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.

7 Common Resume Mistakes

  1. Using a Job Objective header.
  2. Formatting the text in a way that is not easy to read quickly from top of page to bottom.
  3. Making spelling and grammar mistakes.
  4. Listing job functions not quantifiable results you’ve achieved on the job for your employer.
  5. Using a Resume Wizard template.
  6. Stealing information from a “best sample resume” found on Google.
  7. Using vague language or puffery in an attempt to sell yourself.

The reasons why you shouldn’t do these things:

I’ve seen that without fail people who use a Job Objective header state under this header: To use my skills to advance in my career. No. No. No. Your resume should detail what specific skills, traits, and experience you have that will benefit the company not you. If you’ve nailed down the perfect job for you and are applying for jobs that are in sync with your personality of course you’ll be able to advance in your career.

Over and over I’ve also seen that when a person uses a professional format for the text it makes an immediate improvement. This could be the sole reason you weren’t getting called for interviews in the past: the content is okay and the graphics are off-putting.

For any job and especially one that requires attention to detail making spelling and grammar mistakes will land your resume in the trash pile in seconds.

To stand out from other candidates who have performed the same functions on a job you must list quantifiable results you achieved in your positions.

It goes without saying that a Resume Wizard template is not a good idea for crafting your compelling sales pitch. In 2021 any job applicant should and must be able to create outstanding graphics for their resume on their own. Without relying on a Wizard that has aqua text or uses a photo. No photos on a resume either.

I have rarely discovered a “best sample resume” via a Google search that is any good. You can search for a great resume sample for the job you’re applying for. Only use your judgment to figure out how to customize what you find in your own words. Some sample resumes are OK. Most leave a lot to be desired.

In the 1990s I saw a resume that stated a person “walked on water.” Unless you’re Jesus you cannot claim to have walked on water. This resume also claimed that the person “made order out of chaos.”

Making a You Turn

The book in the photo above is the number-one career book I’ve checked out of the library so far. I recommend you buy the book instead. Read it from the start to end straight through.

You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, and Design Your Dream Career is great for all job-seekers. Not just those of us who are changing careers after being stuck in a dismal career we hate.

Author Ashley Stahl’s uncommon advice in reality is common sense wisdom for everyone. Even individuals happily ensconced in a job or career would benefit from her stories and approaches on financing, networking, and hitting rock bottom and coming up again.

The book sells for $17 on Amazon.com. You can special order it at your local independent bookseller too. Or go to Barnes & Noble.

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.