Bruni in the City: We Feast Together
A Column by Christina Bruni
Living in Two Worlds
You think it’s a secret only it’s not. I’m aware others most likely pick up that I’m different in some way. Yet I don’t want my MH life to infringe on my other life. I move between these distinct worlds like a chameleon.
Italiani. We feast together. We meet a person for the first time and they are our new best friend for that evening. Everyone is famiglia here.
It was the day after Columbus Day. I arrived early to the restaurant and was seated at our table.
A drop-dead gorgeous guy walked in and was seated with a companion up front. All the guys were handsome and talking Italian at the other tables.
It’s true that I have a striking look: a heart-shaped face and dramatic Mediterranean features. If you saw me you’d think: “Of course, she must be Italian.”
The 900-pound elephant in any room is always what people see even though I wish they wouldn’t. A former hairstylist claimed you can’t tell by looking at someone that they have a mental health challenge. This is most likely true.
Yet I’m a strange girl in other ways: I don’t drink beer or liquor. I won’t eat meat. Instead of a garrulous talker, I prefer to listen to what people are saying and give them the spotlight.
Deride me all you want for my focus on fashion and style. Yet having a hurdle to clear socially is all the more reason I dress chic: to put others at ease as well as for me to feel at ease in their company.
When I walk down the street I want people to think: “Who’s that girl?” I want them to take a second look as I destroy the stereotype of a person diagnosed with SZ.
I’ve thought long and hard about this. It’s the bedrock that the premise of my memoir Left of the Dial is founded on: “Enjoy your quirkiness.”
At the end of the day I don’t care what people think of me. I’ve observed that most people are kinder than you think. Find the compassionate so-called normal people, and gravitate towards them.
It’s the little things that count the most:
That day in October I got a better haircut from a real parucchiere: an Italian hairdresser. She was older and had auburn hair. Snip, snip. She was done in ten minutes.
Figuring out how to apply the new blush helped too. It looks better swiped on my cheekbones not the apples of my cheeks. The rose fresque shade is good. I applied it in the afternoon. At nine o’clock at night the blush was still going strong when I checked my face in the restroom mirror.
I say: ladies, put on your face and go out. There’s a world out there that would look better with you in it. And guys, you’re handsome too. So, go out and paint the town gold.
As hard as it is living with an MH thing, I find that making the effort is worth it. Go on MeetUp.com to join others in the city doing things you’re passionate about. There’s even the #1 New York Shyness and Social Anxiety MeetUp you can join.
Once a month, the Mental Health Project of The Urban Justice Center in lower Manhattan, hosts an open mic with a theme for the month such as “self-care,” “diversity,” “action,” “bravery,” and others.
As I toggle between these two worlds, I understand how it is for a lot of us mingling in disparate environments. Yet feeling like an outsider shouldn’t stop us from doing things.
What the world needs now is MH peers with the courage to show up. To take a seat and be counted. All of us have paid our dues. Festeggiamo insieme. We feast together.
Common ground is the ground on which everyone stands. Be not afraid to get rejected. Plenty of fish are swimming in the sea of friends and lovers.
It’s up to us to cast our nets wide. The unlikeliest stranger could turn out to be the most compassionate. Talk to a therapist if it would help you to set and achieve goals like this.
My Italian therapist tells it like it is. She colludes with me to help me get what I want.
I wish all you loyal readers tanti auguri. Good wishes.