The Healing Power of Choosing Your Identity

Goldie

In December 2019 I decided to identify as an Artist.

My reinvention as an Artist could empower you to live boldly as the one and only you.

That’s because as I found out your personality is your jet fuel.

You have the right as a human being to choose your identity and embrace your individuality. So many beautiful expressions of humanity exist in everyone living on earth.

Maybe you identify in a non-binary way. I can relate to individuals who were told to undergo conversion therapy. It’s a relief when you can finally live out loud as who you are.

Repressing your feelings can cause ill health. Artists are creative souls whose emotional energy has the power to transmit a healing vibe.  

Engaging in self-expression was the number-one habit I used in recovery to achieve my goals. Acting true to yourself sounds like a cliché. That’s because it’s true. Your personality is your jet fuel.

My Artist’s Statement is framed thus: I act as a Chief Joy Officer to create things of beauty to share with others to make them feel good.

The photo above is of a painting I created in 2018. You show up to an art studio. Upbeat music plays on the sound system. An instructor guides you through painting on canvas with a theme. The night’s theme was Golden Goddess.

Yes, I am an Artist. Who are you?

Having a Happy Post-Diagnosis Life

My intent in publishing Left of the Dial and Working Assets was to dramatize my positive experience of having a fulfilling post-diagnosis life.

Train wreck memoirs tend to be compulsive reading, yet do they empower readers to envision having a happy life?

Living the life in which you can enjoy working and living is just as compelling when it’s a success story.

The point is that you can love your life even though you have a diagnosis.

I’ve coached peers who have been unemployed or underemployed. One of them got a part-time job in a library.

One person I’ve heard of got accepted to law school. Another peer graduated from a university.

An individual I know has been happy to work as a cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts. One person is proud to mop floors at McDonald’s.

Whatever you do–even if it’s volunteer work–the point is to be able to get up every day and do something that makes you feel good.

My goal is to give others hope and joy. It’s because hope is the precursor to healing. And healing from an illness is possible when you do what gives you joy.

In a coming blog entry, I’m going to talk about self-acceptance. About how choosing your identity frees you to go down the path in recovery that is right for you.

Late Bloomers

Like the dark horses and late bloomers in these two books, I didn’t see my life take off until later. This happened when I turned thirty-five and started my librarian job.

 It’s precisely because most of us have experienced setbacks and taken detours that we have the freedom to decide for ourselves what our right path in life should be.

I didn’t publish my first book until I was forty-nine. Life is not a race to the finish line—we all know where that leads. The point is that you can make a comeback at any age.

I recommend you read the book Late Bloomers. I can attest to the validity of the tactics listed in this guide. This is because I’d been using these strategies long before I read about them in the book.

One thing I’d been doing before that was listed in the book was to write about myself using the third person. Using the word she.

As well I use my given name Chris Bruni in the Bruni in the City column I write for an independent mental health journal.

Late bloomers share these six traits: curiosity, compassion, resilience, insight, wisdom, and equanimity.

Reading this book should empower those of us who didn’t crash through the starting gate early in the horse race of life.

All hail the late bloomers.

Exploring “Career” Options

My goal is for the Working Assets blog to honor and embrace the multitude of “career” options available to individuals living in recovery.

Variety is said to be the spice of life. Different jobs are the spices that flavor our recovery.

You can be happy working at a job that pays very little compared to other careers. Altruists in humanitarian professions don’t earn the big bucks. Yet the self-validation you get from helping others can’t be beat.

It’s a myth to use external markers of success–a college degree; a high-paying job–to define a person’s status in society.

For years in my blog I’ve celebrated Rite Aid cashiers. Every day they’re ringing up orders and doing it with a smile. Some of them have held this job for years. And years.

Extending the definition of a career is imperative. How a person lives their life is as much an art form and vocation as a traditional job.

Earning income–and making tons of money–isn’t how we should judge people living in recovery or anyone else for that matter.

I would caution readers that wanting to have a high salary solely because you want to earn a lot of money isn’t the way to go.

My failed first career working in corporate insurance offices proves this point.

The older I get I don’t understand the lack of compassion given to people who collect so-called entitlements like SSI and SSDI.

This is why we need to expand the definition of a career to comprise
jobs that don’t pay money or pay very little money.

Managing your life living in recovery can be hard and often challenging. This can be a primary job for some of us.

It’s not the hateful and hurtful rhetoric in the media that upsets me the most. It’s the lack of compassion. It’s the dilemma that as of 2020 outsiders and a lot of professionals still think that for the vast majority recovery isn’t possible.

Sharing our recovery stories is the remedy. Showing that peers have jobs–whether paid or volunteer work or in the form of hobbies–can empower individuals who are told they or their loved one won’t recover.

And again, thinking you must get a job as a CEO to prove your worth is a mistake.

Let’s cheer each other on to do in recovery the things we love to do. Whether doing these things earns us millions is beside the point.

How to Be Well-thy

The Merriam Webster online definition of wealth:

  1. Abundance of valuable material possessions or resources
  2. Abundant supply: profusion.

The only definition that counts is abundant supply. True wealth hinges on happiness. Having an abundance of happiness is possible.

To wit chasing money and the things it can buy doesn’t often make a person any happier.

A research study revealed that $75K in income is the threshold where you are about as happy as you’ll ever be.

Earning more than $75K per year doesn’t make a person happier.

This matters because friends, family, and good fortune if you ask me all matter more than the amount of money in your bank account.

My maxim is that a person should be able to earn a livable income doing the job(s) they love.

The amount of money a person earns is not the point.

Enjoying yourself on and off the job is what matters.

The point is that doing what you love can bolster your mental health.

In coming blog entries I’ll talk about my own experience and that of others.

American Pie

In 2019 I pitched to editors a bulletproof book proposal for Working Assets.

Sadly, publishers adhere to the “standardization covenant” in deciding which books to sell.

With a Visionary archetype I could see [and peers, therapists, and others could see] the need in the marketplace for the career guide.

Alas, the editors rejected the book precisely because it didn’t fit the mold of books already published.

There was no precedent for a career guide for individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses.

And it wasn’t written by a celebrity–the age-old excuse for not publishing a writer that isn’t famous.

As I see it, Working Assets scared editors’ pants. Reading this book might just enable people who have been abandoned to rise and roar.

The guide could enable peers to compete with others in the mainstream.

Like I wrote at my Left of the Dial blog years ago everyone’s competing for slices of the American pie.

There’s a limited amount of slices to go around in this country teeming with citizens.

Those in power in the patriarchy as it exists today would like to keep the disadvantaged away from the pieces that are left over.

Everyone seems to want to grab for bigger and bigger slices.

Only to be selfish is the root of the destruction of our society and of our planet.

You can have your cake and share your wealth. No need to be greedy.

Abundance is the true measure of wealth. And it has nothing to do with money.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk about earning income and having true wealth.

CURESZ Profile

Out of the blue I had the opportunity to have my recovery story featured on the CURESZ.org website.

You can read my profile there along with the stories of other individuals that have succeeded in the face of living with schizophrenia.

As a person with a Visionary archetype, I’m an innovative thinker.

Seeing my CURESZ profile alongside the others got me thinking.

It was the first time in my recovery that I wasn’t called out as “the exception to the rule” as has happened wherever else I’ve been quoted.

Seeing that there were other people like me who had achieved goals I could understand that we’re all in this together.

Having an illness could positively impact your identity when you see your disability as a strength not a liability.

This sounds ironic or impossible.

The illness is the kind of enemy that’s closer to you than your friends.

Yet when you make peace with the diagnosis it frees you to envision a life without boxes you need to check off.

You’re given the mandate to choose alternative options for a career.

You can royally go your own way against the standard operating procedure.

Read my CURESZ profile here.

In the coming blog entry I’m going to talk about what it’s like to achieve things in a world where people diagnosed with mental illnesses are told to stay in our places and not compete with others.

Dark Horses

The number-one career book I’ve read is Dark Horse: Achieving Success through the Pursuit of Fulfillment.

It got me thinking about real life as it’s played out in America for most people.

It’s a mistake going after what everyone else has because you think you should have these things too.

In society we’re inculcated from an early age that to get ahead we have to get into a good school to get the right degree to get a coveted job.

Author Todd Rose in Dark Horse calls this flawed method “the standardization covenant.”

The dilemma is that everyone else is doing the identical thing. Competing against others has become the norm.

According to this copycat way of doing things once you achieve the goal of getting that job or position in life you’ll be happy.

The divergent careerists in Dark Horse weren’t happy chasing other people’s dreams of what success looked like. This set these Dark Horses up to fail.

The individuals in the book did 360-degree turnarounds.

A woman with a failed corporate job started up a successful supper club.

A woman with a doomed office career created a better livelihood as an inventive floral designer.

They prove the premise that your individuality should not be forsaken in the quest to earn income.

In a coming blog entry I’m going to talk about how having an illness can impact your identity in a positive way.

My recent CURESZ.org recovery profile got me thinking about this very thing.

Normal Gets You Nowhere

Years ago I picked up for free a copy of the Kelly Cutrone life-and-career guide Normal Gets You Nowhere.

The author is Sicilian like I am and works in the fashion industry.

Her book title should be taken to heart as a truism.

The definition of normal is:

“Of or having ordinary or average intelligence; conforming to a standard or type; free of mental defect.”

Does being ordinary or average sound appealing?

One of my mantras is: Be innovative. Not a copycat.

My contention is that you won’t get very far in this lifetime trying to change yourself to fit into a mold of what other people think is acceptable.

Doing this you’ll make yourself ill.

It’s the foolproof route to a doomed career trajectory to have to work at job where you must act false to yourself every day.

Dare to be unusual in your method for achieving fulfillment, which will lead to your inimitable version of success.

Enjoy your quirkiness. What makes you different gives you an advantage.

Finding and succeeding at having a job you love is possible.

I have had this kind of career for over 19 years.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about the number-one book I’ve read that got me thinking about doing what you love on a job.

Chris’s Preference for Blogging

My preference is for blogging as opposed to using Facebook.

I’ve removed the link to my Facebook author account from my Christina Bruni website.

Even though I’m technically a public figure on the internet I couldn’t keep up that Facebook page.

I don’t have it in me to make Mark Zuckerberg any richer.

Besides, I want to earn the big bucks myself because there’s always a new pair of shoes that this Fashionista could use : )

The Working Assets career forum like all my other blogs will be a judgment-free zone.

I’d love to have you join me in exploring career themes geared to those of us who are wired differently in the head.

And hey, there’s no shame in this.

The blog I’m keeping here is the new place for readers of all stripes and diagnoses and life challenges to come together united in our vision that recovery is possible.

The information here is for peers who have the desire and ability to get a job and succeed in doing that job.

Won’t you join me?