Keeping a Job When You Have Bipolar Disorder
Many people with bipolar disorder hold down jobs, just like everyone else. We get up, swear in traffic, survive on coffee and rant about our bosses behind their backs.
But people with bipolar disorder or another mental illness have special challenges when it comes to work. We’re sick more often, we need time off for medical appointments and stress affects us more than your average person. Here are a few tips on handling work and bipolar disorder.
How to Keep Your Job With Bipolar Disorder
1. Don’t tell.
This first piece of advice is contentious, I know, but I recommend not telling anyone at work that you have bipolar disorder – not even your boss – without a very good reason. That piece of information is terribly “juicy” and telling one person means the information will eventually crawl its way around the office until everyone knows. And whether one person knows or everyone does, you will likely find out what stigma, discrimination and prejudice are all about.
People will start to look at you differently and interpret your actions differently. People will stop recommending you for projects and you might even get passed over for a promotion. And that’s all assuming that more overt, illegal acts of discrimination and hate don’t happen. Is this a worst case scenario? Maybe. But it’s a real one that many people have faced and I recommend not risking it unless you really have to.
(If you do need to tell your boss, look into filing for a protection as a person with a disability. This can protect your from overt acts of discrimination.)
2. Work hard.
Perhaps it goes without saying but you should work hard at work. You should strive to work harder than others. Be on time. Turn in projects by the deadline. Create stellar work. Why? Because you are going to need more time off than others for appointments and for sick leave and you need your boss to remember you for your hard work and not your absenteeism.
3. Don’t stress.
Try not to let work stress you out. When you’re stressed you raise levels of hormones in your body and when you do this for prolonged spans of times you feel sicker and your immune system becomes comprised. Then you have two problems – you have the flu and you have bipolar disorder. Learn to meditate, practice yoga, do relaxation exercises or just go for a run.
4. Take the time you need.
Yup, you want your boss to think of you as a good employee but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the sick time you need and that you’ve earned. When you’re sick just admit it and stay home. It’s okay. It’ll be much better for you in the long run than trying to “power through” and making yourself worse for weeks or even months to come.
5. Be discrete.
When you need to take time off, understand that you don’t need to say why you’re sick, only that you are. It’s perfectly okay to need to take time for a psychiatrist’s appointment in many workplaces but you don’t need to tell people that’s what you’re doing. When you need to take time off because you’re too depressed, you don’t need to tell anyone that’s why you’re staying home – you just need to say that you’re sick. The details are your business.
Working and Keeping the Job with Bipolar
Holding down a job with bipolar disorder is entirely possible. You can achieve and succeed at work and bipolar doesn’t have to stop you but it may be more difficult than for others and it may take more of a toll on you. But following these tips can make it just a little bit easier.
Tracy, N. (2013, September 3). Keeping a Job When You Have Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/09/keeping-job-bipolar-disorder
Author: Natasha Tracy
I can't really comment on another country's requirements. What you might do though, is see if you can work with a doctor who will give you a note saying that you are ill, but just not specifying why. That way you have a note and your privacy.
I hope that helps.
- Natasha Tracy
I know many people are looking for jobs that they can do from home. Unfortunately, I am not an expert in this. I write from home, so I know that is an option, but I'm not aware of the broader options, I'm sorry.
- Natasha Tracy
I stayed for 8 months.. The only reason they let me out is because my mother 's insurance ran out. I came home only to learn my family had moved and I had no bedroom so I slept in the basement. Ok fast forward again. I was on lithium, an anti depressant and diazaphsm anyway my mother told me to stop taking my meds because "she didnt like me when I took them." This goes on and on. Iv had 5 hospitalizations up to now I can't even count how many jobs Iv had. My mother has not spoken to me for 15 years my brothers want nothing to do with me.
I was able to earn my BA I found out I had a learning disability and that I was dyslectic Jesus! No wonder I had such a hard time in school so I was an honor student in graduate school when I earned my MA. I had to work very hard to be accepted into the university which is on the top 10 list. Upon my graduations my parents said they only wanted your money.
So much more to tell. Ok so I was the first in my family to graduate from college AND move on to get my MA. I got my dream job and bought my first house again the first in my family. So I was quite the achiever this is a pattern I get a great job build my savings buy a house and then I lose it al!!! This has happened 3times in my life. This happened to me every time I got into a relationship. My bipolar meds were changing all the time. When I had no insurance I'd end up trying to kill myself over and over again. Now I am homeless can't hold down even a cashiers job.
This illness and my PTSD has gotten worse over time. I have 2counselors and both have recommended disability so I'm going through that process. My medications don't work I want to kill myself every day. As someone stated above it's not if I do it it's when. I don't know why my life goes from making $80 K a yeah to $17K a year but I'm 57 now so I just can't pull this off again.
My future is bleak. I see therapists but finding a psychiatrist that takes Medicaid is impossible! Anyway this illness is a life sentence and the stigma and discrimination is rampant amongst the workforce because I did have to take sick time. When I ran out of meds it was noticeable. So this is part of my story. Iv managed to keep one true friend for 17 years I'm grateful for that. My question is, is it a normal symptom to build your life up and lose it all and have this repeatedly happene with my illness? I mean I build great success then lose 100% and have to start ove. Iv always had what I call panic jobs until I can get some work in my field but I feel like due to my age and having an increase in my symptoms with more symptoms of hyperventilate mood swings deep depression and suicidal ideation and more. Do people with B PD and PTSD go through this? I am unable to find these patterns with this population so far? Sorry such a long one!
Trust me, unless you get extremely lucky, no one gives a crap about your bipolar disorder. They aren't going to let you use it as an excuse to get out of doing your job. They don't care about you personally, only what you can do for them. I had to get a freakin doctor's note for my IBS to keep from getting in trouble for going to the bathroom so much. That's embarrassing.
You have to take care of yourself. YOU have to seek out help, YOU have to make the appointments and take the meds. YOU have to put in the effort to control the disorder. Work is not going to be accommodating. Ever. There are some things they might be a little lenient on (like having to go to appointments or shifting moods) but tardiness and being absent is something they won't cut you slack for, or not for very long. I had gotten lucky at past jobs for years the only reason I didn't get fired for being late all the time was they couldn't afford to lose a person. I did a contract job once and thought it was in the bag, but they wouldn't tolerate my tardiness despite the fact I did excellent work. When our big boss came and told me that I "choose" to be lazy, thats when something inside of me snapped. I didn't make this choice, I didn't choose the anxiety and I didn't choose the depression. Thats the way my life has always been, but now I have the power to change it. For the first time in my life, I'm functional. Now if I just wasn't so socially awkward...
Situations vary, I think that most of the time discretion is good, but sometimes being open about things makes people more likely to be empathetic instead of resentful. But in your case, they just didn't care. If you feel your current treatment isn't working for you, seek out help elsewhere. But only you can make that choice. You have to realize that you are strong and worth fighting for. I hope everything goes well for you Sandra.
I just want to know what kind of medication you're on and the amount you're taking
I've been bipolar my whole life and not diagnosed properly until 5 years ago. I was treated for depression and anxiety for a long time which only helped me make more bad decisions and keep me "manic" and out of touch with reality.
I'm now coming up on my 59th birthday and can truly say that the reality of getting old, bipolar, financially unstable for the future and unable to find a job that I fit well in is pretty depressing. I've isolated myself from most everything and everyone because of my diagnosis. God blessed me with a wonderful loving wife that stands by me and I hope that she will continue to. God bless you all.
I am feeling some better but I still have episodes of depression that is unexpected and can put me in bed for several days.
I'm currently working 4 hours each week. My student loans are on forbearance and my spouse is struggling to pay our bills. I see bankruptcy in the near future.
I also have severe anxiety (my hands shake so bad), ADD, hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency.
I am terrified to go to work or even leave my house. I feel safe only at home. I can't even go grocery shopping. Is fear of working and anxiety normal symptoms of bipolar 2 disorder?
I'm not sure if you're talking to me, but I'm not available by email. Sorry.
- Natasha Tracy
My suggestion is follow the regimain set by your doctor & keep all visits with you therapist and understand the ups and downs of thus disease. It can be very dangerous for you and others if you take on imployment in denial of your illness.
I write this now going through a major depressive episode but it gives me something to hold onto. My family and supporting them. Yes it's extremely hard right now. But I can power through. I will be here tomorrow, if only for my kids is my mantra. Brothers and sisters out there hang in there. You have to for your loved ones.
Love you all. I hope you don't ignore what you are. Reach for yourself.
I guess I don't know where to start. I'm bipolar. I was diognosed when I was 19. I go into severe psychological hallucinations when I am overly stressed or unable to take my meds. The question I keep asking myself is-Do I 'deserve' to get on disability.
Sitting here now, I feel great-well good enough- I could Work! Which is great because I'm a wonderful, punctual, pleasant, happy, relaxed employee:some days. But every Tuesday or 3rd full moon of the autumn equinox or something- I am angry, paranoid, exgausted, crying, afraid,>>But! No fear!! I'm a GREAT faker. The best. Why wouldn't you hire me? Why can't I be the CEO of a company or even self-employed and choose my own hours? I'm intelligent, nice AND beautiful. I'm and "triple threat". Don't worry. I do, and I kick ass! I work for myself, make so much in 15hrs/wk that that's all I need to work. Gulp. Wait. Life-boyfriend-extra bills-stress-ambulence. So what I fell. Get back up. Dust myself off. Do it again.
Done and done. That was easy. Now again. (Haha). And again. (Sarcasm) and again...(not laughing). Would they? If they were me would they?- would they put their emotions body brain happiness life aside? For money, a place to live, food? And those are just the basics-what about the extra cash, vacations, retirement. So. Stand up. Brush yourself off. Do it again. Do you hear that? I think they're whispering. Gulp. Haha laugh it off. Until you break again. People are shit. (Im not exaggerating-it's me and you and the 'dolls' in highschool. We are the witches. We are the sick. We are the mentally ill. Yet-we, mine, yours-emotions are making us stop. "Hey dumbass". My brain a dresses me. "Why are you ignoring me? I've told you time and time again that I'm tired. When your stomach complains, you feed it. When your legs hurt you sit down. Why is it when I complain you ignore me? Hello!?! I'm your BRAIN! When you tell me to SUCK it up you might as well tie the noose-I've explained to you 1,000 different ways that you.can't.work.with.these.people. In fact I've told you to lay in bed. In fact I've told you to stop trying to be someone else so much. Remember when you were young and you didn't care what people thought-you were a little different, a little unique amd you liked it!? Fine.. try it...try not to listen the the only organ in your body that actually talks to you. By the way it's called your "higher self"."
So now what?
Jake, Mindy and James I cannot explain how much of a relief reading your comments has been. I struggle with bi polar and an eating disorder, I constantly feel fat and worry about not being able to exercise due to jobs. I cannot handle the stress from work, I feel like a child and secretly love the simplicity that childhood has. I feel mis understood by everyone close to me including my partner who says he understands but clearly does not; he thinks I am not trying when all I do is stress that I am not good enough or doing what I should. I am 21 , 22 in june. I think that there should be more help and less labelling/ stigma for people like us; its not fair that we suffer alone without acceptance or tolerance for our situations and what I feel are limitations. I feel disabled like my mind holds me back even though I am able bodied. :(