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Bipolar disorder and working/employment

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Old 10-14-2011, 02:06 PM   #1
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snike HB User
Bipolar disorder and working/employment

Hi guys

Have just joined the site and have a question that has been troubling me for some time about work (or the lack of it). I am a bipolar male and, aside from some short-term temping work and voluntary work, have been without a job since August 2006. This was round about the time I was put on antipsychotic medication.

Things that have happened since then include a loss of motivation, energy problems in the mornings, depression, psychosis and stress. I worry about my CV, the gaps in it, and how it must be increasingly difficult for me to find suitable long-term paid employment. One more recent problem I've had has related to cognitive problems with things such as comprehension (getting the gist of what's being said to me, film plots etc.), memory and attention (goodness this sounds bad when I write it down!). Whether this is due to the illness itself or the amount of medication I'm taking (800mg lithium, 1000mg Depakote, 4mg Risperidone, 100mg Lustral) is not clear. I've raised my concerns with my psychiatrist who is sympathetic and tries but can't solve them. It's starting to get me down. I used to work as a researcher (nursing research, psychology, market research) and found the work demanding but enjoyable. I don't think I could do that work now. The question is what sort of work could I do. Because I'm doing voluntary work in the local Adult Education Centre I thought I'd try the local Starbucks but I couldn't do it.

Have any other members had similar experiences? If so, how have you overcome these difficulties? It's getting to the stage where I spend every day going over and over the question of what I should be doing, should I be trying harder etc.?

I'd be really grateful if you could let me know your views.

Every good wish,


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changewillcome (10-24-2011)
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Old 10-15-2011, 11:57 PM   #2
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katlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB User
Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

Hi, welcome to the Boards.

First off the gap in your CV can be explained by saying you've been working temp assignments for an agency, and also saying you desired some "change" in your work routine over the last year or so, that you were looking for "what you wanted to do next." There are always ways to patch those CV holes. *smile*

As for the neurologic problems and your meds, Risperadone and Depakote are particularly hard on the body...they cause every one of the symptoms you described. Does that mean you should stop them....not if they're working to keep your BiPolar manageable. BP is on of those diseases that have a treatment that can and will make things worse, but you have to balance things out. It is very, very difficult for most BP'ers to find the right med combo that works, so if you're there, don't screw it up.

BP and working is very manageable and not much different from working while having a hundred other have to get yourself into a routine and just make yourself do it....after a bit you get used to it, but you have to push through and not quit.

I was DX'd BP 23 years ago...I've got a Degree in Computer Science, a Degree in Accounting, am a Certified Paralegal and am currently back in school working on my C.P.A......nothing is impossible just because you have BP, but you do have to work for what you want and not give up.

Take care,


Old 10-16-2011, 09:53 PM   #3
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Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

I work 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and sometimes I feel like I should get another job, but I don't know what else to do. I feel like I have a disability in a way. I have my masters in teaching and when I was taking a class to keep my teacher's license I couldn't keep up with the class. I felt very ashamed of myself. I was too prideful to tell my teacher about all the medication I was on, and what I had recently gone through (break down). Maybe if I would have told her she would have given me more time to get the work done. Any job I can think of to do, I feel like I would be bad at it. Doing my job is hard enough as it is for me (I work at an elementary school). I get stressed out over the stupidest things. I think I would fail at a job like Starbucks. The fast pace would be too much for me. I think for me in order for me to be successful I need to be around people that I can get along with. People that encourage me and that inspire me. If that was the work atmosphere I think I could work there. I think also since knowing I have bipolar and all these other "disorders" I have it has made me lose self-confidence in my intelligence. When I was in school I didn't know all of my disorders and I believed I was a smart person, therefore I did excellent in school. I mean I think I was smart anyway. I must have been. Maybe someday I will get a second job or a better job.

Old 10-17-2011, 05:18 PM   #4
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katlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB Userkatlin09 HB User
Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

Don't sell yourself short, even though your not working full time, the work you do it important....there is nothing more important in this world than helping our children grow and become responsible educated are doing a great and wonderful work.

Keep up the good work, and take care.


Old 10-23-2011, 03:21 PM   #5
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Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

I appreciate your struggle. My own experience is this. I had a string of very demanding professional positions that wore me down and made me very ill. Eventually, after disability a couple of times, I realized that I could no longer work at that level. It didn't mean, however, that i couldn't work. I had to find what suited me. I took a position as a consultant grant writer and discovered that I didn't enjoy it, but that I did enjoy being around people all day so took a less stressful clerical position. I worked two clerical jobs - receptionist, secretarial, book keeper, that sort of thing - until recently when I made the decision to try at something between the professional positions I had in the past and the clerical positions I had more recently.

I'm now doing project management and thus far am successful and enjoying. One of the wonderful things about temp jobs is that you get to try new things. Keep trying. Something will stick. Focus on jobs that aren't incredibly stressful, not terribly demanding, and don't have long hours. Part-time work can be great. Also some retail jobs. Book store clerk (if there are any bookstores left in your area) or personal assistant.

My therapist once suggested that I walk dogs. At the time I thought she was nuts, but now I don't think so. I think it would have been quite a useful thing for me to do. I would have felt needed, I would have had a responsibility, and I would have earned money. Not bad. I wish you luck. You can do this. It's just a matter of finding the right fit. Consider all options except the one's that give you stress. They're not an option.

Old 11-18-2011, 05:58 AM   #6
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Chickee HB User
Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

My goodness this could have been my post. I was fine for about two years after my first diagnosis- about two to three months after starting bipolar meds. After about 6 years of depression meds alone and a massive blow up at a previous employer (manic driven, delusions of grandeur etc) this was a miracle and I finally felt stable again.

But in my latest blood test my thyroid levels were off so my doc wanted to reduce my lithium. Also because it makes me feel a bit like an idiot. I have a bachelor's degree in engineering but I'm working in a job where I earn half as much just so there is less stress and less triggers, as well as being able to cope but even then I think people must think I'm stupid when I can't even finish my sentences properly. After playing around with meds I've just about had enough, I've gotten to the stage where I'm downing valium to get through the day in increasing quantities and everyone in our small business knows something's up. I wonder if it's not better to cut my losses but I have no savings to speak of at all.

Sorry could not be of help but I do see your predicament.

Old 11-19-2011, 06:12 AM   #7
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Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

I think a lot of us struggle with figuring out how to manage working and bipolar disorder. I constantly worry about this as well. I have to work, I have no choice, and it scares me a lot because many days I can barely manage. But I have a husband who is in school full time and 2 and 4 year old children, and it's scary to know I'm the only one financially keeping our family together.

I want to go back to graduate school - I left a Ph.D. program in school psychology back many years ago due to physical, emotional, and financial strain. I worry whether or not I can handle it, but I am so unhappy with my current job I hope that the change would be mentally refreshing. But then some days I just pray that once my husband finishes his degree, he'll be able to get a well paying job, and if I do decide to work instead of going back to school, maybe I can just work part time. I didn't think my husband would go with that idea, but he said he would be fine with that. Which to me just shows how bad my mental health is right now because we were always going to be a two parent, full time working family, and I wonder if that is in jeopardy. My biggest hope is that I can get my bipolar better under control and learn how to manage my stressors better, so I can achieve my dream of going back to school. Even if I can still only work part time after I finish school, I need to do the schooling first.

I just think these are common concerns among all of us, and there is no best way to handle it, we just have to make sure if we do work that it's not putting too much stress on us that it's making our mental health worse. As a person who've always been an overachiever, I know that's hard to do.

Old 11-19-2011, 07:42 PM   #8
Lucky Lucy
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Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

hi all ,
just wanted to share my experiences with working. I have always worked, i basically cant sit still. but if i got into an episode, the employer has never understood, various jobs.

The worst situation was recently......

When I was in a manic episode, I became a stripper, was fun at the time, but as the manic flowed into a depression, it was not a good situation for me. So then I got a job at a professional office, i was an administrator, and book keeper. I was loyal to this job, never used a sick day, worked over time with out pay. I worked there for a year and a half. Was a small office, around 8 people, so I thought we were close, I mean I would spend 8 hours a day with these people 5 days out of 7. My boss was aware I was bipolar when he hired me, I wanted him to be aware in case something happened. About a month ago, I started noticing signs of an episode apporaching. The last straw was when i didnt sleep for three days, and still worked. On the 4th night I had enough, so i drove myself to the local crisis center, I was unstable. The psycharist switched my meds, and said I need a week off to pull myself together. CAN YOU GUESS WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I BROUGHT THIS NOTE IN? im not ready to go in depth about it, but lets say he did not like that, treated me awful, made me cry my eyes out, just had no compasion. after being treated horribly ( i did contact a labour lawyer, everything he did was illegal, and i could of took him to court, but thats too much stress) So after the week off was completed (oh did i mention he made me use my vacation days hah) I called and said Im not sure when I can work again. The following day, my personal belongings, all remainding pay, and record of employment was delivered to me. On the ROE, they put I quit. I never once said i quit or gave something in writing. WOW I WAS LOYAL FOR A YEAR AND A HALF, AND THIS IS HOW IM TREATED. BUT i do not want to work for someone that discriminates. BUT i wonder if i needed a week off due to a broken arm, would this situation turned out differently?

I wish the stigma on mental illness would go away, its no different then have high blood pressure etc. everyone is different.

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Old 11-22-2011, 04:48 AM   #9
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Chickee HB User
Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

Lucy, I'm really sorry you had to have such an experience. Some things are changing, my current boss I actually felt like I could tell without being judged too much, but it's really hard when you feel like you have to prove you can be exceptional at your job *before* disclosing an illness, where if you had some other disability it would be up front and your employer would even be encouraged to employ you. I always have this fear that everyone is thinking what if I have to go into hospital again and can they really keep my job open, or what if I go psycho at a customer?? I also work every day with lethal and addictive drugs and I know there are risks there too.

In Australia we don't have any sort of system to protect your job if you are sick for a long period but you can contest a wrongful dismissal if the business is big enough.

This topic is really on my mind at the moment. I don't really know what the answer is, it seems like bipolar and other mental illness sufferers are destined to be second class workers, always looking over our shoulders no matter how many well meaning coworkers and bosses we have.

Old 11-28-2011, 01:35 PM   #10
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Re: Bipolar disorder and working/employment

I have been off work since may when i was first diagnosed im very lucky as my boss is extremely understanding and told me to take whatever time i need to get myself better,im hoping to go back to work in january when im hopefully stable as im not at the minute but am very nervous and a bit anxious as its a very stressful job but i believe as i could do it before bipolar surely i can do it again.

But then i ask myself can i do this is it just a lack of confidence or am i really not going to have the mind power to do my job as well as before and am i better off giving it up altogether and just concentrate on getting well and maybe getting a less stressful job down the line,very hard to make my mind up any advice guys????

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