Juggling Bipolar Disorder and the Workplace

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • When we suffer from mood swings and sleepless nights, it‘s not easy to hold down a job or fulfill promises to clients in a timely manner. We may get twice as much work done as another employee one week, and only half as much another. It may all even out in the end, but people come to expect our best and are disappointed when we don’t fulfill that promise.

    A bipolar friend of mine who is a building contractor says that he maintains good relations with his clients by letting them know what to expect ahead of time. He tells them right up front that he is bipolar and will have some bad days when he might not be able to show up for work. But he keeps them informed as much as he can. This makes him popular with clients because they are used to building contractors not communicating at all.
    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    I am an artist and writer, which makes my hours pretty flexible. I still need to deliver a painting on schedule and to answer inquiries as timely as possible. But I can speed up or slow down my work as needed to match my mood. And if I have a sleepless night, I can usually sleep in the next day, unless my daughter brings the grandkids over at 7 a.m. A day with them is a respite from work in any case, and never hurts my mood.

    A job or home business with flexible hours is ideal, but we can’t all manage that. If you have a nine-to-five job, I still think that open communication is the best way to handle things, especially once you’ve established your competence. Admitting you’re bipolar may not be the best choice at a job interview, but once you’ve established a relationship with your boss, it may be time to open up. I have another bipolar friend who did just this, and has been working in the same place for over ten years.

    When I had nine-to-five jobs in the past, I never communicated the fact that I was bipolar with anyone because I hadn’t been diagnosed yet and didn’t realize it. I never kept those jobs for very long.

    By the time I was diagnosed as bipolar, I was teaching college, and made sure I didn’t have any early morning classes. There was enough flexibility in that kind of job to enable me to perform well even with my mood swings. When you’re desperate, you can always cancel classes.

    What do the rest of you think? It would be interesting to hear whether open communication was helpful or hurtful on the job. Tell us in the message boards.

Published On: September 06, 2006