Being First and Not the Last

The November 2020 issue of Harper’s Bazaar has a feature article on The Paradox of Being First: “You’re creating space for people to dream.”

I wanted to touch on this topic before the year ends. In 1988 when it was unheard of to think this I believed that a person could recover from schizophrenia. In 1990 I had a full-time job and my own rental apartment at a time when this was not common.

In 2002 shortly after I began my library job I started my pro bono career as a Mental Health Advocate.

Precisely because I was told my early goals were not possible I wanted to help other peers coming through the door after me.

Not everyone has the wherewithal to pull themselves up solely by their own bootstraps.

In the early 2000s a so-called international expert was still claiming that no one could recover. When I Googled her name I couldn’t find her website. Nor had she published any articles in peer-reviewed journals.

In the early days of advocating for peers I got a lot of flak for claiming people could recover.

Only I believed in my vision that recovery was possible from whatever a person was in recovery from.

I believed that you could recover from a microaggression, a mental or physical illness, trauma or any kind of setback or obstacle.

I wasn’t going to go along on my merry way, acting like the world was my oyster and nobody else’s.

In Harper’s Bazaar Toni Morrison was quoted from a 2003 interview. She told her students:

“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”

It’s 2020. The door is open. Come on through.

Author: Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the new book Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health.

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