Keeping a Job When You Have Bipolar Disorder

September 3, 2013 Natasha Tracy

Keeping a job when you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder can be tough but these tips can make it easier. More at Breaking Bipolar blog.

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.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, September 3). Keeping a Job When You Have Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

June, 15 2016 at 12:53 am

I think this post about working with bipolar over steps a key ingredient is surviving this disorder & maintaining any hope of a productive life style; and is MEDS & plenty of therapy!!!!!!!! I hope no one gets the impression that you are fine and well to act like you aren't sick and try these steps instead of seeking help and advice from a professional. Most jobs give you a limited number of sick days (3-4). Jobs hire people because they need them to work.
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.

May, 22 2016 at 3:10 pm

I feel very blessed to have part-time work that is meaningful to me. I also go to a day program. Although I wish I could work fulltime, I am proud of the fact that I do my best and am appreciated. There was a time I was not even able to do this much.

May, 1 2016 at 11:49 am

I've dealt with BPD my entire life. Only recently diagnosed. The only way I have made it through was to find a career that actually caters in a way to my moods. Not saying it's not trying at times. I got into the HVAC trade. I work out of a service van and see multiple customers for short periods of time. Works well for me. It's hard to to find a niche for everyone but I tell you it's possible.
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.

April, 29 2016 at 11:13 am

I NEED to believe God wants me to have this disorder to learn what it is like so I'm going head first unto it because the more I run the harder it's going to be and the more lying I will do. If I don't believe this...then I validate that God messed up and perhaps that I am less than another. By comparison and mixed judgement and confusion is one actual more or less than another.
Love you all. I hope you don't ignore what you are. Reach for yourself.

April, 29 2016 at 11:09 am

Maybe the problem isn't our brain physicality. Maybe it's that we have a stigma against not working so much so that people feel like their lives don't matter if they can't contribute. Bipolar disorder has a second runner up in the creativity department and that is PhD students at Top Universities - I can't imagine God gave me this 'disability' for nothing and I absolutely do NOT believe he'd give me this much creativity to be a 'pencil pusher'-we have a DUTY to contribute to our communities as creative thinkers, empathetics, sensitives, and artists. Does that trade for money, shelter, food? Not in this day and age. But I'm not going to sit in an office and pretend I fit in. Trust me I've tried-but that's not the point-the point to me, is dealin' with what you got. You got Talent-you don't just ignore that. I've been in terrible places in my mind and there are thousands of people out there feeling like they got to apologize for it. Stop thinking you're here for the satisfaction of anyone but yourself and become what you are. -No conform to your bf gf husband wife kids. Show them why this is the good WITH the ... " " whatever you choose to call it.

April, 29 2016 at 10:35 am

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' 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?

Deborah Treacy
April, 22 2016 at 6:07 am

Oh my gosh!
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. :(

Dorothy Pereaux
March, 30 2016 at 4:17 pm

I've managed to work at jobs long term but have always "slipped" and needed to eventually use company employee assistance programs to cope with the stress. When it actually comes to a tipping point and I know I'll need to go off work, that's when I'll tell my employer. That way, when I come back and if I notice that I'm being treated "differently" than before, I know that I'm covered by the Human Rights Act for discrimination of a disability. Virtually all businesses have a harassment policy in place now. By telling your superiors about your condition BEFORE you go off the rails will protect your butt after the fact. Your employers can't be held culpable of treating you with disrespect if you didn't willingly divulge the information in the first place. If you were blind or deaf, your employer would be informed. The same way about mental illness (but only after you've been hired). Employers have to learn to be accountable for their actions and mental illness issues scare them. They shouldn't intimidate you to be expected to conform when they bend over backwards to accomodate the other visible handicaps. Talk to a union rep, Human Rights rep, or even a lawyer. You would be amazed how empowered you feel by going that route.

February, 27 2016 at 11:16 am

I have been gainfully employed since I was 17 years old, with 20 years as a public school teacher. I was diagnosed at the age of 32. I disclosed to my coworkers then, and again during the interview process where I am now employed full time as a university professor. I have never had any problems telling or disclosing that I have bipolar disorder and in fact, wrote about it in my dissertation. It's all about WHEN to disclose. Being unemployed does not have to be how the story ends. Stick with a good pdoc, take your meds, learn some self-care strategies, build a support network and disclose when you are in a good place, and not when you are in crisis. That makes a great deal of difference as to how people perceive you. I just wanted to share to say there is hope.

February, 17 2016 at 2:16 pm

Ive suffered with severe mental illness ever since i can remember, i haven't however been diagnosed with having Bipolar Disorder (yet) due to the fact that i live in the UK and i know mental health services over here monitor you for a loooooong time, seeing various different health professionals and sometimes have even lost your records as one had mentioned this to me before! (NHS for you!!) before giving a diagnoses. However i have been diagnosed as having complex mental health issues and it really has affected my working life, I have studied various different subjects and recently finished an apprenticeship in between these i have had an episode of depression which has set me right back then i have to start from the bottom again after loosing my confidence in the beginning. I studied beauty therapy in 2006 and had a reputation of being very good at it then a year in i had a bout of depression, i decided to train in Art and Design then in 2008 again about a year or so in i suffered another episode, i took on a job in nursing in 2010 on and off sickness working in 3 different places before switching to working as a Fitness Instructor in 2014, i completed my qualification again suffering from another long episode in summer 2015 were i wasn't myself and my work performance started to fail, i now work as a cleaner in a school while in-between being a single mother to my son. During my depressive moments I saw psychiatrists, GPs, CPNs, crisis team visits, dealt with sh*t loads of meds and endured CBT, DBT Mindfulness and Anger Control Therapy.
Sometimes...people should reconsider the taboo of others who suffer with mental illness and who struggle to get a job may not all just be ''lazy'' i have worked a damn sight harder then people out there who DO NOT struggle with mental illness at all and just want to mooch off mummy and daddy or whoever they get there money from.
everyone experiences MH differently as well all know (or at least most do) so if anyone has any tips or helping strategies (not to forget keeping up with meds while doing it!) that they find has helped them in anyway at work please share i would be grateful and many others too, Its so painful to live with i find it hard to understand why its still stigmatized to this day? cheers peeps

Alison Miller RN
February, 15 2016 at 7:45 am

I'm a psychiatric nurse, but have also struggled with unipolar depression and PTSD myself. It makes my heart ache to read the suffering and anguish so many of you are experiencing.
I just wanted to offer a couple of options to bring up with your doctor.
First, there is a medication that's been used in the past to treat strokes, but they've found also mimics lithium without all the side effects, called Ebselen. A lot of the research was done 3-5 years ago, so it may be something that your doctor is now willing to try, especially if other medications haven't helped.
Second, for the depression, most of the antidepressants put you at risk of activating a manic episode, but MAOIs (monoamine oxydase inhibitors) are far less likely to cause you any problems like that. They have few side effects and are old, established drugs. HOWEVER, doctors are reluctant to place patients on these meds because of the dietary restrictions that go along with taking an MAOI--you must not consume any tyramine or you could experience an episode of extreme hypertension. So things like cheese, wine, pepperoni, hotdogs, liver, and other foods with tyramine in them are absolutely off limits. You also have to be off all antidepressants for 2 weeks before starting an MAOI, to ensure there's no interaction there.
Now, that being said, if you can manage the diet (which I found to be remarkably easy to do), an MAOI may be of tremendous help to you. Explore the possibility with your doctor, if nothing else has helped. There's also an MAOI that's a transdermal patch (a drug called ENSAM) that doesn't restrict the diet quite as much, but still requires diligence.
If i think of anything else, I'll stop back and add another comment. But in the meantime, I hope something I've said is of use to someone out there reading it.
Love to you all.

February, 7 2016 at 2:37 am

I tell everyone. Makes it easier when I am cantankerous or stressed. And I am tired of the stigma. I am one of the most energetic workers in the place. I would be worse not working. Disability would be the worst. Home with my own thoughts and broke on top of it? No thanks! Some of the most successful business people are bipolar. We take risks. Speak our minds and get things done. It have this illness. It does not have me.

January, 29 2016 at 2:53 pm

I think this article and the are all very good points to make about this illness I've lived with for many years. I've learned the hard way to stay on meds and rarely miss a dose but that doesn't solve the problem completely. What about those nights you spend tossing in bed until the alarm goes off in the morning right after you finally go to sleep? Or worse, what about the down times when you just feel you can't talk to others, not even your husband or kids? So thankful and lucky to have a family that understands and offers support. Work is another story - you have to be around people whether you feel you can or not. You have to answer phones, talk with people and, in my job as a nurse, try to stay focused on what they are saying so you can meet their needs. Ugh. I'm the different guy at work - my co-workers know I'm gay and married and don't seem to be bothered by it but I think being gay and bipolar may be a bit much or put me a little further in the "weird" category. I filled out a form when I started a new job not to long ago that asked about disabilities; it had many examples listed such as Mental Illness, physical handicaps, AIDS, and addiction. At the bottom of the form was a box to check, "Yes, I have a disability". I can only imagine what label I would get when I marked yes but after a few months there I have come to realize that no one there really cares. Again I am thankful and lucky to have that in a job. I've been places where I never would have replied as i did because of the way that one little checkbox influences people and how they perceive you. The truth is I have several disabilities, bipolar disorder being the one that affects me and my job performance the most. I don't tell my boss or coworkers about it because I don't want it to be seen as an excuse when I don't hit that top notch performance I strive for in my work.

January, 25 2016 at 6:05 pm

Hey guys. Do not give up! I was diagnosed at age 16 and had to go on a psychiatric ward. And it was a really hard thing to accept . I was learning to drive, had great examination marks to enter college but God had a different plan for my life. At age 19 I had another breakdown while at University and it was horrid but you know what? I grew and am still growing as a young lady living with Type II Bipolar. I'm on medication and hopefully someday I'll be completely off. I have a steady job within the media and I'm sure with the right support, balance and eating properly. You can all do it. Don't compare your life to anyone else because we were all made differently and destined for different things.
Hold on. Be Strong- A Bipolar Lass

January, 19 2016 at 10:27 am

I've never been able to hold down a job for long. I don't think I will ever be able to work full time in my life or at least that is how it feels. I was approved for disability right away first time makes me feel like crap it was that easy. I'm in process of trying to get a support coordination get set up. I have other issues too so many diagnosis I'm just so messed up. I have addiction issues, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, anxiety issues as well as bipolar. I wonder if I will ever be able to have some sort of purpose in life some function either then to take up space and depend on the system. I love art and been taking some classes but like I know that's like not going to go anywhere. I've ruined every job I've had longest worked somewhere was a year and it was part time. I hate knowing that I may never be capable of working sometimes I wonder why I even try to recover try to get better from addiction because I don't think I will go anywhere in life I'm just a waste of space.

December, 31 2015 at 10:01 am

Same problem here. I have dystemia depression and ptsd and have always had problems keeping jobs BECAUSE, how do you keep a job when u cant even get out the bed?

December, 29 2015 at 11:25 pm

Hello, I'm from Poland and I'm bipolar. I working in the small company. I have a rapid cyckling very often. My colleagues I guess what it is. I protect a frequent annual leave. I do not know how to react to the news that I was sick .
I do not think denounced by me and supported . I do not take a risk just because you do not want pity.

December, 14 2015 at 8:54 pm

I feel all of you, your feelings, insecurities, achievements but truly life is hard as it is and then to be diagnosed with an illness for example us with bipolar is very hard because our moods change all the time and of course some are more severe than others but I won't post about my life but just that I'm bipolar as well and that for all of us we will have bad days but we have to make the good ones count and keep on going. I wish you all the best though sometimes it's even hard to get up. God bless all of us with this illness and all the sick around the world

November, 4 2015 at 9:21 pm

I am mildly bipolar and have recently been going through a lot. I've been in two severe car wrecks, these left me hospitalized and out of work for about 3 months, just got in trouble with the law because I went manic for a while. Parents and family won't treat me the same or they won't talk to me. I cant go to thanksgiving or Christmas this year bc I'm banned from my parents house. Im scared to go back to work, severely depressed and broke. I am supposed to be kicked out of the place my dad owns that I stay in and don't know what to do or how to apologize. I've been letting my family down consistently for 10 years. I'm 29, almost have a master's degree and cant afford rent or utilities. I either feel like dying or doing something really dumb but fun on any given day. My parents think I'm lazy but they just dont understand. My mom is bipolar too and she says she just "gets up and gets movin'." I can't do that for some reason. I need to apologize to my dad for the legal trouble bc he wont talk to me but I've apologized before too many times. I know I need to SHOW him I've changed but can't seem to get it straight. The only things goodin my life are my wonderful girlfriend who is very patient and my master's degree. But I cant use that degree after a burglary charge and previous convictions. Will anyone ever give me a chance to prove Im not worthless? Any advice would help. Thanks

October, 15 2015 at 1:24 am

What I read today is what is currently being experienced by someone close to my heart who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder 5 years ago it was recommended by a psychatrist and a industrial psychologist has recommended he should be transfered the company who is Eskom dismissed him so I am positive that if you have Bipolar disorder do not disclose unless needed.

October, 4 2015 at 2:47 pm

I am Bipolar and I disagree with the first tip (#1). I have always told the people I have worked with and have never been subject to discrimination, being treated differently, looked at funny or anything else. The only reason I disclose it , is so people can understand why I may be behaving the way I am etc. But everyone needs to make their own decision on how they handle telling or not. Otherwise, this is good information. I have a history of job hopping cause I tend to "freak out" over little things and either use to just walk out or just call in and quit. Luckily, I am finally on a medication that has controlled that action. And I find talking openly about being Bipolar is kind of like a therapy for me. We all cope our own way. I just wish people didn't feel ashamed about being Bipolar. Remember: We have Bipolar. We are not Bipolar. :)

September, 3 2015 at 11:53 pm

I have been retired for several years, but my illness impacted my career, in advertising sales, tremendously. For me it was not rages or coworker problems. It was my inability to be consistent. When I was on a manic cycle I would arrive on time, never miss a day, outsell everyone, be creative in advertising design, conception and execution. When I cycled into depression, I couldn't even get out of my home, let alone work. The companies I worked for never knew I was ill. I never told them, but they put up with this behavior, often for years before they confronted me. I would then just quit and move on. I knew I couldn't change the behavior. It wasn't until after I retired that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I know now that certain situations "trigger" mood changes and have learned to avoid most of them. Be your own investigator and see if this applies to you. If it does finding the right fit, where you feel centered and most stable might help. For myself I have retired on an island, where I am surrounded by woods and overlook a bay. I don't have to socialize if I choose not to. I have become a bit of a hermit, however I have never had so much peace and joy. I discovered I like spending time with me, whom I can finally hear now that I'm away from all the noise and confusion of the city.

Jim G
September, 3 2015 at 4:08 pm

I read some good articles on the web on this and I like the advice that it depends on how long you've worked in the position and how your track record is. If you are benefiting the organization, why would they can you for having a mental illness? On the other hand, if you are doing real well, there is no need to tell. Whereas if you are having difficulties, telling my increase understanding. It's a tough call if you are having difficulties I think. And perhaps again that depends on how long you have worked in the position.

July, 15 2015 at 11:44 am

I feel for those of you who suffer from bipolar or other mental illnesses. I know it is real and cannot imagine what you go through daily. However my question is how do I deal with someone who I believe is bipolar? I have a coworker who is constantly having confrontations with others, never sees that some of the actions of others are in response to his behavior, believes that people are conspiring against him, etc. I am not making this up. These are things he has said to me. I work with him everyday. I have tried to assure him that we all just have a job to do and we all want to be successful and that no one is out to get him. He is constantly reading in between the lines and making assumptions about things. He has had several breakdowns resulting in crying in the office and even hospitalization. As someone who works with him it can be extremely frustrating because I never quite know how to approach situations. I feel like I walk on eggshells around him constantly. At what point does it become a matter of personal responsibility and not a crutch to lean on? I am looking for help for both of us. I want to make it easier on both of us so we can work effectively together. He is extremely smart and good at what he does when he is able.

July, 11 2015 at 2:02 am

I was diagnosed bipolar in 10th grade. I had two years of unexplained extreme highs and lows, random spurts of paranoia, anxiousness at night, and drowning in feelings/depression with reliving my past in my head.
I realized it was my choice to fight this mental disease. I am twenty-four, practicing emotional control, making time for exercise, not relying on medication, but memorizing scripture, playing harp music at night, and not allowing myself idol time to dwell on my past is how I have gained victory everyday. Praise the Lord.

June, 10 2015 at 1:32 pm

If you think that telling your employer you have bipolar disorder will help you think again. I don't care that there are laws against discrimination. Employers can work within the law and still find a way to get rid of you if they want to. It happens all the time through things like downsizing, redistribution of work, etc. I've worked in human resources and I've seen it happen time and time again

June, 10 2015 at 7:55 am

Hi all. I have a few questions, comments and remarks about my own experience with Bi Polar 1. Hopefully I can get some answers or advice. About myself: Civil engineer, did well in school, focused all of my energy towards sports and partying until my first trip to the hospital. I will save all the embarrassing details of 23-25 years of age. I am now 26, 7 jobs later, and on America's more accepting coast, very happy, very in control, I take my medication, communicate with my therapist and friends and family, exercise often, smoke pot often, play music in a band, and I am very vocal about my disorder when pushed. I know the first rule of Bi Polar is don't talk about Bi Polar, but I can't help doing the research and figuring out law. It seems that the ADA FLMA and HIPPA have given anyone with a mental disorder legal power. 2 years ago I was "laid off" from a job two weeks after the owner found out I was Bi Polar from a friend of his (it was a blessing and a curse that I had no facebook filter throughout my first manic experiences) I was depressed at the time so I obviously didn't have the backbone to stand up for myself. I know I have the right to 12 weeks of mental health break and I also have legal rights as well. I refuse to let a part of me be an disadvantage in any aspect of my life. If I notify, just my employer/and or HR, that I have a mental disability it would be huge violation of my rights for anyone else in the office to even know that I have a condition. Please tell me if I have misunderstood HIPPA violations. I have tooooo many friends that I met in the "nut hut" that didn't have the education and family support that I had, to not speak up. Maybe this sounds manic, but it's honest and it is against my moral code not to stand for what I believe in. I would rather be ostracized by the entire "sane" world then to try and pass for "normal".

May, 24 2015 at 7:18 pm

I agree with Patrice. After being in the workforce for 30 years I find it is just easier to explain my bipolar disorder to my employer (post hire) & explain what my diagnosis means for them & me. I also went on disability so I only have to work part time. I'm on a fixed income & it isn't always easy, but it takes away a lot of the pressure & stress associated with a full time job.

May, 22 2015 at 11:56 am

I can attest to the fact that you should NOT tell your employer that you have bipolar disorder. Once I confided in my supervisor that I was bipolar, my duties were reduced and I was excluded from projects. It has left me humiliated and angry. No matter how hard I work, I am always passed over for recognition. All the boss cares about is whether I show up every day. Even after going 5 months without so much as leaving an hour early, I got chewed out for taking a day off, ( I was so depressed that day I couldn't get out of bed.) I thought FMLA would protect me from this somewhat, but it doesn't. Bosses always find ways to belittle you and make you feel like a subpar employee for taking off when you NEED to. I am desperately trying to find another job, but it's not looking good. I hate my job because of the way my boss treats me. It has become a nightmare and a living hell

May, 10 2015 at 3:04 pm

I feel as if I'm seeing my life somewhat being told here. I am a 38 year old, single mom of 2 autistic boys, extremely smart, beautiful, biggest heart and completely bipolar along with a few more diagnosis thanks to 20 years of severe abuse. I did manage to get through school to obtain my license as a LPN but between my illness and being consumed with the boys, I'm unable to hold down a job. It's not the lack of trying because when I do work I feel better about who I am. However, I'm not able to take a lot of the medications to help control the symptoms of bipolar. The last I tried, it caused severe heart problems for me and when the depressive episodes hit me, no medicine works unless you comatose me. The depression is so bad, I have to be watched closely by my psychiatrist and therapist. The only thing I am consistent at is the care of the boys and that's a challenge all on its own. The fact I'm in debt and have no type of retirement to help as I continue to get older, I also don't qualify for life insurance due to the medical records of having the diagnosis of bipolar. I do use my creativity from time to time to try and make extra money but it's hard following through. There are a lot of things I love about who I am but it's hard being ill at the same time. So as much as I would like to be an encouragement for you 20-something's, reality is, I'm just an older version of you. Congrats to the ones who can function! Count your stars, I'm envious but I accept who I am and some days just take life one second at a time. A lot can happen in just one second!

April, 5 2015 at 4:22 pm

I come to this website and many others for that matter for support, understanding and solidarity as I too have Bipolar I. I'm 24 years old and I would like to point out that I have a degree in Human Resources (HR) and have held my first HR job out of college for the past 2 years.
It has been challenging since stress is my trigger but I found that holding down a job was much easier for me than surviving college because I have a regimented schedule (sleep/eat/exercise...repeat) which helps keep me balanced.
As an HR professional I would like to add my personal opinion even in light of employment law- I still would advise someone with Bipolar Disorder to keep their mental illness to themselves. Depending on your company culture and how "open minded" or "flexible" the officers of your company are, you will have to make a judgement call. If you think that your company would support something like Bipolar Disorder, then transparency may help you in situations where you desire a flexible work schedule because you can't make it out of bed, etc. However most companies are still not that progressive and mental illness still carries so much stigma. We've recently seen a case pass through federal court where a woman tried to sue her company for wrongful termination due to them knowing about her bipolar disorder... and what do you know- the woman lost.
All I'm really trying to say is this, as someone who works in HR, and also lives with Bipolar Disorder, I would keep your illness to yourself. Depending on the severity of your mood episodes there are options for you to take time off of work if a situation arises, EX: PTO/Vacation/Sick FMLA Leave, Medical Leave, Personal Leave, Unpaid Leave... etc. If something major happens to you, please look into your company's Employee Handbook and see what kind of Leave Policies they offer. I hope I don't face another hospitalization in my lifetime like I did in college- but if I do, I would rather take leave through HR then share my private business if I don't have to.
I've seen people associate my disorder with my actions and behaviors after they find out I have BP. Even when I'm currently experiencing no symptoms- don't let someone else's ignorance stifle your growth opportunities in your job! We've got this :)

March, 13 2015 at 1:05 pm

My boyfriend was fired from his job of 8 months for missing too many days of work.(This is around the time I found out he is bipolar). He worked the graveyard shift in a stressful environment. When being fired he caused a "scene" with HR and left quite an impression, but he never told anyone at work about being bipolar. He has been unemployed for almost a year with no unemployment checks but with help from his parents, and he lives with me. I pay for everything but his personal bills and gas for his car.He is 40 years old.
He is currently very depressed (in bed all day today) because he has interviewed for over 15 jobs in the past 3 weeks with no luck. The rejection is getting him down. I've been tempted to call his old job to see what type of reference they give him, but I'm afraid it will be negative and make him more depressed. He has been quite successful in the past with employment in his field but this industry is ever changing and I think his year of unemployment is a strike against him now. Both myself and his parents have suggested he take a few courses and only seek part time work but he is feeling too proud to be a 'student" again or "work for pennies". He has a college degree and was in the Navy.
When he keeps to a regular schedule, to do list, getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy eating he is very productive and positive but he needs a break! His self esteem is low. He needs a company willing to take a chance on him.
I remain supportive and continue to help support him, but he would love to get back into the work force.
Reading all the posts here makes me more sympathetic to those with mental illness and the discrimination you all face. i wish you all the best.

February, 28 2015 at 9:48 pm

I am 24 years old and have a daughter who is two years old. I was diagnosed as a teenager and have suffered heavily. after my baci died i went downhill for about a year or 2. I was heavy into drugs, i stayed in bed all day just sniffing coke and knitting. I also did a lot of cutting and cheated on my boyfriend multiple times and i dont even know why i did it. half the time i didnt even like the guy but i wanted that high feeling of getting off and the rush knowing you could get caught and have consequences and actually hoped to get hit or slapped. I was in a pretty dark place. Than my new boyfriend wanted to see me happy and before we were even dating he took really good care of me. The first thing he did was take me off all my medication including my birth control. He only feed me fresh fruits and vegetables and used as little processed food as possible in the meals he made me eat (well i was 90lbs). I myself started to feel better and was able to put myself in a more manic mode. i started doing yoga and meditation. On my harder times I had my man and my families support and i even had timers and I made myself do the tasks or I'd take away my own computer time or my own knitting time to go on a walk instead. It was also really important for me to learn how to retrain my thoughts in my hard times. everytime i started feeling down about myself, I'd pull out my happy book. It was a scrapbook of my family and my accomplishments. I also had my boyfriend help me and i started to stop the bad thoughts and instead replace them with more positive thoughts. an example would be if i was feeling like i couldnt make it to the end of the day and i knew i had to complete this task, I would be thinking that there's no way I have time to do it or ill just mess it up or it doesnt matter no one will care. I'd try and catch myself as i started to think these thoughts and would push myself to think Hey i did this the other day and i was just as unmotivated as today. i can do this! Id literally use my thoughts to "Pump" myself up. I started working after i was done breastfeeding my first and only daughter, Ariana. I now work at an elementary school and I can say I dont do any of these things. I told the person at my interview that i deal with bipolar and i was done with letting it rule my life. i told her when im in my manic stage, i will probably be doing extra work because id be so hyper, Than i told her i do get sad and unmotivated and Id probably do extra work to keep myself moving. she appericated my honesty and was curious in what some of the symptoms are and how i treated it. she was impressed by how I was honest and to the point. she also liked how i was knowledgeable about my disorder and how i dealt with it. I also dont work hard at work. i take my time and make sure im doing everything right. I never rush or overwork for attention. instead i thrive on staying consistent. I only do what i can do during my dark times. for example at work i do the dishes after lunch and the students leave the dishes are done and i cant start putting out trays right away or else the food is cold so one day during my dark time, I stood there and not moving makes matters worst because moving again is really harder than just keep going so i went and helped the janitor wipe down the tables. so after that everyday i wipe down the tables. well sometimes they want me doing extra cleaning just once a month and just wipe down my dishwashing station (the walls, behind things, the sponge holder, ect.) I save these things for when im feeling really good days. working hard all the time is much more stressful because theres no way during bad times ur going to able to keep up with it. now people are noticing a change. now u have to tell them and how are they going to feel finding out later? And you shouldnt take time off just because your depressed. The best thing to do when you are depressed is getting up and moving around and being around people. it literally will lift your spirits no matter how hard it is to get out of the house. so this is what I personally did to manage my bipolar and i recommend others who are struggling just to give it a shot! There's no harm in trying! And its safer and cheaper than all these bullshit drugs and therapists. they all just want money and we all know we cant afford it.
Start by throwing out all medications used for your disorder. THey are bullshit and belong in the trash. There's no need to put yourself at such a risk. Throw out any foods with any food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, any artifical sugars, basically anything that isnt natural but is a chemical or anything processed.
Eat REAL food! look for non-gmo, organic fruits and vegetables. get your milk from a farmer not a store and make sure you know if any antibotics or hormones are added. if they are throw it out. eat meat with 0 hormones 0 antibotics 0 nitirates. range free eggs, dabble with different herbs. start picking up essential oils and make your own bath oils and massage oils and oils for aroma. these can help with common ailments and help with your mood at the same time!
REGULATE YOUR PH!!! Search how to and actually do it and than buy a tester and find water that's at a level 7 ph to keep your ph regular
drink only non-fluoridated water!!! a must
Do some type of exercise for atleast an hour a day (I do yoga)
Meditate daily! This is an important way to help alter your mind to being more relaxed and stable
Any questions? do some real research!

February, 21 2015 at 6:20 am

Working full time at one job is hard enough but the thought of having to take on a second job to pay down a mountain of debt and save something for retirement is overwhelming to me. There is also a strong possibility this year that I could be laid off after 33 years of working full time for the same employer (I don't have a university education and this job is all I've ever known since I was 18 years old...). I feel so run down already from so much worrying (I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder) that it's starting to affect my immune system (I've had two colds in the last 3 months). Taking on an extra job is also going to severely impact my sleep which is not good for someone with a mood disorder...

February, 20 2015 at 7:18 pm

I believe I have been bipolar my whole life based on my behaviors, boredom in jobs (though I did keep one job for 5 years).
However, at 30 I moved countries and around 7 months later when I was pregnant I got a stomach infection and have not been the same since. What was mild and easy to manage turned into extreme depression with head fog alternating with anxiety and irritability.
Almost 3 years on and I am finally getting a little better, I have a lot of somatic pain and some which I belive is not somatic but am having difficulty getting a diagnosis for and have finally got a job. For me I have to work, it is the difference between be being in debilitating depression constantly mixed with irritability or instead being mildly manic (hypo) the majority of the time with a little depression occasionally. The second of the two is much better for me.
As for medication all of the bipolar medication has such horrific side effects that I am petrified to take them. I tried lamictal for two months and stated getting odd rashes so was taken off it, psych wanted me to take depakote but the warning of fatal liver problems scared the hell out of me and so does the thought of kidney issues from lithium. Rather try and get through the moods without meds!!! Health anxiety+bipolar+homesickness+somatic symptoms+other pain = hell. For me keeping myself busy is the only choice.

February, 20 2015 at 5:09 pm

I've been in debt most of my adult life due in part to undiagnosed bipolar disorder (officially diagnosed and medicated in 2011). In the past I was able to go to the bank of mom, but not anymore. I went to a non profit credit counselor today and came back emotionally exhausted. I have a full time job (only 3 years away from being able to retire with a full pension) but there is absolutely no way as a single person I'll be able to live on a pension with the debt I'm carrying. So the only other option is to take on a part time job. When I come home from work now I'm so exhausted that I just fall into bed. I can't imagine finding the energy to take on another job. I'm so depressed

February, 20 2015 at 10:27 am

All of you twenty somethings that cannot hold a job I AM THERE with you I am twenty five and so far jack of all trades master of none. I am really beginning to feel like I will never find anywhere to fit in. My father was hospitilized last week with complications from diabetes and this brings up alot of issues, as I was constantly worried about his health before that. It doesn't help that I do not have anyone to turn to for support at this time. I have been irritable and distant since he first went in and even though he is okay and out of the hospital I am still dealing with some emotions that come out as anger. I was written up at work this week because of my snappiness, my anger...argumentative, even bullying (she said that wasn't the right word yet failed to come up with an appropriate one) I am a genuinely nice caring person 99% of the time but with all this on my mind I have not been able to fake the nice. I am the furthest thing from a bully. They said that coworkers were scared I would possibly harm them physically if i were to be angered...which I find hilarious at first, but really it's quite sad. That is not who I am and because I am so nice so much of the time it is not okay with the rest of the world when I just need some time to wrestle with my emotions and my mind. For the first time I've slipped into a depression and it is not the end of the world. I am okay with these awful feelings because I know they need to be felt and delt with. But nobody else is okay with it. And that's the worst part. I did tell my boss I was diagnosed bipolar and unmedicated (i've taken up yoga, meditation to combat these and they make all the difference, until now) and I am really truly regretting my honesty. I want to be an open book I love who I am but it really seems that no one else is able to see a me worth loving at this point. I am never gonna find a job where I can fit in. And that is very very sad. I have a great work ethic. I love to work hard. But nobody will ever see that they only see all my symptoms whether I tell them about being bipolar or not. Just got off the phone with the insurance company and it will cost me $70 each visit to see a therapist. just to talk. not even prescribe. that is just about the worst news I coulda got just now. I thought that would be saving grace. But when you're 25 and cant keep a job and pay rent utilities and phone and insurance and flipping support yourself 100% you really can't afford $70 every freaking time. I'm gonna stop now. I'm mentally exhausted.

February, 16 2015 at 2:32 pm

So you know, it is appropriate to tell your employer that you have bipolar disorder because it can impair you at work, especially if you work under a license (like an RN). You are lawfully allowed to inform your employer without recourse or stigma. If you feel like you are being stigmatized you can indefinitely take the agency to court. I'm confused hat you offer this advice because a lot of people should know in case something happens where you can't come to work or have to take leave.

January, 31 2015 at 6:50 pm

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is erroneously known as having the "poorest postal code in Canada', yet I have heard of a number of 'success' stories come out of that place. A lot of these residents suffer from some form of mental illness. A lot of them have been beaten down by life. Every day they exist on this planet they are survivors, that in itself is a success story. Some have even learned to thrive. Your life, in part, is what you make of it.
To Dee who says no one would hire her... ever considered SELF employment? Learn to capitalize on your strengths, we all have them. You don't necessarily need a college degree... What are you passionate about? If having a job is important to you be creative about it. Find a way to work from home if that's easier for you. If not having a job suits you then stop comparing yourself to others who do have one...
We ALL (those with & without a mental illness) struggle in life. That's just the way it...

Dee Roberts
January, 31 2015 at 3:41 pm

"M"....Congratulations ! But shame on you ! Every person and their illness is different. You just came off a someone who has never experienced a mental disease...You know the "normal" people who say shit like "Chin up" "Smile and bear it" "Pull up your boot straps"....What you just did was reinforce the failure and shame these people already feel !!!!! Oh look at me I am a success and so can you be , if you just... TRY !!!!
Maybe THEY cannot !!!!
Maybe their meds, or additional illness make it unbearable for them....
I have been diagnosed with Borderline, Bi-Polar, ADHD, Clinical Depression, SAD and anxiety...
I have at 47, finally found the perfect cocktail...but I still can't work !
Anxiety is my biggest demon and is so bad I have a prescription dog...I am a workaholic, and am very good with people when I expect to interact...but I can't be around people at large or the noise the outside World puts out.
Do you think an employer would allow me to keep my dog or a friend by my side while I work ? Because that is the only way I can even run into the store for more then a few minutes...
I don't think so...
I went to the store just the other day for milk and pancake mix...I had my dog and her Rx with me....I got hassled first by a cashier for having her there, then after I got her OK to be there, I got hassled by the manager about having her in the cart .....SERIOUSLY ????
Her job is to calm me, that comes from petting her, she's a 7lb Maltese...I can't pet her if she is on the floor....!!!
Please tell me how my little CLEAN Maltese who 90% of the time doesn't even touch the floor, then cleans her feet after, is not acceptable, when a dirty diapered, snotty, sick, dirty faced, child is allowed... ????
People with canes, crutches, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, etc, are not questioned or hassled, so why am I ???? She is all of these things to me, and as necessary !!!!
Seriously when I am at the store behind the old lady with the oxygen tank buying a carton of cigarettes , I want her hassled and questioned , someone could trip over that tank or blow the place up , because if she is smoking she obviously doesn't need the tank, she can leave it in the car as, with all of the RX dogs... !!!!
This is a 10 mins stop at the store, how well do you think I could manage a job ?

January, 30 2015 at 10:23 pm

I'm fine, but I'm bipolar. I'm was on five medications, and I used to take medication two times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I'm never quite allowed to be free of that for a day. But when I came to Korea i defaulted my medication for five months, It's not easy for me everyday I'm on fire and paranoid.

January, 30 2015 at 6:53 pm

I was hospitalised 5 years ago for a severe depressive episode. The details are not important.
Since then, I've completed my bachelor's degree and held down an important job for 3 years with no sick days.
It is achievable. You have to believe in yourself and you have to want to help yourself. If you give yourself the excuse that you're sick, then you will always find a way, a reason, to quit because you are able to justify it. Tell yourself that you are in control of yourself and that you are capable. You're an important person and deserve the accolades of a respectable job as much as, if not more, than a healthy person.
You will feel great feelings you have never felt before when you achieve goals that you never believed possible.
And of course, we all have those bad periods, but you need to persevere. Studies show that a healthy person who is unemployed longer than 12 weeks can develop depression. Imagine what being unemployed can do to somebody who is already ill!
You can do it! :)

January, 29 2015 at 5:58 am

to everyone that has posted, it breaks my heart to read the frustration you deal with on a daily, weekly, yearly basis. my boyfriend has bipolar disorder and i come to this website for support. it is hard to me to watch him suffer, and i know it is even more difficult for those of you have the disorder. i know sometimes words can be empty, so im not sure what to say, but i just felt compelled to write on here. although i feel like it many times, my best advice is dont give up....

January, 28 2015 at 6:12 pm

Hello KayKay
If you really WANT help, it's out there. I hope you don't give up. Honestly what have you got to lose? I'll be thinking about you tonight. Take care

January, 28 2015 at 1:32 pm

@Jake ...OMG u guys i have this exact problem... I am 24 and have had atleast 50jobs since the age of 17 quit most of them for no reason other then my stress levels going through the roof or my negative thoughts over powering me...
Ive never had a job longer then 3months and actually am UNdiagnosed bipolar. I know i am bi polar but am too scared to see a doctor. I dont want to be drugged out on meds everyday. I do take Lithium Orotate which u can get online helps with my moods but still the effects arent the greatest...
Ive just lost my partner who ive been verbally and physically abusive too in the past due to my bad temper and raging fits. I dont really have contact with my family either ( Physically abusive relationship that i want no part of ) ..
Ive just quit another job, lost my family, am in a country where i am not eligible for ANY government funding and on top of that have this bi polar, rage mental disorder which i hate..
I would rather be dead.

January, 25 2015 at 3:47 pm

I never tell at a job interview but have found telling the boss when I have to and advising the whole workplace stops the rumours and provides me with support when I need it.
It also helps not to create excuses as to why I was sick eg migraine diarrhoea.
I got sick of changing jobs years ago so I stick around and take support I need.

January, 25 2015 at 5:37 am

I STRONGLY believe it is NOT a good thing to tell people, especially your employer about your struggles with mental illness. The working world can be very competitive these days and stigma still abounds. Unfortunately the media often fuels this stigma by reporting that a person who commited some terrible crime did so because of a mental illness. This tends to instill fear. People, especially employers are uncomfortable about what they don't understand and they don't like to take risks. Even though there are laws around discrimation in the workplace, etc managers, etc will still find ways around them, ie by "downsizing", excluding. I work for an enforcement agency and I have also worked in Human Resources. Believe me when I tell you, they will always find ways to skirt the law when it suits them. Poverty will always exist and so will the stigma around mental illness. The best we can hope for is to reduce it by our BEHAVIOUR.

January, 24 2015 at 9:37 am

I suffer from bipolar and ptsd. All the jobs I've had I unfortunately told every employer. I get to work on time but when I'm manic I'm alot to handle and then of course I become very antisocial. Very extreme. I thought I was obligated for some stupid reason to tell them. Thank goodness I'm at a job right now that appears to understand. My word of advice don't tell it will make you more stressed out and hate yourself more for having a mental illness.

Ci n
January, 23 2015 at 1:48 pm

Wow. I guess I never realized my disorder was my employment issue. I work for like 4 mo the than I get let go for some stupid reason . How do we stop the cycle I can't do this . I need money to live

January, 19 2015 at 2:32 am

@ jake & mindy..
I also have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety and feel exactly the same.
Ive had several jobs since leaving school, all of which have been full time
positions that i have decided to leave, either because i cant handle the constant stress/anxiety or have had grandiose ideas of how i could "better myself" (these never work and cause me even more stress), I honestly feel lost after 10+ years of trying to be a normal person.
I have no idea whats next for me, im under a psych and am on
medication which dosent really seem to be working (depakote). They keep adding anti-d's which always make me manic. The only thing that actually calms me is diazepam and im only allowed 4 of those a month.
(Thats 2 days worth for me, 10mg tablets).
I hate the sitiation im in, trying to pay a mortgage on my own and not knowing wether my job is safe due to my mental illness and the stigma surrounding it.
coming home to a cold and empty house dosent help my moods either.
Guess i just came here to rant, so sorry for that, i have another psych appointment in a couple of hours. :/
Stay strong folks!
I guess i just posted here because other people's posts made me feel a little glimer of hope, try to stay strong everyone. :)

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