Healing and realizing your full potential is possible when you honor, accept, and embrace your individuality and that of others.
Yes you can have a full and robust life living in recovery with a job, home, and social life of your own design.
Healing and realizing your full potential is possible when you honor, accept, and embrace your individuality and that of others.
Yes you can have a full and robust life living in recovery with a job, home, and social life of your own design.
Five months ago, I read The Pretty One by Keah Brown. Her first-person account of living with cerebral palsy. How because she couldn’t walk fast crossing the street drivers in cars honked their horns at her.
One part of the memoir stood out to me. Kean Brown exposed the insanity of how able-bodied people rush-rush-rush places every day filling their lives with nonstop activities.
This week I decided to conserve my energy for doing only the things essential to maintaining my well-being.
This daily living habit I term the “one day one job” approach.
Even when I’m not at my job I consider the tasks I need to do “jobs.”
My one job might be posting this blog entry. Or doing the workout routine.
I’ve learned this life lesson about not taking on herculean tasks that derail my focus and energy.
It’s precisely because living with a disability gives us challenges that we are uniquely qualified to “opt out” of the busywork insanity.
Without feeling shame or regret for not living up to these impossible demands that the majority of Americans make on themselves.
I say let people who have a vested interest in living under the cover of what’s “normal” burn themselves out running around without stopping every day.
Easily 12 years ago I read a book by Leo Babauta. In it he talked about limiting the focus of your life to your “5 Commitments.”
My 5 passions are art music fashion books and exercise.
One other tactic I adopted is to KISS–Keep It Simple Sweetheart.
In 2003 I wrote in an online article: “If it doesn’t fit, I won’t commit.”
We have all the time we need to get done everything we need to do.
Taking the time to do what’s integral to our health and happiness. Discarding the things that numb us or distract us or divert our attention from our 5 commitments.
This is something to think about:
Daring to let go of the busywork.
Risking “missing out” when attending those events would not add benefit to our life.
Taking joy in being present and centered on the things we choose to do.
Guest blogger Ashley Smith continues her series on 5 Steps to Fighting for Recovery at Work:
Third, ask for accommodations at work. When my symptoms were bad, I reduced workhours. While this option is controversial because we may not want to disclose the fact that were having health issues, seeking accommodations should be considered. Accommodations may look like reducing hours, workload, taking more breaks, and sick leave. How can somebody work when they cannot function?! Also, some companies offer mental health or self-care days, employment assistance programs, and benefits that is family and medical leave.
Steps 4 and 5 to follow in second blog entry.
The fourth step is vital to the recovery journey. That is your support system. When going through it at work it is important to stay connected to others. Loved ones may ask: are you okay? You looked stressed out? Do you need to take a break? Therefore, let your friends and family know that you need more support. Lean on more than two people that way you’re not putting too much on one individual. Stay in the loop with people by text and other electronic channels. Send a selfie picture for them to see your hair, eyes, and facial expression—these may seem like subtle cues, but your loved ones know when you’re off balance by your presentation, which other people might overlook.
Also, your punctation in text messages may seem different. Do a video call or just talk on the phone. Your tone of voice could let your closest supporters know you are going through something. When you visit them in-person carry out activities that you both enjoy. For example, cooking, playing cards, walking, watching your favorite shows or movies, etc. Other ways to get involved may include getting involved in a support group, going to the park, and coffee shop, etc. Staying connected is very important. It is critical to the recovery journey because we all need support to thrive in life.
Finally, acknowledge the need to change your routine. In the past, I recognized how my self-care routine was not a priority and this effected my overall wellness. Therefore, I practiced the tips I outlined above: 1) look at your early warning signs, 2) discuss concerns with your health team, 3) seek accommodations at work, 4) gather supporters for assistance, and 5) develop a new routine. Being intentional about self-care needs, support, and treatment are essential to fighting for wellness at work.
Again, I encourage you to look at therapy to strengthen coping strategies. I’ve created many coping tools with my therapist over the years and even though I may become challenged at work or in other areas, I recycle wellness activities. In fact, my top self-care priorities right now are prayer, therapy, journaling, walking, checking in with a family and friends, and resting. Everybody’s focus may be different, but the struggle is real, and symptoms are too. Still, stay hopeful and connected with your network. If necessary, ask for accommodations. Continue to believe you will overcome situations with mental health and get back to work in a good place.
To learn more about Ashley Smith visit her blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia and purchase her lasted blog book, What’s on My Mind? Volume I, Revised Edition. The blog examines her life in recovery. Ashley discusses symptoms and alternative coping strategies. She empowers others with hope. Her blog book, What’s on My Mind? Volume I, Revised Edition, is a collection of blog articles from Overcoming Schizophrenia (2008—2013), that explores how she learned of her diagnosis, became a mental health advocate, and manages recovery. Ashley Smith is a former state NAMI Georgia board member, state trainer, and group facilitator. She serves on the advisory council of the CURSZ Foundation. Ashley works as a peer counselor known as a certified peer specialist (CPS) in Georgia. Read more about Ashley Smith:
Today I’m featuring a two-part series of blog entries that guest blogger Ashley Smith is taking over to post. She has been blogging on her own for over 10 years. Here Ashley writes about how to fight for recovery at work. Steps 1 and 2 start off the series.
5 Steps to Fighting for Recovery at Work:
Fake it till you make it. That’s how others tried to motivate us to get the job. This mindset motivates us in the short-term, however, it doesn’t meet the demands living with mental illness. Symptoms vary, but no matter the struggle they are all severe because it effects the ability to function in the workplace.
I understand the challenges all too well. Despite living with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, which is schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined, I aim to manage employment. Yet, working continues to present problems because the illness affects my thought process and behavior. Some of the symptoms I experienced over the years included suspiciousness, anxiety, bizarre beliefs, catatonia, seeing and hearing things that others don’t, high energy, and depression. I take medication, but pills can’t control all the complexities of a brain condition. Still, I fight for wellness and tackle symptoms with support.
What do you do when symptoms make your job difficult to manage? Here are five steps to pressing forward in your recovery: 1) Identify the early warning signs, 2) talk to your treatment team, 3) discuss accommodations with your employer, 4) rally your support system, and 5) create a new routine.
First, common early warning signs of mental health may look like poor sleeping patterns, a change in appetite, challenges with maintaining house chores, and a shift in moods that effects relationships and performance at work. Whenever I’m not sleeping and eating well, I suffer through the workday. How can someone work long hours, concentrate on tasks, and complete their job duties effectively when they don’t feel well? Generally, I keep my home presentable. However, a cluttered house can translate into a cluttered mind. Eventually, poor management of self-care, house chores, and eventually work performance. Prior to symptoms at work, you may have exhibited some of the early warning signs of imbalance. Seek professional support.
Second, discuss changes in meeting daily self-care needs, work deadlines, and other challenges with your treatment team. I’ve had to adjust the dosage of my medication. And later recognize that I wasn’t taking my medications as prescribed. Once, I took a medicine that is best taken at night with other prescriptions in the morning that effected my energy level at work. Other times changing dosages and medication didn’t resolve issues. In addition to that, I increased therapy sessions to process daily stressors. I encourage everybody to consider therapy because it is a great asset to recovery.
Steps 3, 4, and 5 coming up.
Today I did not go to my job. Shook up I was because of the subway shooting in Brooklyn on the N train. I have lived in Brooklyn for 23 years. Luckily, I was not on that train in the morning.
As it is I only ride the subway when I’m forced to and have no other option. My goal when I retire is to take cabs everywhere. If you’re a tourist and can afford to visit New York City I recommend you save money to take taxis around this town.
How does this factor into managing your mental health on the job? After arriving home last night I decided to stay home today.
As I’m typing this my cell phone beeped with an alert asking for information about the suspect. This indicates that the law enforcement individuals involved have pinpointed who they think it was that opened fire inside the second car of the N train. The shooter is no longer only “a person of interest.”
Why have I become agitated over this shooting? Most likely because of the level of cold calculated attention-to-detail that the alleged shooter used to carry out the crime.
Calling up your supervisor and telling them you can’t come to work isn’t something I take lightly. What is the right way to take time off?
First: I would not broadcast to and tell your coworkers a week before that you’re calling in sick on the following Thursday. Keep this to yourself.
Maybe what flipped this switch in my head was that coworkers have no qualms about taking what’s called a “mental health day” and calling in sick to do so.
This is the root of why I stayed home today. Before I hadn’t taken a mental health day ever. After getting shook up over yesterday’s shooting I decided it was time to take a mental health day when I needed to.
My experience having a union job is that I accrue one sick day every month. Right now, I have 50 sick days stored up in my time bank.
Since a lot of us don’t have a union job (and even for those of us who do) I advocate for becoming a worker’s right Activist. You can like I do petition for paid time off.
I’m trying to get management to give all staff who have worked here for 15 years a one-month paid sabbatical. So that we can use the time for whatever we want to do.
I’m also urging that all staff be given 4 extra time-off days per year coded as “mental health days” in addition to our regular sick time.
Plus: give us hardship pay as essential workers who showed up to our jobs throughout the pandemic.
In a future blog entry here, I would like to have a peer friend be a guest blogger. My goal is to have her talk about ways to manage symptoms you might have while at work.
Sadly, in most corporate and other office jobs you aren’t given a lot of paid sick days you can take off. Fast-food and other minimum wage earners get no paid sick time at all. Forcing them to show up in ill health to their job. Just so they can get paid.
In the 1990s I talked with the boss of a company. Thinking I might go work there.
On the telephone he told me: “It’s okay to call in sick once. If you call in sick two or three times that’s not okay.”
Huh? We are human beings. We are not machines. Our bodies are not robots. We’re not Roombas designed to figure out where to go to clean a floor. And some of us haven’t cleaned our floors in years.
Expecting that employees show up to work when we’re sick is the way to spread illness to other coworkers. It’s the guaranteed way to risk making ourselves chronically ill as well.
Joe Manchin (a Democrat) and others (Republicans like Nicole Malliotakis who I call Nicole CacaCola) are against giving American workers paid sick leave.
Manchin used the “Welfare Queen” trope to claim people who took time off would be going on a Carnival Cruise. It was reported that most of his constituents live in poverty.
What? I’m sitting at my desk typing this. After I’m done here, I will be going in bed and resting until noon. Then I’ll have breakfast. I won’t be going outside. I won’t be having fun.
My stance is that we should listen to our bodies. If our body is telling us to rest, we should rest. If our body has energy, that’s when we should take on the world.
Burnout can happen on the best of jobs. Better economic compensation goes only so far to help us. According to the authors of Happy Money.
In this blog entry I’ll talk about the measures I took to alleviate burnout. In the coming blog entries, I will talk about managing your mental health on the job.
#1 – Adopting an anti-consumerism ethic.
People who engage in consumerism are less happy and have more financial stress. Often a person is miserable chained to a desk because they’re funding a lifestyle buying material things.
#2 – Focusing on experiences.
The kinds of experiences we have make people happy. These can be free or low-cost activities.
The Brooklyn Museum where I live in New York City has a reduced admission fee for individuals with disabilities.
I attended the Christian Dior and Any Warhol exhibits for $16 each. Nine dollars cheaper than the regular $25 fee.
#3 – Fulfilling what gives your life meaning.
What instantly perked me up was uploading the Working Assets career guide manuscript to the publisher. My goal is to have the book go on sale in July. With a pre-order date of May 9.
#4 – Funding your retirement.
To quote Nietzsche: “He who has a why can bear any how.”
This nailed the ultimate ability I had to accept that my day job had become a daily grind.
If you’re not constantly buying things, you ideally would be funding a retirement account or two. The quicker you can retire the easier it could be to work at a job that you no longer like.
#5 – Listening to music.
A study revealed the benefits of listening to music.
What I did to overcome the “one day like any other” feeling didn’t require a lot of money. It didn’t require one dime. The activity was free. Who doesn’t like free?
See the link at the bottom of this blog entry to Audacy.com.
On Audacy I listen to music channels. My favorite is Scott Lowe on the Go’s Post-Modern Music Box. Followed by New Arrivals.
It gets me going to listen to the cheerful alternative music. The Music Box features 1980s and 1990s popular alternative songs. New Arrivals features today’s alternative music.
In my apartment the sound is often going from nine in the morning to nine at night. You might be lucky to be able to listen to music at your job. That’s even better.
Listen to Audacy here.
The conundrum is how to find a purpose for getting out of bed when you are depressed.
Sometimes you don’t have the energy to move your body off the mattress and press your feet to the floor.
What can be done to feel better?
Some of us will need to take an anti-depressant. Others can make lifestyle changes.
After reading the disability memoir The Pretty One I took to heart how the author disparaged that able-bodied Americans rush-rush-rush around filling their days with nonstop activity.
From then on, I decided that it was okay to rest in bed for two hours on a Sunday afternoon.
The irony is that often we fill our lives with busywork that deters us from doing what’s truly meaningful. When the space of time in our days is filled up like a bursting closet something has to give.
Limiting the tasks, we take on is one way to feel better about getting out of bed. Knowing our daily calendars are jam-packed could disempower us.
Finding a purpose for getting out of bed can be made easier when we recognize that it’s okay to limit our choices as to what we want to do and can do on any given day.
My tactic is to decide when I wake up what my one “job” is for that day. I talk about the tasks I do even when at home as being “jobs.”
Sometimes it’s at the end of the day that you realize what your one “job” was that you fulfilled.
Not knowing what you want to do that day or with your life can be made easier.
Who says you have to be the same person or do the same things for the rest of your life?
Figuring out what you want to do today or in the coming weeks can be as simple as talking to a therapist. Brainstorming ideas with them or with a friend or family member.
Keep an open mind and be curious about what’s possible. That’s the first step: realizing that what pops into your head shouldn’t be ruled out before you think about it.
In a coming blog entry, I will talk about how doing “volunteer work” gave me a purpose for getting out of bed at a time when I no longer liked my job.
It can sound woo-woo if that is the term to continue to link who you are with what you do.
In terms of how acting false to get ahead will backfire. However, I stand by my assertion that acting true to yourself is the only way to live.
The Bullet Journal ethic is rooted in “purpose powered productivity.” That is in there being a reason that you’re doing what you’re doing.
The type of disability a person has shouldn’t limit them to only one type of job. Though if this disability makes them more suited for a specific job that job shouldn’t be ruled out.
It’s radical to propose what I do when I’m talking about the livelihoods of individuals living with mental illnesses.
What I propose is eliminating “busywork” from our lives. Finding our life’s purpose and doing what we can to fulfill this purpose.
And who says this purpose should only be linked to our disability?
For some of us it will be. My life’s purpose is to advance my vision of recovery for everyone. From whatever illness a person has. In whatever guise recovery comes to them in.
A simple mission with two tenets.
Why I propose that peers living with mental health issues find our purpose is because we are no different from people who don’t have a disability.
No one wants to feel like their life has no meaning. Like they are adrift going in circles or going nowhere.
Countless motivational books are written about “how to fulfill your potential.”
In a coming blog entry, I will talk about how to find a purpose for getting out of bed in the morning.
In the winding down of the COVID outbreak all of us could be faced with this choice: how to spend our time when tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to arrive?
Living for today has a new resonance.
I for one wouldn’t want to spend my last day on earth cleaning my apartment.
Today I’ll talk about how a nifty little product saved my life: The Bullet Journal.
The creator of the Bullet Journal Ryder Carroll had multiple learning disabilities. His invention was born out of his need to manage his workload.
A fellow Visionary Carroll sought to control his life and overcome the obstacles he faced.
The detail about Ryder Carroll having learning disabilities impressed me the most. He “turned his trials into triumphs”–the topic of a book I’ll review shortly.
I tell you: “No you can’t” is not an acceptable answer. In the first place why should we place the direction and outcome of our lives in another person’s hands or control?
Ryder Carroll invented a product to help himself. Then he crowdfunded the journal to sell it to others.
It cost me $31 total to buy the official hardbound Edition 2 of the Bullet Journal with the blush-color cover.
Every year or when the stock runs out a new color is introduced for the cover.
Keeping the Bullet Journal saved my life. I had checked out of the library the Ryder Carroll companion book The Bullet Journal: Track the Past Order the Present Design the Future.
The purpose of keeping and using the Bullet Journal is to align your actions with your values. It’s “A mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.”
The Bullet Journal Method book is available in over 20 languages. If you sign up for the Bullet Journal emails you get 15% off your first journal order.
There’s true empowerment to be had in this story.
I’ll end here with what resonates with me the most:
Ryder Carroll was not afraid to risk acting on his vision to help others by selling a product he invented first to help himself.
Executing a plan despite fearing what others will think of your vision is the only way to live.
It’s not easy to dream of doing something that you’re told can’t or shouldn’t be done. Having the courage to follow through with doing this thing is vital to your happiness.
T.S. Eliot is quoted: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
The older I get the more determined I am to go after my goals with gusto.
Using the Bullet Journal, I think I can achieve what I set out to.
See these links:
Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment exposes the life cycle of a pair of jeans from production to selling to our disposal when we no longer like them.
President Reagan first advanced the neoliberal political ideology. Sending clothing manufacturing overseas was supposed to elevate the income of workers in those countries.
A curious line of thinking when the ulterior motive was for American businesses to cut costs. To allow them to reap millions if not billions of dollars in revenue.
U.S. clothing companies have the money to afford to pay workers a higher salary in other countries and in America.
So does a company like Verizon that I won’t do business with because their union workers went on strike twice in 10 years. To get better pay and working conditions.
In the 1970s commercials on TV told clothing buyers to “Look for the Union Label” in clothes made in America.
Sadly, the neoliberalism that took root under Reagan continued to flourish through Clinton’s term as president and ever since then.
The “trickle-down theory” fails in real-life practice.
In the counties where Amazon sets up distribution centers it gets multi-million tax breaks to do so. To recoup this money the local government imposes higher taxes on residents.
At Amazon warehouse jobs workers have been killed by machinery. Amazon isn’t fined. Amazon doesn’t pay benefits to the families of the workers who were killed.
What can a person in rural America who doesn’t have a college degree–and doesn’t want to move to a big city–do?
An Amazon warehouse job should not be the only job in town.
There’s a solution that lies right in front of our faces. The remedy is to stop viewing an elite Ivy or other college degree and a standard set of prior jobs and skills as a predictor of who to hire for a job.
In an internet news article, I read how hip employers are seeking out job candidates who don’t have this kind of homogenous background.
The result was that more women and BIPOC individuals were hired.
In coming blog entries I’ll talk about cutting-edge ideas and solutions for peers with mental illnesses.
In April I expect to host another Podcast to go live for blog readers to listen to.
I’m here to say that there’s no shame in being happy to be alive. This is an okay feeling when you’ve either survived the worst or are still struggling in other regards.
Finding gratitude in the daily grind is possible. This is a cognitive reframing approach to changing your perception of what’s going on in your life.
In a book I just read titled Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment the author Maxine Bedat exposed the brute monotony of sweatshop labor.
Each woman (a woman!) sits at a machine in a row of something like 60 machines. One woman sews the hem. The other woman sews the leg. Another sews the waistband. And down the line it goes.
The term “deaths of despair” was coined to describe how individuals are taking their own lives. When their work is not meaningful and purpose-driven.
Creating “jobs of joy” should be the goal for ourselves and others.
So how can you and I make our work livable if we don’t always like our jobs?
Take up a hobby. Cook. Paint. Skate. Blog. Shoot photos.
A happy medium exists between “warehouse worker” and “CEO” in terms of the kinds of jobs out there. Finding these jobs will be the topic of other blog entries.
In each day that we get up and go to a job or not go to a job we can find pockets of time to do what makes us feel fulfilled.
It could be as simple as watching YouTube videos on your cell phone on your afternoon break.
Or going outside to a coffeehouse to buy a hot chocolate and confetti cookie.
In my life the route to on-the-job happiness started when I asked a former supervisor to send me to the workshops so that I could be trained to give customers resume and career help.
After this I took on the role of mentoring teen interns.
The point is when you can carve out new things to do that keep you fulfilled at work that makes all the difference.
The rise in Amazon fulfillment center jobs that wreck a worker’s mental and physical health is a runaway trend that should be halted before “deaths of despair” increase any higher.
In a coming blog entry I will talk about the root of labor injustice: the neoliberal economic policies that elected leaders advanced and continue to back.