In 1987 when I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Scared and alone, I had no role models to guide me. Hospitalized and given pills, I was sent out into the world to find my way without a map.
In June 2000, I obtained a Master’s in Library and Information Science. That July, I started my job as a professional librarian in a modern public library. Since then, for over 12 years, I’ve had a niche helping customers create resumes and conduct job searches. I’m a cheerleader for finding the job that is the right fit.
The point is not that everyone should be able to do what I’ve done. The idea is that finding the job you love can help you recover. Volunteer work is also a worthy endeavor. Whether your job is paid employment or a labor of love, the long-standing question arises: Should you disclose your diagnosis or keep it private?
Here are three fresh takes for disclosing or not disclosing.
Three drawbacks to revealing your mental health history:
#1 People may play the medication card.
When you appear to be out of sorts, co-workers may ask: “Did you take your medication today?” You could be having a hard time because your father has cancer, or you’re facing a skyrocketing rent increase.
#2 The information might not be kept confidential.
What you tell one co-worker could become common knowledge. For example, the person who had a co-worker talk about her medical issue to another co-worker in a public area near customers: strangers were privy to the details.
#3 Corporate America is not kind to “beautiful dreamers.”
The rest of the world hasn’t caught up with those of us who live, act, and think outside the narrow boxes we’re expected to fit in. When your employer conducts business in a paint-by-numbers way, it can be sketchy to disclose.
Even today, many companies haven’t gotten the memo that companies that hire individuals with disabilities have 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income, and 30 percent higher profit margins on average over a 4-year period (per a 2018 Accenture study).
I recommend “thinking outside the cubicle” when you pursue job options.
Three benefits to being open and honest:
#1 Lowering the emotional cost of living in hiding.
Just as gay people did not want to live in the closet for the rest of their lives, pretending to be straight, only Silence is Shame, as the saying goes.
The expression “covering” was coined to describe hiding your identity. Whatever you are closeted in and whatever kind of invisible disability you have, there’s an emotional burden in maintaining the effort required to deny the truth indefinitely.
#2 Acting as an example to peers.
What people can’t see, they can’t be. Disclosure is often a political act or an act of altruism—you’re showing others what is possible.
The truth about my recovery is out there in my memoir, Left of the Dial, on my author website, and in my three blogs. I tell stories about my life to educate, empower, and entertain readers, audiences, and blog followers.
To remember is to understand. I remember what it was like to be 22 and told recovery wasn’t possible.
#3 Kicking narrow-mindedness to the curb.
Nothing will change if no one comes forward. Stigma is real. The way to overcome its effect is to tell the truth. By remaining silent, we perpetuate stigma.
My motivation for telling the truth:
It might be because I’m Sicilian that I’m stubborn and have persisted. As a mental health advocate for over twenty years, I’m committed to advancing my vision of Recovery for Everyone in two ways: from whatever illness or trauma affects people’s lives and in whatever guise recovery comes to them.
Today more than ever, all people living on this planet need to be given hope for healing—Hope for healing from mental and physical illnesses, from racism, from microaggressions, from addiction, human trafficking, endless wars, and whatever else is going on.
It’s 2022. Recovery is within reach.
My greatest wish is that those of you reading this are encouraged to live the life that is calling out to you. What is your dream? Finding what gives you joy and going and doing that can give your life purpose and meaning, inoculating you from shame.
The choice is yours whether or not you disclose and where, when, and to whom. Regardless of how others respond, you will do okay in the end.
Stand in the light of your truth and be proud either way. Shine on because simply by being yourself, you make the world a better place.
Want to read Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers Finding and Succeeding at a Job Living with a Mental Illness? Check out the link above!
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About the Author: Christina Bruni’s new book is Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers Finding and Succeeding at a Job Living with a Mental Illness. You can visit her at www.christinabruni.com.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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