Does Bipolar hinder or help in the workplace?

20 Aug 2018
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The fact that am writing this as my Online Bipolar Persona says everything. I have worked in Corporate for over 20 years, and it's hard to both manage the illness and manage perceptions. Because the dirty truth is, I myself would hesitate hiring someone with a mental disorder. It impacts the workplace, it impacts work output, and ultimately can impact the performance of the business. I should know.

So far, I have had five major depressive episodes which needed hospitalisation, many productive periods of hyperthymia and high drive, and other long periods of low-grade depression. I continued working. I lied at first about the down-times, then came clean on an 'unspecified hospital illness' then came cleaner on 'breakdown hospitalisation'. This was all in the context of a large organisation, where I could move on and up, to a new boss. Who wouldn't know my history.

Then I joined a small consulting firm, as a Partner, with weighty revenue targets and less room to hide. I felt safe enough to explain what was going on when the first fall-down hit. However, this down-time impacted the bottom line. After a few years of cyclical high performance and withdrawal, we agreed to part ways. I joined the small, established family-business where the symptoms of my Bipolar are fully accepted and held.

But I am bigger than this. I can do more than this. I can operate at senior strategic levels. My mind wants to run, and my emotional strength has so much more to give. I have risen through the ranks, I am raising children, I have successfully remarried. In my mid-40s, is this it? I could stick where I am or venture out.

I am deep in the interview process with a young business. I have been sort-of honest, referencing 'down-times'. But the truth is, if I were them, knowing what I know, I wouldn't hire me. The risk is too great. I blog under a pseudonym, so they won't find me. I don't want my condition to derail this opportunity.

This is not a stigma dilemma. This is a commercial reality dilemma.

Do you think I should I should be honest? Should I recognise the limits of my disorder? Or try again, because I know I have something amazing to add... in spurts. And this time may be different?

Cogitator

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Kit

Aug. 21, 2018, 4:08 a.m.

Hi Cogitator, great little piece of writing. I'd recommend you don't disclose the condition, depending on who receives it and hires you there's a risk they'll 'label' you. Best they accept you for who you are, and don't have the knowledge of any risks around your mental health. Depending on the job. My view is that until mental illness and bi-polar is better understood it's simply not worth the risk disclosing for fear of the employer simply not accepting the risk. Cowardly I know. We've seen steps forward with the like of Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and films on the heroic Churchill - but they're celebrities, with established reputations and none got where they are today disclosing their condition. So keep going as you are, and keep writing about it, that's how you'll help.

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Cogitator

Aug. 23, 2018, 10:06 a.m.

Thanks for the support Kit. Just writing about it here and getting such great feedback has been cathartic. I will keep writing and talking... in the right places.

Isabella

Aug. 21, 2018, 4:23 a.m.

Hi Cogitator, I’m not sure I agree with Kit.... You sound as though you have a lot to offer a young company and that is probably what they are looking for....experience and knowledge. If you don’t tell them, you will have your episodes and have to hide what is happening - the chances are, in time, they will see it purely as a poor sickness record and we know the consequences of that. It is a huge risk, in that you might not get the job, but if you talk to them about what you can bring to their business, and then tell them about your bi-polar and what they can expect you will then create an honest relationship. Give them information to read, or refer them to someone else who can explain the condition. You talk about the risk to them....be clear to them what the risk is. If they are good people, they will accept you for who you are, but you have to believe in yourself (which I think you do) and give them a really hard sell about positives and risks. Easy to give advice.....good luck. (I used to be in HR years ago).

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Cogitator

Aug. 23, 2018, 10:35 a.m.

Your HR experience comes through loud and clear, and your compassion... for both myself and the people I may work with. I like your "good luck". For all my planning in the world and thinking I have control here, life happens. Either way this goes, the outcome will not be as I expected... it never is. I will go as honest as I can, working within the different players prejudices (which I too have when I employ staff). Thanks for your response... it is hopeful and believes in the best of people.

Oli

Aug. 21, 2018, 5:14 a.m.

Disclosure is always a tricky one. My view is that if, on the balance of probabilities, the information is most likely to come out anyway, and you have a medium to long term plan, then you might as well disclose up front. People are not robots, and even robots occasionally break down. Some people understand this; others, don't. You'd clearly prefer to disclose. Because we are often rather hard on ourselves in self-judgments I'd consider getting a disinterested third party to assess your work / illness ratio to see how it stacks up. Your employer can then weigh your genius against your liability!

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Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:49 a.m.

Great reply Oli... I love the 'weigh your genius against your liability '!! Bear x

Sal

Aug. 21, 2018, 5:55 a.m.

Hi Cogitator, interesting blog. I resonate with a lot of what you say, not that I have achieved as much as you at the worldly level, but the feelings of 'I can do so much more', yet knowing there are also long periods of low-level depression, etc. My first thought on reading you was, oh dear, too hard to comment on this one, put it in the too-difficult pile, which says something about my present mental state. I would perhaps see another layer as well as the simple disclosure/ non-disclosure dilemma. In that layer are a mixture of : How do you feel about the impact on colleagues when you need to have downtime? What's it like for them when you are 'up'? (in my case those have sometimes been the hardest times for those around me). What would it mean for you if you did come to terms with 'this is it'? What is the impact on your family of either decision? I very much respect your honesty in this blog. I hope you find a way to keep your integrity, in whatever decision you take. Having a dual life of some sort is also very wearing, and likely to take its toll. Best of luck!

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Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:08 a.m.

Hi Sally. I have just read your comment and couldn't agree more. Cogitator writes about being highly productive in "spurts". Those spurts are exhilarating but totally exhausting. I once edited a magazine and wrote large parts of it too. I felt capable of doing this creative part only when I felt high which was not often so on the days when I felt great, I would start early and finish sometimes in the early hours of the next morning. The magazine was a great success but I was exhausted and the following down periods were horrible. I had to leave the job in the end. Julxx

Cogitator

Aug. 22, 2018, 5:25 a.m.

Thank you both for replying - you got to the heart of my problem quicker than I did! I think the broader impact of my decision, for me, my family and potential work colleagues, is my worry. And can I come to terms with 'this is it' and not take the job? And will I dupe everyone, including myself, if I take the job? The 'dual life' is the right description Sally, and it is exhausting. You sound like you have experienced the same. Jul ended her job too, despite success and creativity. How to embrace these brave moves?!

Cogitator

Aug. 22, 2018, 5:25 a.m.

Thank you both for replying - you got to the heart of my problem quicker than I did! I think the broader impact of my decision, for me, my family and potential work colleagues, is my worry. And can I come to terms with 'this is it' and not take the job? And will I dupe everyone, including myself, if I take the job? The 'dual life' is the right description Sally, and it is exhausting. You sound like you have experienced the same. Jul ended her job too, despite success and creativity. How to embrace these brave moves?!

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 5:59 a.m.

Hello Cogitator. Do you want to branch out and get a more challenging position when you are feeling down or are you pleased/thankful to be working for and accepted by the family run business you are with now, during your down periods? Can you say that your mental health issues have improved in any small measure since the pressure has been eased somewhat at work? I know your question to us is should you be honest about your bi polar during the current interview process but I am thinking that perhaps you should not leave a workplace situation that is working for you, albeit perhaps one that doesn't stretch you to your full potential during high times. Do you not think the pressure might once again prove too much for you and you might have to part company again? I may be insulting you by saying all this as I am pretty sure you will have thought about this yourself. I probably would not divulge my mental health history since I don't believe people (unless they are bi polar themselves or depressed) truly understand the positives and the nature of the "illness". Perhaps concentrate more on whether this new job is the right one for you in the same way that people who are not bi polar approach a job interviewing process. "Other" interviewees undoubtedly have personal issues they don't divulge but approach the interview aware of them and they look at the job and if it's right for them within that context. You could look at the job and consider whether it's right for you within the context of you being bi polar but don't divulge. Bon Courage. Jul xx

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Cogitator

Aug. 22, 2018, 5:33 a.m.

Are you a therapist?! Well said and thank you. This job is NOT in the context of me being bi-polar. It WILL stretch me through the high times. (And shatter me during the down times). And I am far more relaxed in my current home-work environment.

Jul

Aug. 22, 2018, 6:11 a.m.

No I'm not a therapist! I probably sound like one sometimes. But no..just had a lot of first hand experience with health issues, mine mainly. Go well. Jul xx

Lara

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:11 a.m.

Hello Cogitator Great blog. Interesting views on this one. Be interesting to do a poll. My view is disclosure is better. From my own experience I spent most of my working life not disclosing for fear of rejection. It became too painful and I couldn't live like this. So I changed direction. Quit my job and became vulnerable and open. Some don't "get it" but some do. Work is important but mental health is more important. This is a dig deep question and only one that you can answer if you are really honest with yourself. Good luck and keep us updated. Lara x

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Cogitator

Aug. 22, 2018, 5:37 a.m.

Thanks Lara. It's interesting you say that vulnerability and openness came after quitting a job and changing direction. I feel the same - sometimes a certain line of work doesn't support being who you are. I am struggling being really honest with myself. So torn.

Sheena

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:21 a.m.

Hi Cogitator. A very fascinating blog. What is clear is that you are very competent. It seems to me that you would offer any employer high work effort and results. Have you considered putting your overall wellbeing as your priority: sleep, eat, exercise, relax (to paraphrase the 4 Pillars book) and then doing what feels enjoyable and rewarding for you? Your 'moderation' is unlikely to be mediocre, in fact it is probably still very strong - and could be consistent if you were putting your own wellbeing as the priority. Disclosure is, to me, still usually wasted as people tend to believe what they already 'know'. Sheena

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Cogitator

Aug. 26, 2018, 2:20 p.m.

Love this. Now to make sure - if I do accept - that my four pillars come first. I have learnt much over the years, and surely I am better now at the application. You sound wise - been there, done that?

Sheena

Aug. 26, 2018, 7:59 p.m.

A very generous reply, thank you Cogitator! 4 Pillars are so obvious (well it took me many decades of asleep or very active to sort that one!) - I heard Mars Bar: work, rest and play but ... The other book that is worth buying is "Why we sleep" by Dr Matthew Walker. You are a very gifted human - you know yourself and your needs better than anyone. Listen to yourself. Every best wish - You'll be fine - just cogitate and then decide X

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:37 a.m.

Another thought Cogitator. We tend to believe that we are valuable at work only during our high periods, that we can achieve so much when feeling great. But actually maybe we should value our contribution in the workplace when we are feeling low. I am more measured in my thinking then, maybe slow and a bit laborious (In my opinion, no one else's as far as I know) but even so I still work hard and get things done. I address issues I thought were too trivial and boring during my high periods. Sorry this was all in the past as I don't work now. I find your blog a fascinating subject, one I have wrestled with for years and still do. I have never been hospitalised so I appreciate your issues have been more dramatic and enhanced. Julxx

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Cogitator

Aug. 23, 2018, 10:50 a.m.

Hi my issues may not be more dramatic... they are quicker to hospitalise in my country and its privatised. And I do agree on your downturn points... I become laboured in my decisions (less confidence, more humble) and colleagues keep pace and outstrip me. This is good. Otherwise I exhaust everyone. You sound like you have amazing work ethic and I am so pleased you can provide your 'in-hindsight' wisdom. This gives me hope ... maybe it's not all good times vs bad times in the workplace.

Jul

Aug. 23, 2018, 11:04 a.m.

xxxx Cogitator. Jul xx

Maggie May

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:41 a.m.

Hi Cogitator, I Agree with Jul that the big question is how you are likely to react to the extra pressure of this new role, whether you disclose or not? Also ask yourself will the pressure be less if you do disclose and know that you have their support?. Can you get the personal satisfaction you miss from your current satisfaction with some voluntary work instead that you could do alongside your current job?. You sound a really talented person who would be grabbed with both hands by an organisation that you may identify with in terms of their good work. Sorry to reply to your question with more questions. It highlights the fact that trying to get more acceptance of mental health problems has a long way to go. Your honesty about not wanting to take the risk of employing someone like yourself was an interesting perspective. Our ‘disabilities’ are not visible at an interview so prejudice, once disclosed in confidence at an interview, perhaps could not be challenged.

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Cogitator

Aug. 26, 2018, 2:43 p.m.

Good questions. I have been mulling over them. The pressure will be less if I disclose - however full disclosure will mean the end of the job offer I think. So I have sort-of disclosed - citing high energy with 'energy dips' when I need time out. Lets hope its not weeks on end, and this still have given me some peace of mind. On the voluntary work - I have got into community projects over the last few months. But because I easily start things and don't finish (unless paid to do so), my enthusiasm gets everyone excited and then I start fading. I get immense satisfaction from securint the financial future for myself and my kids - which the external job is likely to provide. If I were brave, i would take the road less travelled (in my little universe) and stay low key. I would trust that my future is secure (in a larger universe) and stay with the family business while it is there. And figure out after that when after that arrives. Thank you for asking the tough questions.

Sally

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:42 a.m.

Hi Cogitator. I read this with great interest. It is what each one of us fear, rejection by work colleagues and/ or an employer on the basis of health issues. My husband had a male colleague who had kidney failure resulting in him having 2 kidney transplants. He had considerable periods off work, and this was all agreed on, and he got great support and help from the workplace and employer. And the NHS. But had his condition been mental health related, would it have been as good? Well, there was another colleague with depression, who was off for extended periods too. He also got great support from colleagues and the employer . The fact is that they worked for an equal opportunities employer, a local government organisation where this was enshrined in their mission statement. I doubt very much whether support would have been forthcoming to the same extent had it been a private employer, for reasons of profit .

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Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 21, 2018, 6:47 a.m.

Morning Cogitator! Good name! My first reaction is to ask why you want to leave a place where you and the bipolar are accepted? You have found a safe haven to work hard when you can and take time off when you’re not well and not operating on full steam. I know you feel you can do more at times, but can you not use that power to help the company you are in or use that power and knowledge in another way during 'home' time with your wife and children, or perhaps volunteering either at a local park or woodland or being a governor with a school - they often need expertise and enthusiasm by the bucketload! If you’re salary is good, the company you work for have good ethics and you bring all you can to the work you do, if you and your wife are happy...why move to somewhere where this may cause you unwonted anxiousness. Maybe I’m being too cautious on your behalf, but I’ve seen that the grass is not always greener. All the best in whatever you decide to do. Be brave in your decisions, but remember staying put with the family firm and keeping yourself 'even' might be for your better mental health. Bear hugs to you xx

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Cogitator

Aug. 22, 2018, 9:22 a.m.

Yes, why leave?! I think the brave decision IS to stay put though... its contrary to my need for financial security and achieving my 'business potential'. (PS I AM the wife, earner for myself and my kids. Hubby supports his kids and ex-wife.) Your question hit home: my brutal answer is I am attracted to this job because it means money, prestige, career, security and importance. I am capable and the work energises me. Ego, energy and safety... a powerful mix. And this is likely my last opportunity to get back into the market before I get too old. With this argument, I quickly lose sight of the accompanying stress, lack of time, downers and hiding my condition. On the other side, the work in the family business is operational and won't be around to support me for the next 20 years. I recognise your point - the grass is definitely greener where I am right now, but strangely, there is more perceived risk in staying put. It would be braver to move my energies to family and community and cut my cloth to fit my new income opportunities. Its hard to say no to what I know. You made me think harder, thank you Bear.

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 23, 2018, 10:55 a.m.

Oh Cogitator...mea culpa! Didn’t realise what gender you are! Hopefully you’re not offended...you don’t seem to be. I was worried that my reply to you seemed a bit harsh, but I wrote from the heart, without reading any of the other responses, or else I find that if I read other's replies first, it sometimes colours what I want to say. To be honest, again, I’m even more impressed that you are female and doing all this and raising children etc. Now you must be honest with yourself and do what suits you. Bestest wishes and hugs, Bear xx

Cogitator

Aug. 26, 2018, 2:51 p.m.

Thanks Bear. I didn't realise my post didn't disclose my gender, and it surprised both of us. Honest with myself ... take the job and feel financially secure plus challenged. Honest with myself... I am bipolar and have to take responsibility of the impact on my and others. I am only now taking on that responsibility. I hope we chat again.

Alex

Aug. 21, 2018, 7:42 a.m.

I found your blog very moving and completely honest and open. I have been bipolar for thirty years and have come to realise the truth. It is an essential part of who I am, and that it brings positives as well as ****** negatives. In a work context it needs a strong and worldly wise employer to understand and accept you for what you are. They will tolerate your issues because they value your contributions when you are “on song”. At our best we offer a creativity and drive that can galvanise people and organisations. Some employers will have the resources to cope with the periods when you hibernate and offer little. Others won’t. So I readily see both sides of your dilemma. For me the fact that you have posted suggests that you are well on the way to finding your answer, having thought through the pros and cons. Good luck. Please let’s us know how you get on.

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Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 7:49 a.m.

Hi Alex. Maybe you can answer this from your experience. How come people who are not bi polar manage to maintain this same drive and creativity at work day in day out? It surely cannot be possible in a high octane work environment such as you hear about in the City without some artificial aids. Jul xx

Alex

Aug. 21, 2018, 7:54 a.m.

I guess we are all different. I do not doubt that cocaine and alcohol are much used in high pressure environments. And I am not convinced that too many people can be genuinely creative and high powered for long periods of time. Consistently steady and uninspired yes.

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 8:25 a.m.

That's what I thought. Thanks Alex. I have read two books about this. One called Straight To **** by John Le Fevre. The other is at home and I can't recall the title but a similar theme. Both novels and page turners!! Julxx

Alex

Aug. 21, 2018, 7:51 a.m.

I would add that in my own case I have accepted that it is wise to accept my limitations and not put myself in high pressure situations. I had a nervous breakdown twenty years ago when I was under extreme pressure during what proved to be a highly successful management buyout. Something cracked and I now accept that it is not fair on me or others to put myself in a similar situation again. Now retired, I can still look back on an interesting and challenging career, just not the managing director position or level of consistent performance of which I would otherwise been capable. But I still made Board Director and my contribution was valued by colleagues. It is all a question of managing your condition as best you can and striving to achieve some kind of balance which works for you and your family.

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Cogitator

Aug. 27, 2018, 5:08 a.m.

Hi Alex and thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your responses. It's such a relief when I hear of others who have been through the mill and gets out the other side. You are right - it's about the employer. Good people, but a young start-up which needs all hands on deck. I do think I am managing my condition well now and so tempted to try again in the corporate world. But employers like consistency. ****, I demand high performance AND consistency. If was good to hear you remained an earner, without being MD.

Tim

Aug. 21, 2018, 8:25 a.m.

I am not commenting with any great authority here, I am not bi-polar, merely low - moderate depression and anxiety over many years. But what fascinates me about this dilemma is the conundrum that you are facing here. It resonates with me because on good days I feel that I am capable of far more, and then feelings of frustration set in because I know that on bad days, if I were to take on more, I would feel overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious ... all of the feelings I would rather not have. And so I have opted to 'stick', knowing that I can mainly cope ok. I have learnt to take advantage of good days by taking on short-term challenges that I can drop without harming me or anyone else if they prove to be too much. What you are talking about is life-changing for you and those around you. This is a long way of saying that I agree with Alex above, and a number of the others who have commented: your main duty is to you and those who are close to you, and so you have to be completely honest with yourself in order to come to the right decision. Best wishes, Tim

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Cogitator

Aug. 27, 2018, 9:51 a.m.

Thank you Tim. Anyone with some insight into mood disorders has authority to comment. What you describe is exactly how I feel. I like your short-term view... small bites. Being honest with myself if tough, as there are two of me, pulling in very different directions. And then there is that silly niggle regarding finances... the external job brings more long term financial opportunity. Which could be the swing vote. Thank you for writing and for the wishes.

Lex

Aug. 21, 2018, 9:04 a.m.

Hi Cogitator, this is one of the most exciting blogs I've ever read. I think you've shared something that is essential to consider and I love your honesty around not wanting to hire someone just like you. If I may share a belief it would be that time-for-money is only one style of exchanging value in the workplace. If, instead, working contracts were prepared to accept results or 'value' in exchange for money, the pattern could cope with your down times. From what you've shared, I'm assuming that your outputs, when all is well, are outstanding. This is a pattern with creatives and the creative industry - it's about periods of wonderful outputs within the context of other periods where there is little activity. I hope this makes sense. I believe we should value your outputs and the results you get, and not confuse this with having to be on form all the time. Awesome blog! Lex

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Cogitator

Aug. 27, 2018, 9:57 a.m.

Hi Lex, I love this line of thinking. So are you saying that I could even contract in a different way with this company - because you are right, that would suit me better. Great results when I can, no results and no pay when I can't. Far less pressure! Do you think though that a business is happy to contract in for a critical role? This is head of Business Development and Marketing for FinTech, which wants to triple its book in three years. If this were my business, I would want a full time employee at my beck and call to deliver on this. If I pose the contract option, literally, with value placed on outputs only and not face-time, am I shooting myself in the foot?

The Gardener

Aug. 21, 2018, 9:21 a.m.

The issues raised on 'disclosure' are enormous. We had two tractor drivers who did not admit to occasional epilectic fits, danger to selves and others. I took a 15 year old friend of a daughter to Nice for Christmas. She did not admit to asthma (ended up an emergency on Christmas night) she thought we would not take her if we knew. Parents utterly irresponsible letting go, but they were too busy swapping partners, I was furious, as well as extremely worried.

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Cogitator

Aug. 27, 2018, 10:05 a.m.

I hadn't taken lack of disclosure to the full extreme. In my case, the worst would be if I offed myself while with a small business - which would reel with the emotional and business impact. Gosh. I am bipolar 11, so mania is less of a risk (if anything, my colleagues are motivated by my energy and hyper-mania) but depressions are severe and long. I would like to be like you, were I can run my own show. But I am just not an entrepreneur. It's a rare skill all on its own.

The Gardener

Aug. 21, 2018, 9:24 a.m.

I realise bi-polar is different to physical issues - a farmer friend here, mad where safety is concerned had a horrific accident (no fault of his) and lost an eye. He only has 4/10 vision in the remaining eye but still drives. Who is responsible? Has the eye surgeon said he should not drive? If he has an accident, the insurance agent will have a nervous breakdown. Won't add to above, but if your contribution to the company is valuable then 'down' time can be absorbed.

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The Gardener

Aug. 21, 2018, 9:27 a.m.

Going to sort computer, somehow. When I was manic no way I could have done your job because my decisions would not have been made in a rational way - been an absolutely liability. Always worked for own company, so my mad times could be covered by others, and I could get on with my nutty ideas all by myself till the 'balloon' of mania collapsed. You've raised a most important issue, thanks Cogitator.

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Michael

Aug. 21, 2018, 9:55 a.m.

You have to be honest. By not being honest you do a disservice to yourself and in turn run the risk of potential dismissal by not being honest in the first place. Equally, if your employers display a lack of sensitivity to your health needs would you want to work for them anyway? A good employer would be in a position to support you through their responsibilities under Equalities Act. You are so much more than your bi polar. M

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Cogitator

Aug. 27, 2018, 10:08 a.m.

Thanks M. I am more than my bipolar.

Valerie

Aug. 21, 2018, 10:06 a.m.

Apart from some low paid,short -term jobs in my early life,I have always been self-employed.There has never been a time when I could have coped,let alone excelled,in your world.My gut feeling is that although in an ideal world it should be different,disclosure is generally unwise. My partner is a freelance consultant now,but for years ran a dept.of 50 people.I asked him for an opinion.He says that if 2 persons of equal abilities interviewed for a job,he would be very unlikely to give the job to one with any unpredictable illness that could entail lengthy sick leave.Likewise,he would favour a man over a woman of childbearing years. I should add that he is high-functioning Aspergers,but has never mentioned this to colleagues or clients.Even in his world of science and engineering it would be professional suicide.His problems manifest largely at home,so he can keep his condition in a separate compartment.The press coverage of criminal acts and stupid hacking by people with Aspergers cannot be overlooked,it sticks in the mind. Likewise,there must be many degrees of bi-polar,most very different to the outrageous depictions in films and fiction.Nonetheless,that is what people may fear,and they are not always wrong to be cautious.A friend with bi-polar caused mayhem in the school where she taught,colleagues banded together to demand her dismissal.She would not comply with her medication regime,and ended up unemployable.The head had bent over backwards to be sympathetic for years. Have you ever been freelance? If financially possible, would it give you greater control over your ideas and ambitions? That said,sick-leave is not so easy to arrange with clients needing you!

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Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 11:05 a.m.

I too asked my husband this question Valerie. He has never worked in this high octane environment but works in academia and has interviewed many prospective candidates for senior positions. Initially his response was a definite no, he would be reluctant to offer the job to someone who disclosed this condition if there was someone else in the running equally as good but who had no history of diagnosed mental illness. After I had discussed it further with him, he said he would as an employer welcome a letter from the consultant involved in his healthcare explaining the illness and how it might affect his work. Also references from previous employers who knew about the health history of the person being interviewed would help. When I said that the previous employer might want to get rid of him, my OH said then the references would be glowing and OTT. (In his experience). He came round to my view that the person should not disclose for a variety of reasons. One being his health might improve. My husband has never experienced first hand mental health issues (I rarely discuss how I'm feeling..but this blog gave me an opportunity to) but is aware of the equalities act and discrimination in the work place. He treats all employees equally, men,women, disabled etc etc. We're talking about interviews here. Jul xx

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 11:17 a.m.

Oh dear I'm writing too much but such an interesting subject. I want to add that my OH has had people with mental health issues working in his organisation , issues which he and his colleagues were not alerted to at interview and has dealt with them in a very compassionate way. He's told me over the years aboit the issues , not who the people are for reasons of confidentiality. Sadly not all workplace environments are like his and not all employers are like him,very kind (although not a saint lol!). jul xx

Valerie

Aug. 21, 2018, 11:31 a.m.

That's a very good point your husband (Bruce) makes Jul,someone could get well again.Mental illness in particular can be linked to so many factors.Change some of those,and the person could be so much better,even cured.It will stick on their file though. My partner was very quick to step in with employees who were struggling.Sadly,his efforts were often abused.E.g.Someone claiming he had a serious sleep disorder was simply gambling all night in casinos,failing to turn up at work.Medicals had been arranged for him,time off to rest etc.Hours changed to allow him to work different times.Cost the company a lot of money,and lowered morale for those slogging away despite their burdens. I agree with you and Bear,if Cogitator has a good thing going in the current job,why change? Can that be a feature of bi-polar,seeking out risk? I am the most risk averse person you could meet though,so not the best to judge! ***

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, noon

Have you read The Little Ottillies then?? ha ha. Thanks for your reply and mentioning Bruce (my OH!) Jul xx

Cogitator

Aug. 27, 2018, 10:31 a.m.

Loving this thread. Some cold hard realities presented. I too wouldn't take the risk on me. I think that's why I haven't disclosed. At least I am past my child bearing years. I can understand on the face of it the motivation to stay with the family business. Wondering if 'this is as good as it gets' is a luxury for the able bodied and downright unjust if I become the burden on my colleagues. But there as an added complication here - there is no future beyond a year or two with the family business, and I won't be able to get back into the market at that point. I am supporting myself and my kids. So then to face up to the risk of doing something on my own in the future? Or earn less and downscale my lifestyle? Staying where I am may be good for my mental health in the short-term but is a perceived risk for my long term security/finances. But to play with a start-up and potentially bail is not fair either.

Tutti Frutti

Aug. 21, 2018, 10:31 a.m.

Hi Cogitator I agree with Michael that you have to be honest. On a practical level surely your health record is likely to come out in references and there may even be a declaration for you to fill out about your health. If you lie to an employer to get a job then it could be a disciplinary matter down the line. I work part time for a large employer and have been with the same organisation since before I was diagnosed so I didn't have to face this decision although I am pretty sure that I would be uncomfortable with not being up front. I did once start making enquiries about moving with the recruitment consultants for my profession and got put off by the health forms. My colleagues undoubtedly have to cover for me at times; both at occasional times when I am there and working inefficiently with low level depression and because I have had some very long periods off sick. However I am a satisfactory worker who works very hard the rest of the time and I have probably had no longer in combined sick leave and maternity leave than some of my colleagues have - it's just a different balance. (Not meant to be an anti-parent comment but becoming very ill and being diagnosed bipolar after my daughter was born meant I stopped at one child which wasn't the original plan so it feels like a relevant comparison.) I have chosen to stick with what I have and recognise my limitations from my illness. At times I think I could achieve more - though possibly in responsibilities outside work rather than at work - but I tend to hold back from taking on too much. I worry both about getting too stressed out and about not being reliable enough and letting let down. Best wishes for your decision Love TF x

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Tutti Frutti

Aug. 21, 2018, 10:34 a.m.

PS Not sure that I can particularly see any positive side of my illness for my work. Possibly because I go fully manic rather than hypomanic so being really energetic never seems to coincide with a reasonable degree of common sense! Love TF x

Cogitator

Aug. 28, 2018, 3:17 p.m.

Thanks TF. You sound like you have learnt a lot about managing your life around your bipolar. It takes years it seems.

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 10:51 a.m.

A few people here have mentioned medication. I know there is medication for bi polar which as far as my understanding goes, levels out the wild mood swings typically associated with bi polar. But I think some sufferers don't like the consistency of the moods medication brings and miss the highs. Does this apply to you Cogitator? I am not sure but does bipolar cover many different categories of mood swings and does medication not help all bi polar? Jul xx

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Alex

Aug. 21, 2018, 5:01 p.m.

Hi jul. When I was diagnosed twenty ears ago the standard medication for manic depression...as it was then called....was Lithium. I didn’t like it and have since tried a wide variety of various drugs,,,in addition to various talking therapies. I am now trying to live drug free and still have down periods off two or three months at a time. There are indeed various types of BP. In my own case I have since been diagnosed as cyclthymic. This is a personality disorder similar to BP but without either deep lows or manic highs. Prozac has been reasonably useful for quite long periods but there are side effects that I no longer choose to live with. Hope this helps you. It has been a long road of discovery through trial and error in search of a golden bullet to fix my issues. I have never found one! But I hope you have more luck.

Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 5:43 p.m.

Thank you for this Alex. Very interesting and informative. I wonder if a golden bullet exists? i don't think so;not yet anyway. Jul xx

Nicco

Aug. 21, 2018, 11:36 a.m.

Such an interesting blog & what a dilemma. I was honest with my employer & he was very understanding & sympathetic, but I still had to give up work - that was 20yrs ago & I'm aware the workplace is very different & more competitive these days. (I was secretary/PA in a couple of well-known British establishments & had to sign the official secrets act twice along the way). I didn't lie at the interview as i was diagnosed as depressive during my last job in my chosen career, but I still had to give up work as I couldn't hack the pace as my down times became more frequent. I haven't been diagnosed as bipolar but have had my suspicions for many yrs but don't think my up times are manic enough for the diagnosis but I do have times when I am far more creative & productive than others. Also, as a woman i wasn't the sole earner so could afford to give up work - though it was obviously a huge financial struggle at the time. I can see the value of & agree with Michael’sl, Valerie's & Jul's comments above. It's a decision only you can make but in the end you may have to settle for what you already have as the grass isn't always greener on the other side & if you have dependants is it worth taking such a risk? Perhaps you could find other ways of fulfilling what you feel is missing in other ways, as has already been suggested, maybe in the voluntary or charity environments along side your job as and when you feel able. Like Jul, I am also wondering about medication so perhaps it might be worth discussing your thoughts about your prospective career move with your practitioner in context of your health.

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Jul

Aug. 21, 2018, 4:14 p.m.

Hi Cogitator. Your blog was great today. Thank you! Maybe when you are feeling good again you can let us know how your interview went, whether you disclosed etc. I am sure I speak for all who have commented that we feel for you and your dilemma. And we wish you well. jul xx

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Sally

Aug. 22, 2018, 3:39 a.m.

Hear, hear! Thanks , Jul. And good luck, Cogitator!

Leah

Aug. 21, 2018, 9:56 p.m.

Hello cogitator, Thanks for this interesting blog that has brought up some uncomfortable and even painful issues for me. I have always been labelled as a low achiever as unlike you I have chosen the simple less stressedoptions in life . I have often blamed my bipolar for not achieving more in life but when I read what you have done in your lifeI feel maybe it was not my bipolar holding me back but my own lack of skills . I really admire your determination and your willingness to extend yourself and try new things. you are asking som heard questions and only you will know how to answer them. Is it the disorder that holds us back or is it other people’s attitudes. you have achieved so much and I want to see you continue to flourish. honesty is not black and white and everyday we disclose what we want to and keep things to ourselves on a need to know basis. You know yourself better than anyone. let us know what you decide. Leah

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Sally

Aug. 22, 2018, 3:54 a.m.

Leah, I like your phrase “ honesty is not black and white” and you are so right: “everyday we disclose what we want to and keep things to ourselves on a need to know basis” As for the blaming yourself...I clearly see that my depression, anxiety and bi polar have put the brake on me achieving higher things, and I suspect that’d be the same for most or at least many of us on here? But I refuse to feel guilty about it being my fault. It is what it is, just as having giving birth to a son with disabilities is what it is. I think the immeasurable ( who you are, not your achievements, Leah ) are worth far more than actual career success or gongs. For some people, recognition in monetary or establishment terms is important , and yes, there have been times when I’ve been a tad envious ( “ I could’ve done that if...”) but...I have come to a point of acceptance. I think you’re great, Leah, whether you wash stairs for a living, or preach to the masses in parliament. We come as we do, and play the cards in our hand as well as we can. If that all makes sense to you? Xx

Sheena

Aug. 22, 2018, 10:12 a.m.

Hello again Cogitator Your blog has certainly made us all think! I hadn't been on this site for nearly a year and yesterday felt compelled to comment. I was 'diagnosed' as a young teenager 50 years ago. Now I would be of retirement age if the 'goal posts' hadn't kept moving. With hindsight: I can still recognise the young teenager who apparently 'everything came so easily to' in myself. What I would add is that although my trajectory was radically changed by other peoples' interventions (no doubt with the best of intentions) ... well it is often commented that I am calm, consistent and an excellent listener and communicator. This sounds very not bipolar/manic depression. Life is good. We are all living in privileged times despite the 'news' both uk and worldwide. I would reiterate: you come across as competent. Why not enjoy your success, your marriage and your family and no doubt life will throw up challenges and rewards - without you seeking out excessive pressure. If anything the diagnosis made my working life more challenging as I was consistently in jobs where I was taken advantage of for my capacity and yet consistently under paid. Money is not all - although being paid less for being female did move me on a few times back in the 1980s! You really are a cogitator - I wish you true belief in yourself and all that you so willingly offer those in your world. Sheena

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 22, 2018, 8:08 p.m.

Wow - what a great blog! So challenging. My bipolar certainly contributed to my problems at work, but I was not diagnosed until I had left paid employment and set up my own business. To be honest, until I started the medication which has kept me stable for more than a year now, I considered myself unemployable. How could I expect any employer to cope with the times (weeks and even months) I had to be off work? How could I expect them to cope with my bad temper and unreasonableness (in spite of amazing creativity - not always great when one is an accountant!) in times of mania? I have no answer to give save that I think transparency is always best. As someone says above, do you want to work for a company who doesn't want to employ you?

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Cogitator

Aug. 23, 2018, 10:20 a.m.

Thanks Mary. You sound like you have been on a challenging road. I am so pleased to hear about a year of stability... that's a massive gift. Perhaps you started a business because you were "unemployable" and your 'way of being' actually forced new doors to present themselves? I try to think about my situation that way... perhaps my condition is telling me that I personally need to stay low key and with the family business. Or is the job opportunity telling me to go out there and live my potential, handicap and all? And when to disclose the handicap? Thanks for responding... most appreciated.

Ach UK

Aug. 23, 2018, 2:56 a.m.

Hi Cogitator, So pleased to read your blog and all the responses. " . . .To be , or not to be ? . . . That is the question . , . " Coming to terms with your current dilemma, decisions and outcomes . . . I don't envy your position. As someone else said it's " too close to the bone for me " and I could not write an adequate response just now. I have to say " Thank you " for airing the topic and a thank you for all the responses which bring me comfort and validate decisions I have had to take throughout my life. XX Ach.

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Cogitator

Nov. 24, 2018, 8:24 a.m.

So I left the flexi-business and took the full-time job back in Banking. An exciting FinTech. And I didn't tell them that they will get exceptional energy, until they don't. The first few weeks were awesome… they were lapping up everything I was putting down. Then I had a personal set back: one of my new reports made it clear she doesn’t see my value as her boss or why she should be reporting to me. And a Board member refused my outstretched hand in public due to religious regions. Within a day, I collapsed. And realized – I take myself with me wherever I go. What a bummer. Call it bi-polar, call it temperament, call it emotional immaturity, call it zero resilience and inability to compromise. Whatever it is, before this week, I was at a place where I thought my professional and personal work was paying off in a completely new way – physical and life balance, exercise, insight, coaching, meds, meditating, spirituality, praying. But here I am on my journey, and I find the same person - me. My reaction is not normal. Its immediate and over-reaches. This can’t possibly be normal. I take a day off sick. I sleep. I take Rivotril. I research how much Rivotril I need to take to overdose. I think about my kids and who do I think I’m kidding. I have to be here otherwise I will destroy the people who love me. I go back to work and pretend. I hide. No-one can know that I know my work here is done.

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Sheena

Nov. 24, 2018, 9:48 a.m.

Hello again Cogitator! Back in August your blog caused so much response here that clearly you can express yourself and you are NOT alone . New environments are challenging. You currently feeling challenged. Normal enough . I am sorry to hear that such challenge has led to you feeling very desperate . I think that all of us resort to type under pressure. I agree with you that our personality comes through in these stressful circumstances . Please remember that you have built character on your basic personality . .. age and experience teach us all . Life's knocks and set backs allow us to build resilience. Please look at what you know you have already coped with, successfully. Try not to dwell on what people who have only known you for a short time are saying. Who are they to judge? It would be great to hear how you come through , and how you feel then Sheena

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