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Dealing with Mental Illness in the Workplace Isn’t Easy

If you have to deal with your mental illness in the workplace, you know the difficulty in being open about it. Here's how I communicate my triggers at work.You can’t turn off your mental illness in the workplace. I am a server. Although this pays the bills, it triggers a lot of an emotional and physical stress. Unfortunately, almost all of us will have to find some sort of income to survive in today’s society, but what happens when you’re faced with the constant pressure and stress of having a mental illness in the workplace?

Part of the stress comes from putting on a constant happy face for my customers and explaining my stress and the need for breaks to my managers. On top of that, I have to deal with the fact that everyone I work with knows I have a mental illness and talks about it–that’s become a part of my label.

Mental Illness in the Workplace Makes Me Explain How I’m Different

When I first started working, I was only 13. I was at the peak of my hormones. From there, through every job that’s followed, I’ve noticed that I am more tired than the normal person. Whether it’s from cycling through mania, leaving me with little to no sleep, or cycling through depression, and not being able to find any energy, working a part-time to a full-time job can be difficult, to say the least.

With my past job, there were moments where I had to communicate that I couldn’t do certain things or I would have anxiety attacks. With my current job I have to communicate that even though I can fake it enough for the customers, I can’t always be the happiest person on the planet in the back of the restaurant. It’s an unending cycle.

Stigma Against Mental Illness in the Workplace

The stigma behind mental illness is, sadly, still alive and kicking. I have been a victim of such things such as harassment and discrimination just because I voiced that I was mentally ill. You see, people think that I use my bipolar as an “excuse” as if I would want to be labeled more incompetent than I feel (Dealing with Verbal Abuse at Work).

I remember the first time that I told my manager I was bipolar and that was why sometimes it was hard for me to handle the fast pace environment of a restaurant. He told me, “Well I’m sure a lot of girls here are bipolar.”

I took his comment with a grain of salt because I knew that he didn’t mean for it to hurt my feelings, that’s just one stereotype of bipolar. After that, I was the “bipolar girl” of the workplace. I was the one the newcomers were warned about.

Communication Is Key When You Divulge Mental Illness in the Workplace

As I’ve gone through these last few years of working at the same place, I have gone through multiple managers. The key to a good work environment is to keep communication open with your boss. I have always been very honest and upfront about my mental illness. If I’m having just a regular bad day, I tell him. If I am manic or depressed, I tell him. It will only stress you out more if you keep everything bottled up and wait for someone to either ask what’s wrong or make everything worse. Just remember, work is never more important than your mental health.

Author: Shelby Tweten

Find Shelby on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and her blog.

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