Finding the Right Career Fit

I’m going to talk in coming blog entries about topics linked to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

After this I’m going to return to talking about fitness and nutrition.

My contention is that schizophrenia recovery outcomes are rosier than most people think.

It’s hard to peg how many people are doing well because most of us with jobs and careers and other successes are afraid to disclose.

Yet I refused to live in hiding. To remain silent would be complicit in reinforcing the rhetoric that no one can recover.

My motto is: “If you can see it, you can be it.”

Peers need to know that there are people just like them who have succeeded at finding and working at jobs we love, not just jobs that pay the rent or are the means to get off disability.

We shouldn’t be pigeonholed into accepting jobs simply because a vocational counselor thinks someone with our particular disability is suited only to those kinds of job.

What if you don’t want to be a janitor yet you’re told you should do that?

What if you want to do something that you’re told is impossible because you have a certain diagnosis?

Either way I’m here to tell you that a myriad of jobs exist. You can even create a job for yourself that fills a need in society.

Having the job or career you love can reduce the impact of your disability.

I say: if you want to work, you deserve to try to make that happen.

In the end working at the job or career you love is a kind of adjunct treatment.

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26 Years in Remission

I’ve decided I want to act as a storyteller to tell stories from my own life. I’d also like to have other people tell their stories in this blog.

As always, I don’t have a license to practice medicine–I’m not an M.D.

So I can’t give medical advice. I can’t tell people to take medication. Nor can I give instructions on how to discontinue medication.

My goal in telling my story is to uplift and inspire others that there’s hope for healing and having your own version of a full and robust life.

Ann Bartlett at HealthCentral years ago told it like it is:

“Healing is as potent a medicine as a cure can be.”

The reality is critics have attacked me for writing about how taking medication helped me heal.

There’s a whole contingent of anti-psychiatry folk who champion that people have the right to be psychotic. Underneath their contempt of what I write there’s most likely a grain of envy.

They don’t like that I’ve done great things in my life precisely because I take medication. This disproves their claim that medication causes disability.

If I went away, if I watered down my vision to please these people, if I sold my vision to the highest bidder (Pfizer et al), nothing would change in society.

Peers who need to hear my message of hope and healing would be left in the dark. Families would think there’s no hope for there loved ones.

This is my story:

I’ve been in remission from schizophrenia–with zero symptoms–for 26 years as of this month.

This has been possible because I take a dose of maintenance medication.

The details about my recovery are out in the open in my memoir Left of the Dial.

What’s different about my story is that when I was only 22 and first diagnosed I dared think a better life was possible than the one presented to me: living in public housing and collecting a government disability check forever.

I’ve written in here before a blog entry that if I remember right was titled the Myth of Competitive Employment.

One anti-psychiatry critic denounced my success as impossible for most people to achieve.

If that were so, why would I dangle in front of peers a goal that can’t be reached?

Those of us who are doing well–most of us who are doing well–don’t have the courage like I do to talk about this publicly. So it can seem like no one’s able to recover.

The point–as expressed in The Myth of Competitive Employment–is that each person’s definition of recovery is going to be different.

Each of us can find our own version of well inside the illness. My version of well is simply my story. Your version of well is your story.

I really wish more people would come forward to tell their stories.

I wanted to publish Left of the Dial to show how getting the right treatment right away can create a better outcome.

I’ve been in remission 26 years as as of this month.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk about the book in more detail.

Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston Have SZ

If you ask me the goal should be expecting that people can recover and helping them to recover.

Mental health staff have traditionally discouraged us peers from going to school and work. Why did those staff get into the field if they didn’t think what they do could help people recover? Are they content to prescribe pills and allow us to warm chairs in day programs the rest of our lives? Are they able to sleep at night knowing they weren’t giving their clients competitive skills to succeed in the world?

I couldn’t live with myself if I watered down my vision of recovery or sold it out the highest bidder (Pfizer et al).

I’ve been in recovery going on 31 years so far. I’m not the only one out there with a career and apartment to call my own. I might just be one of the few who dares publicly tell our stories.

For more inspiration I want to tell you about two famous individuals with SZ.

Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston are rock-n-roll artists who have toured and performed to critical acclaim FOR DECADES.

Roky and Daniel take SZ medication by the way.

I played Roky Erickson and his band the 13th Floor Elevators on my FM radio show in the 1980s. It’s true that when you’re diagnosed with SZ the experience is like taking an elevator to the 13th floor: an unlucky trip to hell that you’re on.

Roky and Daniel’s success flies in the face of the Mad crowd that argues that psychotropic drugs cause disability.

The lives of Roky and Daniel my life and thousands of other people’s lives are a testament to how it’s possible to reclaim your Self, do what you love, and succeed at it post-illness.

Readers: think for yourself.

Everyone wants to be understood and accepted for who they are. They want to know that they matter to other people.

This is the dilemma: that after you’re diagnosed with SZ your Self doesn’t matter to others in society. Armchair shrinks pass judgment every day from the comfort of their La-Z Boys. They see fit to attack us for taking medication. They see fit to mistake our symptoms for personality traits.

So many mental health peers want to work at jobs that are personally meaningful and to have their own homes. We shouldn’t be discouraged from trying.

It’s 2018. Roky and Daniel and I and others have been in recovery for decades now.

So when you feel like giving up or giving in just remember you’re not alone. Seek out others to network with who have been down this road longer than you.

Read inspirational blogs and books. Attend a support group if it would help you. Do two things each day to move you closer to your goals.

Recovery isn’t quick and it isn’t easy. Yet it’s some of the most rewarding work you’ll ever do.. If want to go to school or have a job, you’re in the target market for my forthcoming book I’m working on: You Are Not Your Diagnosis.

It’s true: You Are Not Your Diagnosis. Contrary to what other people think.

 

National Recovery Month 2017

September is National Recovery Month. I’ve been in recovery for 30 years now.

The Sixth Edition of Surviving Schizophrenia by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. has good news about schizophrenia recovery at the 30-year milestone:

“In most patients with schizophrenia, the ‘positive’ symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and thinking disorders decrease over the years. A person who was severely incapacitated at age twenty-five by these symptoms may have only residual traces of them at age fifty.”

Long-term studies corroborate that the future can be rosier.

Yet forget the studies and listen to me–I’m 52–and I have a better life now than I did when I was 22.

It’s a myth that most people diagnosed with SZ die 25 years earlier. A good friend of mine is 73 and still alive and kicking. He rose up to become the CEO of corporations even though he was diagnosed when he was 13 and has taken medication since then.

I urge you to think for yourself about what is possible for you or your loved ones.

Other people might be proud to be Mad, and that’s their choice.

No–I’m not proud to have a diagnosis. As the years have rolled by, I’d take back every gift I was ever given if I could live one day without this illness.

No–I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish this on any human being living on earth.

Yet have no fear: the best is yet to be. I’m fond of saying that today is how it is and tomorrow can be better.

I’m living proof that you can have a better life when you’re older than you had when you were first diagnosed.

It takes time to get here. Expecting or wanting quick results will set you up to fail.

Now I find myself wanting to go back and talk about the early stages of recovery, using my experiences as an example.

You have no idea when you’re 22 and first diagnosed that one day you’ll be 52 and you’ll have a great life.

I’m here to tell you that this is possible.

There’s hope and healing for whatever you’re in recovery from.