: as a spectator in my own life.

Cate Blanchett is right: acknowledging doubt is the first step in taking a risk.

The more action you take, the easier it is to keep taking action. Taking action can cure fear.

I’ll end here with this: self-confidence is a natural high.

There’s no shame in acting confident and going after what you want in life.

Making Changes at Mid Life

The takeaway–the life lesson– is that our lives aren’t over until God says they’re over.

Finding our right work–vocation–livelihood is like trying all the keys on a chain to see which one unlocks the door to true happiness.

Readers: I failed big time at a lot of things. I spent five years in the gray flannel insurance field just starting out–that’s my number-one infamous claim to having failed.

Getting to mid life gives us the chance to reexamine our path. It’s not ever too late to take action in the direction of our dreams–or in the direction of a new passion that arrives later in life.

I went to graduate school with a woman in her sixties–yes, she was going to school at 65!

I say: risk change–believe in tomorrow. I will talk soon about how one daring act when I was 46 totally turned my recover around for the better.

It’s not ever too late to make a positive change and see results.

Fifty and beyond is prime time.

I’ll tell readers now and always: set your sights higher. As best you can, refrain from believing anyone who tells you there’s no hope that your illness can get better.

Our lives can change for the better at any point along the way.

In the next blog entry I’ll tell you how I’m confident beyond a doubt that this is possible. I’ll talk about how other people have made this happen.

Schizophrenia Recovery at Mid Life

I turned 50 last year. It’s a time that’s so challenging for a lot of us–yet it helps to see our lives in a cheer-view mirror not a rear-view mirror.

It’s a life lesson to realize that as I wrote here and elsewhere we should give ourselves a “life line” for making our goals real instead of an impossible must-do-it-by deadline.

Face it: at 50 a lot of us mourn unrealized dreams. We should be embracing the future and living in the here and now instead. Always an alternative exists that is just as good as the original goal.

I had wanted to get a diploma in image consulting from FIT. This dream disappeared quickly along with my idea to take up running that could’ve been stamped DOA–dead on arrival too.

Whatever happens, we’re not always going to achieve a goal we set. We can end it with grace and move forward with the courage and resilience to choose a new goal.

This is because our lives aren’t over at 50. It’s a myth that EVERYONE diagnosed with schizophrenia dies 25 years earlier. A MYTH. My friend is 72 and has taken SZ meds since he was 13. I kid you not–he’s 72.

The life lesson I give readers is to not give up on yourself or settle for the path of least resistance.

There’s still time to make positive changes and see the benefits of improving your life no matter where you are in your recovery or how far you think you still have to go.

I say: act with grace and kindness towards yourself and others. There’s still far too much ongoing hate and violence in the world. We shouldn’t be giving critics and haters the power to influence how we feel about ourselves.

In the coming blog entries I will continue to talk about recovery at mid life.


Fight Like a Girl–or Guy

In her article the woman said she was upset that others talk about fighting their disability. She claimed the disability was part of who she was and that she fought discrimination instead.

This illustrates that for too long we’ve has to fight for our rights: for the rights other people take for granted that they have.

Normal people think nothing of having a home of their own and working at a job they love. Yet when you have a diagnosis you often have to fight to be taken seriously in your goal of living independently and having a career you love.

I’m willing to stand up for my rights and other people’s rights to live a life of dignity where we’re accorded kindness and compassion.

I say this because for too long our focus was misplaced. We often spend the earliest years of our recovery fighting the diagnosis and giving it power over us. Yet what you resist persists.

The moral of this story is: fight like a girl–or a guy. Stand tall. Walk proud.

In this regard: The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in the House of Representatives was marked up and kept intact with every provision. Call or e-mail your congressperson to urge him or her to vote yes on making this bill the law.

A contingent of Democrats tried to water-down this bill so that in effect it wouldn’t help those of us with a chronic form of schizophrenia who need evidence-based treatment. Shame on you, whoever those Democrats were.

The Act has bipartisan support. Fighting for the right of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia to get effective treatment is one way to fight.

Right now I’m fighting against having to do the work of 10 guys in my Toms shoes to paraphrase the lyrics to a J. Lo song about her YSL stilettos.

My point is: nothing is going to change unless more of us have the courage to speak out against the crap: the crap that management covers up on the job; the crap we’re given in how others treat us; and the crap in terms of mental health treatment.

Gild it in gold: make it gold-plated on the outside: crap is still crap.

Disclosure on the Job

Every so often I’m going to write blog entries geared to information in Flourish.

Upwards of 70 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia want to work and think they’re capable of holding a job.  Thus I’m going to present secrets to succeeding in the work marketplace.

A woman who wrote an article for Huffington Post claimed she doesn’t want to have to be twice as good as a person without a disability. She used a wheelchair.

“Honey,” I wanted to say, “You’d better be twice as good. Do it for yourself not for other people.”

There’s a lot of crap out there. That is people with a crappy work ethic. Do you really want to join the ranks of crap?

You might have to work with a guy who is not in his right head. Knowing that a rude co-worker without a mental illness who doesn’t do any work is celebrated and allowed to slack off, do you really want to disclose your mental illness in the workplace? Not so fast.

I’m a realist. I dream a world where more people can disclose without any repercussion. Yet I don’t live in this world. We’re not there yet in society. You have to prove yourself.

It’s true: that a co-worker with a defect will be allowed to be rude, to not do any work. Yet as soon as you try to be a slacker at work, don’t be so quick to think you’ll get the royal treatment like Mr. so-called normal does.

You won’t. It’s a double standard. I have been employed at jobs since 1990–going on over 25 years. It’s still dice-y to disclose in the workplace.

What can we do when we have to interact with people like this? I advocate for having a sense of humor.

Think about something positive about yourself that shines more brightly than the other person. Find something humorous about them. Whatever you have to do to feel better, try having a sense of humor about what’s going on.

Having a sense of humor will help you realize that “at the end of the day” you’re hot shit in your own way.

On the job, on the street, in real life, we’re all going to have to interact with slackers, with rude people, with people who live to twist our buttons.

Take the high road. Refuse to be pulled down onto another person’s level. Refuse to think you should be able to perform in the gutter too. It doesn’t work this way in the real world. You have to be twice as good.

You do it for yourself.You find humor in the situation.

The moral of this story is: Act like you’re hot shit–because you are. Like Queen Latifah urged: “Put on your crown.”

If you think you’re hot shit, it doesn’t matter what other people think of you and it doesn’t matter what other people do.

Act like royalty. Wear your crown with pride.