Thinking Out of the Box

For going on years now thinking out of the box has become a cliche.

I finally figured out why I was able to think I could get a job and be successful in 1990 when no one else with an MH challenge seemed to be employed or be able to hold a job.

Quite simply I didn’t want to be placed in a box.

The diagnosis in the end wasn’t stigmatizing at all–it was the mental health staff’s perception that the diagnosis limited me that threatened to limit me–not any actual limitation I might have had.

Perception is often everything. It clouds the truth like an internal or external roadblock.

Yet we have the choice to disregard what others tell us to believe about ourselves: that there’s no hope; that no one can recover; that we have to collect SSI and live in poverty in a dangerous apartment complex on the edge of town for the rest of our lives.

How did I have the guts not to swallow the snow job I was given about what I could do? I looked around. I saw the other patients had warmed those chairs in groups for two, three, or four years. I saw patients get addicted to crack living in the residence.

Quite simply I knew that I was the only one who had a vested interest in seeing me succeed. That–and oh–my Conservative mother booted my ass to get a job.

Yes I had family support–I had a family that didn’t abandon me when I was diagnosed. That is all too rare for young people diagnosed with a mental health condition.

How does this relate to finding the career we love?

You and I aren’t going to be happy and healthy living another person’s life.  We’re going to get sick stuffing down our gifts and talents to please others and conform to what they think is an acceptable way to live our lives.

It’s true–research going back years ago proves–that a significant number of creative people also have mental health challenges.

I’ll talk in the coming blog entry about environment-about how where you work can make a difference in whether you succeed in recovery. And about how I jumped out of a limiting box and you can too.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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