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Being bipolar and having a successful job - your experiences


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Hi everyone,

 

This question has been bugging me lately:

 

Short background: I graduated from university with two master's degrees and have been able to be very successful during my uni career - despite being bipolar (though not diagnosed or medicated at the time).

Now I'm in my first job and I'm struggeling with the pressure of it and anxiety. It's NOT a super stressful job... it's just that working 40h while taking meds and trying to get stablised is really tough on me. I'm suffering from excessive worrying, anxiety and all the lovely things that come with that such as stomach pain and headaches.

 

Despite the anxiety, I want to be successful and work and I don't want to let this illness beat me down.

 

So here's my questions:

 

How does your mental illness affect your job performance? Are you able to maintain a career?

Any advice for someone who's recently been diagnosed and put on meds and wants to stay in their job?

 

 

Thank you for your experiences!

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I run a business with my husband and a farm that is my responsibility. It works because I can be flexible and go to ground when I need to. I can get anxious and overwhelmed with a bit of pressure.

I had a bad depression (which led to my diagnosis) during which I made some really basic but major mistakes. I got into trouble with taxes, which needed my accountant to sort out.

I have also learned never to hire a digger while hypo, or your small wetland restoration will turn into an olympic pool sized pond complete with islands. Looks cool though.

The only real advice I can give is go easy on yourself and don't over commit if you can help it. Actually saying no isn't a bad thing.

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i have a very good career. Sometimes I can only function while at work and nothing else. Meds helped. My night meds really eat into any type of social life, but I like my job. So it's worth it for me. I tend to hyper focus when manic. So I use it when I have it. The depression side of things is much harder. Somehow I get through. Having a good Pdoc helps. He knows that I am in a high stress, high functioning job and really makes any med changeds slowly.

It's not impossible and you have already succeeded academically. I would suggest having a good care team to keep you the least symptom as possible.

Edited by dragonfly23
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My job is demanding, both mentally and physically, but not overly stressful. I have a pretty limited tolerance for stress so that aspect is really important. I also work an odd shift because there's a lot less chaos, stupidity, and drama than you have with traditional daytime hours. That helps a lot. If you really want to keep your current job, maybe you could ask to go part-time for a while for medical reasons. Your psychiatrist can write a document confirming that you should do this, without going into the reasons why. Once you get your strength back you could try going full-time again.

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The longest I ever held jobs was a year and a half, and then I went kablooie in one way or another. As I got older, the times I could hold it together became shorter. My pdoc told me I should only work part-time, and I was certain he was wrong, until my last full time job.

 

That's my experience. It won't necessarily be yours.

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I have two jobs. One I've had since before I was diagnosed, and the other I've had for the past month or so.

My first job is at a chocolate shop. It isn't a "professional" job, but the owner is very flexible and understanding. I only work there one day a week, except around major holidays. It's not a high-stress job, except on Valentine's day and around Christmas/Hanukkah and Easter/Passover. My boss probably thinks I'm a nutcase because I moved about an hour away from the shop a year and a half ago, but insisted on keeping my job. It's one of the few stable things in my life, so I've been clinging to it for years. She doesn't know about the bipolar.

The chocolate shop job helps my mental health. It gets me out of my house, out of my own head, and gives me a chance to do something I enjoy.


My other job is per diem as a substitute teacher, and I can just say I don't want to work when I don't feel up to it. I am lucky for that, because it is a somewhat stressful job and it can trigger my anxiety and depression. I end up calling out a lot. Thankfully the place I work is desperate enough that they won't fire me for saying "no, I don't want to work today" so often. This job is getting easier for me though, so I'm declining work less often. I'm hoping that this will eventually help me get a career as a teacher.


My advice is to focus on taking care of yourself, and let work come secondary to that. I've flowed in and out of many jobs throughout my bipolar journey (often quitting because depression or mixed states were tearing me up.) However, after years of med tweaking, confidence-building, and figuring out how to live with my bipolar, I have found myself on the path to a true career job.

As much as you might want to keep your job, you should really put your mental health first if you can't balance the two.

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I had a job where I could "hide" being manic because it was interpreted as an energetic personality with a great sense of humor. Now properly diagnosed and medicated, I only get hypo when under stress. I am able to work 40 hours per week. I am careful not to be around clients on an off day. Some days I keep to my office more than usual if I am sketchy in my mood.

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I worked for a six year stretch as a jeweler and in fine jewelry retail. That was supposed to be my forever career, but then the economy blew up in 2008 and I lost my job. A lot of us did, and a lot of the jobs have never come back. It may have been just as well, since my shoulder and neck were going. Hypermobility sucks.

 

But I digress. I started that work in 2003, which not coincidentally was when my docs and I finally worked out a med combo that really helped keep me stable. The best thing about retail is that you can choose your own hours to a significant degree. I found that having flexibility in my schedule was really important.

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I have always struggled with work. I find it one of the main contributing factors to feeling unwell.

 

I completed a college bachelors degree, though I did struggle with some MI during that time, that I needed help for.

 

I worked in admin at a prison for 1.5 years until I became sick long-term with anxiety and depression and then was eventually fired for angry outbursts and strange behavior and not doing my work.

 

Then I worked with young offenders for 6 months until I went off sick with anxiety and depression and then left the job, unable to go back to work.

 

I got a job at a call center, which I managed to keep for 8 months, but again I went of sick due to depression. I would sit in the restroom and cry and cry, then go back to the phone, nearly every day.

 

I became quite unwell and could no longer work, so I got a job as a stripper, which I did for 3 years. It sounds bad, but it was the only job I could do at the time. A lot of the girls had mental health issues. It suits your manic episodes because you are chatty and sociable and not sleeping, and when you are depressed, you can just work one night a week and have enough money to last. It kind of saved my life in a way at the time, but it definitely contributed to making my MI even worse, over time. You are not always treated well, plus there is a lot of alcohol and some drugs too, which didn't help. It was also very hard to leave, and made me very unwell eventually. I would not recommend it.

 

After being on disability for a year or so, I got a job doing admin and I stayed there for 4 years - I wasn't always well, but the company were very understanding and flexible, and that was the only way I stayed there so long. At the end, though, I was seriously unwell, and I left during a manic high where I was convinced I was starting my own business and had all these ideas... turned into the worst episode of my life so far.

 

Since then, I have not worked at all - 2 years - and I am lucky my husband can support me.

 

I do want to get back to work soon, though, and I think it is important to be realistic about what you can cope with. For example, for me, I need part-time hours, possibly flexible hours/shifts where you can just pick and choose, and low stress, preferably with a nice environment or nice people around me. This may be hard to find, but I'll try. I am hoping to volunteer a little at first too, to get me back into it.

 

I think start small, then build up, and just don't push yourself too hard, though you may feel tempted to.

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I've always had the most problems while working full-time, which I haven't done a lot.  Some years ago I worked retail full-time for about a year before I couldn't stand it anymore and ended up running off to Europe for a couple of months and then moving across the country.  After that I took online classes for my master's degree, worked part-time from home, and worked part-time at another job and things went well for a few years.  Having a lot of free time and a lot of alone time kept me calm and that time was the most stable I've ever been.  

 

I started working full-time again about a year ago, and things quickly went downhill.  That's when I finally got diagnosed as bipolar and started meds.  Titrating was really hard and I had to call in sick sometimes because I just couldn't deal with coming in to work, but things are better now.  I did disclose my diagnosis to my boss so I could get permission to work from home a few times a month, which has been hugely helpful.

 

I definitely have to work harder at the skills I'm learning in therapy and I have to pay close attention to my moods and my state of mind so I can exercise self-care before things get bad.  I can't be complacent.  It feels like a struggle a lot of the time but I hope it'll get easier as those skills become more routine and automatic.  I like my job and I'm just getting started on the career I want, so I'm motivated to take care of myself so I can do my job.

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Hi everyone,

 

This question has been bugging me lately:

 

Short background: I graduated from university with two master's degrees and have been able to be very successful during my uni career - despite being bipolar (though not diagnosed or medicated at the time).

Now I'm in my first job and I'm struggeling with the pressure of it and anxiety. It's NOT a super stressful job... it's just that working 40h while taking meds and trying to get stablised is really tough on me. I'm suffering from excessive worrying, anxiety and all the lovely things that come with that such as stomach pain and headaches.

 

Despite the anxiety, I want to be successful and work and I don't want to let this illness beat me down.

 

So here's my questions:

 

How does your mental illness affect your job performance? Are you able to maintain a career?

Any advice for someone who's recently been diagnosed and put on meds and wants to stay in their job?

 

 

Hi CutxPaste,

 

When I am unwell I find it hard to concentrate on work and I am easily distracted (cognitive ability seems preoccupied with perpetuating dream state/delusion).  My advice is to explore what support programs are on offer by your employer and engage with them.  I have also found that it is important to disclose your medical condition (discreetly) to your employer/manager and let them know if you aren't feeling well.  This can be hard but you just might find that they are quite helpful.

 

And yes - a full time career can be maintained.  I am normally an over-performer in my work environment - you will find that a lot of BP's are.  Lastly if you sense you are slipping tell your family/support group and get to your treating doctor asap and tell them - Last time I had a manic episode I told work I was not feeling well, told my family and even called social services to see what help was available - I forgot the last step though (tell treating doctor) - I went into full blown mania before I got to my doctor and was basically manic for the next two months before I came back down.

 

Maybe the get to your treating doctor should have been my first port of call?

 

Hope that helps. 

 

 

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