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Coming out about your BP disorder to your boss...


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I'm naturally an honest person which is why I feel so fake at work, having to hide a part of me that shapes my life daily if not every minute. I always have to make up junk because normal work questions such as "Do you have a boyfriend?" and "Where do you live - are you flatting?" are so difficult to answer honestly. I really struggle to cope with being polite and guarded while wanting to seem like the open and friendly person I am. I know people don't share everything with their work colleagues but hiding a stigma can be pretty painful.

Because of this I'm seriously considering letting my manager in on my secret, just so I have somebody who understands me and can maybe batt for me if things get tough.

I've been at my new job for four months so I have a pretty good idea that she's non-discriminatory and open-minded. I really just want more insight from third parties at this stage - as much about what to tell her as if.

I was thinking going for the "BP is an illness which makes it difficult for me to regulate my moods so I have to regulate my stress levels so that my moods don't go out of whack" angle. I thought this would be good as it highlights the main work-related aspect (ie: stress).

What other angles are there? Please suggest.

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I would mention it casually like it's not a big deal instead of an epic confession. That"s what I do. If you make a big deal out of it you'll get a heavy reaction but if you mention it easily or even slightly jokingly they probably won't make a big deal out of it. I did this little thing with myself to get more comfortable talking about it I would casually mention it to people upon first meeting to see what happens and how they respond. you'll be surprised how easy it is and how accepting people will be if you say it right. I hope this helped and good luck with "coming out of the closet"

Edited by YKantLaurenRead
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Is there anyone else you could confide in that isn't your boss?

Maybe I'm just super cautious but I'm not sure it needs to be said. It more sounds like you want a friend, someone to talk to. How about telling a friend? If you absolutely must say something I'd keep it non - descript. For example, 'I have an illness that is exacerbated by stress, sometimes this makes me anxious at work'. 

 

Maybe disregard what I say, but I work in casual employment so really anything could lose me a job. Four months isn't really that long to be honest. If you're shy I'm not sure why you'd want the first thing you start being open about being your MI. What about the questions do you not like? Because those questions seem a lot less invasive then ones about MI. You can be open and friendly in other areas of your life, share your interests, what do you like to watch on TV, where do you think serves good coffee etc.

 

I hope you feel more comfortable at work.

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My tdoc suggested that I not use the word bipolar since it has a very negative connotation to many people.  Instead she suggested that I explain my 'problems' without actually saying what it was.  So I told my boss that I was manic that time and that now I'm on meds and it shouldn't happen again.  Since my depressions don't really affect my work (complete and total workaholic), I didn't mention them at all.  My boss was great about it but she's exceptional.

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I wouldn't do it. I've known too many people, including myself, where sharing has come back to bite them. Your boss is not your friend, no matter how friendly they may be. You haven't known him/her long enough to really be able to judge how fair they are. I've known my current boss as a friend for 7 years, worked with him for 3, and I still haven't told. It will completely change our working dynamic, and I am not prepared to manage that. But I understand how tempting it is to tell.

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I wouldn't do it either. Even if you're so rock steady no one would ever know you're bipolar, once people do, it will color their view of you--even if it's subconsciously. Stereotypes are too deeply ingrained, even in the most sincere and decent people.

 

If I have to bring my medical issues into a conversation, I just hedge and say I have a hereditary illness. I'm not lying, since MI runs in my family; and no one has ever asked me what specifically the illness is. If they did, I would simply say I really didn't want to discuss it.

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Both my boss/professor at my one job and supervisor at my other job are AWESOME about it. I wouldn't just go around telling every boss/supervisor I have down the road but I've had great experiences with disclosing. You just have to find the right time and phrase it the right way.

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You probably don't want to say anything. What I do is try to think about if my disclosing would be beneficial. Most times, I find that it isn't. It won't help you any that your boss knows and in the end, it might come back to bite you in the ass. 

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It helped me that my one boss/prof knows because she was very understanding about my hospital stays and is very flexible when it comes to me feeling bad and needing time off or having doctors appointments that overlap with my hours. She even came to visit me IP once.

 

Disclosing is not for everyone but it CAN work out/be helpful.

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You don't really need to explain anything unless you need to take disability or have to spend time in the hospital.  Refraining from telling people is not hiding or lying.  What specific things do you feel you need to explain by saying you're BP?  Like, do you need accommodations at work, flexible hours, less stress?  Lots of people who aren't BP are vulnerable to stress and need to be careful with managing their stress and work hours.  You can also say you have medical problems and not be specific, in most cases people don't press you on the specifics of your problems.

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I think you need to do what in your heart will make you feel better. I told my manager. It made me feel a lot better. People knew something was off. Having a name to the differences is helpful. I no longer have to hide the truth. Also, I am registered under the ADA for accommodations. Now stress is limited and my work conditions are better suited to my BP and the side effects of my medications. Make sure you work for an employer that has to abide by the ADA...they have to have a certain amount of employees to be eligible for protection. If not, weigh the pros and cons.

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I agree with Butterfly that you should do in your heart what will make you feel better. I told 2 different bosses that I am BP and it helped me a lot in the long run. I am pretty open about my BP though. And I think it depends on the boss. Boss #1 I had worked with for many years and the BP was affecting my work so i felt that it was necessary to disclose (and he actually wasn't surprised when i told and it explained why I had been struggling). I told Boss # 2 early on in my employment and she was able to make accommodations for me when I needed them. BUT, it depends on the boss. I got to know my coworkers pretty well first that had worked with Boss #2 and felt out the situation with them first. I worked with other BP ppl and found out that they had disclosed to her and she had been very understanding.

 

That's my experience with it. Good luck! : )

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Is there anyone else you could confide in that isn't your boss?

Maybe I'm just super cautious but I'm not sure it needs to be said. It more sounds like you want a friend, someone to talk to. How about telling a friend? If you absolutely must say something I'd keep it non - descript. For example, 'I have an illness that is exacerbated by stress, sometimes this makes me anxious at work'. 

 

Maybe disregard what I say, but I work in casual employment so really anything could lose me a job. Four months isn't really that long to be honest. If you're shy I'm not sure why you'd want the first thing you start being open about being your MI. What about the questions do you not like? Because those questions seem a lot less invasive then ones about MI. You can be open and friendly in other areas of your life, share your interests, what do you like to watch on TV, where do you think serves good coffee etc.

 

I hope you feel more comfortable at work.

 

This ^^ is my reaction for the most part.

 

It also strikes me that you are defining your entire life by your MI when it really only is one facet. You are who you are and there is much, much more to you than your MI. If you live alone or with your parents, it can be for a million reasons including that you like living alone or with your parents as far as other people are concerned. Without MI, you could be in the same boat. Having bipolar doesn't have to be part of the reason and you don't have to define the reason for your living circumstances to yourself as dictated by bipolar, either. I'm just picking on one thing you said. Maybe it's not the best example, but same idea applies to the rest of your life. I'd work on seeing your entire life through a bigger lens.

 

Feeling compelled to tell someone that you have an illness suggests that you want something from them. What do you want from your boss? Wanting something other than employment from your boss often is not a good idea.

 

Do you have a therapist? Maybe this would be a good topic to work.

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My pdoc told me not to tell my boss. People's reaction to bipolar is just too unpredicatable. If I was going to confide in anyone, it might (might, might) be the human resources person. Where I work, our HR person is trustworthy and takes the confidentiality thing very seriously. Still, the only reason I might end up telling her is because I got referred to the wrong kind of doctor for an eval and might have to go through the whole eval process again. She's been very helpful to me so far without actually knowing what my medical issue is. If she needed to know, I'd tell her, but no one else.

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Thanks for the input. I know this is partly a compulsion I have at the moment (not sleeping or feeling very well) but there are good stories out there. I'll sit on it a bit a see how things pan out. In NZ it might be different from the States? Dunno! We are in general a more open-minded workforce from what I've been told. I'm glad some of you were able to be honest - it's like feeling I have to hide something every day at the moment. My identity does feel tied up with my MI in that it is the reason for many of my circumstances which are "socially unacceptable" or looked on as weird. "Why is she still living with her mum?" etc are my negative automatic thoughts. Wish I could talk to a tdoc but too busy during work hours. Nice to get some support on here.

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With my last boss I didn't feel like I had a choice since I was in the throes of a manic episode that was pretty hard for everyone to ignore. I felt like I owed her an explanation for all the crazy behavious I was showing her and everybody else. She seemed understanding and trustworthy with the information.

 

No way I'd tell my current boss though. He's a snake and I don't trust him.

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