Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: “Left of the Dial” by Christina Bruni

Book Review: “Left of the Dial” by Christina Bruni
By William Jiang, MLS
Fashion, Romance, Music, Ambition and More
Christina Bruni’s memoir Left of the Dial (Createspace, 2015) is a tour de force. Christina is a storyteller, first and foremost. Schizophrenia is the backdrop to her hopeful story, which is full of fashion, romance, music, ambition and more. Since the first chapter was fortissimo engaging, I could not put her book down, and so ate it whole the very first day. Needless to say, I was aching for more.
In this powerful memoir, Christina reveals she studied English Literature during college (tops in her classes, I’m sure). Bruni’s writing flows with passionate energy while maintaining a subdued mellow feel. If still waters run deep, she tells it best.
Throughout her book, Miss Bruni’s life philosophy, “normal is boring” (and I strongly agree), is loud and clear. Like the Chinese axiom, “May you live in interesting times,” translating as “May you live an interesting life,” are exemplified by her experiences and biographical anecdotes. People who live with serious and persistent mental illnesses seem to live, by default, more colorfully than those who float by on a cloud of normalcy. Perhaps, Christina’s story would also do well on the silver screen. 
Like Bruni, the lot of us who battle mental illness have larger-than-life personal stories. Indeed, our life chronicles take us from heaven to hell and back again. When I read a story like Christina’s, I am reminded that in some way I am blessed to be able to share my own story of schizophrenia with others. As a Buddhist monk once said to a woman who was a victim of rape, “You are so fortunate to have survived your ordeal. Just by living, you will be able to give other women who have survived rape and sexual abuse much needed hope.” If more people had the courage, vision, optimism and storytelling ability of Christina, it would suit me just fine.
I disagreed strongly with one thing Ms. Bruni said in her book toward the end. It was something to the effect of “this is my only story.” My hunch is that we are in for another treat in the future. I feel that her book publishing career has just begun. “Bravo, Christina e gratzie!” My sincere hope is to someday talk to Ms. Bruni on the phone and maybe meet up for a coffee one author to another. Buy the book and experience the ride. The way you think about schizophrenia and your life may never be the same after you read Left of the Dial.
Life is best lived left of the dial.

Editor’s Note: William Jiang, MLS, is the author of A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope and Guide to Natural Mental Health, and eighteen other books on

Recollections of Recovery: An Alphabet of Emotions from Anger to Hope

Recollections of Recovery: An Alphabet of Emotions from Anger to Hope
By S.A. Green
Poetically Peeling the Mask of Stigma
Note: The following text is an abbreviated version of “Recollections of Recovery: An Alphabet of Emotions from Anger to Hope” published for the Center of Rehabilitation and Recovery, a project of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc. in the years after Ms. Green's diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
When I went to the drugstore to pick up my medication, the pharmacist informed me she could not fill prescriptions for psychotropic drugs. I insisted she was supposed to do so according to Timothy’s Law, state legislation to ensure that insurance companies cover physical health and mental health medications alike.
Perhaps inadvertently, she said, “You’d be surprised at all the things we’re supposed to do that we don’t.”
I wanted a psychiatrist who was not influenced by drug companies. Instead of asking prospective providers where they went to school, or whether they were board certified in psychiatry and neurology, I asked about their relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.
I started to see a psychiatrist who told me he had cut his ties to drug companies. However, one day he suggested an exorbitant formulation of a particular medication.
I told him I was outraged that he wasn’t recommending the regular pill, or a cheap generic. He responded by prescribing an antipsychotic with sedating side effects.
Did he want to muzzle me chemically, like Russian dissidents who received a diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia”? I, too, showed symptoms of “perseverance” and “struggle for truth.”
Confusion is having more pills to take than you could keep track of if you were normal—and then trying to keep track of them while you are on those pills, and psychotic.
I remember a morning during an episode of depression, when I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the bathtub. As I struggled, it struck me that it had been easier to write my doctoral dissertation. 
Somehow, eventually, I did it, making little waves. Maybe I did it the way flowers sprout from cracks in the asphalt—cracks I believe they make in their blind struggle to reach towards the sun.
Being manic had its good sides, especially when I was a square twenty-something who didn’t do drugs. It broadened my experience with the spectrum of elation.
During one episode, I roamed the streets in the wee hours of the morning with a stranger who was used to artificially induced highs. He said, “I don’t know what you’re on, but I wish I had some of it!”
My manic self would think, “But yes, I can bottle it! I can sell spirits of mania in blue glass bottles, each with a message, like the ones sailors toss from a sinking ship, hoping that the message would find a reader. And let me see… these glass bottles at the discount store on the corner are a bargain. Let me order a few dozen, so I can have prototypes on hand for the next convention of behavioral health providers...”
Whether you want to start a business, jump into an affair, plan your presidential campaign, or conduct an imaginary orchestra in your living room, the elation in mania gives you energy, self-confidence, and an infectious happiness that makes people say, “yes.”
Although I do not lack self-esteem, sometimes I am surprised my husband married me. It must be difficult to deal with a woman who buys eight wedding gowns on eBay before you’ve even proposed.
I am also grateful because family and friends take me to hospitals in the middle of the night, visit me in psychiatric wards, and insist I see doctors when I think, with manic exuberance, I've never felt better in my life.
And they do one thing more. They prevent me from taking what cripples so many people with mental illness: the sick role.
“When do you want to come back to see me?” asked my psychiatrist.
I liked him. He was smart, decent, and genuinely cared about me. Since we lived in a small community, we had “dual relationships,” if not "triple relationships." He didn’t want to complicate matters further, or risk exploiting me, so he never charged me for visits.
We had already established that I wasn’t quite myself, but he didn’t know I had no idea what day, month, and perhaps year it was. I said smoothly, “Oh, I don’t have my appointment book with me. Can I call you?”
Concealing impairment, adaptive at work and at school, but not everywhere, had become an inseparable part of me.
We have images of mass violence welded to mental illness, and disparities in health and mental health care. But we also have peer services, supportive housing, trauma-informed care, crisis respite centers, and more.

I do not foresee an end to stigma and discrimination in my lifetime, but I am hopeful for the next generation. 

Deconstructing Borderline Personality Disorder

Deconstructing Borderline Personality Disorder
By Kay Elizabeth Bitters
Apply the Salve of Love
When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar I, I jumped right into therapy and started trying out all the mood stabilizers. Nothing helped, except a bit of anti-depressants. This is when it became apparent to my health professionals that I was more than likely misdiagnosed. It was considered that I suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
I am not an angry individual, but I am on my way through overcoming. I have lived with this condition for over fifty years now. Recovery is more than an option, and never too late. The following eight points are issues I find worthy of discussion:
One: Personality disorders. Really? Is not every being on the planet a unique individual with divergent ways of coping with life? And what manifests is coping in ways that are not socially normal. Nothing more, nothing less.
Two: Impossible to cure. The human spirit is more than capable of overcoming in healthy manners. There are those who say there are no drugs to cure BPD for instance. However, do drugs heal anything? No. Prescriptions are helpers, enablers, but even insulin does not cure diabetes.
Three: Difficult to live with. Is it not difficult to live with anyone who is wounded and in pain? Would it be correct to say that those of us who can, should be caring and loving and feeding the warmth of human compassion rather than the judgment of superiority? Do we punish the walking wounded, or do we find ways to help them heal? Sure, it is not easy, but it is necessary if we want to be part of the solution. We give a crutch to a man with a broken leg, we don’t kick the other leg out from under him.
Four: Difficult to treat. What kind of therapist must protect their own ego above the care of their patient? As a professional, if you are not able to care for an individual, refer them to someone else. Let them know somehow if you are unable to help them, but acknowledge that they need help and you will see to it that they receive the right help needed. This goes for all you family members, too. See that your loved one gets help.
Five: Children cannot be diagnosed. It does not matter the label. Most of these issues manifest in childhood. How well did family members respond to the child in their midst who is “different”? Maybe the child has been abused right under your nose and you failed to see it. In most cases, this may not be the parent's fault, but it happens.
Six: Enabling the person is wrong. Supporting the mentally ill is absolutely necessary. Part of that is flat out honesty regarding behavior and expectations. What can and do you expect? Realism starts with the one capable of making the determination. Are you that person? Or are you damaged as well? Consult with a professional.
Seven: They need to get better. Rather than judge them, learn about their ailments. Educating yourself is the best way to support them.
Eighth: All personality disordered people are bad. (This one ticks me off the most.) There are over 500 different combinations in the set of nine DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) characteristics alone for the borderline, which is a human effort to define another human. By its own nature, even that is never completely definable and ever changing. So, our loved ones get out the list and say to themselves: they are manipulative; they are without compassion; they are without remorse. Really? Could be that you recognize those traits, as it is also proven by the same infant science of psychology, we mirror our own personalities on another.
So, start with love. This is the plumb line. Just because one does not see the blood gushing forth from the wound, or see the limp of a broken bone, or any other visible sign of pain, it is there. Learn what you can do to apply salve. And learn what you must not do to enable.
And for those of you, like me, diagnosed with some kind of label, it is unkind to expect others to just allow you to be a brat. Learn how to be the best person you are capable of being. Thank those around you for trying, even when you are not sure they really are helping. Don’t judge, just love.

Reality for Dreams

Reality for Dreams
By Derrick Ferree
When Your Mind Takes You on the Ride of Your Life
I’m a spy unlike any other, gifted with supernatural, psychic abilities and able to connect telepathically with the most beautiful woman this world has seen. I’m destined to, at least in part, prepare the world for End Times. Not only is there prophetic cosmic danger in the near future for all of us, but there has to be a group in control setting such a course in motion; a group that doesn’t like me and my dashing wife-to-be. Luckily, I’ve set up a network to connect us all (those of us working against the evil) who understand my coded language. They are connected to Hollywood, independent news sources and the music industry. Much of what these would-be strangers, celebrities and news anchors are saying fits the code. Clearly, they are understanding my calls for help as my estranged female fantasy and I desperately wait for them to organize so that our mutual superpowers may combine to fight evil and fulfill the prophecy.
You know, I did work in TV in LA, and I did talk to some people when I was an activist on the streets. And, it is prophetic, and I am smart, too smart to be wrong. So clearly, I’m right. I’ve tested it out this time. I’ve been direct with the trustworthy people on the internet who find these bipolar adventures believable. I’ve kept it secret from family and friends because they would get caught in the crosshairs, not because they would calmly explain to me that I’m on a path leading back to the ward. 
But I’ve been good. I’ve held down steady, productive work, and I’m fine. Never mind the binge drinking that would allow these delusions a resting place in my mind and silence the voice of reason. I’d find news to validate my visions, and it would be real; as real as possible so that I wouldn’t have to accept that I’m not a character in X-Men or a prominent character in End Times lore. But some of my visions have come to pass. I must warn the people and save the girl!
(Sigh) Yikes. I can’t believe that was/is me sometimes.
The problem is/was/will be that life to those of us with these, kind of, enjoyable bipolar delusions are going to crave them again. Especially in the aftermath of an episode where everything one has worked for, typically, is ruined, and the path back to that decent place in society is seemingly blocked. Usually, with such a bleak future carved out, the old delusions must be the solution, and we’ll try to make it that. It comes from a lack of respect for what is good. Having lost a lot, I’m here to say, don’t give up on what minor joys come from self-sustainability and productivity. There is no better feeling than independence, and all of us who’ve been in a ward for more than a week know that is true. Never forget the alternative, and never make the alternative an escape from the beauty of a simple healthy life.
Unfortunately, those of us with Bipolar I get the joys of schizophrenia with long-term ups and downs. It feels like a never-ending roller coaster ride, and the trouble, when not treated properly, is actually enjoying the ride. Now, life in general is a bit of a roller coaster, but I’ve begun to feel like those without mental illness fail to realize that they were born in a seat with functioning seat belts. We’re not broken. We’re just in a bad seat, but there are ways, thankfully, in today’s world, to make that seat more comfortable. And there are times we should realize that the ride is serenely steady. It’s fine to be just getting through the day.
There’s a reason why superheroes remain fiction. It’s because they can’t sustain what we see on film. No one can. Remember that. There’s a reason we don’t have superpowers, because if we did, it would never stop. Some of us know how terrifying that is when the delusion spirals into paranoia—and it will. Realize that everyone, not just the mentally ill, has problems navigating life’s more tedious times. Patience and care will balance and guide you.
A few days of adventure are not worth trading a few years separated from the life you should be living. This mantra helps me now, and maybe it can help you on your journey. So, buckle up.

“Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly

“Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly
By Carl Blumenthal
How Much Have Things Really Changed Since 1887?
Note: The author's use of “insane, mad, and crazy” is not meant to offend, but rather in keeping with the terminology Bly and everyone else used in 1887. Back then such labels were powerful indictments which could lock people up for a lifetime.
Mt. Holyoke College psychology professor Gail Hornstein lists more than 1,000 mostly obscure authors in her bibliography of first-person narratives about madness. 
(See for an April 16, 2016 interview with Hornstein by Dr. Eric Maisel.) 
In contrast, a handful of journalists have gained notoriety for going undercover in mental hospitals by faking illness. One such journalist investigated Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital in 1961. The first and most celebrated journalist to do so was Nellie Bly, who spent 10 days at the Blackwell Island Insane Asylum in 1887 and reported on her incarceration for the New York World.
During a period when many immigrants must have “lost their way” in new surroundings, Bly, who spoke Spanish, claimed to be Cuban in support of her “case.” Given her Irish family came here in the 1790s and grew to financial prominence, this early feminist needed to disguise her nonetheless ladylike airs. Thus she checked into a boarding house for poor working women and acted out the “alienation” which passed for mental illness in those days.
Less remarkable than being declared mad was that once inside the hospital with 1,600 other women, Bly dropped the pretense of insanity, only to be considered crazier than the norm. Why? As we look back, what stands out was not so much the expected deplorable conditions there, but the resourcefulness she exhibited. 
Bly risked punishment advocating for others, yet managed to identify workers who treated patients humanely. Likewise she met women who were sane when they entered with her and a few others who kept their wits despite ill treatment. All the while she pitied the overwhelming majority of “lost souls.” 
She wrote, “Pronounced insane by four expert doctors and shut up behind the unmerciful bolts and bars of a madhouse! Not to be confined alone, but to be a companion, day and night, of senseless chattering lunatics; to sleep with them, to eat with them, to be considered one of them was an uncomfortable position.” 
Uncomfortable indeed. Statements like these allowed the World’s customers to experience the horror of mental illness from a comfortable enough distance so they would continue reading the many installments of Bly’s story.  
In spite of their madness, the inmates, not the staff, were expected to maintain the asylum. When Bly saw the motto on a wall, “While I live, I hope,” (like “work sets you free,” which later adorned the entrances to Nazi labor camps), she thought, “The absurdity of it struck me forcibly. I would have liked to put above the gates that open to the asylum, 'He who enters here leaveth hope behind.'” 
Dubbed “the crazy girl from Cuba” by reporters from whom she hid her identity as a colleague, Bly was clearly exceptional. Why else would she be singled out among the dozens of women sent to Blackwell each day? That her objective reporting was sympathetic to inmates without being sensational—she avoided the wards for “incorrigibles”—probably explains why a grand jury investigated the asylum and the city increased funding for care by $1 million annually.
How long this lasted and whether it made a difference in conditions remains unanswered without more research. Journalists rarely revisit the sufferings of their subjects.

Book Ends: “When Cries are Silenced” by Debra Faes-Dudden

Book Ends: “When Cries are Silenced” by Debra Faes-Dudden
Reviewed by Kurt Sass
Debra Faes-Dudden is a multi-faceted artist who has written a book titled “When Cries Are Silenced,” containing her poetry, artwork and a song.
Ms. Faes-Dudden was sexually abused at a very young age by her grandmother’s live-in boyfriend, who died when she was seven. She said she had repressed almost all the traumatic experiences and that it has taken her over 20 years to heal from these repressed memories. She credits her use of the creative arts as one of the major tools in her recovery.
Ms. Faes-Dudden's poetry is a mixture of a range of emotions from fear to despair to hope, joy and pride and the many subtleties in between.  She is honest and lays bare he reality while remaining pragmatically optimistic.
Her poem, “A Struggle For Peace,” speaks of fear, with: “I feel so alone and out-of-control, I lay paralyzed, every breath pain-filled,” and, “The struggle to find this elusive peace continues.”
In the poem, “Locked Inside the Untold,” she communicates despair with: “But it’s so cold within this cell” and “I'm not truly not living, I only exist.”
An example of hope can be found in last two stanzas of her work, “So Many Children Cry in the Silence of the Night,” with such lines as: “A renewal of energy begins to grow” and “She's able to see that beyond the rain there lies a rainbow.”
“Proclamation,” evokes joy with such phrases, “I flourish in change and movement, in wind and in waves.” and “Change is my nourishment, movement, my dance of creation.”
Pride can be felt in her piece, “It's Good to be a Woman,” with the lines, “We, who can offer warmth, acceptance, and shelter, just with the opening of our arms” and “Oh, yes, it is good to be a woman.” 
There are many more examples of the emotional spectrum contained within the 36 poems. This diversity of emotions is what kept me hooked. Many books about one's recovery from mental illness and/or personal trauma (whether poetry, biography or fiction) often lean dramatically to the horrors they have gone through or focus solely on the successful, happy, fulfilled life they are leading today. Ms. Faes-Dudden portrays the broad spectrum of her life and experiences.
“When Cries are Silenced: Writings During My Journey in Healing Repressed Childhood Trauma” is available in paperback for $11 at
Note: You can write to Debra Faes-Dudden, P.O. Box 7223, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855.

How I Deal with Loneliness in the Big City

How I Deal with Loneliness in the Big City
By Ted Walner
Seek Out Some People to Be With
Coming from a family of five children, I always had people around me growing up. Even if we didn’t talk to one another, there was the security of knowing someone was always around. Life is much different in the big city. Now, I live in a studio apartment in Manhattan. I can always call someone, but it is much different than having people around you when you need them. It doesn’t bother me that much during the weekdays because I spend my time with nice people at work and then usually enjoy my “down” time. But it does hit me on weekends when I spend time on my own. Sometimes solitude sets in. I enjoy being by myself, but sometimes I feel lonely and can’t wait to be with someone. This article is going to deal with how I fill those gaps so I don’t feel so lonely. I will provide suggestions on how I do it and hopefully this will help others who experience feelings of loneliness.
A dear friend bought me a book on a set of DVDs for the holidays that I was interested in. It is amazing how this system counteracts the feelings of loneliness. You have a person narrating the book, which makes you feel like someone is talking to you. You can concentrate on this topic of interest, which stimulates you. It is much easier than the eye-strain of reading. You also learn something new.
On the weekends, I listen to the DVDs and it helps me to focus on something I find interesting. You almost feel as if you have someone in the room with you and it really helps with the feelings of loneliness. You can purchase a variety of topics on and they aren’t very expensive. If you’re interested in reading Hemmingway, Herman Hesse or any author, you can get these books narrated to you on a DVD. It’s a fun way to learn and has a lot of benefits.
You can make friends as well as find romance on dating websites. You have to be careful because there are some fraudulent people trying to get your money, but most of the people are simply interested in socializing. You should meet in a public place until you feel comfortable with that person. I advise that you get to know the person through texts, emails and phone calls before you meet. Once you feel comfortable, take it one step further and meet in a public place.
Not every person you meet is going to become a romantic interest. Sometimes, you make friends with people of similar interests as well. I have made three friends in the past few years on the Internet. It is possible. Not all sites charge a fee.,,, and all have a lot of free activities. You can pay, but you can also do a lot for free. is a site for people with mental illness. I have made a friend on this site. These sites do help you find a mate and make friends although you should always be cautious. This is a definite antidote to loneliness.
There are many clubhouses one can go to. Fountain House offers a work-oriented program and you are bound to make friends with the wonderful people and staff there. They have different units, such as the Culinary Unit, the Employment Unit, the Communications Unit, and the Wellness Unit. One can decide what area they would like to join.
Baltic Street AEH, Inc. has the Resource and Wellness Center where you can socialize and get involved in group activities such as the expressive arts groups, meditation, arts and crafts, wellness and self-esteem-building groups.
Rainbow Heights is a clubhouse for the LGBTQ community that deals with mental health issues. They have film night on Thursday evenings where you can watch a current film together. These organizations also have interesting discussion groups.
At Fountain House, there is a women’s group and a LGBTQ talk group. You can discuss topics of interest in these groups and it’s a great way to socialize.
Groups provide a social outlet, a place to express yourself, and a way of meeting people. I encourage you to give them a try to combat the sadness of loneliness. They do help.
There are many things you can do in the big city to socialize on a budget. A lot of the museums have a free day. Going out to lunch is usually less expensive than dinner. You may borrow movies on DVD from the library and watch them with a friend.

I hope I have helped by offering some good suggestions to change loneliness into productive times with people. I still battle with it at times, but the activities mentioned have surely helped me. Hopefully, they will help you too.