Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.
From January 2007 to September 2015–close to 9 years–I had a second job as the Health Guide at a mental health website. I wrote news articles about hot topics in recovery and answered questions in the Q&A forum. At that time I was in the vanguard writing about things no one else thought to write about. Just like I’m doing today.
I recommend getting a second job or having a side income stream. Rather than selling your soul to earn the big bucks at a job you hate or that doesn’t fit your personality.
Below this blog entry I’ll offer links to websites that can help you create a side hustle.
You can read the Kimberly Palmer book The Economy of You where she talks about going into business for yourself part-time in addition to a day job or full-time if you’re able.
See also the Chris Guillebeau book: Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days.
Buy the Patrick G. Riley guide: The One-Page Business Proposal. I own this book and have used it myself. One page is all you need to pitch your service.
In coming blog entries I’ll talk about other ways to earn extra money.
Here I’ll end with one caveat for creative folk:
You often won’t get paid to write an article for a website. HealthCentral paid me when I was the Health Guide. I call the use of free mental labor an “intellectual sweatshop.”
Here’s a list of websites that can help you:
Writers Editors and other Creatives can search for work at MediaBistro.
Getting a yearly performance review at your job can seem if not capricious at least stacked against you.
At one corporate insurance job in the 1990s I wasn’t given a pay raise. At all. Zero. Zip. Nada in compensation.
At the job in the law firm library I wasn’t given a promotion. That’s when I obtained my union job. Here the pay raises are set via negotiation for all employees in the union.
Going over my performance review printouts was a case study in how to earn what you’re worth.
It’s been my experience that if you have a union job it’s hard for you to be fired. Unless you have a city job and low seniority and the city is experiencing a financial hardship. Like the coronavirus pandemic that shut down New York City. Then there might be “LIFO” layoffs of the Last in First Out.
Reviewing the performance reviews of two different supervisors can be illuminating.
How is it that one person can give you only a “Satisfactory” overall rating and another person gave you a “+” rating which is better with a few “Superiors” checked off?
You need to have a stronger constitution to deflect not getting a positive performance review.
If you don’t work in a union your job might be on the chopping block in the future if you keep getting sub-par performance reviews.
See: Kennedy Rolland, Florence. The Persuasive Negotiator: Tools and Techniques for Effective Negotiating. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2020. and Dawson, Roger. Secrets of Power Salary Negotiating: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator 3rd edition. San Francisco: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2010.
Ideally, you will negotiate a higher salary when the company makes you the job offer. They wanted you and only you. So getting into the habit of negotiating up front is key.
Role-playing this kind of negotiating with a friend or therapist or practicing if possible with a professional could help you become comfortable asking for the money you’re worth.
In the coming blog entries I’m going to talk about creating a side hustle for yourself. I recommend having a second job or income stream to bolster the pay you get from a “day job.”
This is because any time you work for another person your career–and its trajectory and eventual success–is often in their hands.
Today I value as I did when I was a disc jockey in the 1980s having the radiant defiance to be unusual.
I’ve read the book The Next Millionaire Next Door shown above. Those of us who are financially well-off have what’s called “social indifference.”
I’ve coined the term “radiant defiance.”
Individuals who have social indifference to the trappings of acting rich become millionaires.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is the route to a miserable life of mounting debt.
The millionaires next door become well-off through hard work, discipline, conscientiousness, and integrity.
They don’t live in luxury homes in upscale neighborhoods. They don’t drive a Mercedes Benz.
These millionaires are frugal as a rule.
Why am I writing about this? It’s to get readers to value doing your own thing, not what others are doing.
Millionaires don’t follow the crowd. They don’t (and I don’t either) spend time on social media or watching TV. They don’t spend hours getting worked up over political issues.
In short, the millionaires next door act differently from how most people live.
The point is that I urge readers to reject having what constitutes success in America–the mindset of earning more and more money to be able to buy material goods that make you appear rich.
Real millionaires don’t succumb to “affluenza” the disease of consumerism.
Nor does where you start out in life determine how far you can go. It’s the habits you adopt along the way that determine whether you succeed or fail.
In the book shown above the authors corroborated that individuals who have disabilities often go into business for themselves and do quite well at this.
To wit: your SAT score and college GPA don’t correlate with whether you’ll be successful later in life. See under my Book Reviews category my review of Late Bloomers, which also denounced the early “conveyor belt” of SAT scores and elite colleges as being predictors of future achievement.
It’s commonly called social indifference. I call having the guts to act true to yourself radiant defiance.
Being normal isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. What makes you different gives you an advantage.
I’ll end here with one thing the millionaires next door share:
They chose a career that is the right fit with their personality. They saw a need in the market and capitalized on filling that need.
Coming up in the next blog entry I’ll talk about my own work history to give readers insight into how acting with radiant defiance can help you succeed in any goal..
I wanted to write about this topic because all of us will experience this fate on one of our jobs.
It’s not ever a good idea to be lazy as a coworker.
Doing the bare minimum. Or not doing anything at all.
I’ve worked with individuals who don’t do their fair share of the work. Not only that they don’t do any work. They even try to pass off their work for you to do.
Wait a minute. You shouldn’t be doing your coworker’s job.
It’s a double bind: if you’re perceived as being a hard worker more and more work will be dumped on you.
In Betting on You Laurie Ruettimann talks about this dilemma in detail. I reviewed her book here. You can click on the Book Reviews category to read this review.
Ruettimann tells readers how to be a “slacker” in a good way on the job. So that the pressure you’re experiencing doesn’t steal your energy and sanity.
In an ordinary work day all of us should have the free time to take 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon as a break and breather.
Sadly, a lot of coworkers treat the full seven hours of the day as a “break” to do nothing.
This can be demoralizing. You can be tempted to join them in serenading the water cooler every 10 minutes. Or scrolling your Facebook account instead of doing any numbers crunching.
I say: as hard as it is to work with lazy coworkers refrain from ratting them out to your boss about their behavior. You’re not the schoolyard monitor for a fourth-grade class. You and your coworkers are adults.
For women especially [and particularly at law firms for female attorneys] we can work twice as hard thinking we have to prove ourselves. We’ll get twice as far even though we’re better than the men.
What is the solution when dealing with the not-acceptable kind of slacker behavior in the workplace?
I say: do your job and be great at what you do. Be different. Refrain from being tempted to do the work your coworkers fail to do.
The fact is that not everyone who gets a promotion will be the best qualified. As multiple women who experienced sexism as female attorneys in law firms have attested.
The remedy is to do your due diligence. Research the company you’re interviewing at. Go on GlassDoor to scope out employers. Arm yourself with the typical salary, working conditions, and other criteria.
Former New York governor David A. Paterson published his memoir Black, Blind, and in Charge: A Story of Visionary Leadership and Overcoming Adversity. His first-person account has no trace of pity, bitterness, or regret.
On page twenty-eight Paterson asserted that the root of his adversity was not the disability itself only his reaction to it. He offered a fiery condemnation of not owning every facet of your identity. That your disability makes you who you are has been a war cry I haven’t wanted to utter.
Why do I fear telling others that I have a disability? Ironically in my first book I limned this “secret sauce” that compelled me to become an Advocate. Left of the Dial was a graphic pager-turner that detailed my early recovery.
Only Governor Paterson said it better than I could’ve when he wrote:
“This may sound strange, but whoever you are, whatever you are, you should be proud of it. If you’re proud to be black, if you’re proud to be a woman, if you’re proud to be American, if you’re proud to be a New Yorker, you should be proud to be blind.
Even though it causes you problems, it’s who you are. It’s what you are. The question is, ‘What will you be?’ And you’ll never be anything until you resolve the fact that God created you the way you are and even if there are imperfections, this is who you are.”
Always I have thought that I succeeded because of having an illness not despite living with a disorder. Shunted into the mental health system I fought to get a job and live in my own apartment. Two things people with normal lives take for granted that they can have.
By dressing in my “Greenwich Village” garb I sent a clear message to anyone who saw me: I’m not giving up until I get what I want. My clothes were as radical as I was–free-form like my thinking. A Visionary, I thought recovery was possible even in 1987 when I was told it wasn’t.
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” was T.S. Eliot’s famous quote. Often, I credit my sartorial risk-taking as being the genesis of my take-no-prisoners approach to achieving my goals.
According to Black, Blind, and in Charge, there’s a sixty-eight percent unemployment rate for blind people in this country. That David A. Paterson obtained a J.D. and rose to become a governor says it all–the fight is worth taking on.
Though this 55th governor of New York didn’t have a mental illness I recommend everyone read his book. In July I cohosted with Max Guttman L.C.S.W the Zoom workshop Editorializing Lived Experiences: Creating an Authentic Voice and Impactful Message in Professional Writing. At this event I told the attendees: “Don’t give up the fight.”
The reality is that fighting for our rights as individuals with disabilities has always been necessary. Stereotypes abound when you have schizophrenia or another mental illness. All too often mental health staff themselves persist in thinking that recovery isn’t possible.
Who are you going to believe–a person who tells you there’s no hope or someone like me that understands that recovery comes to each of us in different guises? Everyone’s recovery is as individual as our thumbprint. Bake a cake. Sing in a choir. Ride a skateboard. It’s all great whatever you choose to do.
If you ask me the bar has been set too high by outsiders as to what constitutes the definition of “recovery.” The average Joe or Josephine on the street doesn’t get half as much scrutiny as mental health peers do in terms of what we’re able to do.
For over five years in my blogs I’ve sung the praises of Rite Aid cashiers.. A lot of them have been ringing up customers’ orders for five six or seven years. Doing it with a smile every day. No one gives them grief for holding a minimum wage job.
Yet when a person with schizophrenia works behind a Rite Aid counter, suddenly they’re viewed with pity if not outright contempt. While a person like me endures an obstructive chorus telling me that I’m “the exception to the rule” because I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and have a Masters’ degree and work as a professional librarian.
You got a problem with a person with a disability who demands equity in society in whatever form their participation takes? That’s what I want to ask outsiders who don’t have lived experience with an illness who dare claim to predict our destiny in life.
David A. Paterson beat the odds that were against him. His book should be required reading. Whatever kind of disability you have, I recommend you think for yourself about what’s possible for you to achieve.
In an earlier blog entry I talked about finding the work environment where you can be yourself and thrive.
My aim here is to give readers a shot in the arm of confidence so that you can Be Who You Are Not Who the World Wants You to Be like a magnet I bought attests.
The term Born This Way is a manifesto that everyone should be proud of.
I’ve been told over and over that I’m “the exception to the rule.” I feel crummy when I hear this. As if there is a stereotype of how people with schizophrenia live and act and dress.
Mumbling on the street. In tattered clothes. And what if one of us appears that way? We shouldn’t be viewed any worse than others.
This is what I don’t like as an author and a human being: I detest stereotyping people. That is: viewing everyone of the same race or gender or ethnicity or disability as having the same characteristics. Simply because of your interaction with one person of that race or gender or ethnicity or disability.
In this “disability box” outsiders use our symptoms as the proxy for who we are.
Outsiders can’t see beyond illness to accept us as “individuals who” have schizophrenia. Often it feels like our personality traits and our humanity are discounted as factors that enabled us to persist in the face of emotional challenges.
Our road might be harder yet that’s no excuse top give up. At the end of this blog entry I’ll give a link to an online Zoom event I cohosted at the 15th Annual Peer Conference in July.
The workshop was titled “Editorializing Lived Experiences: Creating an Authentic Voice and Impactful Message in Professional Writing.”
The key word in that title? Authentic.
To claim and assert our individuality is the only way you and can succeed in life and in recovery.
Maybe I knew this all along when I showed up to that day program in 1989 wearing vintage pajama pants in the summer?
The YouTube video of the Peer Conference Workshop is 1 hour 5 minutes.
You know the one: who makes your life miserable on the job.
A coworker could be dastardly. That’s no excuse for joining them in a race to the bottom.
Taking the high road as the expression goes is what’s called for. Asserting yourself when it’s clear you’re being taken advantage of on the job.
The case is clear: you don’t want to be that coworker that causes trouble for no reason at all.
Scenario #1 for example: You have seniority in choosing vacation time. A coworker comes to you and asks you to allow them to take off in June so they can visit their elderly parent in Sweden.
What you don’t do is schedule your vacation in the exact week the coworker wants to visit their parent.
Scenario #2: You see that someone has changed your weekly schedule without your permission or knowledge. The person might have told you that you couldn’t have off that Monday because the firm was short-staffed. You’re told you can no longer have off on Monday. This person then schedules themselves off on Monday.
What you do is act assertive and talk to them. Instead of firing off an angry email to them or going ballistic toward them.
Why would this person not say upfront that they needed the day off and could you switch with them? Who knows?
Scenario #3: Someone is stealing your food from the refrigerator at work. What you don’t do is print up a flier that you tape to the refrigerator stating: “No Stealing Food.” This would likely be a real deterrent like the electronic noise in Rite Aid that goes off when you reach for the deodorant behind a clear panel.
Instead: You can ask your supervisor to send an email to staff asking them to bring their own food. Or have a salad for lunch. Chances are no one else wants to eat a salad.
True story: At one job I bought a glass to use in the workplace kitchen to drink water at lunch. It looked like a regular whiskey glass. Curiously it went missing shortly after I started using it at lunch.
What you can do: keep the glass at your desk until lunchtime. In shared kitchen space it might not be clear whose glass is whose.
The wind-up: act ethical and above-board in how you interact with coworkers.
The truth is I don’t think most coworkers or supervisors intend to harm you or are acting with malice. They are simply self-centered and acting in their own interests.
Which is something you should consider doing on your job: figuring out whether the same person is repeatedly acting dastardly toward you. Not allowing this behavior to continue. Speaking up for yourself assertively and confidently.
This points to a real irony: that self-disclosure on the job about your bipolar or schizophrenia often only backfires. Interacting with coworkers for eight hours a day you are already a huddle of personalities that can be too close for comfort even without throwing a mental illness into the mix.
I will talk more again about self-disclosure in the workplace. This is definitely a case of “Do as I say not as I’ve done.” A victim of accidental disclosure–and then my honesty about publishing my memoir Left of the Dial had a happy ending.
Simone Biles suffered sexual abuse while involved in the USA Gymnastics.
Her decision to bow out of the Tokyo Games should empower us mere mortals to make our mental and physical health the number-one priority.
In a world and in workplaces where a significant number of other people are only out for themselves.
In coming blog entries I’ll talk about how to assert yourself and preserve your sanity on your job.
Firing off outrageous emails and acting like a jackass towards your coworkers is not the way to go. Even though you’ll encounter dastardly coworkers who seem hell-bent to make your work life miserable.
At the end of this email I link to a Deseret News article about Simone Biles. She did the right thing.
The point is not that all coworkers will intentionally do things to sabotage you. Misunderstandings will often arise on your job. Sometimes it’s not clear whether the tactic was a clear-cut form of abuse or simply a simple disregard for you in favor of their own interest.
This is where establishing boundaries and expecting respect is integral.
Chances are you will hit it off great with one coworker who is kind and caring.
The fact is that each of us has our own quirks and personality traits.
How to differentiate quirky behavior from outright malice?
Disability Pride is a thing with Disability Rights Activists that has garnered us July as a theme month.
Au contraire I’m not proud to have a disability.
I take pride in the skills, abilities, and strengths that I used to help myself recover and continue to use to empower others to recover.
The fact is that the breakdown and major relapse I experienced were two terrifying events. What happened to me wasn’t normal. I’m not proud to have been symptomatic. I cannot champion that being ill was a good thing.
What happened after I recovered was the great thing: I decided to do pro bono public speaking as an Advocate. My goal here was to motivate other peers to go after their goals with gusto.
I wanted to be the cheerleader for others who didn’t have family support or mental health staff in their corner telling them that recovery was possible.
Since 2002 when I first started out I’ve been attacked for claiming that recovery is possible.
One critic told me they doubted other peers could do what I’ve done.
That wasn’t my point in publishing my memoir Left of the Dial–to dangle an unobtainable carrot in front of people.
The exclamation point was that you could have your version of a full and robust life living with an illness.
Finding the career that gave me joy and listening to music and dressing in outfits and making art was what enabled me to recover.
Recovery comes to each of us in different guises. Each person’s recovery is as individual as our thumbprint.
Sing in a choir. Bake a cake. Ride a skateboard. It’s all great.
In 1988 I wouldn’t accept “the only option” presented to me: warming a chair in a traditional day program, collecting a government disability check for the rest of my life, and living in crack-infested low-income public housing.
It’s fine if a person must collect a government disability check and can’t hold a traditional job.
Yet even with these limitations I submit that they can have their version of a full and robust life.
It’s called No Judgments okay.
Elsewhere in other blogs I’ve praised the hard work and cheerfulness of Rite Aid cashiers. Some of them have been working at their jobs for three four or five years.
No one gives them grief for not having “competitive employment.”
Yet as soon as a person with a mental health issue can’t hold a job they’re looked down on.. The Right Wing crucifies people for collecting “entitlements.” Even if you have a genuine disability in some states the government doesn’t want you to collect Medicaid unless you have a job.
Intelligent thinking right? How is someone who’s actively symptomatic always going to be able to hold a job?
The point is my memoir Left of the Dial went a step further than Elyn Saks’s memoir The Center Cannot Hold.
What both our books had in common was the premise that you can do what you love even when you struggle.
You can have your version of a full and robust life even when your life is hard because of your illness.
And it’s precisely because you’re doing what you love–on or off a job–that the pain is alleviated.