Archive for the ‘Bipolar in the Workplace’ Category


Cracking the Window

Everybody has a different way of asking for help.  I have Bipolar II, with an extra serving of depression.  So when I am down so low I cannot take life anymore, I try to give it back with an overdose of my medications and as much Vodka as my body can absorb before I lose consciousness.  But no matter how many pills and how much Vodka I’ve ingested, I have still not been able to permanently put myself out of my misery.  There is no doubt at that moment in time I sincerely want to kill myself.  However, by not swallowing the entire contents of my medicine cabinet straight off, which for sure would bring about my demise, I leave the window open a crack with a parting call to my psychologist triggering an onslaught of help.  Could it be that I’d rather wake up feeling sick to my stomach six hours later than remaining unconscious feeling nothing six feet under?

Calling All Cars

The other day I was on Facebook and noticed a message from an old acquaintance.  He actually sent it out as a general notice to all his friends.  He explained he was feeling intense anxiety, depression and having trouble functioning.  He had an appointment with a doctor, but was extremely afraid of having to take medication.  I thought it was somewhat strange he was “calling all cars” about his mental condition. Most people are very private about it.  I was so intensely secretive I wrote a book about my experiences (BUZZKILL) using my real name.  My friend was obviously a mental illness novice.  He had not yet learned how to make the dramatic cry for help by at least threatening to jump from something.

Don’t Buy Generics

The last time I checked my friend had forty-one responses from some very well-meaning people.  But when you boiled it down they all had the same advice; “Hang in there.  Things will get better over time.  I’ll pray for you.”  Irrespective of the stupid simplicity of their remarks, it was amazing they all basically offered the same generic response.  And, not one person mentioned psychiatric help and medication, which my friend stated he was especially nervous about.  It reminded me of someone telling a little kid they are going to the circus, when they are really going to get a rabies shot.  And the “I’ll pray for you?”  Why not just say, “I’ll waste some time talking to myself about you instead of talking to you.”  Here was a true cry for help and in return came the off the shelf generic “You’ll be O.K.”  What these people don’t realize is that depression is life threatening, not to be thwarted with a pep talk like before the big homecoming football game.

Go With a Name Brand

Being depressed and despondent is about as real as it gets.  So I decided to “keep it real” and reach out with some useful “Name Brand Advice” via email.  After all, I suffered from depression and anxiety most of my life. Who better to advise him than an individual who will actually address his concerns.  So, I told my friend I have Bipolar Illness, which he may or may not have.  But I know well the anxiety and severe depression that goes with it.  I urged him to find a doctor who listens to him and what he could expect from medication, if in fact recommended.  Also, I suggested he read my book because it specifically addresses his concerns. Moreover, I asked him to purchase five copies and bill it through his insurance.  Lastly, I offered to meet with him anytime he needed to talk.   He thanked me.  Why not?  I’m a name brand lunatic.

Diarrhea of the Email

Then I let loose a torrent of emails also to help my friend.  I talked about medication side effects, finding the right doctor and coming with me to my support group for those who suffer from depression, anxiety and or Bipolar Illness.  Each time he thanked me, but never took me up on an offer.  Was I getting too involved?  Did he not know me well enough to open up?  Was I scaring him?  Was he afraid of turning out like me?  Did he want me to shut the fuck up with my “diarrhea of the email” advice?  My mother used to beat a subject to death so badly that if it was health related, it would cure itself by the intermission.  Was I becoming my mother?  I checked my head for electrodes.

Walk Away Renee

I finally decided enough was enough with the emails and to leave my friend alone.  Walk away Renee.  He knows what I have to offer and if he needs me I’m sure he’ll get in contact.  Sometimes when we are Bipolar and find someone who is in similar pain, although undiagnosed, we will do anything to bring assistance.  We identify with their struggle.  But at a certain point that individual has to reciprocate by reaching out.  You cannot force help down a person’s throat.  All you can do is throw them a life-preserver and see if they take it.  If not, let them find their own way.  I hear a good chiropractor can cure just about anything. Maybe my friend isn’t ready to come to terms with the possibility of needing psychiatric help?  I know when I took my first handful of psychotropic medication (in the prescribed amount), I felt the stigma of being a mental patient as if I was punched in the gut.  I was actually disappointed in myself for being so feeble!

Billboards and Bus-Backs

I was beginning to feel like a social marketer for the American Psychiatric Association.   Or, a Bipolar Recruiting Agent scouting out depressed people for a Bipolar diagnosis. Nonetheless, I have to be satisfied with having done my very best to help, and leave it at that.  Offering too much help can be just as bad as doing none at all.  Maybe I should cancel the billboards and bus-backs with my friend’s name on them, urging him to go to the emergency room if his depression gets worse.

You Can Lead a Depressed Person to Water…

Just like I have always subconsciously cracked the window during a suicide attempt, I realized my friend is doing the same with his mass email.  He made his cry for help.  Although not suicidal, he left an opening for someone to rescue him.  However, I can’t fit through it.  Maybe I represent too much reality?  Whatever the issue, I hope someone can breach the barrier.  And I have to be satisfied that I tried to offer assistance.  It’s really up to him to accept it.  As they say, you can lead a depressed person water, but you can’t make them see a shrink.

Telling Your Boss You are Bipolar: Is There a Reason?   2 comments

A lot of times we just hear about people with bipolar illness who are suffering.  Well, let me rephrase that. All bipolars suffer to some degree, because no medication or cocktail thereof can make us feel 100%.  And even if you are one of the lucky ones in whom medication completely abates all your symptoms, chances are you still have to deal with some unsavory side effects.  Nobody gets a free ride.

But there are a great deal of bipolars in the everyday work force in all kinds of occupations.  Jobs with responsibility over others, jobs with pressure to meet certain goals, jobs in customer service, jobs which require intense concentration, jobs that have a major impact on people’s lives, jobs that are boring and repetitive and the list goes on.  And many of these people function quite well.  So the question is, at some point do you tell your employer you are bipolar?  And if so, why?

I think we can all agree it’s not something we mention in a job interview.  Although it’s illegal to discriminate against the mentally ill, and theoretically we should be able to say we are bipolar without reprise, not all bosses have graduated from referring to bipolar illness as the medieval sounding manic depression.  Or maybe they have someone in their life with bipolar who is not functioning well.  It can even be they just don’t want to bring someone on staff that might have an “incident” in front of an important client.  In their mind you are a wild card that could be running around the office yelling at an imaginary person named Marvin, overturning desks and firing a staple gun at your co-workers.

However now you’re in the job and doing quite well.  Your manager is happy with your performance and you are making friends with your colleagues.  Your whole work environment seems to be liberal and accepting.  So one day you are alone with your boss in the car coming back from a meeting and he or she confides in you about a family member having a hard time with bipolar illness.  Do you suddenly rip off your clothes and expose yourself in blue tights, rocket boots and red cape with a big BP on your chest and offer expert assistance?  Do you reveal yourself so your boss can see how normal a person with bipolar can actually be?  Do you tell your boss you are bipolar so if you ever do have an issue, they’ll be more understanding because they have a family member suffering from the same illness?  Do you uncover you illness in the hope of getting accolades for doing such a good job while suffering from such a potentially debilitating mental disorder?  Or, do you say anything at all?

I think the question is, what do you hope to accomplish by spilling the pills?  Will telling your boss you are bipolar help you advance in the workplace, or will it make them interpret everything you do through a bipolar kaleidoscope?  Are you branding yourself  “handle with care” and spend the rest of your employment in a corporate playpen?  Each individual needs to ask themselves these questions before they do the big reveal.

The one thing I believe is that it is not wrong to keep your bipolar status to yourself.  You are not hiding it nor are you acting as if you are ashamed of it.  It’s personal information you are not reacquired to share.  Your boss is not your doctor.  You don’t have to tell them if you have high blood pressure or micro-valve prolapse, so why then are you compelled to tell them you are bipolar, especially if you have it under control?

Of course, this is a personal decision.  But it’s not something I would rush into without looking at all the possible outcomes.  There is no time table for making a choice like this.  And your boss could love your honesty and bravery for being so successful while dragging around the added weight of the bipolar ball and chain.  Or, you could end up stagnating in your current position forever.  It’s a calculated risk.  And, you’re under no obligation to take it.