Having 5 Commitments

Easily over five years ago I read a Leo Babauta book where he told readers to list their 5 Commitments in life.

This approach made great sense to me. In the spirit of talking about recovery I want to riff on choosing and committing to 5 areas.

Do this for the sake of your mental health and physical well-being first of all.

As I head into my fifties and go through changes at mid-life the benefit of having 5 Commitments resonates with me more than ever.

It’s called a routine: adopting healthy habits that you engage in every day or every week.

This isn’t to say that the focus of your life won’t ever change. As you get older, you’ll need to improvise as you go along.

I find myself at 53 engaging in a form of woodshedding, which I talked about in one of the first blog entries in this Flourish blog.

While isolating inside because you’re afraid to go out your front door isn’t healthy I say:

Enjoying your own company when you’re alone in your apartment or house is imperative.

As I’ve started journeying through mid-life I can vouch for the positive health benefit of needing more time for yourself to rest and engage in recreation.

You need to rest after going out socially or having a long, hard day at your job.

The key to maximum productivity in your personal life lies in the beauty of honoring your 5 Commitments.

My 5 Commitments are art, music, fashion, books and writing, and exercise.

Making time each week to do something involving these 5 things I love has been the way to feel healthy and be happy at mid-life.

What are your 5 Commitments?

In coming blog entries I will continue with the focus on careers.

Yet I will apply this wisdom to everyday life.

Living in recovery doesn’t have to be so hard. Even if you’re in pain that’s when doing the things you love can help you feel better.

That’s it exactly: focusing on the 5 Commitments that bring you joy.

 

Who You Are Versus the Pills You Pop

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the topic of personality.

About how a person’s soul is animated in their body and embedded in their brain in this particular lifetime.

We cannot confuse a person’s symptoms and illness with their identity and individuality.

That is the root of what’s called “stigma”–stereotyping everyone with a mental illness based on one person’s behavior.

In fact, stigma isn’t often linked to observed actual behavior. Just to popular opinion of what it’s like to have an illness. Which is fueled by the media.

I’ve been an Activist–a Mental Health Advocate first of all–for over 17 years so far.

My stance is this: anyone who chooses not to see another person as an individual is blind.

I’ll quote from an e-mail I received:

“Those who judge don’t matter and those who matter don’t judge.”

I say: “Break bread” with others to get to know them at their soul level.

The sad fact is for too many people those of us with a mental health diagnosis are seen as an interchangeable homogeneous entity.

It’s why I refuse to divide people–either along color lines or the line of having a mental illness or not having one.

In the end, it’s simply lazy and ignorant to stereotype a person, as if they are not worth getting to know for who they are on the inside.

The truth is: our personalities are as individual as our thumbprints.

Which is the root of why I wanted to write and publish a memoir that told a good story about real people living lives apart from their illnesses.

There’s no other first-person narrative like my book Left of the Dial.

As said I’ve been thinking long and hard about how the individuality of a person diverges from their symptoms.

Who You Are Is Not the Pills You Pop.

Add the chemical cocktails we imbibe to the mix and this doesn’t alter our personality.

I want to shake the haters and ask:

“What’s up? Can’t you see that everyone is beautiful? Why are you labeling people you haven’t even met?

Why are you closed off to opening your eyes to the diversity of human beings at the soul level?”

I tell you:

Imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. It’s the quickest route to ill health.

Be brave. Be yourself.

That’s the foolproof  recipe for success in recovery.

 

You Are Not Your Diagnosis

It’s a fact:
Your personality, your life ethic, and your temperament are separate from your diagnosis.

As a writer, as a human being living on earth with other human beings, I detest stereotyping people.

On a humorous note, the editor of my memoir told me: “There can be no ‘blue-haired old lady’ in your book.”

So I took her out. You get the point.

In writing Left of the dial with the intent to publish my first-person account I wanted the narrative to be different from any other SZ memoir that had been published.

Though it was clearly a story about having a breakdown, I wanted to focus on what happened after I recovered, not on symptoms and illness.

I wanted to tell a story about how getting the right treatment right away and staying in treatment enabled me to be recovered and in remission.

Yes–I credit the medical model–the act of taking pills–as the gateway that opened the door to real recovery.

Stigma of any kind is other people’s problem, not yours or mine.

I’ve gotten attacked by a woman who was allegedly an “international expert” (curiously she didn’t have her own website.)

In response to her PsychCentral news article where she claimed no one could recover: I posted a comment saying that most people could recover.

This so-called expert attacked me twice for saying this.

If you’re viewing someone through the lens of illness, through the aperture of their symptoms, that sets up a very low bar you have for who a person is and what they’re capable of.

I have an insider’s vantage point as a recovered peer. I can see from my view the real actual credible successes of other peers inside and outside of the workplace.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis. Recovery is your right.

The person you see in the mirror is the person you’re supposed to be: a human being accorded love, dignity, compassion, forgiveness, individuality, respect, and kindness.

Christina Bruni’s Story

From the fall of 1987 to the summer of 1990 I collected a government disability check and received Medicaid. I lived below the poverty line. For two years back then I lived in public housing.

These earliest experiences changed me forever. They’re the root of why I have compassion for those of us who are less fortunate.

In fact I know plenty of people who collected so-called “entitlements”  when they needed them, and got off the government rolls when their situation in life changed.

Alas, the myth persists of “lazy freeloaders” collecting entitlements forever with no intention of bettering themselves.

Only other people should understand that for a minority of individuals holding a job and obtaining employment isn’t possible.

I’m aware that there are those of us with a diagnosis or disability who have a passive resistance to taking initiative to get a job. They are the exception not the rule.

I wrote You Are Not Your Diagnosis for people who have the desire and ability to work at a job and have a career.

Today it’s possible to stop collectingt SSI or SSDI for the rest of your life.

Today it’s possible to do what you love on and off a job.

Today it’s possible to have your own version of a full and robust life living in recovery.

I’m committed to serving people who want to recover.

My story offers hope and can empower people:

Within 3 years of getting the diagnosis, I stopped collecting government benefits and obtained my first job as an administrative assistant. Seven months later I moved into a studio apartment near the beach.

The wind-up of this story is that you’re not doomed to a life of poverty, unremitting welfare, and joblessness or homelessness when you have a mental health issue.

Wherever you are on the road of recovery whether just starting out or in your older years it’s possible to find the job you love.

The Occupational slice of the Wheel of Wellness should fit into your goals and personality.

I will in coming blog entries talk about a method of finding the job you love and would be happy to go to every week.

I detail this method for achieving occupational fitness in my own forthcoming career guide You Are Not Your Diagnosis.

Achieving Career Fitness

I’ve written a second book that I’m trying to publish this year.

The aim of the book is to help individuals living with mental health issues achieve career fitness.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis is a visionary guide to finding and succeeding at having a job or career.

What I wrote could help anyone not just people with a diagnosis. What’s visionary is that the target market of the book is mental health peers who want to have a better life living in recovery.

The Occupational slice of the Wheel of Wellness should fit into your goals and personality.

My contention is that finding the job and career you love can reduce the impact of your disability.

In fact I can state without a doubt that working at the jobs I love enabled me to recover. It wasn’t the other way around: I wasn’t able to hold these jobs because I had first recovered. No–I didn’t recover until I started my librarian job at 35 years old.

I was ill-suited to work at my first career in corporate insurance office jobs. Continuing to show up to those jobs restricted how far I could go in my life. In the 1990s I was laid off–terminated–from four out of the five jobs I held in the first seven years.

To start off this focus on occupational wellness I will talk about my own life in the coming blog entries.

From my experience I’ve been able to create a method for finding the job you love that I want to share with readers.

Here’s to us square pegs who tried to fit into round holes just to succeed.

There’s a better way. I’ll talk about it in coming blog entries.

 

Moving the Needle to the Left

I’d jumped into writing about the visionary book.

It seems I’d wrote that I’d write next about how to shift the needle to the left of the dial.

My intent in titling my memoir Left of the Dial was to demonstrate how doing the things you love can help you heal.

Living your life left of the dial–joyously, creatively, and passionately–if you ask me is a beneficial method of healing.

I’ve reckoned with the fact that becoming a trial attorney wasn’t in the cards for me in this lifetime. I was destined to go left when everyone else goes right.

Seeking emotional harmony between your thoughts and feelings is a way to shift the needle to the left. This can be via talking to a therapist. It can be via reducing the nonstop reliance on your electronic devices at all hours of the day and night.

What has changed my life for the better has been exactly this: shifting the needle to the left of the dial.

In the  book How to Make Disease Disappear Dr. Chatterjee recommends keeping a grateful journal. You can buy a hardbound journal to keep at your night table. Write three positive things that happened to you that day before you go to bed.

Dr. Chatterjee refers to a pioneer in the positive psychology movement who asked his daughter three questions every day: “What did you do to make someone else happy?” and “What did someone else do to make you happy?’ were two of the Qs.

Giving joy to others as a daily ritual is the foolproof way to feel good yourself.

We can’t control whether other people do good things for us or simply act for self-gain every day. This isn’t our concern. If we want to feel good, the best way I know to do this is to help others feel good.

Living a healthy life. Living whole and well.

These things are possible when you live in recovery.

That’s the ultimate premise of Left of the Dial: you don’t have to spend the rest of your life in endless hell. You can heal.

 

The Truth About Recovery

No one else has written about this before either. Again I’m the first to tackle this dynamic in my blog. I want to talk about the truth about recovery.

Not everyone feels like they’ve recovered. This is the distinction. It’s an individual accounting of what your life is like.

In the 1990s I lived at home while I worked at a terrible insurance office job I was ill-suited to do. On paper it might have looked like I recovered because I had a j-o-b.

Only I told my mother: “I want a life.” She responded: “You have a life.”

Little did I know or could articulate then how my time on earth would be forever altered by moving to Brooklyn and becoming a mental health advocate.

It must have been in my subconscious that I understood there was more I was being called to do. Only trapped in that cubicle hell I couldn’t clearly see where the road ahead would take me.

This is partly why I think it’s a mistake to measure a person’s status solely by external markers of success like a house and car and job.

In the 1990s I hadn’t “recovered” in a way that was soul-enriching, life-affirming, and mood-elevating.

This begs for all of us the question: “What is recovery?”

Recovery should be a self-defined lifestyle. You should be the one who’s able to determine the direction of your life.

The question for each of us to ask is: “What kind of recovery do I want to have?” AND “What kind of life do I want to have?”

In the next blog entry I will talk about shifting the needle to the left on the VU meter of life–the theme of Left of the Dial.  This is how I was able to live the kind of life I wanted to have.

I will talk about how to take action in the direction of your dreams.

For there are a myriad ways to recover–as multitudinous as there are people living in recovery.