The Myth of Competitive Employment

All authors have a curious dislike of certain book reviews we get that are less than glowing. One that sticks in my mind is the comment that most peers can’t obtain competitive employment like I did.

Define competitive employment I ask you. Tell me why you think having only competitive employment counts for a peer or for anyone in society.

We all know an MD or two or hundreds or thousands who are in their careers to make the big bucks at the expense of their patients by recommending risky treatments.

We all know high-paid politicians who make the big bucks yet only create laws benefiting corporations not ordinary citizens.

These people have competitive employment. Yet are they such shining role models of what a person can achieve? I rest my case.

Yes–I have failed at so-called “competitive” employment trying to compete with others for supervisor positions. I have failed at having insurance office jobs.

We cannot continue to insinuate that competitive employment is the barometer of a person’s worth in society.

We cannot continue to suggest that mental health peers are lacking in any way because they don’t have competitive employment.

I’ve seen that peers often have their own self-stigma in this regard, claiming for instance that one of us is “Just a janitor.” No. Change your attitude about that, I wanted to tell the woman who believed that being a janitor was a lower-dignity job.

For the record, I met an older guy with gray hair at an anniversary party. He was indeed proud when he told me he was a “custodial engineer.”

Janitor, custodial engineer–any honest job labored at with pride can give you dignity.

I’ve worked for and with a number of so-called jerks to know that a person who has competitive employment doesn’t always have the content of character to match their position.

The goal isn’t that every one of us should have or will have a lifetime cruising on a big party boat in terms of what we succeed. Frankly other people’s ocean liners don’t impress me.

The goal as I see it is to have your own version of a full and robust life doing what makes you happy.

I’ve seen in my own life that making others happy is the foolproof way to feel good yourself. Helping others is the best way to help yourself heal.

Volunteer work isn’t competitive employment in the traditional sense. Yet if you don’t have paid work experience and want to find a job it helps to list volunteer experience on your resume.

Critics and occasional book reviewers assail what peers with mental health conditions can do. They continue to perpetuate the myth that there’s not much someone with SZ or BP or DP or another mental health condition can do.

I’m done with that thinking. I haven’t believed for a minute that people diagnosed with mental health issues aren’t capable of much.

In 1988 when I first was diagnosed I dared think recovery was possible.

Now as then I believe: it’s possible to recover, heal, and have your own version of a full and robust life.

I champion the right of everyone with a mental health issue, who struggles, to find what gives us joy and go do that–whether we’re paid to do this thing or not.

Sing in a choir, bake cakes, be a CEO or not. Do whatever makes you happy. It’s all good.

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Getting Into the Gym Groove

Round about the New Year a lot of people join gyms across America.

There’s a guaranteed way to persist at your fitness goals.

Read the book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions. It can help you succeed when you execute each step in the right order.

In a recent New York Times article a woman writer snipped about yoga pants. She joined a gym and wears sweatpants to work out. She thinks people stared at her because she’s not wearing yoga pants. The woman claims that yoga pants objectify woman as sex objects.

This is blarney. If you want to succeed at your fitness goals you need to dress the part of a champion. Elite athletes don’t wear sweatpants to perform.

How you dress in any area of life can affect how you feel about yourself. Getting into the gym groove will be easier when you dress the part.

I used to wear whatever clothes I could pass off as workout gear when I first started lifting weights. Then I got hip and started to buy training pants and tee shirts specifically for sweat sessions.

You can buy for at tops $79 a pair of training pants in Modell’s. Or get cheaper options in Century’s in New York City–Century 21 off-price discount retailer. Even Target if I remember has Champion workout gear.

In all areas of life if you want to get in the game you have to put on your game face as it’s called. Wearing the right clothes to the gym can put you in a champion’s frame of mind.

JackRabbit sells running shoes at their stores and online. In person you can get tested to see which kind of shoe is best for how your feet touch the ground.

I tell you loyal readers that resisting buying quality training clothes is a royal mistake. You’ll feel better about yourself when you’re dressed better.

No one else is looking at you at the gym either way. Hardcore fitness buffs are too busying working out to spend more than a minute or too glancing around the room.

Should you not want to buy skintight yoga pants there are plenty of options with a boot cut hem out there.

If you power through the next two months at the gym and want to stay motivated to continue I urge you to rethink wearing sweatpants to work out.

In the coming blog entries I’ll return to a focus on fitness and nutrition.

In the end having a fitness routine and a balanced nutrition plan is a valid adjunct form of treatment for people with mental health issues.

My New Year’s Goal

The science is clear: people can and do keep New Year’s resolutions.

How is this possible? They start and follow through on a 90-day action plan.

The action plan is executed in a step-by-step fashion. Each stage of the plan must be followed in a specific order: Psych Prep Plan Perspire and Persist.

Following the steps out of order or getting stuck in a certain step–a step mismatch–makes it harder to achieve your goal.

The bulk of the action plan occurs over two months where you’re actively engaged in the new behavior.

You can read the book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions to see how it’s possible to yes keep a New Year’s resolution.

It’s available as an e-book so you can install it on your iPad or other device.

The author reminds the reader that drawing upon outside support is crucial in making your goal happen.

My goal is to eat more healthful food six days a week.

To this end I have signed up for a meal delivery service.

I’ve ordered chicken with diced sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, turkey with mashed turnips and broccoli, a side of sweet potato wedges, a side of broccoli, and a side of Brussels sprouts. Plus an apple muffin and chocolate avocado balls and pancakes.

I will report back in here how the food tastes. You simply heat-and-eat the food so there’s no long arduous prep time to get the meals ready.

It’s the KettleBell Kitchen service and available in the New York City area.

I will report back this weekend on my experience.

The Time is Now

The second book I’ve written is geared to readers in the target market of neglected peers who have been traditionally told there was no hope for what you can do.

I’ve been a career services person for over nine years so far. In this time I’ve created resumes that enabled numerous people to get job interviews that led to job offers.

That’s how I know real positive change is possible. That’s how I know success is within reach.

The point is that mental health staff¬† are first seeing you at that moment in time when you’re young. Thus if they have no frame of reference where other people are successful, they will see you and your illness as fixed, immutable over time.

When in fact the point is you’re young, you most likely have a limited view of the world and your place in it, especially with any “self-stigma.”

At 22, at whatever age you’re diagnosed, that’s the time that your goals and dreams should be accepted and reinforced, not shut down.

Mental health staff should not use your illness and its symptoms as the proxy for your personality.

A female therapist when I was 27 told me I was too low-functioning for therapy. A female therapist when I was 46 told me I was too high-functioning for therapy.

Thus you have to beware of any mental health staff person who tells you that you’re either not capable of much or too ambitious to be a candidate for any further self- improvement.

As if there’s an end point to stop bettering yourself. There isn’t.

The point is too that if you’re not growing and changing as your life changes you’re going to remain stuck.

Your own frame of reference–about yourself, the world, and your place and others’ in it–should be changing to become more hopeful and compassionate.

Your life doesn’t end when you get a diagnosis of SZ or BP or DP or whatever you’re handed.

The people who treat you should accept and understand that positive change is possible for you at any time in your life. If not now when you’re in a plateau, this change can be possible at a later date.

Getting to where you want to be might not be quick or easy.

Yet without breaking confidentiality I can tell you in a general way that numerous peers I’ve met and helped have been severely ill and gone on to change their lives for the better.

One guy I know who’s gone global with his story heard voices for 10 years. He went on to get an MBA and become the CEO of corporations.

I’ll end here and come back with news of interest for New York residents.

New Year’s Resolutions

It can be hard to go outside in the arctic chill when you live in the Northeast. Our minus 2 degree temperature requires staying inside our apartments and houses.

I say: plan your goals today and execute them in the early spring.

Better yet use your birthday as the start-date of a goal-setting plan.

To better be able to achieve your goals read the book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.

The author details a proven method for making lasting changes.

It requires a 90-day commitment. This method is what successful people use to carry out New Year’s Resolutions.

I will talk more in coming blog entries about this kind of goal-setting.

For now I say: stay inside and keep warm. Only go outside in this freezing chill when you absolutely have to. Take car service instead of having to wait for a bus when you can afford to do so.

Inspiration for Risking Change

Yes: I think that I succeeded because I have a diagnosis of SZ not in spite of it.

You have two options in how you respond to a diagnosis that could change your life plans:

Give up and buy what other people are selling: that there’s not much you can do.

Or like I did you can become more determined to defy everyone’s expectations.

That’s the difference: the diagnosis motivated me to try my best to succeed.

Before the diagnosis I always wanted to live an artist’s life in the city. After the diagnosis I quickly realized that I could do this because it was under my control whether I at least tried to do this.

As long as I gave my goals my best shot, it wouldn’t matter if I failed. The same goes for you. The only real failure is the failure to try.

As a kid, as a younger person, I lived on Staten Island–the borough where the cop killed Eric Garner in a choke-hold. It wasn’t the place I wanted to continue to live.

It was a world of white conformity in every way–devoid of color; devoid of culture.¬† I wanted to escape ever since I was in college.

After I was diagnosed I realized that if I acquiesced to the life plan I was being sold [collecting SSI forever and forced to live in public housing] I wouldn’t ever get out.

Take this tip from me as to what I did next:

I had the courage to risk change because I believed that tomorrow could be better.

Know this as I did then:

Whatever you want to do in life is under your control because it’s up to you to take action to try to get there. The choices you make today will help you get to where you want to be tomorrow.

Start your engines. The road is wide open.

Choosing Goals

It’s clear to me that you and I won’t succeed if we succumb to thinking we have to do what other people tell us is the only right thing to do.

It’s 2017 and we have more and better options for living in recovery.

You’re only going to make yourself miserable and have ill health pretending to be someone you’re not just so you can please other people.

We should not be puppets–either of our government or of anyone else who attempts to pull the strings to get us to conform to a so-called norm.

We will only succeed if we are invested in the goals we set and have the starring role in deciding what we want to do with our lives.

When a person says another person has a ton of self-determination that really means that this individual had the courage to go after getting what they wanted without being deterred by whatever obstacle they faced.

Self-determination sounds like a fancy word however as I define it it’s simply the right of everyone living on earth to determine how they want to live their life and the direction they want to go in in their life.

No other person should be telling us what to do without soliciting our feedback on this course of action. Any treatment plan needs to be created with our input.

Choosing our goals should be up to us first of all. Yet really we shouldn’t set the bar so high that we can only fail. The dilemma is that historically for people diagnosed with mental health conditions the bar wasn’t set at all. We weren’t expected to be able to do much of anything.

2017 is here. It’s time to challenge this status quo. It’s time to speak out on the things that matter to us.

I say: engaging in goal-seeking behavior can make all the difference in a person’s recovery.

Choose your goals with care and attention. Choose goals that make sense to you.