Doing Lunch with a Coworker

I’d like to talk about doing lunch with a coworker.

It’s a social exercise that can be awkward when you’re starting out after getting your first job.

The drawback is having to be “on” even when you feel like you’re not up to conversing fluently.

Some observations might help:

Simply observing manners will buy you time.

It benefits us to take careful bites and place the fork down before taking another bite. Pausing between forkfuls or between bites of a sandwich will give you time to plan what you want to say.

Thinking through your response will help you choose your words carefully too.

It’s also a good segue because you have time to actively listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting. Waiting your turn to speak is a great social habit.

Years ago–too long ago to count–I bought the Kate Spade book Manners.

Checking out of the library a modern etiquette book could be a great strategy after you’ve been made a job offer and accepted it.

For us ladies I recommend the Michelle Phan book Makeup: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success Online and Off.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about another way to arm yourself for success on the job.

This could most of all benefit first-time job seekers.



Alternative Careers

librarian book cover

I recommend getting a library job as an alternative career to working in retail or working in a cubicle in an office.

Those of us without a library degree can get a job as a clerk in a library.

Or better yet those of us with great computer skills can get a tech position in a library.

This is because a lot of libraries aren’t hiring clerks anymore. Libraries today are creating tech support positions.

As the book cover attests, libraries attract a diverse crowd.

I started my new career when I was 35. It’s not ever too late to change gears.

This is a good thing to do when you’re having a hard time in your first career.

Mid life gives us the opportunity to change our lives for the better.

Like I’ve always championed:

It’s a kind of mental health treatment to have a job you love.

The book is interesting. You can check it out of the library if you can’t afford to buy it.

Commuting To and From Work

The idea of having to commute to and from your job is something to consider when choosing where to work.

Tales from my Career Crypt:

At my first job as an administrative assistant I had a 2 1/2 hour commute each way.

I took the bus from the starting point across the street from the public housing complex to the end point at the Staten Island Ferry. Then I took the ferry to Manhattan. From there I took a train to midtown.

That’s 22 1/2 hours every week traveling to and from an office job.

To top it off, the insurance firm’s management decided all employees had to work an extra half hour every day. So I had to be at the office from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This involved leaving my apartment at six o’clock in the morning.

I don’t recommend this for mental health peers. This would give you barely any free time at night to enjoy yourself when you come home from work in the evening.

What I recommend: trying to find a job with a half hour commute. Or if you need to have a longer commute try to find a job where you’re only in transit an hour each way.

In the 1990s when I worked in insurance offices you were also supposed to work overtime nearly every single day of the week.

Along with finding a job with a shorter commute I recommend finding a job where overtime is rare and not required.

In the next blog entry I will talk further about my early office jobs.

Then I’ll seguein to what I think can be a better option than taking a corporate job.

My stance is: I would still work in a corporate job only if I had the kind of stone cold temperament required to be all business, all the time in how I interacted with clients and coworkers.

My Administrative Assistant Job

In 1990 I obtained my first full-time job as an administrative assistant to the director of an insurance firm. It was the first job I held after I got out of the hospital in October 1987. I was 25 years old then.

Today most professionals type their own correspondence so a secretary job is on its way out as a viable long-term career.

I want to devote a number of blog entries to this first job I held to segue into information about the second nonfiction book I hope to publish within two years.

My experience at that first job is illustrative of what not to do when you’re a mental health peer first starting out.

I don’t recommend telling your supervisor that you have a diagnosis of SZ or BP or whatever you have that you’ve been given.

My first job was in a corporate office. I would say in retrospect from my own office jobs: consider a corporate position only if you have the temperament to handle the pressure.

I told my first boss what my diagnosis was. I might have been in tears when I told her.

Listen–I’m a woman and this is my blog–so I’m going to reveal something that no one else will have the guts to tell you:

Getting your period and having SZ at the same time is a recipe for ongoing hell.

I’m 52 now and boy am I glad all that is over. Getting your period can worsen your SZ symptoms. So if you’re caught in a crying jag and otherwise experiencing the worst at that time of the month:

I urge you to weigh carefully taking any traditional job where you’re entitled to only 3 sick days per year. That’s the scenario in most office jobs.

At my first job in the office, I would have to go home sick as soon as this monthly shit hit the fan. I’m telling you this as a female mental health peer because you’re not alone in what happens.

I have one purpose in telling readers this: because of this type of scenario I urge you NOT to disclose your diagnosis to your supervisor or coworkers.

In the 1990s, I found out that I could take BuSpar–a non-addictive mild anti-anxiety pill–thought to help with the PMS. Ask your female doctor if this could help you. I can’t diagnosis any condition or prescribe or recommend any drug.

Yet I write about my experience in the early 1990s as an administrative assistant to make the case for not disclosing your diagnosis at any kind of office job.

In my memoir Left of the Dial I employed a sense of humor in detailing the functions of my administrative assistant job.

It was hell, hell, hell, and then some more hell.

I took the job so that I could kiss the SSI checks goodbye and afford to live in my own apartment apart from “the system.”

With so much of the moods a young person could have and the severity of symptoms at that stage of recovery I understand how hard it can be to just exist in recovery doing the best you can at that age.

In my second nonfiction book I’ll talk about this in more detail.

I’ll end here and in the coming blog entries give you a preview of the information contained in the second book.

No one else is going to tell you these things yet someone has to.

Up next I’ll talk about one of the most awful words in the dictionary: commute.

The commute you have to and from work can also be hell when you’re just starting out.

I have ideas about how to manage that too.


My Second Nonfiction Book

I’ve been remiss in publishing blog entries here because I’ve been editing and revising the book proposal for the second nonfiction book I want to publish.

It’s a one-of-its-kind career guide. I will be able to tell you more about this in October.

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Coming up in October I will return to writing about career topics.

As of tonight I’ll be returning to writing blog entries here.

What I’d like to start out writing about this week is a true story.

It goes back to my time working as an administrative assistant in an insurance office.

That was my first-ever full-time job after I stopped collecting government benefits.

Stay tuned.



Discarding Goals

I firmly believe that everyone living on earth has the potential to do some kind of work.

For one person this might simply be doing volunteer work or working on their recovery. For another person yes this could be getting a JD.

We are not to frown on those of us who are less fortunate than we are in this regard.

In two months I’ll be 52 years old–and the older I get it’s become imperative to prioritize what I want to do. You too will turn 52 hopefully at some point if you haven’t gotten here now. Prioritizing goals at mid life is the way to go.

In keeping with setting priorities each of us should know that it’s okay to discard a goal or goals that don’t have the chance to be achieved.

At 52 life is getting shorter thus the requirement of choosing wisely what we focus on.

At 52 I’ve discarded a number of goals that used to burn brightly in my mind as things I really really wanted to do in my fifties.

You like I did will plan at 40 what you want to do in the future. Yet the view is different 12 years later at 52. Thus the beauty of discarding goals that weren’t meant to be.

This doesn’t mean you’ve failed just because you’ve quit wanting to do something. You can only fail at something you’ve actually done that didn’t turn out right. You can’t have failed if what you wanted to do you didn’t try to do to begin with.

Bingo–that’s the difference in succeeding at goal-setting–especially at mid life. When we give up focusing on one thing we can replace it with another thing.

Recovery is the gift of a lifetime that we give ourselves in which to heal and be whole and well and happy.

We cannot rush or cut corners when it comes to achieving our life goals. Better to have entertained a goal or two and not acted on it than to sit home throwing ourselves a pity party and not even trying to set a goal because we think we can’t.

Banish the word “can’t” from your vocabulary I tell you. Replace it with “I’m willing to try to see if I can do this.” That’s more like it even if not everything we try will always work out.

I want to continue to talk about setting goals. What I’ve written here is the short version. A book years ago was published that talked about the benefit of quitting.

The difference is: quit when it’s not to your advantage to continue. Persist when the goal is so life-changing that to not risk trying to achieve it would fill you with regret at “what might have been.”

The quote is: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

The view from the cusp of 52 is grand.

Yes You Can

I’ve changed the quote at the top right of this blog.

Years ago circa 1989 when I was shunted into the day program a woman I met told me: “Not a lot of people with a disability could do what you do.”

It’s true that I took offense at this because I thought it was possible to do these things.

As of today the proof that Yes You Can really is that we are “individuals” living with a mental health challenge. Not “consumers” or “schizophrenics” or any other label.

Each of us has the potential to do the things that give us joy and happiness. Each of us has the potential to heal and have optimal mental health. Each of us has the potential to flourish doing what we love.

Harboring jealousy at other people isn’t the way to live our lives.

Today in 2017 I can adamantly rebut that woman’s decades-ago comment with this:

You don’t have to become an Ivy League lawyer or a famous writer to get on with  a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life after you receive your diagnosis.

That’s the distinction I’ve always made in the various incarnations of my blog:

Often our internal roadblocks limit us more than external factors.

The goal I dare say is to be happy and healthy–that’s the true aim of living in recovery.

Each of us gets to define what happy and healthy looks like for us in our own lives.

Again it goes back to what I’ve written about self-stigma. If you’re trashing yourself or someone else because they’re a cashier in Rite Aid, that’s NOT right.

The woman who commented to me that way in the mists of time was an exceptional baker. She could cook like you wouldn’t believe.

So if you are a creative chef creating culinary wonders that’s your version of happy and healthy.

I thought about this woman’s comment today because I was talking with my literary agent who’s as visionary as I am in championing mental health.

Years ago when I first started blogging I had the audacity to claim that most people could recover and go on to have your own version of a full and robust life.

Frankly I’m tired of so-called experts claiming that no one can recover. I’m tired of getting attacked because I choose to focus on on the positive instead of dwelling on symptoms and lack and deficits.

The point is: if you can bake a souffle you’ve got that over me.

Any questions?