Christina Bruni’s Story

From the fall of 1987 to the summer of 1990 I collected a government disability check and received Medicaid. I lived below the poverty line. For two years back then I lived in public housing.

These earliest experiences changed me forever. They’re the root of why I have compassion for those of us who are less fortunate.

In fact I know plenty of people who collected so-called “entitlements”  when they needed them, and got off the government rolls when their situation in life changed.

Alas, the myth persists of “lazy freeloaders” collecting entitlements forever with no intention of bettering themselves.

Only other people should understand that for a minority of individuals holding a job and obtaining employment isn’t possible.

I’m aware that there are those of us with a diagnosis or disability who have a passive resistance to taking initiative to get a job. They are the exception not the rule.

I wrote You Are Not Your Diagnosis for people who have the desire and ability to work at a job and have a career.

Today it’s possible to stop collectingt SSI or SSDI for the rest of your life.

Today it’s possible to do what you love on and off a job.

Today it’s possible to have your own version of a full and robust life living in recovery.

I’m committed to serving people who want to recover.

My story offers hope and can empower people:

Within 3 years of getting the diagnosis, I stopped collecting government benefits and obtained my first job as an administrative assistant. Seven months later I moved into a studio apartment near the beach.

The wind-up of this story is that you’re not doomed to a life of poverty, unremitting welfare, and joblessness or homelessness when you have a mental health issue.

Wherever you are on the road of recovery whether just starting out or in your older years it’s possible to find the job you love.

The Occupational slice of the Wheel of Wellness should fit into your goals and personality.

I will in coming blog entries talk about a method of finding the job you love and would be happy to go to every week.

I detail this method for achieving occupational fitness in my own forthcoming career guide You Are Not Your Diagnosis.

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Achieving Career Fitness

I’ve written a second book that I’m trying to publish this year.

The aim of the book is to help individuals living with mental health issues achieve career fitness.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis is a visionary guide to finding and succeeding at having a job or career.

What I wrote could help anyone not just people with a diagnosis. What’s visionary is that the target market of the book is mental health peers who want to have a better life living in recovery.

The Occupational slice of the Wheel of Wellness should fit into your goals and personality.

My contention is that finding the job and career you love can reduce the impact of your disability.

In fact I can state without a doubt that working at the jobs I love enabled me to recover. It wasn’t the other way around: I wasn’t able to hold these jobs because I had first recovered. No–I didn’t recover until I started my librarian job at 35 years old.

I was ill-suited to work at my first career in corporate insurance office jobs. Continuing to show up to those jobs restricted how far I could go in my life. In the 1990s I was laid off–terminated–from four out of the five jobs I held in the first seven years.

To start off this focus on occupational wellness I will talk about my own life in the coming blog entries.

From my experience I’ve been able to create a method for finding the job you love that I want to share with readers.

Here’s to us square pegs who tried to fit into round holes just to succeed.

There’s a better way. I’ll talk about it in coming blog entries.

 

The Wheel of Wellness

Years ago I was the board member of a non-profit. I was given a handout on The Wheel of Wellness.

Always I will focus in here on fitness and nutrition and careers and other things linked to having a full and robust life.

For the coming weeks I want to shift gears and talk about the Wheel of Wellness and my own Wheel of Fitness.

The Wheel of Wellness is comprised of occupational, social, physical, environmental, emotional, financial, spiritual, and intellectual slices going around.

The goal is for everyone to have optimal health, happiness, and recovery. What I call having a full and robust life doing what you love.

Each aspect of wellness acts in harmony with each other. I call this devotion to healing from illness living life Left of the Dial after the title of my memoir.

The VU meter of a disc jockey’s mixing board measures the intensity of the sound of a record. When the needle veers into the red on the right there’s an imbalance. Adjusting the meter so the needle is on the left balances out the intensity of the sound.

That’s the roundabout way to talk about Living in Health Happiness Harmony, what I’ve used as the subtitle of my Left of the Dial blog.

I will list the key factors of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness in the coming blog entry.

Going forward I will circle around the Wheel of Wellness starting with the Occupational.

In the future I will return to topics like nutrition and fitness more strictly. For today I feel I’ve detailed these topics as best I can right now.

Changeology: Perspire Step: Update

My New Year’s resolution I’ve recorded in here a few blog entries ago.

I’m using the 5-step Changeology method for achieving goals and resolutions.

So far I’ve advanced to Step 3: Perspsire.

This is where you’re engaged in the new healthy behavior that replaces the old habit.

How have I fared in executing the sub-goals?

For 3 out of the 4 weeks I lifted weights at the gym 2x/per week. One week I exercised at the gym only once that week.

The goal I had of bringing salad food and fruit to my job to eat healthier has been achieved every week so far.

I’ve eaten salads 3x/per week like I had expected to. My goal is to have fruit for a snack in the afternoon going forward to complement the goal of eating salads.

I can make no excuse for not having gone to the gym 2x/every single week.

I offer only this explanation: my mother is old and needs my help at times. Faced with this reality I will have to help her out when I’m able to.

Months ago in this blog I gave Tips for Caregivers.

Then I talked about how no one at any mental health organization is addressing the reality that adult children are becoming caregivers for our parents.

You’re supposed to deal with managing your own life at the same time you’re caring for an elderly parent who might be in ill health.

Nobody cares about this because they’re advocating for young adults and parroting baseless anti-stigma rhetoric.

Instead of actually taking action on equally pressing concerns: the needs of older Americans living in recovery who are becoming caregivers.

There. That’s it straight up. I’ve spoken this truth. When there’s no one else to act as a caregiver it falls on you to do double duty.

Alas my goal of using the treadmill 1x/per week hasn’t happened either.

I would like to start executing this sub-goal next week.

In the coming blog entries I’ll talk more about the Changeology method.

The point is that by executing the 5 steps in the order you’re supposed to do them you have a better chance of achieving your goals and resolutions.

Step 3 of Perspire lasts 30 to 60 days.

Like I said slow and steady wins the race.

In the next blog entry I’ll detail 3 Tactics for Achieving Resolutions that I think can make the difference between success and failure.

 

 

 

How to Eat Healthier – Part Three

One of the scariest true facts is that chemicals thought to cause cancer are often found in food and drink products in the U.S.

Not all chemicals in food and drink products are regulated. Most aren’t.

Awhile back I had no energy to get out of bed on most days. Without resorting to taking an anti-depressant (I wasn’t depressed just fatigued) I was willing to try any non-chemical method of regaining my vigor.

My primary care doctor had told me that emotional distress can cause physical fatigue.

One idea she told me was to buy Ubiquinol from the pharmacy. The pill was supposedly a better version of CoEnzyme Q10.

CoQ10 is thought to give a person energy. I thought nothing of popping this pill until I read the ingredients. The Ubiquinol was listed as having Red and Blue Food Dye.

No kidding. After that, I stopped buying and taking this supposedly healthful product.

The pills were coated in an orange color–which should’ve been a tip-off.

Shortly after I stopped taking this OTC product my energy started to get elevated again. So I was lucky the fatigue slowly slowly got better.

You might not know this: a lot of drugs that are prescribed like atypical anti-psychotics cause weight gain precisely because the pills cause a person to have a ravenous appetite.

I take a pill that I’m grateful didn’t cause weight gain.

To end this blog entry I want to give you a dose of common sense.

Alas, common sense isn’t at all common.

I’m 53 years old, so technically I’m living in mid life.

Yet I haven’t packed on any extra pounds in mid life and have maintained the same weight as when I was 40.

Part of this equation is that I don’t eat a lot of food. I eat healthfully 80 percent of the time. I wrote about the 80 Percent Rule in a long-ago blog entry.

When I’m not hungry anymore I stop eating. Often I leave food on my plate–not a lot yet there’s food left over.

Thinking that you have to “clean your plate” so as not to waste food is a mistake. Why are you cooking too much food to begin with?

It’s also not your fault that chain restaurants sell huge portions of food. The food they’re giving you is unhealthy most of the time: the food was bought cheaply and prepared cheaply.

Then it’s loaded up on the plate. You could be tempted to eat it all or take home the leftovers.

Taking home leftovers is better than eating the huge portion all at once. You’ll have a second meal the next day.

Eating healthful food in moderation–five a day of fruits and vegetables–is one sensible guideline I think is non-negotiable if you want to stick to the one best nutrition guideline.

In How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life Frank Lipman, MD goes so far as to recommend eating two servings of fruit a day.

Eating two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables isn’t that hard to do every day. I have an organic navel orange for breakfast and a serving of an in-season fruit for an afternoon snack. I have a salad three days a week for one serving of a vegetable that day. Mix in a vegetable for dinner on most nights:

Voila–you can see it really isn’t hard to eat healthfully 80 percent of the time.

How have I been doing in executing my sub-goals for Step Three Perspire with the  Changeology 90-day action plan?

Remember: I wanted to buy and bring salads to my job to eat for lunch 3x/per week. And I wanted to exercise at the gym 2x/ per week.

In the next blog entry you’ll find out whether I succeeded or not.

How to Eat Healthier – Part Two

Natural flavor that is a chemical is in nearly every single food product in a supermarket. Even a bag of prepared clams in the frozen aisle. Even in rice cakes. Even in protein bars.

The biggest myth is that protein bars are healthy and give you energy.

They’re loaded with natural flavor and high in sugar. I refrain at all costs from snacking on protein bars anymore. As well, it’s because the bars simply don’t taste good.

I found out that Skinny Pop popcorn–again, a seductively named product–is made with a harmful ingredient. Sunflower oil is man-made.

The book How to Be Well: 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life exposes the real deal about this and other oils.

Coconut oil and olive oil and avocado oil are the best kinds of oil to use. Palm oil if you choose to use it should be labeled “conflict-free” because the harvesting of palm oil can cause harm to rain forest ecology.

The following are unnatural fats and should be avoided at all costs:

Vegetable oil ( there are no vegetables in it)

Margarines and spreads

Canola oil

Corn oil (GMO-laced)

Safflower and Sunflower oil (extracted with hexane, thought to be a neurotoxin) and high in inflammatory fatty acids.

Bet you didn’t think Skinny Pop was harmless. Now you know sunflower oil–one of its ingredients–is high in inflammatory fatty acids.

Peanut oil – also higher in inflammatory fatty acids.

America is a capitalist country. The prevailing business model for food companies and other big business is often “Anything to make a buck.”

Creating and manufacturing food and drink and other products is often predicated in this business model on using the cheapest ingredients and components to rush out quickly products that are sold cheaply.

Yet the products still have a high markup–that is retail price–because the cost of producing them is mere pennies compared to the selling price.

Money is then spent on seductive advertising to get consumers to buy the food and drink and other products.

Alas, too many people if not most people don’t want to spent a lot of money on food and drink upfront.

Then when people become sick and ill they conveniently don’t make the connection between their diet and their disease.

And when most of us fail at maintaining our weight and health via the “calories consumed versus calories burned” guideline we could tend to feel like failures who were responsible for not succeeding.

I tell you based on my own experience: I can’t resist having a pastry from a bakery every two weeks or so. That’s it really.

If you ask me it comes down to common sense again:

If you’re not stuffing your face and going back for second and third helpings at a meal:

Chances are you’re not consuming too many calories in one day.

Like said you can weigh more yet eat fruits and vegetables and be healthy. Or you can be stick thin with a magic metabolism, eat junk, and be flabby and unhealthy.

I’m going to devote a third blog entry to How to Eat Healthier then move along.

After this trio of blog entries I’m going to update the results I’ve achieved in Step Three Perspire of the Changeology 90-day action plan for realizing goals and resolutions.

How to Eat Healthier – Part One

I’ve gotten on this kick to write about fitness and nutrition again.

There’s no complicated formula. And it’s not as simply as calories consumed versus calories burned off.

The secret to health lies in this one maxim: cut out the sugar, chemicals, and processed food and drink from your diet.

Without exception I can guarantee you that any food product company that makes an emotional claim as to why a boxed or wrapped food is good for you for is LYING.

Special K boasts that their cereal (made with artificial flavors) has 150 Nourishing Calories.

Funny, I didn’t know artificial flavors were nourishing.

Proving the point that 150 calories of junk isn’t worth eating when you can scramble an egg and have it with avocado for breakfast.

Kind Bars boast they have “Ingredients you can see and pronounce.”

Not so fast. Kind Bars are loaded with chemicals listed as “natural flavor.”

You can pronounce the word natural flavor. Yet it’s still a chemical.

The US government doesn’t regulate most chemicals used in food and drink products.

The USDA–whose staff are often food industry company insiders–allows food companies to use chemicals in products without having to list the chemical names.

So chemicals a mile long are listed as “natural flavor.”

Natural flavor is just as artificial as artificial flavor.

Readers, even Nutella isn’t real chocolate.

In the coming blog entry I’m going to talk about the real deal about other food and drink products.

What I’m going to talk about comes from the book How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life.

Remember: any product with a seductive name or slick advertisement claim most likely isn’t as healthful as it appears.

Food companies use oils and chemicals that aren’t good to consume because using these cheap ingredients lowers the cost of the product.

Which might entice you to plunk down money to buy the product because it’s so cheap.

Wait a minute.

There’s a better way to save your wallet and your waistline at the same time.

I’ll talk about this next.