Working with bipolar disorder
Posted Monday 16 May 2011
Firstly, I am writing this blog from my position as a person with bipolar disorder.
I was finally diagnosed in 2008, though I had exhibited symptoms since my early teens. Diagnosis was a relief – I had a name for my pain.
During my working life, I have been absent with severe depression many times. In between I either had a ‘normal’ phase or would spiral into hypomania or mania. The periods of normality decreased, and I knew I had to get help. In work, I have had difficulties with colleagues, particularly those in authority, due to my aggressive outbursts and rollercoaster moods. Thankfully I have never lost a job because of it.
I was working for a major City firm when I was diagnosed. I was afraid for my job, but felt that I really should tell them. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. However the meeting went well, and the HR manager was very understanding. I took a colleague in with me for support.
Telling your employer is a difficult decision to make and doesn’t work for everyone. My employer was very supportive, and when I felt unable to work, they said that I should come back to the office when I was ready and put no pressure on me to do so. Partly their attitude was due to my actively trying to find meds that worked, and also that I continued talking to HR. In my experience communication between me and my employer was the most important thing when dealing with my mental illness. I was very open about my bipolarity with most of the staff as I felt the best way to challenge the stigma of mental illness was to talk about it. Most were receptive and keen to understand.
Since then, I have had the courage to leave my well-paid job in London, sell my house, move to the Midlands and start a new life. I would not have been able to do so without medication and excellent CBT. I don’t regret it for a second.
When I moved here I attended an interview and decided to disclose my illness. The interview had been going well, but after I mentioned my bipolarity, the interviewer seemed to “glaze over” and I knew I was out of the running. My agency was shocked as I had been their best candidate. It was clear to me that disclosure prior to being in a job was perhaps not the best idea!
I am now working in a hospital and am still very open about my illness - it hasn’t affected the way I am treated by my colleagues. My personal attitude is that I will not be discriminated against or suffer stigma due to my illness. There wouldn’t be such a stigma with say, diabetes, so why should I be any different? For those of us who feel able to challenge society’s views, perhaps those who are less able to do so may feel capable of at last stepping into the light.
Read Mind's information and advice on work, whether it's how to stay well at work, dealing with stress or workplace bullying.
Commenting is now closed.