BooksLeft of the Dial is now available in print and as a Kindle e-book
"The stigma of schizophrenia is fading as research and first-person accounts of this serious mental disorder continue to verify that recovery is possible. Christina Bruni, an author and mental health advocate, made a full recovery from schizophrenia. She chronicles both her severe illness and her recovery in her unique and spell-binding book, “Left of the Dial.”Buy Left of the Dial
Recovery from schizophrenia has been documented as attainable by researchers who are using evidence-based, person-centered treatment and supportive services that enable people with this disorder to gain control over their symptoms, set realistic goals and reach their dreams for a normal life.
Reading Christina Bruni's book will give the reassurance, motivation, and map for all those suffering from schizophrenia‒and their families‒for getting on the road to recovery. This road has many potholes and bumps, but the sunshine will light your passage if you remember that persistence is the path to least failure!"
Robert Paul Liberman, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine, Director, UCLA Psych REHAB Program, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior
Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers
Bruni's second book is a career guide that details strategies used in her work as a professional librarian with a career services niche.
Christina Bruni would like to share links to an excerpt from her memoir "Left of the Dial" and an excerpt from her forthcoming career book "Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers."
Christina is able to do public speaking on these and other topics contained in the book.
Please click the links below to view or expand/collapse an excerpt:
Excerpt: Left of the Dial
Into a Swan
Italy, October 2000.
My mother gave me this trip as a graduation present. She and I and Aunt Rose tripped through this evergreen country.
The tour bus rolled down a road through olive trees with silvered leaves. My mother sat next to me, wearing a pink cotton outfit and the huge quartz rock on her ring finger that she bought at an open-air market on the island of Capri. She told me, “I enjoy you much more now than I ever have.”
Her eyes shone like the rock. “It means so much to be here with you.” She was sixty-two and carried a few extra pounds, yet she was beautiful under her skin.
When I was first hospitalized, my mother and father were supposed to travel to Italy, and they canceled the trip to stay with me. I wondered now if I couldn't make it on my own, and their departure had scared me. Eventually they took their dream vacation years later. I often beat on myself for not having been strong enough. In retrospect, I realize I did all that I could before I needed to go on the Stelazine.
Aunt Rose was on the other side of the aisle talking with Frankie: a Jersey guy who wore shirts with three buttons undone and gold chains, just like the character in the song “Seaside Tony” by 7Minds.
Romeo, the unlikely tour guide, disclosed: “There are not many homeless in Italy, but a lot of those who are have mental illnesses. A nephew of mine is protected by the family. After military service, my nephew came back changed. He has no girlfriend and likes agriculture, so he works the land and is quite content. No TV, no girlfriends. The family protects him. They do not talk about him; they keep him protected.”
A free woman, I wondered about the nephew. How he must toil, every day, quietly tilling the soil without a voice. I've joined an Italian American writers group, and their motto is “Only silence is shame.” Slowly, slowly, I had started to toss around in my head the idea of writing about my recovery. I picked up the poetry calendar in the kiosk of Coliseum Books and found out about the Italian American group's poetry readings at a café in the West Village. I began attending.
Hastily I scrawled down memories and fragments and began reading them at the open reading. The first time I attended, I was so anxious that I fled as soon as the event was over. A guy told me, “I liked what you read,” and I said, “Thank you” and dove out the door. On the newsletter left on the tables in the cabaret room, I read with interest about a memoir-writing workshop at the Calandra Institute and pocketed the information, not sure I'd join.
But now we were in Italy and headed toward the Tuscan hills, where we would dine in a converted farmhouse that was now a restaurant. Always the mountains. The brown rouge like suede skin the color of my Rouge Suede lipstick, the smear of the earth and the sex and the ultimate expression of a land and its lovers. I was newly in love with Italy, the country of my ancestors—those dark people I used to be embarrassed to look like. On this trip, I saw that I've inherited their elegant spirit, their passion for life, and their compassion. I turned a leaf and was humble before my task: getting down on the page what happened, even if right at this moment the words were a tentative scrawl, barely spoken on my lips.
The bus pulled up to the dirt road, and the driver parked. We milled about, waiting for our cue to enter. Frankie said, “You look hot. Aren't you hot? I know you look like a fashion plate, but aren't you hot?” The Mediterranean weather was beautiful. I was dressed in my black knit skirt and jacket, with my striped brown-and-black scarf slung around my neck. I had on my silver XOXO earrings too.
“Europeans do not wear sneakers,” Frankie related, “so before I came here I bought two pairs of good shoes.” I looked down at my leather Mary Janes, grateful to be in style.
We feasted on three kinds of pasta: ravioli with spinach and asiago, farfalle in dilled herb sauce, and cavatelli in plum tomato sauce. For the entrée, we could choose chicken, sausage, or beef. A jovial singer (was he born on a Thursday?) roamed the tables, strumming his guitar and singing Italian songs. I wondered about these lyrics: “Lazy Mary, get off the sheets, we need them for the table.” Who was Lazy Mary? Aunt Rose tossed him five thousand lire. After dinner, there was dancing. My mother got up and danced with Frankie. I sat at our table, watching everyone and soaking up the vibe. We drank true Chianti in stemless wine glasses that were continually refilled and effortlessly drained.
The farmhouse, high up in the hills, had a world's-eye view. At ten o'clock the lights along the Montecatini Alto sparkled like a necklace of stars on earth. Far away from the past, on the brink of the future, I knew what I must do: join the memoir workshop. There were too many forgotten nephews.
Excerpt: Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers
The Number-One Secret to Getting a Job
Being Resourceful and Taking a Creative Approach
As early as the 1990s I've been creating resumes for mental health peers. In all this time, I've seen that the worst mistake is not doing volunteer work or an internship or learning a skill when you're unemployed.
Targeting your leisure time activities by creating “jobs” you can do in your spare time to list on your resume is a great segue into paid employment. One of the best things you can do is volunteer work. Serving on a board is a skilled version of volunteer work to consider to get professional experience too.
Being resourceful—taking a creative approach to finding your right work— will enable you to see possibilities you didn't know existed or even to create a job that fills a need for an employer. Here, I'll focus on the number-one secret to finding a job when, like a lot of us peers, you might not have work experience or have gotten sick and had to stop working for a spell.
Whatever the scenario, I recommend doing volunteer work in the field you're interested in or working at an internship to get experience to put on a resume. You can do this while you collect a disability check. As long as you're not paid or your earnings are below the maximum allowable amount you will be able to keep the job.
Finding Volunteer Work to Get Experience
Log on to http://www.idealist.org to find volunteer work or paid employment in the non-profit sector. At http://www.volunteermatch.org you can type in your zip code and skills to find a compatible labor of love you'll enjoy doing. The U.S. government has a web site devoted to public service at http://www.serve.gov.
AmeriCorps is the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Log on to http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps to find such opportunities in the area where you live. Ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things is what makes this country great.
A word about volunteer work and internships: treat them like a regular job as if you were paid. Show up on time. Dress appropriately. Be professional. When it gets slow ask if there is something else you can do or added responsibilities you could take on.
Do volunteer work instead of or in addition to attending a Clubhouse if you are unable to work at paid employment. Doing volunteer work gives you actual physical and mental health benefits. Helping others is a way to transmute your emotional pain.
If you need an added incentive, remember that you can use volunteer work as relevant unpaid career experience on a resume that helps account for your time and your work ethic. I would not be far off in saying that most of us with a mental health condition experience gaps in our employment because we got sick early in life during the prime working years when people traditionally start and rise up in paid positions.
Doing an Internship to Get Experience
You'll need experience to put on a resume and volunteer work is valid. Do not tell a potential employer you volunteered because you have a disability. Instead, stress your interest in the field and the skills you learned volunteering that are transferable to paid work.
Doing an internship or more than one internship is a competitive way to get experience to put on a resume as well. Use business directories at the library to research companies you can contact to offer your services.
When I first started library school I looked through the Special Libraries Directory and contacted the directors of the libraries to see if internships were available. Start from the back—in the Z's—because most people go through those books alphabetically.
The experience you obtain at an internship is valuable. These days the way to go is to get an internship in the field you want to work in. One woman whose resume I reviewed had three internships listed on it to account for when she was unemployed.
Log on to http://www.internships.com for details. Understand that at this kind of job you'll be doing work that your supervisors and coworkers assign you, just like a paid job. It might not be more interesting than faxing or photocopying, but the trade-off is that you're getting an introduction to the field so you can determine if you'd like to work in it.
Having an internship listed on your resume can set you apart from scores of other applicants who also have little or no work experience. It can give you the inside track on what it's really like to work in a particular industry. Armed with this information you'll be better able to assess whether this is the field that's right for you to enter right now. You might discover it's not the one you want to pursue after all.
Added Benefits of Doing Volunteer Work
Doing volunteer work gives you actual health benefits. You get a "helper's high" that is followed by a longer period of elevated emotional well-being.
The Corporation for National and Community Service examined the research into this connection. From their online pamphlet: “This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”
Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007.
Another study with 10,000 participants tracked over fifty years revealed that people who volunteered their time for altruistic purposes lived longer than the people who did not volunteer and also lived longer than the people who volunteered for their own satisfaction.
Turning Volunteer Work Experience into Life Success
Aside from the overall health benefits, it can improve your mental health. A guy I interviewed told me that when he had gotten better and started to recover from his schizoaffective illness he regretted spending time all day watching TV. He reached out to a counselor who suggested he do volunteer work. The guy treated this job as if it was paid employment by dressing well, showing up on time, and acting conscientious.
Once he excelled at the volunteer job he applied for a paid position as a peer advocate and was hired at a mental health agency to work with peers Monday to Friday nine to five. He retired from this job recently after spending a number of years in the position.
Now I'll end here by talking about a singular sensation—and she wasn't on Broadway. I'll talk about a young teen volunteer with an extraordinary work ethic.
This teen volunteered at one of the jobs where I worked. She didn't hear from us right away so came back within two months to follow-up. Presto—we told her right then that she could start as a volunteer. All this teen did for three years was shelve books and she did it with a smile. “Service with a smile” does count.
At first there seemed nothing outstanding about this quiet, dedicated young woman. Yet she earned early admission to Yale University. Four years later she graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Accounting. Right out of college she got a job with Credit Suisse.
Shortly after obtaining her degree I saw her and she looked older, confident—like she had seen the world. Be careful—the meek will inherit the earth right now because underneath their unassuming demeanor they're plotting and planning how to seize the planet.
You wouldn't have known from looking at this teen that she was ambitious. Yet that's exactly the point: you can treat others with dignity and be down-to-earth and still get ahead. You don't have to be a shark to succeed.
For her and others the path to success started with volunteer work.
Checklist of Hidden Resume Enhancers
- Help with a neighbor on a household project or work at a family business.
- Life experience like travel and volunteer tourism and any impressive hobby.
- Skills that directly relate to the position:
- Running a marathon if you want to get a job as a track coach;
- Exhibiting your artwork in a gallery if you want to get a teaching artist job;
- Knowledge of baseball if you want to get a job in a sports memorabilia shop;
- Seasonal work, like for the holidays at a department store, or as a census taker or with any community project.
- Credentials you've obtained and kept up like for food handling and safety, as a tour guide, or any other license or diploma.
- Hobbies that have given you technical expertise like in computers or hosting an eBay auction.
- Any kind of volunteer work or internship.