Recovery Redefined

I’ve written elsewhere that you can use your pain as the catalyst for figuring out your life’s purpose.

In one section of a chapter in Working Assets I talk about opting to have a purpose-driven life.

People who exert their time energy and labor on “Keeping Up with the Joneses” are less happy. They go into debt buying things that make them appear rich.

In the Andrew Hallam book Balance: How to Invest and Spend for Happiness, Health, and Wealth he talks about the four quadrants of success:

Having enough money.

Maintaining strong relationships (with yourself and with others).

Maximizing your physical and emotional health.

Living with a sense of purpose.

It’s living with a sense of purpose that is key to flourishing in recovery.

I recommend you buy Balance to have on hand. It’s one of the great personal finance books.

Whether a person can hold a full-time job or not the difference is in doing things that give you joy every day.

One person might bake a cake. Another person might ride a skateboard.

I’ve come to redefine recovery not as only possible when a person returns to having a normal life.

Hello–I worked in corporate insurance offices in the 1990s and wasn’t thriving. Even though I technically recovered.

My purpose as I see it that gets me going is to advance my vision of recovery in two ways:

From whatever illness or distress or trauma is in a person’s life. In whatever guise recovery comes to them as.

Healing is possible and there’s hope for healing.

I’m fond of using the skateboarding analogy as a recovery lifestyle that could suit a person.

In Working Assets I also make the case for doing volunteer work when you can’t work at paid employment.

In my view we must expand the definition of what constitutes recovery.

If you ask me the four quadrants of success should be achievable for everyone regardless of what we’re in recovery from.

This is because It’s Not About the Money. It’s Not About Acquiring Material Things.

Plain and simple recovery is about finding what gives us joy and going and doing that.

On and off the job.

Finding the job that is the right fit can enable a person to recover.

My Too-Crazy Dreams

At 5 years old I told my mother I wanted her to buy me Silly Sand. I must have seen the kid’s product advertised on a cartoon show on TV. She didn’t want to. So I told her I was going to go out and buy it myself.

Mom should have known then she wasn’t dealing with a normal kid.

In college I toyed with having a double major in English and Business. Scrapping that idea I graduated on time in four years with a BA in English and a Minor in Marketing.

Since the 1980s I’ve known what a target market is. Having taken marketing, retailing, advertising, and consumer behavior courses.

As a professional librarian today I check out business books shelved in the 658s and books about the economics of business in the 338s.

I search for these books on the library catalog limiting the copyright date to the current year 2022. In one burst I placed on hold 13 business books that were published this year. They’re being sent to me all at once.

Though Working Assets has just been published my goal is bring out a second career book within two years. To give peers tons more competitive information that picks up where the first guide left off.

In June 1987 I had graduated from the local public university where I lived. That fall I had a breakdown and couldn’t go straight to work. My goal at the time was to obtain a full-time job and live independently apart from “the system.”

I was a radical to believe this was possible. At a time when others though recovery wasn’t possible.

At 23 years old I had no role models for what I wanted to do. Without a blueprint I was sent out into the world to make my way. After my failed first career in corporate insurance offices burst into flames I went back to school to obtain a Masters’ in Library and Information Science.

Your dreams are beautiful and so are you.

A friend once described me as “a beautiful dreamer.” In Emotion by Design Greg Hoffman is a cheerleader for beautiful dreamers like me who ask “What if?”

Long before I read this in his book I had written a blog entry telling followers to keep asking “What if?” and “Why not?”

Reading Emotion by Design I’ve become hot to celebrate the distinct voices of the peers who are in my target market.

It’s 2022. Too late in the history of America to not speak out on the things that matter to us. Publishing Working Assets was my humble attempt to create economic justice for peers who traditionally were shut out of the workforce.

That’s a tall order for one person to undertake. I’m a tiny person with a loud mouth. I’m also Sicilian–so it makes sense that I would be stubborn and think I could do this.

In coming blog entries I want to give a human and person-centered spin to my belief that recovery is possible for the peers I’m writing blog entries and books for.

I was a person who believed in myself when no one else did. With the support of my family, therapist, and doctor I defied the odds.

Giving others hope for healing and having your version of a full and robust life has been my motivation for everything I do as an Advocate.

The UNCF had TV commercials in the 1970s that touted: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” A life is a terrible thing to waste too.

In the coming blog entries I’m going to touch on the theme of recovery in more detail.

Creative Mental Health Boosts

I’m happy to introduce this month’s Guest Blogger Jackie Cortez.

They are writing about techniques that are in the vanguard. Read on to get empowered.

Creative Ways to Boost Your Mental Health

No two people are exactly the same, so it’s no wonder that all people experience the world and even mental health challenges differently. With more people than ever reporting signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, now is a great time to consider ways you can give your own mental health a boost in a way that’s unique to you. For a closer look at outside-the-box ways you might be able to raise your spirits and even help others, read on.

Brainstorming Ideas

As the world changes and advocates work hard to tear down the stigma around mental health, many would argue that the world is currently in a mental health crisis. People from all over the globe are taking a closer look at their habits, lifestyles, and routines in search of answers to ways to find balance and improve mental well-being. If you’re like many people, you’ve probably given some thought to ways you can help yourself feel more hopeful in uncertain times.

Try making a list of things, people, places, and causes you’re passionate about. Write down three words that describe the person you want to become and consider activities or changes that might help you get there. To get you started, here are 10 ways you could begin to take steps to improve your mental well-being in combination with professional help when applicable:

  1. Visit a place you’ve never been and keep a journal.
  2. Take a class where you can explore a new interest.
  3. Join an online mental wellness support group.
  4. Volunteer to support a cause you’re passionate about.
  5. Start a social media blog, vlog, or other platform to promote something that’s important to you.
  6. Start a new business.
  7. Change careers.
  8. Renovate your space in a way that better reflects you.
  9. Make changes in your relationships and begin to set better boundaries; keep positive people in your life and eliminate toxic ones.
  10. Engage in one random act of kindness for a stranger per week.

Teaming Up for Mental Wellness

No matter how many great ideas you have, it can be more fun to work in a united group. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is to make it a team effort. One way to do this could be to help others by starting your own nonprofit to meet a community need. It’s easier than you might think to apply for grants and public funding to form a nonprofit corporation. While you’ll need to create bylaws with details on how you’ll operate and govern this organization, the energy you put into making a difference in the world will likely help you, too.

Be Kind to Yourself

No matter how you decide to go about taking care of yourself, it’s important to go easy on yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend or licensed professional on bad days. 

You Matter

At the end of the day, your mental health matters. Finding creative ways to honor your spirit and journey while helping the community is a great way to give yourself hope. Check out Christina Bruni’s website for more ideas on ways to improve your daily life and overall wellness.

Fighting for Recovery at Work – Part 2

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:

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5 Steps to Fighting for Recovery at Work

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.