Disclosure on the Job

I’ve been employed at different jobs for over 26 years now.

Thus I’m confident that I know a thing or two about how to succeed on a job.

One thing I must underscore is that it’s still dice-y to disclose on a job that you have SZ or BP or any other MH challenge.

So-called normal people are lauded as shining employees even when they’re rude to customers and hostile to co-workers.

Normal people get a pass on the job for all kinds of behavior. Think again if you’ll get a pass on the job. This is just the way it is.

Management often turns a blind eye when a co-worker is rude to customers and staff. Management doesn’t reward people with an MH who exceed everyone’s expectations on the job.

This has been my experience. I would love to hear from readers if they’ve had a different experience.

I was at one point supposed to request a reasonable accommodation on a job and I didn’t do it because I no longer needed to.

For a number of months I was falling asleep at least three days a week. After a simple change in dose time to taking the high dose at night and the low dose in the morning–voila–I was wide awake every day.

With a simple change in dose time I stopped having a side effect.

To cover my ass I had claimed I had narcolepsy. At first I really had no idea what was going on so I thought it might be narcolepsy.

On the other hand it’s not always entirely helpful or useful to use a diagnosis as the reason for needing an accommodation.

So-called normal people get accommodations on the job for reasons having nothing to do with having an illness.

Thus in the next blog entry I’d like to give more tips to job seekers and HR staff about requesting an accommodation.


Requesting A Reasonable Accommodation

At the NAMI-New York State Educational Conference on Saturday, November 12 I will talk about requesting a reasonable accommodation on the job.

You can go on AskJAN to figure out what kind of accommodations you could request linked to different kinds of functional impairments you might have.

The ADA Act is clear that giving an accommodation cannot create an undue hardship on the operation of the business. The employee also still has to be able to perform the job duties. It is not a Get Out of Work Free card like a Get Out of Jail Free card in a Monopoly game.

The purpose of asking for an accommodation is precisely so that you can succeed in your job alongside co-workers who don’t have an impairment.

My take on this is that you should strive to excel not turn in the bare minimum that’s acceptable for an employee.

Coco Chanel the famous clothing designer is quoted:

“To be irreplaceable you must be different.”

You might scoff that you shouldn’t have to be twice as good to be taken seriously.

Wait a minute. Everyone has to be twice as good regardless of whether or not they have a mental health challenge.

Being twice as good on a job might just get you a free pass on your performance review.

All things being equal being twice as good comes in handy when you have to request a reasonable accommodation too.

You might think this is unfair yet this is how the world of work works.

I will be talking about the specifics of requesting an accommodation at the NAMI-New York State Educational Conference on Saturday, November 12.

The bottom line as I see it: if you need an accommodation on the job it’s better to ask for it as soon as you think you need one rather than waiting until you’re in dire straits.

Be grateful. We live in America. We have the opportunity to work at a job with this kind of legally-sanctioned help.

Introduction to Educational Conference

I’m set to give a talk on employment at the NAMI-New York State educational conference on Saturday, November 12 from 5:40 to 6:40 p.m.

My talk will focus on my new peer-owned resume writing and career help service. It will also detail my own experience with requesting a reasonable accommodation on the job.

Here now I want to give a plug for my memoir Left of the Dial. The book chronicles how I recovered with the help of family support, a great psychiatrist, and also peer support in the later years.

What’s remarkable is that in all my life and early in my recovery I was able to see possibility where others saw pain. Even today I see potential where staff still tend to see disability.

In 1990 I blazed a trail for myself at a time when no road out had existed for a person like me. Years later I had the vision to use my writing to uplift and inspire others that an open road now exists for them too.

In the 1980s and early 1990s when I was young and in love with Manhattan I refused to be placed in any kind of box–not a sartorial one; not a psychiatric one.

Dressing in Avant Garde fashion and listening to alternative music was my way to jump out of the boxes others tried to place me in.

Quite simply I didn’t want the label schizophrenic attached to me either.

In time I understood that the diagnosis is best used as a tool to help someone get the right treatment for the symptoms they’re experiencing right now.

My memoir Left of the Dial is a treat because it follows along in the lives of real people living real lives outside of the hospital, outside of any kind of institution. The characters in my book have unique identities apart from their symptoms.

My goal was always to write about what happened after I recovered. If another woman could write about her chronic symptoms and endless hospitalizations, I thought, why can’t I write about a success story to give others hope?

I don’t know about you however in my 29 years in recovery I’ve read and witnessed numerous hell-and-heartache stories.

When I pick up a memoir I don’t want to read about yet another train wreck. I want to be inspired that it’s possible to overcome whatever challenge the character¬†faced.

Don’t we all want to be given hope that if a character in a book can conquer an obstacle that we can too?

Bingo. That’s what it’s all about.

We need to set the clock to today when it comes to thinking about recovery. As of today a significant number of people–more than ever–can and do recover and some of us can be in remission for the long-term too.

We cannot dwell in the psychiatric failings and abuses of the past.

I’ve talked in here endlessly about the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This year the U.S. Congress passed this bill into law. We’re awaiting the U.S. Senate to pass their version.

Now more than ever with landmark legislation like this–and with better treatment, support, and lifestyle options for peers–we cannot regress to continually parroting that no one can recover.

Yet we cannot forget or ignore or abandon our peers who have a chronic form of their illness.

Only now with the possible assistance of the U.S. government in passing laws to promote access to better treatment it’s possible that fewer people will be getting worse and worse without help.

Getting the right treatment right away equals the possibility of a better outcome.

Starting next week I will blog in here about the topics I’m going to talk about at the educational conference. Stay tuned.


2016 NAMI-New York State Conference

The news is that I’m going to be a guest speaker at the NAMI-New York State Educational Conference on September 12, 2016.

I will be giving the talk from 5:40 to 6:40 p.m. on the topic of employment. Specifically I will be talking about how I work with peers and others to coach them on writing a resume and choosing a career.

This is exciting if I do say so myself because the theme of the 2016 educational conference is employment. I will talk as well about disclosure on the job and requesting a reasonable accommodation on the job under the ADA Act–the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I will limit my talk to 10 to 15 minutes and then take and answer questions.

The info about this will also be posted in the author appearances section of my website. You can click on that link for more news.

Starting in mid-October I will count down the weeks to the educational conference by blogging about what I’m going to be talking about in my presentation.

What I’d like to blog here about is tips for job seekers and advice for HR professionals–human resources staff at companies.

Stay tuned.

Sowing and Reaping Healing

Dr. Wesley Sowers led a talk at the educational conference on person-centered treatment.

He viewed health as the capacity to engage in living and having a sense of well being that encompasses the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual.

Dr. Sowers talked about how healing occurs via relationships that guide us across the bridge from illness to health.

In Left of the Dial I credited the support of my family and my private treatment team with enabling me to recover.

One person in that time was instrumental: S.–the art therapist who took us for long walks around the grounds continuing into the early winter.

I’m an artist and doing art therapy was the only thing I liked about my involvement in the mental health system.

S. wore a cowrie-shell necklace and I admired her fashion sense. She was an artist too. Her bold signature mirrored her active approach to life.

The focus traditionally and even today has been on treating illness not on how to stay healthy so that illness doesn’t strike.

Thus I respect Caroline Myss the medical intuitive who wrote the book Archetypes that I talked about in the Left of the Dial blog forum. Expressing who we are through animating our archetypes is a way to heal and to achieve optimal physical, emotional, social, and intellectual health.

Hope is a guidepost. We can ask ourselves: “What do I want to recover?” or we can ask if we want to start fresh on a new version of life.

In 1997 when I was 32 I choose to start fresh and go back to school for a Masters in Library and Information Science 10 years after I was diagnosed. This event took place five years after the second hospital stay that I documented in my memoir.

That was how I started to heal: through education. I followed through with my goal of going back to school even though I was unemployed.

I’ll be the first to echo Dr. Sowers and his focus on how forming positive relationships helps us to heal and to recover.

My contention is that we each of need to reach out even though it might be hard. And that our loved ones should do everything humanly possible to try to reach us when we’re not at that point.

One day a light bulb will go off in our heads. It might not be right after a loved one tries to reach us. It could be five months later or a year later that the light bulb goes on.

I say: sisters brothers mothers fathers wives husbands–whoever you are in our lives even if you’re a treatment provider–always keep trying to reach us and always support us no matter where we are in our recovery.

In coming blog entries I’m going to talk about what I think could help people living in recovery more than anything. It’s what was missing in my early involvement in the failed mental health system.

Today is here and we can shift the needle to get our needs met.

Sowing and reaping healing is possible with individualized treatment, therapy and practical career and housing counseling, and medication for those of us who need it.

It’s a great time to be alive living in recovery.

For Mothers and Fathers

A person at the Ask the Doctor session received thunderous applause after his outcry that the opposing camps in the AOT debate haven’t been able to reconcile our differences. Assisted outpatient treatment or AOT is an evidence-based practice for schizophrenia.

In analyzing the details I disagree with what the guy said for one specific reason: people who view AOT as coercive have to date offered no reasonable alternative. The fact too is that not every individual who receives AOT takes medication.

I’m in the camp that aligns with family members of loved ones who have anosognosia–that is, the lack of awareness that you have an illness.

Dr. Xavier Amador, PhD created the LEAP Institute to give family members tools to help their loved ones get and stay in treatment. On page 45 of his book I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help (get the current 2010 edition) he lists over 10 research studies that link anosognosia to frontal lobe lesions in the brain.

“Consumers” think anosognosia doesn’t exist and this is one way I differ from them. I’m Dr. Amador’s number-one fan. He created the LEAP technique for family members to use with loved ones. The LEAP technique is not coercive. It can work where other methods might fail.

I’m confident that Dr. Amador is right when he states that a psychiatrist should first of all determine if their patients exhibit anosognosia so that the doctor can promptly use the LEAP technique to treat the patient.

If you’re against AOT, what kind of treatment do you propose? The LEAP technique is an approach that I think is a great option.

Since 2002, in all my years as a mental health activist, no one has proposed a viable evidence-based alternative to AOT. Trust me: I’ve heard the alternatives: taking a person who is psychotic into a room and talking to them quietly. Another option a mother proposed was “to allow the progression of the disease.”

I kid you not a mother proposed allowing the progression of the disease.

As a person with a diagnosis: I gave up my “right” not to take medication when it became clear I needed to take medication. I didn’t want to “die with my rights on.” As a citizen of the world, I have the duty to uphold the social covenant with other people in society: to be a responsible citizen.

Easily eight or nine years ago at HealthCentral I wrote: “I would rather be dead than psychotic.”

I don’t agree with the idea that “medication is a choice.” I’d rather not take medication yet I have no choice. That’s the bottom line: for a lot of people we’ve chosen to take medication because the alternative is no option.

I will go to my grave championing the right of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia bipolar and other mental illnesses to have a full and robust life.

Having life-long paranoia and delusions is not an option I champion when taking medication can allow someone to live symptom-free or have minimally intrusive symptoms.

Seeing a loved one doomed to be actively psychotic the rest of their lives is NOT something I champion either.

I understand that others like the guy at the conference think AOT is coercive. Yet I’m adamant that the alternative: life-long psychosis: is not something I can get behind.

Mothers and fathers: I’m on your side. I’m the family member of a loved one with a severe illness. Forced treatment might just have saved his life.


I’m compelled to publish this last blog entry today before I go online shopping. I offer it as a disclaimer because in the coming days I’m going to report on what I learned at the NAMI-New York State educational conference.

My high school art teacher taught us the concept of “unity with diversity” in composition.

Michelle T. Johnson, the author of The Diversity Code, tells us that the ideal is the goal of “viewing diversity as the highest form of honoring individualism.”

I want to talk about this as I head into talking about what I learned at the educational conference.

Anyone who reads this blog will realize I have strong views. Yet what I believe is not any more valid than what another person thinks. More so, I’m not going to use my belief to justify discrimination.

I strive to treat everyone with dignity in the same open compassionate way. This to me is what’s missing from dialogue that often devolves into flame-throwing.

Johnson talks about the peril of how a person will counter another person’s belief with their own opinion as if their belief is valid and the original comment is not.

The cross of this matter is that no one is willing to work to find common ground, so that attacking your opposition has become the norm.

The beauty of living in America is that each of us can freely express ourselves. Fear of reprisal shouldn’t stop us from speaking out.

I listen to people, and I understand them. We’re all in this together. It’s precisely because I remember the past that I understand where consumers are coming from in what they say.

Yet I’ve always been more hopeful. Still it’s not “my way or the highway.” Not at all. I welcome unity with diversity. Queen Latifah sang a song “U-N-I-T-Y” in the 1990s. Remember that?

Like I said my new focus in this blog will be on right here right now. My contention is that we each of us need to move forward into the future, not remain stuck on crucifying the psychiatry of the past.

Today is right here right now the day to shift the needle.

I respect that leaders in the field and ordinary peers are evolving the dialogue at the NAMI-New York State educational conference.

The love is palpable there because we are all NAMI-New York State family. And family sticks together.

I just wanted to say this before I present my views of what I learned.