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Work Relationships

Being a role model for a healthy lifestyle is one of the best parts of being a personal trainer. But it was always effortless for me to maintain a thin physique because I have a chronic illness with symptoms that stop me from overeating; essentially, food triggers stomach pain, ulceration and bleeding, so I've never been one to go back to the kitchen for seconds. In fact, all my adult life I complained of an inability to gain weight and get stronger at the gym. I prided myself on being a role model to my clients -- I was someone who did not allow drive for thinness to rule my life or exercise regimen. But last year, I decided to gain weight. I hired a dietitian to help me eat more. But in the midst of my weight gain process, I was suddenly forced to have surgery that left me feeling stranded in a body that was ten pounds heavier than I've ever been before. To my surprise, I hated my body. So now I'm left wondering, am I the role model that I thought I was?
So often when we think about relationships and how they can impact our mental health, we consider familial, social, and romantic relationships. However, for many people, work relationships can also play an undeniably significant role when it comes to our mental health (for better or for worse). In fact, it is not uncommon to spend more time with your coworkers than anyone else in your life. Therefore, it is essential to analyze how these work relationships could (and perhaps do) impact your mental health.
Should you disclose your mental illness on a job application? When dealing with our mental illnesses, it can be difficult to open up even to our friends and families. Those relationships are typically strong enough to withstand the disclosure of issues that we are having and things we need to help fight them. So what do we do with our professional relationships when we have a mental health disability? When should you disclose your mental illness to an employer?
Many Americans are scared to talk to a supervisor about mental illness or disclose their mental health condition at work to anyone for fear of career damage or termination. Suffering in silence, ironically, means your work may also suffer. Poor performance leads to intensified anxiety and other symptoms as you worry about your job security and assignment quality. So what do you do? How do you talk to a supervisor about mental illness?
Sometimes people with mental illness aren't the most self aware.  Some of us have a tendency to get consumed by our internal drama that it's hard to listen to other people.  We spend so much time listening to our feelings, processing our emotions, talking about ourselves in therapy to figure out how to stay healthy.  I'm not suggesting that we give up time-tested methods of self regulation, but I think that our relationships with others - not always that with ourselves - can tell a bigger picture about our mental health.
Many people aren't good at relationships, particularly at the beginning.  What might be a time of excitement and optimism for the average person can turn to anxiety and depression for someone with bipolar.  In this blog post, I compare the feelings I experience during the beginning of a relationship - in this case, with Erik, a new love interest - with the mood fluctuations of bipolar disorder.
I’ve always thought I was a good employee: I do good work, on time, and people generally like working with me. I say “generally” because at times in the past I’ve been a moody procrastinator who resists being told what to do. I’ve also burst into tears when given negative feedback from a boss and cursed at a coworker in front of several of our colleagues. Am I losing credibility here?
I consider myself hard to take, stubborn, I'm an over-talker and I don't know when to keep my mouth shut. And I have bipolar so signing up to be my friend is a commitment of which I expect people to tire rapidly. So when I'm having a bad time and someone expresses concern, I know I have a true friend.
Last week's post on disclosing mental illness at work was very popular, so I decided to continue the topic this week.  In my video blog, I talk about telling coworkers about your mental illness and the benefits that can come from having support systems in the workplace.
My coworker Ricky is a photographer, and I asked him to take some pictures for my personal blog. Upon hearing its name he said, “You’re bipolar? Cool." Ricky is the kind of person who appreciates perceived shortcomings as character building. And he likes people with a lot of character.