How much do you share?

10 Jul 2020
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Like it or not people assess you based on what information you give them. So, how do you judge how much of your past to share with people?

 

When I was diagnosed with bipolar, not only did I struggle to come to terms with it but my family did too. They couldn’t quite comprehend the illness, or the implications. 

 

First time round … My mistake was naively sharing my diagnosis with a partner at a firm that I worked at [some years later]. The following month I was asked to leave said employment. At that point I realised that there is a time to share and there is a time to keep your trap shut. 

 

Having been ousted from a company you begin to doubt your capabilities… I left the shared house I lived in and moved back to the folks to re-group.

 

Second time round … Fast forward several months and I started again, joining a graduate scheme for the second time. Lower pay this time round - so less stress I presumed [wrongly].

 

I disclosed bipolar on my application form, which the company would then manage to lose [god knows where it ended up]. After my last experience, I chose not to disclose my bipolar to line management. All well and good, until I ended up in a toxic relationship, which combined with stresses at work, triggered the onset of another episode. 

 

I tried to broach the subject with my line manager, to mitigate the risk of falling ill. Instead he ended up confiding in me, telling me his wife was an alcoholic... at which point I felt unable to ask for the support that I needed at work. I felt out of my depth and worried I would relapse - which I did a few weeks later.

 

I ended up being signed off work and taking several years out.

 

Third time round… I not only mentioned bipolar on my application form but I also plucked up the courage to tell my immediate line manager a few months into my employment.

 

Turns out that it was the best thing I could have done. He is patient, listens and is genuinely interested in my wellbeing at work. I could not ask for a more understanding person to be my manager. I know that regardless of what happens he has my back and is on hand to support me.

 

So, what is the moral of the story?

 

1)   Follow your gut

2)   Be discrete

3)   Only confide in characters that you trust

 

In summary - lived experiences are valuable things - be sure that you share them with the right people at the right time.

 

It’s taken a lifetime [20 years to be exact] to get to a stage in my life where I am secure enough in myself to open up to those I trust.

 

What about you - are you there yet?

Stay Well, Stay Safe. 

Sarah

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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Comments

Bunnykins

July 11, 2020, 7:38 a.m.

Hi Sarah, thanks for your blog. The last proper job in 2002 I didn't mention my M. Health struggles. Then 3 months in I started to struggle and couldn't cope. I rang the dental surgery and said/shouted "I can't work with that b*tch any more; I'm not coming back" I should have told them before starting but Work Direction/Ingeus told us NOT to disclose MH issues! Presumably so their statistics of getting people with health problems back into work looked good. There has never been proper support for M.H. I honestly think there never will be.

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 8:18 a.m.

Hi Angela, thanks for opening up, I was beginning to think I’d made a mistake writing this blog! I’m sorry that you went through that. Maybe the ‘culture’ of a company can have a big impact on whether it’s employees are willing to talk about MH. I guess it all boils down to the individual(s) you line into and whether they have the emotional intelligence to deal with what you disclose. x

Orangeblossom

July 11, 2020, 8:03 a.m.

Thanks for a great blog Sarah. I found it very helpful

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 8:19 a.m.

Thanks Orangeblossom, I appreciate your feedback and I’m glad you found it helpful :) x

Sue

July 11, 2020, 9:40 a.m.

Thanks Sarah, I'm sure many people have similar problems. I had a boss reduced a colleague to tears and then said 'if she can't cope she's no use to me'. Later he was made redundant but not before another colleague had a breakdown after his behaviour. I later worked for the church and their attitude was so much better - they accepted everyone was human and had bad times.

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 12:29 p.m.

Hi Sue. It’s scary how aggressive some people can be. Good to hear that there are safe environments out there though x

Moss

July 11, 2020, 10:38 a.m.

My mother had a manic depressive diagnosis, though I think retrospectively she was more of a walking personality disorder. She insisted that it be shrouded in secrecy, so we children were trained to say "Mummy's having a rest" whenever she was carted off to an asylum, as they were deemed back then. It was a difficult secret to carry and entirely futile, as I now know the whole village where we grew up, were well aware of her multiple episodes. Though not many people seemed to realise how it was for us or gave us the chance to tell them. "Be good for your Mother and look after her", I vividly remember us being told by the family Dr when I was under 4 and my siblings not much older. I would hope things are different these days but from your blog Sarah, it still seems many of the tribe prefer to scapegoat than support. Fear of their own mental states I suppose, and I think you are right to err on the side of caution. Thank you for writing this Sarah; it's really important that we do have some people to tell and to give them the opportunity to be compassionate, as we would be to them in mirrored circumstances.

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 12:27 p.m.

Hi Lupin. Thanks for your message. You make a good point - about giving people the opportunity to be compassionate ... x

Bearofliddlebrain

July 11, 2020, 11:25 a.m.

Hi Sarah, What a good blog 8). This sort of thing goes on everywhere and not just due to mental health problems. We all know there is bound to be someone at a work place who is more of a gossip than other workers. Then there are the ones who want to hear about your problems, being really 'supportive' on the face of it, but who end up stabbing you in the back and using what you have told them against you if they can...to undermine your competence or abilities. Doing it to make themselves look better. I have told friends how bad my depression has been but they are the select few. Even some of my family don’t know - because I find the minute you mention it, they are wary of you. They think maybe that I need to be treated with kid gloves or that I’m going to have a meltdown or burst into tears. There have been times when that has happened....but only within my home or with really close friends. Having also seen how some friends and family treat or do not have sympathy for mental health sufferers, I hold back from discussing those personal issues. They just wouldn’t understand. My father and I had a joke about my Mum when we went in our first holiday (eons ago). We’d be walking through a town or village and looking at shops or ambling down to the sea and we would turn around to find Mum was way back, chatting to someone. By the end of the holiday, when she came back telling us about someone she had chatted to in a queue, where they were from and where they were staying, I piped up ‘ So! Did you get their bank account details?!' Dad and Mum fell about laughing and this then became the standing joke....I am like my Mum and people do confide in me a lot, (or I manage to wheedle information out of them according to Mr. Bear!!) but their worries and secrets they impart to me are held in confidence and always must be. They’ve trusted me enough to divulge and that’s what I hope to receive from my friends - trust. Bit like here on Moodscope:) Thanks again, Sarah, Bear hugs ***

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 12:34 p.m.

Hi bearofliddlebrain, thanks for your message. You’re right, it’s a mine field confiding in people and trust is so important. x

Molly

July 11, 2020, 1:14 p.m.

Hi Sarah Thanks for your blog. I can relate a lot and it’s all too common isn’t it. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve really, sometimes wishing I hadn’t. That goes for mental health and other things. It’s tricky with employers because as much as they are meant to be seen not to discriminate, they will just find another reason for not employing you/keeping you. I agree, it does depend on the individual and whether they have the emotional intelligence. Plus I agree with what Bear says, it can make us appear vulnerable and therefore a target. When I thought I might manage a part time job but was trying to prove to the benefits agency that I was unwell, that was an odd time. The more you try to explain you are unwell, the more you feel unwell and then you go for an interview and have to come across competent and able!! Personally I wouldn’t disclose my mental health issues anymore. I think your third experience was the best way to go about it. Get to know the job, get to know the management and then, if the time is right (or needed) then there is more chance of support. With most people (outside of employment) I feel misunderstood. It’s cost me relationships and friendships and as Bear has also pointed out, people just don’t understand. I’m trying to learn it’s not their fault, but then also, it’s not mine! Molly xx

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 3:38 p.m.

Hi Molly, thanks for your message. Life can be difficult, both in work and out … wearing your heart on your sleeve isn't something to regret though - it's what makes you you x

Oli

July 11, 2020, 4:02 p.m.

Triple thanks to Bear, Molly, and Sarah. Bear and Molly for writing those thoughts, and Sarah, because yesterday I was criticised for wearing my heart on my sleeve but your words just felt nice :-) x

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 4:56 p.m.

Thanks for your triple thanks Oli :) It’s a sad state of affairs when you get criticised for being open and honest :( Hearts on sleeves aren’t to be sniffed at x

Molly

July 11, 2020, 5:42 p.m.

Yes I try and tell myself that Sarah. Thanks for your thanks Oli :-) xx

Tutti Frutti

July 11, 2020, 1:29 p.m.

Hi Sarah My mental health issues weren't serious or diagnosed until after I started with my current employer 25 years ago. I didn't really have much choice but to tell them because I ended up spending most of my 5th year off sick with severe depression. Luckily they put a lot of support in place for me to get back into the job. I have been very lucky with the people I have worked with and have never dared leave. I should think being bipolar could be a really big issue both with getting a new job and with whether I was treated well in practice if I did manage to get one. Love to all TF x

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 3:43 p.m.

Hi Tutti Frutti, good to hear from you. You're lucky receiving the support at work that you need. I can relate to you not daring to leave - I feel exactly the same way about my place of work x

Oli

July 11, 2020, 2:42 p.m.

Thank you for the blog Sarah. I enjoyed the content and the replies. :-)

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 3:44 p.m.

Hi Oli. Glad you enjoyed the read and the replies :) x

The Gardener

July 11, 2020, 5:05 p.m.

This blog is not really in my 'sphere', except from the practical point of view, having been an employer. Even if you have a 'compassionate' boss, if you are off sick, forms have to be filled in, sick pay applied for, doctor's certificates supplied. As depression, unlike flu, can be 'open ended' how do bi-polar cope with employment - if you keep quiet about it, and cannot work, what goes on the certificated to entitle you to sick pay? At busiest times we would have had 40 + staff, probably only 6/8 salaried, rest seasonal. TF, I see 'recognition' has been recent - you still have to find somebody to do your job. Real thorny problem. Thanks

Reply

Sarah

July 11, 2020, 5:20 p.m.

Thanks for your comments Gardener, I can see it from the employers standpoint - costs associated with sick leave etc ... having an understanding line manager ensures that hopefully any stress in the job is minimised and in turn the likelihood of falling ill is reduced ... (I hope) x

Molly

July 11, 2020, 6:59 p.m.

Absolutely Sarah. Two days for me turned into six months because of the lack of support from my employer. Many people with mental health issues can carry on working with the appropriate support.

Tutti Frutti

July 12, 2020, 10:33 a.m.

Hi Gardener I can see it from the employer's view point as well and sometimes I feel very guilty about the amount of time off I have had and the effects on my colleagues. I try to remember that the amount of time I have had off in total is not too dissimilar to what some of my colleagues have taken as maternity leave. I don't doubt their right to that time and I have sometimes needed to pick up the slack when they are off. I work for a large organisation in a skilled role which possibly makes it easier. I think when I was first off sick the employer probably felt some responsibility to me because I had been made to step up rather suddenly after someone else left. I didn't feel able to ask for enough support and that was definitely a trigger for my illness. They also had an incentive to get me back to work to recoup their training costs. Love TF x

The Gardener

July 11, 2020, 5:24 p.m.

This is nothing to do with blog, except for 'sharing' on here when one is in trouble. I've spoken of my neighbours with all the cats, destroyed all the birds, sad, but come to terms with it. I have 3 neighbours with 5 cats each. Others breed, rare cats, very large and expensive. Now, they are coming in over my roof, breaking flowers on my terrace, even in my bedroom, scary. I have to shut door on to terrace, maddening in this weather. I have written a polite letter (they are never around to talk to) and hoping that writing this will reduce the 'angst' and avoid obsession. Thanks all xx

Reply

Molly

July 11, 2020, 10:48 p.m.

I sympathise Gardener but cats will be cats. I’m not particularly a cat lover but I still like them. They run free and so how do you stop this happening? That’s a genuine question. My dad has an aviary and cats living next door. They frighten the birds but they of course see birds as prey. Apart from keeping them indoors I don’t know the answer. Cats are always welcome in my garden. The dogs used to shoo them away though. Get a dog? :-) xx

Alice in Brockwell Park

July 13, 2020, 7:55 a.m.

thanks for sharing the wisdom of experience.

Reply

Sarah

July 13, 2020, 6:20 p.m.

No problem, hopefully it helped x

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