On Not Being That Coworker

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 and You and Me

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?

More on this coming up.

The Truth About Simone Biles

Disability Pride Month 2021

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.

Point taken? I hope so.

Counterpoint to Disclosure

July is Disability Pride Month. In coming blog entries I’ll talk about this theme in more detail.

Today I will offer a counterpoint to disclosure that examines the issue from the other side.

The reality is we have a way to go to get to the day when having a mental illness is something others accept as an ordinary part of the package we present to them.

My literary agent told me that maybe I should archive one of my blogs while I continue to rev up getting Working Assets published.

Counter-intuitively five days later I decided to keep writing those blog entries. My Left of the Dial blog is crafted with my love for music and fashion and other things I’m passionate about.

Would I recommend keeping a blog and being open and honest in it? Employers will read your blog and use what you write to decide whether to make you a job offer.

That’s reality even though it’s 2021.

While I’m an optimist I’m also a realist. You must adhere to a professional code of conduct. Ideally you can conform to the rules at the same time you can express your identity.

Should that not be an option the solution is to find a job or career that is off the beaten track. Where you can dress in a creative uniform and use your brilliant mind to execute phenomenal work for the company—or for your clients if you’re self-employed.

In coming blog entries I will talk more about finding this work and life equilibrium. The environment where you can be yourself and produce results for your employer is the sweet spot.

Yet sometimes a bulldozer is needed to succeed on the job. More about disrupting the status quo in future blog entries too.

Expressing All of Us on Our Jobs

The John Legend song “All of Me” talks about romance. About bringing all of each other to the table when you’re in love.

Yet the lyrics apart from the love angle testify to not living in hiding in any kind of closet.

Giving all of ourselves—to each other; to our recovery; to a work project—is the way to go.

This is where acting true to yourself comes into play. For a long time I’ve had empathy for gay people who have been told to submit to conversion therapy.

The more I turned around in my head the beauty of appropriate self-disclosure I saw the benefit in living life on full-tilt as the one and only you.

The full truth: I’m a quirky artist who thinks differently and sees things differently. My unusual approach has allowed me to help people craft resumes that get them job interviews that have led to job offers.

As a professional librarian with a career services niche I’ve been more intrigued lately about how and whether a person should bring all of yourself into the equation when interacting with others on a job.

Alas there is a hierarchy of disabilities. Bipolar and schizophrenia spook people. Often they Stand Back 500 Feet after you disclose to them.

It comes down this is: do you equate your illness as being part of your identity. Do you think others should accept your diagnosis as a normal part of your life or of who you are. Do you want to be outspoken in every arena of your life about having a disability.

July is Disability Pride Month. In early July I will talk in greater detail about this.

In ways what I think runs counter to what a lot of Disability Rights Advocates believe.

The last blog entry for this month will unpack the reality of how and when to disclose.

It could sound like I’m asking readers to do as I say and not as I do.

Taking up blogging on any topic carries a risk when you’re searching for a job.

The intent in celebrating that you have a disability is to empower yourself in a world where individuals with disabilities are seen as different or to be pitied.

No way to pity. Way to deciding for yourself whether you want to disclose on a job.

Illness and Identity and Career

This is going to be a carnival of three related blog entries on the topic of illness and identity and career.

In conversation with a peer friend I asked him to clarify something I had been thinking about on the topic of illness and identity and career.

The friend understood: There are different pieces of ourselves. We’re not just one thing. We can talk and write about life outside of mental health.

For months now I’ve been interested in the Venn diagram intersection between illness and identity and career.

About how people choose to identify themselves to others. Some of us right off will tell people: “I’m disabled.” Some of us will say: “I have a disability.”

In my life I prefer to be identified by my name or by my personality traits or by what I’m passionate about.

This extends to labels outside of illness that people commonly use to identify themselves. Why should we have to label ourselves at all?

Years ago a workshop leader told everyone in her course: “If you name it, you can claim it.” I understand that this is the underlying dynamic in using a “hook” to describe yourself.

In work emails I would rather write after my name: Christina Bruni (Author/Advocate).

What I would ideally like to use is: Christina Bruni (Chris/Christina) to identify myself apart from a preferred personal pronoun.

It’s a matter of a person’s individual preference whether they want to talk about their illness in ordinary conversation. Or whether they choose not to disclose as a matter of course.

The choice is yours whether you disclose, how you disclose, who you tell, and when.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about advertising yourself as a whole person instead of dwelling on symptoms and illness.

Self-Disclosure on a Job

In reading the book Dress Your Best Life author Dawnn Karen gives the best strategy for self-disclosure on the job. She is a therapist with a focus on fashion psychology. Karen also teaches at FIT.

Though she is a therapist I think her professional ethic as regards disclosure should hold true in every workplace.

Disclosing personal information depends on “the content of the disclosure…the rationale for the disclosure…the personality traits of the client…and the specific circumstances surrounding the disclosure” according to Zoe D. Peterson writing in Psychotherapy: Theory Research Practice Training.

Credentialing lived experience is predicated on the peer specialist acting with the utmost professionalism.

A paid peer specialist doesn’t have a license to practice medicine so cannot advise a person to stop medication or tell them how to wean themselves off medication.

A paid peer specialist can “hold up a mirror” to their client by disclosing. Yet the act of disclosing should not take the focus away from the client’s feelings and needs.

What you disclose should be directly related to the issue the client is expressing.

Disclosing your mental health issue on a job is a matter of personal preference when you’re not a paid peer specialist.

I recommend reading Dress Your Best Life because it is a one-of-its-kind deep dive into how you dress affects your mood presentation and success.

Seeing The Ability in Disability

Our disability might be invisible to others we interact with. Only this disability is real to those of us living with it.

My memoir Left of the Dial detailed in graphic fashion what happened to me. It was an unusual story that I wanted to tell to give others hope for having a life of your own design.

Ever since I started in 2002 my pro bono Advocate work I’ve been met with resistance. Outsiders and even mental health professionals claimed that recovery was not possible at all.

Setting the bar too high as to what constitutes recovery is something I’ve always been against.

Having competitive employment should not be the barometer used to judge a person living in recovery.

As a professional librarian with a Masters’ degree I’ve seen firsthand that anyone with a pulse can get a job.

As an ambitious individual I can tell you this: wherever you’re employed there’s always going to be a slacker who doesn’t do any work or does the bare minimum.

A coworker might be rude and hostile too and they don’t have a mental illness.

This points to the fact that no one should feel guilty and ashamed for having a disability whether invisible or out in plain sight.

I write blog entries and books and do public speaking to educate empower and entertain my target market of individuals living in recovery.

As a librarian I have a niche in helping customers craft resumes and conduct job searches.

My goal was to use my experience to help people in recovery find and succeed at having a job you love.

Today numerous different jobs exist that are off the beaten path of careers.

The point is that having a disability doesn’t have to limit a person from getting out there and contributing your talents to the world.

Whether paid or volunteer work the possibilities are beautiful.

If you want to get a job you deserve to try to do this. No one should tell you otherwise.

Individuals living with a disability have gifts, strengths, and abilities that make us assets to employers.

Think positively. It’s 2021–there’s more hope than ever.

On the Front Porch Podcast

My first podcast:

On the Front Porch With Christina (wordpress.com)

You can click on the Episodes link on the upper right corner of the podcast homepage to listen to each episode.

I’m going to keep each podcast to 3 to 5 minutes starting out.

Join me as I talk about hot topics in recovery.

It’s 3 minutes long.

Enjoy.