Left of the Dial is now available in print and as a Kindle e-book
"The stigma of schizophrenia is fading as research and first-person accounts of this serious mental disorder continue to verify that recovery is possible. Christina Bruni, an author and mental health advocate, made a full recovery from schizophrenia. She chronicles both her severe illness and her recovery in her unique and spell-binding book, “Left of the Dial.”

Recovery from schizophrenia has been documented as attainable by researchers who are using evidence-based, person-centered treatment and supportive services that enable people with this disorder to gain control over their symptoms, set realistic goals and reach their dreams for a normal life.

Reading Christina Bruni's book will give the reassurance, motivation, and map for all those suffering from schizophrenia‒and their families‒for getting on the road to recovery. This road has many potholes and bumps, but the sunshine will light your passage if you remember that persistence is the path to least failure!"

— Robert Paul Liberman, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine, Director, UCLA Psych REHAB Program, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior
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Excerpt: Left of the Dial

Into a Swan

Italy, October 2000.

My mother gave me this trip as a graduation present. She and I and Aunt Rose tripped through this evergreen country.

The tour bus rolled down a road through olive trees with silvered leaves. My mother sat next to me, wearing a pink cotton outfit and the huge quartz rock on her ring finger that she bought at an open-air market on the island of Capri. She told me, “I enjoy you much more now than I ever have.”

Her eyes shone like the rock. “It means so much to be here with you.” She was sixty-two and carried a few extra pounds, yet she was beautiful under her skin.

When I was first hospitalized, my mother and father were supposed to travel to Italy, and they canceled the trip to stay with me. I wondered now if I couldn't make it on my own, and their departure had scared me. Eventually they took their dream vacation years later. I often beat on myself for not having been strong enough. In retrospect, I realize I did all that I could before I needed to go on the Stelazine.

Aunt Rose was on the other side of the aisle talking with Frankie: a Jersey guy who wore shirts with three buttons undone and gold chains, just like the character in the song “Seaside Tony” by 7Minds.

Romeo, the unlikely tour guide, disclosed: “There are not many homeless in Italy, but a lot of those who are have mental illnesses. A nephew of mine is protected by the family. After military service, my nephew came back changed. He has no girlfriend and likes agriculture, so he works the land and is quite content. No TV, no girlfriends. The family protects him. They do not talk about him; they keep him protected.”

A free woman, I wondered about the nephew. How he must toil, every day, quietly tilling the soil without a voice. I've joined an Italian American writers group, and their motto is “Only silence is shame.” Slowly, slowly, I had started to toss around in my head the idea of writing about my recovery. I picked up the poetry calendar in the kiosk of Coliseum Books and found out about the Italian American group's poetry readings at a café in the West Village. I began attending.

Hastily I scrawled down memories and fragments and began reading them at the open reading. The first time I attended, I was so anxious that I fled as soon as the event was over. A guy told me, “I liked what you read,” and I said, “Thank you” and dove out the door. On the newsletter left on the tables in the cabaret room, I read with interest about a memoir-writing workshop at the Calandra Institute and pocketed the information, not sure I'd join.

But now we were in Italy and headed toward the Tuscan hills, where we would dine in a converted farmhouse that was now a restaurant. Always the mountains. The brown rouge like suede skin the color of my Rouge Suede lipstick, the smear of the earth and the sex and the ultimate expression of a land and its lovers. I was newly in love with Italy, the country of my ancestors—those dark people I used to be embarrassed to look like. On this trip, I saw that I've inherited their elegant spirit, their passion for life, and their compassion. I turned a leaf and was humble before my task: getting down on the page what happened, even if right at this moment the words were a tentative scrawl, barely spoken on my lips.

The bus pulled up to the dirt road, and the driver parked. We milled about, waiting for our cue to enter. Frankie said, “You look hot. Aren't you hot? I know you look like a fashion plate, but aren't you hot?” The Mediterranean weather was beautiful. I was dressed in my black knit skirt and jacket, with my striped brown-and-black scarf slung around my neck. I had on my silver XOXO earrings too.

“Europeans do not wear sneakers,” Frankie related, “so before I came here I bought two pairs of good shoes.” I looked down at my leather Mary Janes, grateful to be in style.

We feasted on three kinds of pasta: ravioli with spinach and asiago, farfalle in dilled herb sauce, and cavatelli in plum tomato sauce. For the entrée, we could choose chicken, sausage, or beef. A jovial singer (was he born on a Thursday?) roamed the tables, strumming his guitar and singing Italian songs. I wondered about these lyrics: “Lazy Mary, get off the sheets, we need them for the table.” Who was Lazy Mary? Aunt Rose tossed him five thousand lire. After dinner, there was dancing. My mother got up and danced with Frankie. I sat at our table, watching everyone and soaking up the vibe. We drank true Chianti in stemless wine glasses that were continually refilled and effortlessly drained.

The farmhouse, high up in the hills, had a world's-eye view. At ten o'clock the lights along the Montecatini Alto sparkled like a necklace of stars on earth. Far away from the past, on the brink of the future, I knew what I must do: join the memoir workshop. There were too many forgotten nephews.