What Goes On At Work

My goal is that more and more peers are able to obtain jobs where we can then hire other peers to come on board at our companies.

You have to be aware of something that happens in the workplace even to the best workers among us.

This scenario makes disclosure on the job tricky for me to recommend in most work environments.

Employers will hire people with disabilities for temporary or transitional employment. This covers their ass and makes them look good.

As to whether those employers will hire mental health peers for full-time positions with paid health insurance and other benefits that remains to be seen.

I had attended a small business hiring practices event. It was suggested that for mental health peers seeking employment “the door slams in their faces.”

Sometimes it’s still an Old Boys’ (or Girls’) Network. Which is why I make the case for those of us who are peers to hire other peers. Getting in the door is what’s important.

As someone who is set to publish a career guide titled You Are Not Your Diagnosis I’m interested in hearing from peers ourselves what you perceive as the reason why the door is slammed.

I would like to add new information to my career guide that can be like the key that helps peers open the doors.

I’m simply interested in hearing from peers what their experiences have been in this regard.

My experience has been that employers love to interview people with disabilities for promotions. This shows they made a good-faith effort at being receptive.

In reality the position might go to another person.

In one interview for a supervisor job I was asked this very question (I kid you not): What single event in your life has made you who you are today?”

OK–I flubbed everything I said in the interview and didn’t get the position. It wasn’t a great interview so I understand not being chosen.

Years later I interviewed for another promotion. I was totally on and totally confident and thought I was the most qualified. Most of all because I had years of supervisor experience and that’s what the job called for.

They gave the job to someone else because they already knew they were going to choose this person. They went through the charade of interviewing other people they weren’t going to offer the job.

Folks: this happens all the time. It’s a dirty little secret.

Knowing this I think you can see that you have to be judicious in deciding whether or not to disclose your diagnosis on the job.

In the next blog entry I’m going to talk about something central to mental health peers’ success on the job: having autonomy versus having a job with narrowly defined duties and a rigid power hierarchy.

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You’re Not an MD So Stop Giving Medical Advice

Chris Bruni is not an MD. I refuse to give medical advice.

Telling someone to discontinue their medication and offering a method to do so is practicing medicine without a license.

I’m not here to tell people what they should do. The story I tell–the only one I have to give–is my story. I can and will talk about how taking the SZ medication every day enabled me to be in remission for over 25 years so far.

A friend of mine who doesn’t have SZ I consider to be my soul mate. He discontinued his psych medication under supervision and is perfectly fine years later.

What gladdens me is that although he’s been successful he doesn’t give people medical advice. He thinks most people with SZ need to take medication.

My friend hasn’t attacked me–like so many anti-psychiatry folk have done–for choosing to take pills.

I want to be very clear to readers now: telling people they should discontinue their medication is practicing medicine without a license.

At this point I won’t even tell people they must take medication because as said I’m not an MD.

We can only share our stories with each other. It’s up to each of us to decide what we want to do.

If someone asked me I would tell them that I think discontinuing SZ medication is too risky to chance it. That’s my belief and my friend’s belief.

You can decide for yourself if this makes sense to you. You have the choice.

Yet I also think that choosing psychosis over health is a big mistake.

No one I know who discontinued their SZ pills got better. They started hearing voices again. (I’m lucky I didn’t ever hear voices.)

Yet even stating this I cannot tell you or anyone else what to do or how to do it.

I urge you if you’re a paid peer specialist as your job not to dispense medical advice without a license. You’re not an MD. You’re not licensed to diagnose and treat illnesses.

In the coming blog entries I’m going to talk about practical career information again.

My goal is to publish You Are Not Your Diagnosis in October 2018 which is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

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.

The Truth About Early Intervention

I often wonder if I get flak because I have a vagina–that is, because I’m a woman speaking out and not a man with the proper plumbing down below speaking out.

In this blog entry I’m going to tell the truth about early intervention. It works. Period.

You can click on my RAISE Study category to read about research that indicates getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.

The PIER early intervention program in Maine had great success OVER A DECADE AGO. One woman no longer needed to take medication long-term after being treated in the early intervention program.

In my own life I was on a very low dose for 16 years–only 5 mg. The longer you wait to get treated you might need a higher dose and the medication might not be as effective because your symptoms are entrenched.

Here today I wanted to continue talking about getting the right treatment right away.

Too many people with mental health issues who don’t get treatment right away turn to street drugs to self-medicate. This makes having a better recovery harder and sometimes impossible to achieve.

It’s high time (an apt pun) to legalize marijuana use. Non-violent drug offenders need long-term addiction and mental health treatment not a lengthy jail sentence.

Years ago at HealthCentral I wrote about something I called The Triangle of Mental Health: having a support system, getting appropriate medication, and obtaining practical career counseling.

The RAISE Study findings corroborated that the Triangle of Mental Health is a key factor in achieving a positive recovery outcome.

In my life I’m not afraid to state that taking a low dose of medication has given me a competitive advantage in achieving my goals and having a full and robust life.

For some of us like me medication heals. For others they are lucky and don’t need medication as a continuing part of treatment.

Either way the time has come to tell our stories of how getting the right treatment right away aided us in having a better recovery.

I’m not the only success story out there.

Yet I’m confident when I say that giving up hope isn’t ever an option.

Some of us even have miraculous recoveries after years of being ill.

I know people who were at the bottom and their lives turned around.

Giving up hope isn’t an option.

Either way recovery is possible.

I stand by my belief that recovery is possible.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I’d like to expand on the last blog entry.

Recovery is an individual lifestyle for each of us.

Each of us has a divine purpose for being here in this particular lifetime.

You are here to do You better than anyone else could.

I’m here to do Chris because she’s the only person I get to be too.

Really I do think getting the right treatment right away has enabled me to have a better life.

Life isn’t supposed to be easy for anyone of us. Yet nothing worth having comes without effort.

Giving up on ourselves or our loved ones isn’t an option.

The fact is recovery is still possible even if you got delayed treatment. Positive change is possible at any point in your life or your loved one’s life.

What becomes the option if you or your loved one got delayed treatment?

Developing work-arounds to use to have as happy and healthy a life as possible given that you might have it harder.

Settling for less than optimal health is the route to a miserable life.

Sometimes you have to fire a treatment provider–either yours or your loved one’s–and find a better shrink or therapist who’s more competitive in wanting to see their patients do better.

In my memoir Left of the Dial there’s a scene where I have to flee an unprofessional doctor and seek treatment elsewhere.

I don’t advocate being rash in doing this. Yet if your intuition tells you and in your judgment you think you’re not getting the best possible care:

I recommend researching new providers.

Resources to Recover in the NY NJ CT MA area has a provider referral directory.

Family member and peer-reviewed recommendations are available on the Resources to Recover website.

Like I said I will go to my grave championing getting the right treatment right away.

In a coming blog entry I will talk about my experience as a family member of a loved one as well as a peer with her own lived experience.

Acting as Citizen Activists

In my Left of the Dial blog at least twice in the last three years and possibly also here in the Flourish blog:

I’ve railed against placing our hope in the government as the savior of the broken-down mental health system.

What I wrote in these exact words: the government can’t rectify societal ills. I wrote these exact words too: change will best happen person-to-person.

As the Visionary I am two nights ago I got a novel idea in my head to create CMHAC’s–Citizen Mental Health Action Committees.

These groups could act as watchdogs to pressure those in power to do the right thing.

People have to band together to have each other’s backs in America when the government, authorities and institutions, and elected officials won’t and can’t help ordinary folk.

We need United Citizens to fight the Citizens United decision that allows corporations to influence campaigns and help vote into power officials that remain in the pockets of Big Business not in the corner of you and me.

Let’s face facts:

It took three years to get Representative Murphy’s Mental Health Act passed into law.

It took decades for Americans to obtain some semblance of a Mental Healthcare Parity law.

How long will we have to wait before our government is forced to do the next right thing for the people?

The jails-as-mental-hospitals phenomenon has been going on for over a decade now.

I’m tiring of hearing about the lack of treatment. I’m tiring of hearing people talk about how jails-are-mental-hospitals without being able to implement a solution.

This weekend I reached out to give information about resources. I wasn’t going to bobble along and do nothing.

The Margaret Mead quote gets it right:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Acting as Citizen Activists is the goal whose time has come.

It’s time to take action.

We need the best and brightest to come on board as mental health staff.

For too long mediocre individuals have been treating us peers.

For too long the government has allowed all kinds of businesses to be unregulated.

Board-and-care homes are unregulated. The drug treatment rehab center industry is unregulated.

The lack of the right treatment  is the norm not the exception.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.

Which is why I had the courage to step up and want to help do something.

I align only with the Green Party.

This year I plan to get involved with Green Party candidates that I know to work on issues like mental health and decriminalizing street drug use.

Remember: we get who we vote for.

“I’m done” with standing by and not doing anything.

The Myth of Having Dangerous Gifts

It’s a myth that mental health issues are “dangerous gifts.”

Trust me there are people who love having mental health conditions.

I’m not one of them.

SZ is a burden, not a gift. It’s hell. It’s painful to bear. More than dangerous it’s simply destructive.

If I could live one minute without SZ I’d take back all the true gifts I was given–like my writing talent and anything else–for one minute of freedom.

I’d like to know what it’s like to be accepted; to be understood; to be given compassion not screw-faced looks.

I take no joy in passing as a normal person.

Meg Jay, PhD wrote a new book about people who compensate for their hardship:

Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience.

You can take the quiz in the book to see if you fit the supernormal criteria.

We’re in this camp because those of us who faced hardship work longer and harder to achieve what comes easy to regular so-called “normal” people.

We’ve compensated for our early hardship by yes passing for normal when our lives were anything but ordinary.

There’s a solution to accepting and embracing a life with SZ or BP or whatever you have.

Helping others is the foolproof way I know to help yourself have a better life.

“Service above self” is the antidote to pain.

Just remember: I don’t think our pain is a dangerous gift.