Surviving the Pandemic

The Test and Trace Corps person who interviewed me told me I could be put up in a hotel while I was under quarantine.

What? How would I travel to the hotel if it were possible I had been infected?

Surviving the pandemic can be harder for individuals living with mental health issues.

On a regular day a person with OCD might have the urge to wash their hands repeatedly.

Now we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and washing your hands for 20 seconds throughout the day is the norm.

This irony is not lost on me.

How have I survived living through the pandemic?

In the early months I had my pharmacy deliver my pill bottles to my apartment. The independent pharmacy offers free delivery. I tipped the person who brings my pills $4.

You could use CVS or Rite Aid or a national chain to fill your prescriptions. I prefer to use an independent pharmacy with the free delivery option. Supporting small businesses is one of my goals.

Isolation can breed paranoia and illness.

It’s strange yet true that I don’t like being holed up in my apartment when I have nothing to do. Even though I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

What has been the hardest for me was not being able to perform at poetry readings and have dinner in restaurants with others.

The absence of joy is no joke.

Depression can cause fatigue.

The one good thing was that for the most part consistently for the last year I was able to exercise in my living room.

Keeping up exercising is the key factor rather than stopping totally for a long stretch of time.

What saved me was that I kept exercising even if it was just one day a week for 30 minutes.

We are closer to normalcy. Yet we are not there yet.

I will continue to protect myself by wearing a mask everywhere washing my hands for 20 seconds throughout the day and maintaining 6 feet distance from others even when masked.

To end here I will say that I understand how hard surviving the pandemic has been for those of us with mental health issues.

Life Under Quarantine

I want to talk about this topic because the pandemic is a threat still.

For those of you who are onsite working at your job there should be protections in place to guard your health and safety. You should not fear speaking up if your employer disregards your well-being.

You should expect that your employer is taking strict precautions.

Two weeks ago I received dose one of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

A day later I experienced the side effect of feeling unwell. Luckily it lasted only one day and was a minor side effect.

Though it was a minor side effect it felt severe. This required that I take a sick day to recuperate.

Your employer should have protocol in place for what happens when a coworker gets infected with COVID-19.

In New York City the staff that came in close contact with that person are told to quarantine for 10 days.

The Test and Trace Corps in NYC will call you up to conduct an interview with you while you’re in quarantine.

You can get food delivered to your home while you are under quarantine in New York City.

In three weeks I get the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

My take is that you absolutely should quarantine when told to do so.

Refrain from going out. See if a friend or family member can buy you groceries and leave the bags at your front door.

The Test and Trace Corps person that telephoned me ran through a detailed list of questions.

One of the questions she was supposed to ask me was about disability.

Though I hadn’t been infected with the coronavirus I stayed in my apartment anyway.

This was a royal bummer to be restricted from going out.

You’re also supposed to get tested for COVID-19 when you have been identified as a person who came in close contact with a person who tested positive.

Though I was nowhere near the person as I had gotten the first dose of the vaccine and was in my apartment I quarantined for 10 days anyway.

Things are getting better yet we are not out of the thick of the forest.

Keep washing your hands for 20 seconds throughout the day. Wear a mask when going outdoors interacting with others anywhere and even when in the common areas of a building.

Remain 6 feet apart even when wearing a mask.

The goal is to not get infected with COVID-19. Most people have mild symptoms. Only it’s possible for others to have severe symptoms.

Death is possible for anyone of any color creed or socioeconomic strata.

While you are sheltering indoors should you still be inside your home this is the perfect time to work on setting a goal you want to achieve when life returns to normal.

In the coming blog entry I’m going to talk about my experience living through the pandemic as a person diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Podcast

In May I envision starting up a podcast about mental health.

You should be able to access it via this blog:

On the Front Porch with Christina.

The podcast will be the length of a TED Talk: 18 minutes.

I hope to broadcast the podcast twice a month starting out.

One-Year Pandemic Anniversary

March 14, 2021 was Remembrance Day in New York City to honor those we lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

Do this for America is what I urge followers: get the COVID vaccine like I’m doing soon. The only way to eradicate the coronavirus is to use science to improve recovery outcomes.

Isn’t that what any recovery is based on: science and kindness.

Continue to wear your mask. Even when you’re inoculated. We’re not out of the thick of the forest yet.

Stay 6 feet apart. Wash your hands often for 20 seconds each time.

With the unseasonable mild weather here I remember that one year ago everyone was sheltering indoors. No one was going outside yet. Now that we can go outdoors I find it a struggle to breathe the air under the mask.

It’s easy to take things for granted every day. I recommend writing 5 things you’re grateful for in a grateful journal every other day. You can write too 5 things that make you happy.

Today I’m grateful more than ever for the air I breathe.

In here in future blog entries I would like to feature other Guest Bloggers living in recovery.

I was also interviewed for psycom.net so wait for a link to the interview coming up in April.

Our best chance of ending the pandemic is remaining vigilant. Get the vaccine as soon as you’re eligible.

I firmly believe we have better things to look forward to.

Together we can recover our mental health. We can recover from the pandemic in due season.

Reentering the Workforce After a Breakdown

Ashley Smith blogger extraordinaire is featured today as my Guest Blogger talking about:

Reentering the Workforce After a Breakdown.

In her own words she’ll talk about her experience plus give tactics that could help peers.

How to Reenter the Workforce After a Breakdown:

I worked many jobs prior to my first breakdown at age 20. I started working when I was 14 years old. I struggled to maintain jobs, but didn’t understand why. I didn’t know I had a diagnosis. My last breakdown occurred in 2018. There were a series of stressful events that led to my meltdown.

After the hospitalization I participated in weekly therapy sessions and developed an extensive health plan. I worked hard to build myself up to return to work. I carried out a range of steps to restore wellness. I managed a daily routine which consisted of walking around my neighborhood for 15 to 45 minutes, journaling, listening to entrepreneur empowerment talks on YouTube, and reciting affirmations along with my prayers. I kept all doctor and therapy appointments and continued to take my medication.

I developed a variety of projects such as my book, Coping Takes Work. I also took on small jobs as a freelance writer and blogger. When I built up my confidence I steadily applied for jobs. I utilized my network and let associates know that I was looking for work. A great resource that I utilized for my job search was reading Christina Bruni’s book, Working Assets. The book is filled with important tips and strategies on how to re-enter the workforce while living with a diagnosis.

It took several months to get back into the workforce due to my health concerns, COVID-19, and job availability. I didn’t take the first job that was offered to me, because I weighed my pros and cons. I was mindful of my family needs and the demands of the position. When I accepted my job I made a commitment to focus on stress management techniques to maintain wellness in order to work.

Yet, keeping a daily self-care ritual is challenging. However, I learned to recognize when it’s time to change my routine. Currently, I manage my health by practicing stress management skills. My stress management plan consists of self-reflection time, confidence-building activities, and participating in therapy.

Finally, as I reflect on my experience I urge peers to create an individualized plan of action to maintain their wellness and jobs. I support alternative healthy coping skills that help people. Lastly, I define recovery as staying in your good place, therefore, create that good place by managing your stress and taking control of recovery and life as best you can.

–Ashley Smith

Read her blog at Overcoming Schizophrenia here.

Self-Disclosure: Boon or Bust?

After reading an autobiography I’ve changed my mind about self-disclosure. Is self-disclosure a boon or bust?

Some food for thought on the pros and cons of telling others about your mental health history:

You must decide in the context of your own life what makes sense. In my view other people can feel burdened when you dump on them the details of your diagnosis as a matter of course. In the workplace it adds a layer between you and the other person.

On the other hand having a mental health challenge might give a person the reliability, consistency, and persistence to carry out their work and life goals on and off the job.

Stereotypes exist about people diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is why I make the case that a peer’s identity should not be defined by our symptoms. It places us in a diagnostic box that is hard to get out of. Unless you have a job in an evolved workplace where people are open-minded.

Seeing beyond diagnosis to the person inside is the goal as I see it. To “smash the stereotype” peers should act true to ourselves as individuals.

Like the leaders in The Queer Advantage it comes down to the fact that those of us who have struggled are often able to persist despite the hardship.

The skills, abilities, and strengths we use in recovery are the traits that give us the ability to succeed on the job.

My LinkedIn Profile refers to my memoir Left of the Dial. My story is out in the open this way on LinkedIn the professional networking site.

The trend going on now is for peers to tell our stories. I ask you though: does everyone in the world need to know every detail of our symptoms and illness? In my memoir I only gave readers what I talked about in the poem on the first page: some of me.

In this regard I was a fan of Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability. You need to trust the person you disclose to.

How will they use this information after you give it to them? My friend Robin was denied a promotion when a coworker he disclosed to tattled the diagnosis to a supervisor.

This is the reality in the often shark-tank world of corporate business.

On the other hand like said there can be an advantage to having a disability. Maybe a book should be titled The Mental Health Advantage.

Mental illness should not remain a taboo subject to talk about. A friend referenced me in giving a talk on a show about Italian culture. Referring to how I have come out about my experience in the way LGBTQ+ individuals are boldly talking about their lives.

The bottom line: our diagnosis does not define us. We need to define ourselves–or someone else will do this for us.

Who is Christina Bruni? I’m a Girl on the Left living her life Left of the Dial. My favorite color is green. I’m gregarious and down-to-earth.

Who are you? The world needs you and your gifts. Be not afraid to act true to yourself.

It’s your choice whether you disclose and what you tell people.

The Italian American writers’ group I belong to has a quote that sums this up well:

Only silence is shame.

Until mental health becomes a front-porch topic talked about over a glass of lemonade the secrecy will continue to breed fear and ignorance about what it’s like to live with a mental illness.

The Power of Identity

The Queer Advantage: Conversations with LGBTQ+ Leaders on the Power of Identity by Andrew Gelwicks is a book that was published in 2020.

Quoting esteemed individuals in different fields the author makes the case that acting true to yourself and being authentic is the only way to succeed on the job and in your life.

No one should feel guilty and ashamed for being who they are. In reality other people should not hate and judge you because of your identity.

From the book:

“Everyone should be able to bring all of themselves to the workplace and feel like they don’t have to hide or cover. You can only be your best when you embrace your authentic self… [It] is my lifelong commitment to achieving equality for all that has always been the driving force in everything I do.” 

     – Billie Jean King, Professional Tennis Player 

The question is: how do your bring all of you into your job when you have a mental health issue?

The choice is yours what to reveal and what to conceal. It’s still dice-y to disclose on a random workday as a matter of course.

The way I see it: the illness does not define me. I choose not to talk about it randomly or indiscriminately with the people I interact with on an ordinary day.

I would like that everyone walking down the street and in the corridors of a corporate office embraces and accepts individuals with mental illnesses.

Only I know we still have a way to go in terms of civil rights for those of us with a diagnosis.

Perhaps the way to chip away at other people’s fear of us is indeed to be open and honest about this facet of who we are.

We can take a tip from the leaders in The Queer Advantage.

It’s your right and preference to decide how open and honest you want to be.

In a future blog entry I will go into detail about the ins and outs of self-disclosure.

Loving Your Labor

It’s time to redefine what constitutes a “career.”

You don’t have to be an attorney with a JD from Yale or a famous writer to have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life living in recovery.

The now-defunct SZ magazine featured an article about what a person with negative symptoms of schizophrenia could do.

When you cannot hold a paid job you can do other things:

bake cakes, ride a skateboard, play guitar in a band, whatever.

The point is that each of us should be doing something with our time.

I submit that watching TV all day and not getting out of your house is the quickest route to illness and paranoia.

Now that the restrictions are easing in a lot of cities in America it’s time to rethink what’s possible for those of us living in recovery.

My belief is that a “labor of love” counts as a valid career.

On Saturday I met a person for lunch. New York City has started to allow indoor dining again.

I say: go to a coffee shop in the morning for breakfast

Risk asking someone to go to lunch like I did.

Lastly: I recommend doing volunteer work when you can’t work at a paid job.

What constitutes a career is as individual as you are.

Maybe you’re a ham radio operator. Maybe you sing in a church choir on Sunday.

Whatever you do you should be proud to do it.

All hail those of us living in recovery who face challenges. We get up every day and go out the door bravely to conquer the world.

No one should feel guilty or ashamed because they don’t hold “competitive” employment.