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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Playing the Fool to Get Ahead

I’ve fooled people into thinking I’m an ordinary person.

I’ve been a librarian for over 17 years so far. I was the victim of an accidental disclosure of my illness in 2005.

As that news was out of the bag I told certain co-workers that I published my memoir Left of the Dial. Three of them showed up to the launch party for my book.

When people find out I have a diagnosis of SZ they’re shocked. One co-worker had no idea until he found out.

I still maintain that disclosure on most jobs is too risky (even in the face of how I survived and thrived on my job after people found out).

In the next blog entry I’m going to devote time to a dirty little secret in the workplace.

You need to know this information to be able to make the right choice in your situation about whether to disclose or not.

I have the luxury of having the diagnosis out in the open. Nobody cares and nobody thinks any differently of me.

If you asked me what I came into this world to do in this lifetime it would be to a make difference.

No one with a mental health condition who wants to go to school or work at a job should remain sidelined from doing these things.

It’s 2018. The future is here today. It’s possible for peers to succeed in finding a career we love and would be good at.

Talking About Treatment Choice

In my Google Alerts yesterday I received a link to a revolutionary article posted on The Sun website. Now I don’t know the politics of The Sun, yet you can bet I’m more than willing to link to the article that appeared in my inbox.

I stopped taking SZ medication in 1992 under a doctor’s supervision. Yet even though I had a mild form I relapsed within 3 months and had to go back on the Stelazine. It’s why I choose to take a maintenance dose of Geodon every day.

It’s why I’m going to link at the end of this blog entry to an article in The Sun online.

My ancestors arrived here in the 1890s from Italy. Yes, mental health issues have run in my family since the 1890s–no kidding, this is a fact.

The quote is: “Genetics is the gun. Environment pulls the trigger.”

We each of us deserve better than to be told we’re wrong for choosing how we want to live. This choice might include taking medication for those of us who need it. We each of us have the right to choose recovery in whatever form our recovery takes.

Here’s the link to the revolutionary article in The Sun:

Neurotypicals Need to Cool It with the Advice

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?

Telling Our Stories

At the educational conference I was the first person to talk at the session on: The Impact of SSI and SSDI on Going to Work.

My co-presenter detailed how to apply for these benefits and how to use the Ticket to Work and PASS Plan options to find a job so you can stop collecting SSI and SSDI.

At the start of my talk I quoted lines from the Anne Sexton poem “For John, Who Begs Me Not to Enquire Further.”

She is a famous poet who had her own mental health challenges and is no longer here. Sadly, like a lot of gifted artists, she took her own life.

Yet the lines from her poem are often quoted. She tells the reader that she has nothing else to give and that what she has to give can be hopeful in its own way.

After I quoted the lines I told the audience: “This is my story. It’s the only story I have to tell. It’s unusual and a little atypical. I tell it to uplift and inspire others.”

I’m here to say that what you feel can be healed. Pain can end. I’m a firm believer in using our pain as the catalyst for self-growth and finding out what our life’s purpose is.

I stand by the motto: “service above self.”

It’s true that you get what you give–plain and simple–you get what you give.

Other forums exist in which to spread hate of psychiatry, hate of people who are different from you, and any other kind of hate.

This blog will always be not just a hate-free zone it will be a healthy zone.

It comes down to this: my ethic is: “This is my story–it’s on the table. You can take it or you can leave it.”

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about the new dynamic of holding a job circa 2016.

Introduction to Educational Conference

I’m set to give a talk on employment at the NAMI-New York State educational conference on Saturday, November 12 from 5:40 to 6:40 p.m.

My talk will focus on my new peer-owned resume writing and career help service. It will also detail my own experience with requesting a reasonable accommodation on the job.

Here now I want to give a plug for my memoir Left of the Dial. The book chronicles how I recovered with the help of family support, a great psychiatrist, and also peer support in the later years.

What’s remarkable is that in all my life and early in my recovery I was able to see possibility where others saw pain. Even today I see potential where staff still tend to see disability.

In 1990 I blazed a trail for myself at a time when no road out had existed for a person like me. Years later I had the vision to use my writing to uplift and inspire others that an open road now exists for them too.

In the 1980s and early 1990s when I was young and in love with Manhattan I refused to be placed in any kind of box–not a sartorial one; not a psychiatric one.

Dressing in Avant Garde fashion and listening to alternative music was my way to jump out of the boxes others tried to place me in.

Quite simply I didn’t want the label schizophrenic attached to me either.

In time I understood that the diagnosis is best used as a tool to help someone get the right treatment for the symptoms they’re experiencing right now.

My memoir Left of the Dial is a treat because it follows along in the lives of real people living real lives outside of the hospital, outside of any kind of institution. The characters in my book have unique identities apart from their symptoms.

My goal was always to write about what happened after I recovered. If another woman could write about her chronic symptoms and endless hospitalizations, I thought, why can’t I write about a success story to give others hope?

I don’t know about you however in my 29 years in recovery I’ve read and witnessed numerous hell-and-heartache stories.

When I pick up a memoir I don’t want to read about yet another train wreck. I want to be inspired that it’s possible to overcome whatever challenge the character¬†faced.

Don’t we all want to be given hope that if a character in a book can conquer an obstacle that we can too?

Bingo. That’s what it’s all about.

We need to set the clock to today when it comes to thinking about recovery. As of today a significant number of people–more than ever–can and do recover and some of us can be in remission for the long-term too.

We cannot dwell in the psychiatric failings and abuses of the past.

I’ve talked in here endlessly about the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This year the U.S. Congress passed this bill into law. We’re awaiting the U.S. Senate to pass their version.

Now more than ever with landmark legislation like this–and with better treatment, support, and lifestyle options for peers–we cannot regress to continually parroting that no one can recover.

Yet we cannot forget or ignore or abandon our peers who have a chronic form of their illness.

Only now with the possible assistance of the U.S. government in passing laws to promote access to better treatment it’s possible that fewer people will be getting worse and worse without help.

Getting the right treatment right away equals the possibility of a better outcome.

Starting next week I will blog in here about the topics I’m going to talk about at the educational conference. Stay tuned.

 

Recovery and Pride

I know plenty of security guards who have college degrees. I met a janitor who loved his work and had a big grin on his face when he told me he was a “custodial engineer.”

No kidding. Any honest job labored at with pride can give a person dignity.

You will not always like every aspect of your job every day. Yet finding a job where most of what you do is okay is possible if you ask me.

I’ve worked in offices and libraries and a law firm. I’ve been employed for over 25 years.

Starting in the fall I’d like to return to talking about employment.

First here I will take about each aspect of The Triangle of Mental Health: appropriate medication, quicker individualized treatment, and practical career counseling.