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.

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Recovery is an Open Door

Tonight I’ve changed the wording in a couple of sentences in the book description for Left of the Dial on Amazon.com.

You live–you change your mind. I deleted the reference to achieving a “pre-illness dream.” I replaced it with wording that you can have your own version of a full and robust life.

Going on over two years since the memoir was published I’ve learned something profound, more realistic, and hopeful in terms of what is possible:

That when we get older we can discover that we have a new talent that we didn’t have before we got sick.

This is the real hope. The truth is that the illness can attenuate for a lot of us in our older years. So the point isn’t that to be considered successful we must–or can–achieve our pre-illness dreams.

The point is that I didn’t achieve my pre-illness dream of getting a Masters’ in Journalism.

This is the far more remarkable thing: that a person can have better life after they’ve had a breakdown than before. And this life isn’t always the one we wanted or expected to have.

Nothing succeeds like persistence. Recovery isn’t quick and it isn’t easy–it’s challenging and hard at times. Yet it can be a beautiful expression of the potential within each of us to do some kind of personally meaningful “work”–paid or not.

There’s an ending to the expression: “When one door closes, another door opens.” It’s this: “Yet we often look so longingly at the door that closed that we don’t see the one opening before us.”

It’s a mistake to regret what cannot be. It’s a gift to embrace what life has in store for us when we dare to walk through the open door.

No one else has stated in these exact words what I’ll be the first person to tell you now:

Recovery is an open door.

Mental Health Awareness Month 2017

Do you want to remain invisible for the rest of your life?

Do you want to NOT be there when they count out the dues?

Do you want that the decades-old status quo of no treatment, failed treatment, or delayed treatment continues on forever in American society?

By living in hiding we maintain the status quo of decades of inequality in healthcare; inequality in housing; and inequality in having the quality of life that other Americans take for granted.

To remain silent is to fail to be counted. To remain in hiding is to fail to be seen and acknowledged.

It’s 2017: there can be no shame, no guilt–about having an illness; a diagnosis; about having been attacked if you were a victim; about being the object of someone’s hate; about experiencing trauma.

We must demand an equal stake in the rules–that is the laws–the U.S. government imposes on us. We cannot continue to sit idly by while other people–and elected officials–decide our fate.

Ralph Ellison in his book The Invisible Man wrote: “I am an invisible man because no one sees me.”

The saddest thing is to become invisible to yourself–to keep making yourself smaller and smaller so that other people can accept you.

I say: we must tell our stories, or we won’t get funding for the housing, treatment, and research studies we need.

I find it interesting that a person who ISN’T “living with” a diagnosis of SZ could claim in a review of my memoir that no one can recover.

I’ve talked the talk as a mental health activist for the last 15 years. Now I’m walking the walk having created a business to help people recover.

I want to ask that book reviewer: what is your priority in life? If you think no one with SZ can recover why aren’t you doing anything to try to help us recover?

For too long, outsiders have been looking into the lives of people diagnosed and living with SZ and making judgments about our worth, our abilities, and our strengths.

They seem to be okay with near-endlessly deriding us for the choices we make (which might include taking medication for a lot of us).

They seem to be okay with not doing anything to help us recover.

They seem to be okay with near-endlessly parroting that we can’t recover.

They seem to be okay with standing in judgment of the lifestyle choices of those of us who do recover–as if we don’t have the right to choose the best option for our individual needs.

We need cheerleaders–not critics. We need people cheering us on. We need to be given compassion. We need to be listened to and understood.

Capisce?—as the Italians would say. Understand?

My goal for this spring–it’s an actual goal–is to use my persona to challenge what people think of a person diagnosed with SZ.

I’m tired of being singled out as some kind of exception. To what? I want to ask: To what am I the exception when I’m only being myself?

I’m Chris Bruni. I was diagnosed with SZ when I was 22. This August I’ll have been in remission–out of the hospital and with zero symptoms–for 25 years.

In October I’ll have been in recovery 30 years.

This is my story. What’s yours?

Smiling Depression

Before I go into things from my other books I want to take a detour into talking about a feature article in Women’s Health magazine. Every year the May issue focuses on Mental Health.

There’s a thing: smiling depression. In the May issue you can read about how this silent suffering affects women.

I could relate to having a persona that masks what’s really going on. In here before I wrote about squelching your personality to fit in–and how that can damage your soul.

The Peer Support guideline is: “We judge no one’s pain as any less than our own.”

Yet the women in the May issue were told in essence to buck up–that they had done great things so shouldn’t be depressed.

One woman’s friend told her: “You’ll feel better if you pray.” Yet prayer doesn’t cure a person’s mental health issue. The woman’s Pastor had the good sense to tell her to see a therapist.

That’s the toll it takes on a lot of us to live in hiding. Our therapists are complicit in telling us not to disclose at our jobs. Good advice. Yet that’s precisely why we need to find our own tribe of kindred spirits to talk to about what’s going on.

Smiling depression is a thing. It deserves our attention. Those of us who have smiling depression deserve our compassion.

Go subscribe to Women’s Health if you want to–it’s a great magazine and I read it every month. I like Self too–yet I think Women’s Health is even better.

Nutrition Action

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I want to talk about food and nutrition again. We’re coming up on Greenmarket season in New York City. Here you can use food stamps at a Greenmarket and there’s even an incentive for doing so. I think you should if you get food stamps buy fresh produce at a Greenmarket this time of year. Or year-round if a market is available in the winter.

The pasta is fresh angel hair pasta. The mussels are Newfoundland rope organic mussels. I order from an internet grocery that delivers. I had splurged for Mario Batali tomato sauce yet won’t do that again–it cost a ton of money for one jar.

I sloshed the mussels in red wine. You can fill a large saucepan with just enough water and place the mussels in the water. The water shouldn’t be so high that it goes into the shells. Steam the mussels for 25 minutes or so. Pour the wine over the mussels halfway through.

One time I was eating mussels in a restaurant. As you might know I’m Italian. So I’m eating the mussels and the woman at the table next to me tells the young girl with her: “Italians love their mussels.”

I was astonished. There I was Italian and I’m eating mussels.

The table decor is the spring tablecloth and vase and candlesticks. I firmly believe in changing your table decor at the start of every season. It can give a lift to your spirits.

I eat mussels. I have muscle. I doubt the two are connected. Yet enjoying good food  can improve your mental health too.

 

College Mental Health Center Crisis

Hi everyone,

I’ve proofread the manuscript for my second book and will send it over to my literary agent this week. This accounts for my time away from this blog.

My agent sent me a link to a news article about the college mental health crisis on campuses across America. The situation is more dire than it has ever been for young adults.

In my memoir Left of the Dial two short scenes detail my experiences with trying to get mental health help at my college–The College of Staten Island in New York City in fall 1986 and spring 1987.

The first time I met with a woman at the Student Life Office for two times. I didn’t click with her and couldn’t articulate exactly why I thought my life was falling apart.

This was in fall 1986 one year before I had the breakdown. I had the psychic intuition that something was not right so sought help.

After not clicking with the woman a year later in 1987 shortly before I graduated I went to the mental health center on campus and spoke with a therapist for one half hour meeting.

He told me in these exact words that he couldn’t help me because I was graduating and after that I was on my own. No kidding. Those were his exact words.

The mental health center counselor didn’t give me a referral to a therapist in the community. Apparently he “diagnosed” me in his mind  as just another student nervous about her prospects in life post-school.

Just four months later I wound up in a hospital.

The news article I’m going to link to now details that students in need of help are asked if it’s an emergency when they contact their school’s mental health center. The students have no idea what constitutes an emergency and whether what they’re going through is minor or serious.

One young woman interviewed in the article attempted suicide because her wait to see a counselor at her school was too long. As a result, she lost her job, her off-campus apartment, and her ability to get a pilot’s license.

This is no joke. What if I had gotten help in fall 1986 when I was in the prodromal that is the first stage of my illness? Would I not have wound up in a hospital?

It appalls me that 30 years later–yes 30 years later–nothing has changed at colleges and universities in their approach to helping students with mental health issues.

It has only gotten worse.

Here’s the article on the college mental health center crisis.

(The link might take you to Twitter so I hope it goes through okay.)