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The Interview: A Life of Recovery and Advocacy

I had the pleasure of learning more about a remarkable individual and advocate for mental illness. This woman is an expert on mental illness, having been in remission from schizophrenia for over 21 years.  She obtained a Masters in Library and Information Science (M.S.) from Pratt Institute and works as a public service librarian. Her name is Christina Bruni. 

1.  How were you diagnosed? How long have you been in recovery?
I had a breakdown on Friday, September 25, 1987 at 5 pm.  By 9 am that Saturday morning my mother drove me to the ER.  I was admitted to the hospital and started taking Stelazine.  The blue-eyed psychiatrist on the ward told me: "You don't want to have paranoid schizophrenia.  You have to take medication."  I was lucky I was aware that something was not right.  I've been in recovery 26 years.

2.  Who is your mentor?
My mentor is Robin Cunningham.  He was featured on the original In Our Own Voice video circa 2002 when I first started doing the IOOV presentations.  Three years later I wanted to write a Recovery Q&A for Schizophrenia Digest (SZ magazine today) where I'd interview 3 peers about hot topics in recovery.  Through the Internet, I was able to track him down and a half hour later he called me up and signed on to be a panelist.  He inspires me because for the first 10 years of his recovery he heard unremitting voices yet he pulled through and was lucky to find the newest drug that totally stopped the voices.  Robin has an MBA and rose up to become the CEO of corporations.

3.  What inspired you to become a mental health activist?
I was inspired to become a mental health activist because I didn't want others to go through endless hell.  As soon as I was placed on the Stelazine, the symptoms stopped three weeks later.  My signature story that I tell everyone every chance I get is that early, if not immediate, intervention leads to a better outcome.

4.  What is the health central schizophrenia site about? How would people use this website?
The Website is way for peers, loved ones and family members to connect by writing SharePosts that are like mini blog entries.  I write 4 news articles a month for HealthCentral on hot topics in the mental health field.  I've been paid to do this for 7 years.  I also answer the questions that people post in the Ask a Question forum.  I give feedback via comments I provide to every person's SharePost that is written.  Aside from writing SharePosts, a person would benefit from coming to our online community simply by reading the news articles I write every month.  The slideshow at the top of the homepage features an article I wrote about precautions to take during the summer when it's hot and you take SZ meds.  I was able to give this information to a friend who couldn't get it at a famous mental health organization's website.

5.  How was your experience working with SZ magazine? Please share a memorable story.
I was a contributing editor for SZ magazine for 9 years.  The story I wrote that most touches me is how Robin Cunningham's wife didn't abandon him after he told her his whole life story.  Three days after he told her his diagnosis she called up and asked him to go blackberry picking.

6.  What inspired you to write your memoir, Left of the Dial?
My motivation for writing my memoir Left of the Dial was to show how early intervention leads to smashing success for a person.  As I began to write the manuscript, I was dismayed that most of the published SZ memoirs detailed the lives of people who endured numerous hospital stays and kept going off their meds.  These individuals invariably got treatment too late in the game and continue to have symptoms.

7.  Tell me about your recovery guide: Live Life Well.
My mental health recovery guide Live Life Well will be published first.  My literary agent is shopping it to editors.  It's a lifestyle guide chock full of strategies to help a person live life well.

8.  What is your motto on living in recovery?
My motto on living in recovery is: Do What You Love.

9. What advice would you give to newly diagnosed individuals and their families?
I suggest newly diagnosed individuals and their family members investigate creating a support network.  This isn't the end of your life when you get a diagnosis: it's only the start of what can be a better life than the one you had before you got sick.

10.  What are some ways people can advocate for themselves, or a loved one?
People can advocate for themselves or a loved one by networking with others who have walked down this road before them.  Hearing other people's stories can show them they are not alone and they can pick up techniques they could try.  More than this: I suggest a person diagnosed with SZ or BP or another MI get in the game of life, set goals, and take risks to achieve their goals.  This will give them the confidence that they have what it takes to assert themselves with professionals.

11.  How do you maintain your well being?- What type of treatments and therapies do you use to stay well?
I saw a therapist in my neighborhood for 3 years from 2004 to spring 2007.  Today the enduring strength I have is that I work out at the gym like a madwoman in training for the prizefight of her life.  I only started to train competitively two years ago when I turned 46.  I can dead-lift 165 lbs which is a good thing because I only weigh 113 lbs.  A dead-lift is where you add 165 lbs of weight to a barbell and lower the barbell to the floor and lift the barbell to your thigh.  I'm proud to say I can do this with 165 lbs.  That for me is the most important strategy to live life well: to do the gym routines mostly 3 times a week as often as I can.  Training at the gym is like a wonder drug for your mind as well as body.

12.  What books would you recommend to newly diagnosed people?
I recommend: Me, Myself and Them by Kurt Snyder a person who was diagnosed with schizophrenia who writes about treatment options and about his life and what other people can do to recover.  I recommend for anyone the number-one self-help book of all time in my estimation  Karen Casey"s Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow.  It's a short book and I bought it to re-read.  The back of the book offers a quick guide to the 12 principles of successful healthy living.

13.  When will you publish your memoir?
The memoir will be published shortly after the self-help guide so I estimate Left of the Dial will be published by 3 years from now.

14.  Where can people go to learn more about you?
I have a Twitter account: @ChristinaBruni.  I have a website: where you can read my blog Left of the Dial and read my Tumblr account entries.  I have a Facebook author page that if memory serves is ChristinaBruni all one word not to be confused with anyone else's Facebook page.  The Facebook page is actually  Once I get 30 "likes" I might be able to get a different Facebook URL.

15. Any last words you want to share with the readers?
I'll end by telling your readers that there's always hope.  You might not see this as possible in your darkest hour yet trust me there is always hope.

Please share your thoughts on this interview.


Ashley Smith said…
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to learn more about you, Christina Bruni! The answer I enjoyed the most was learning your motto and your final words of hope for individuals diagnosed with mental illness, because I agree that there is always hope. Also, it was interesting to discover who your mentor is- I have mentors too, I think each of us should have someone to look up to and who will give us advice. I am glad that you continue to thrive in your recovery, keep it up!

Thank you.
Ashley Smith
Anonymous said…
Thank You for such a wonderful interview. As one with Bipolar and its many mood swings I need to always hear don't ever lose "hope".
Chris said…
Hi Ashley,

You're welcome.

I'd glad to help your readers.


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