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.

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.

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.

One-Year Pandemic Anniversary

March 14, 2021 was Remembrance Day in New York City to honor those we lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

Do this for America is what I urge followers: get the COVID vaccine like I’m doing soon. The only way to eradicate the coronavirus is to use science to improve recovery outcomes.

Isn’t that what any recovery is based on: science and kindness.

Continue to wear your mask. Even when you’re inoculated. We’re not out of the thick of the forest yet.

Stay 6 feet apart. Wash your hands often for 20 seconds each time.

With the unseasonable mild weather here I remember that one year ago everyone was sheltering indoors. No one was going outside yet. Now that we can go outdoors I find it a struggle to breathe the air under the mask.

It’s easy to take things for granted every day. I recommend writing 5 things you’re grateful for in a grateful journal every other day. You can write too 5 things that make you happy.

Today I’m grateful more than ever for the air I breathe.

In here in future blog entries I would like to feature other Guest Bloggers living in recovery.

I was also interviewed for psycom.net so wait for a link to the interview coming up in April.

Our best chance of ending the pandemic is remaining vigilant. Get the vaccine as soon as you’re eligible.

I firmly believe we have better things to look forward to.

Together we can recover our mental health. We can recover from the pandemic in due season.

Loving Your Labor

It’s time to redefine what constitutes a “career.”

You don’t have to be an attorney with a JD from Yale or a famous writer to have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life living in recovery.

The now-defunct SZ magazine featured an article about what a person with negative symptoms of schizophrenia could do.

When you cannot hold a paid job you can do other things:

bake cakes, ride a skateboard, play guitar in a band, whatever.

The point is that each of us should be doing something with our time.

I submit that watching TV all day and not getting out of your house is the quickest route to illness and paranoia.

Now that the restrictions are easing in a lot of cities in America it’s time to rethink what’s possible for those of us living in recovery.

My belief is that a “labor of love” counts as a valid career.

On Saturday I met a person for lunch. New York City has started to allow indoor dining again.

I say: go to a coffee shop in the morning for breakfast

Risk asking someone to go to lunch like I did.

Lastly: I recommend doing volunteer work when you can’t work at a paid job.

What constitutes a career is as individual as you are.

Maybe you’re a ham radio operator. Maybe you sing in a church choir on Sunday.

Whatever you do you should be proud to do it.

All hail those of us living in recovery who face challenges. We get up every day and go out the door bravely to conquer the world.

No one should feel guilty or ashamed because they don’t hold “competitive” employment.

One-Year Anniversary of Pandemic

It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of New York City shutting down because of the coronavirus. March 14 is Remembrance Day in NYC. It reminds me of the 1980s Jim Carroll song about “All the People Who Died.”

The first 3 months of lockdown March through June were a kind of halcyon time for me. I started writing a novel and was blogging every week.

Coming up on one year it’s different. The prolonged lack of social contact can do a number on a person’s mental health. Add to that any other hardship and wham–a double shot of depress-o feelings and emotional wonkiness.

What is the remedy at this one-year milestone?

The spring is coming–so it might be easier to act: to take showers; dress in day clothes; attend Zoom events; cook your own dinners.

I’ve found that exercising every week as often I can has been the self-care that impacted my mood the most. Second up is writing entries in my grateful journal. Where I write 5 things I’m grateful for and 5 things that make me happy.

Listen: we will pull through this pandemic.

In the coming blog entries I’m going to write about what constitutes a career. This has been given new meaning in the time of the pandemic.

My aim is to empower readers to define for yourself what you “job” is in this life.

Not all of us will become a CEO, and that’s OK. Let’s hear it for the industrious janitors!

Peace and Harmony

To enjoy peace and harmony on the job and in your life setting boundaries is a must.

In my life I preserve my energy for the essential tasks outside of my job. On the job I think you should prioritize your functions too. Why spend 5 hours on a task that will result in minimal benefit for your supervisor or business? This might rightly require only a half hour or one hour tops.

Doing the right job is more vital than doing the job right.

In the 1990s there was this slogan: “GIGO.” It was shorthand for “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Finding the job where you feel like you’re making a difference is the key. If you can’t see how your work improves your customer’s lives or makes society better in some way: I say all hope is not lost.

In the next blog entry I’ll review a book I read two weeks ago: The Compass and the Radar by Paolo Gallo. He’s on to something when he talks in the guide about building a rewarding career while remaining true to yourself.

Whatever you do on your job it’s imperative to enjoy life outside of your job. That is the best way to live in peace and harmony.

In coming blog entries I’ll talk about the old-age myth of finding a work-life balance. It isn’t a myth. This can be done.

Wonky Work Email Situations

I wanted to talk about sending and receiving work emails. For people who want to get a job and haven’t worked before in an office.

One thing you’re going to come across is that people won’t respond to your emails. Most coworkers will respond. Others will repeatedly fail to respond when you send them a message.

How I operate with email: It is a permanent electronic record. My take is that I would send an email when I wanted to document something to have proof of what is going on.

Anything you say or do on a job that you don’t want to be a matter of public record should not be sent via email.

What can you do with people who don’t respond to your emails?

Sometimes it turns out that sending an email is not the most effective communication tool.

Getting up off your chair and walking to the coworker’s desk to talk might be the better option in this case.

One other situation is that obsessively checking your email can be a time-waster.

At one job I refrained from checking emails first thing in the morning. This was the policy. We were supposed to get right to the work for that day.

I would say that it could be good to check your email during your down time when you have a lull in energy.

Often you will use email to request information from a coworker who is working with you on a project. This is one use of work email.

In a coming blog entry I’m going to talk in more detail about working from home / WFH.