Telling people at work that I’ve got bipolar

November 7, 2009

I’ve now come out to my new boss, “Tim”, and his new boss, whom I work with closely, “Jennifer”.   Both conversations went far better than I’d expected.

Tim seems to suffer from anxiety, and he seems like a pretty sympathetic guy, so I figured it would be fine.  But what actually happened was that he opened up to me and told me about mental illness in his family, as well as some of his own struggles.  He completely understands (vicariously) how horrible bipolar rage can be, as well as the importance and difficulty of sticking with meds.  I gave him my husband’s phone number in case I ever start acting really inappropriate at work, and he put it into his cellphone.  I expected support from Tim, but he gave me more — he gave me understanding.  Since telling him a week and a half ago, he and I haven’t made any reference to any of this, but it feels very good knowing that he is supporting me and watching out for me.

I was more nervous about telling Jennifer –she’s a very logical engineer (I even had a dream where she was working with Data from Star Trek to solve some dilithium problem), and I feared she’d think the whole thing was BS or just a weak character.  When I told her, I then asked if she knew anything about bipolar.  It turns out someone in her family has a spouse with bipolar, so she’s vicariously seen how hard the medication trials are.   She told me that she’d had no idea, and that she thought I was managing extremely well.  We then talked about how I should handle it when I can’t come into work.

I know that not everyone is so lucky to have colleagues or managers to support them, and I feel grateful.   I do think, however,  given the percentage of people with bipolar in this country (almost 2%), that there is a good chance that if someone “comes out” to a co-worker, he or she will already know someone with bipolar.

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2 Responses to “Telling people at work that I’ve got bipolar”

  1. Wow, that is a really great “coming out” story!

    I’m a freelance journalist, but previously worked in the corporate world for over 10 years and had very mixed results coming out as bipolar. I usually had a note from my psychiatrist telling the top brass I might need some extra days off as “reasonable accommodation” to accompany my very nervous verbal explanation to my bosses. It usually went fine, b/c as you mention, just about everyone knows someone with BP. But when I actually needed the time off, my work situation deteriorated.

    I am sure it is quite a different workplace today than when I had to come out the last time, which was over five years ago.

    Good luck!

  2. janusjana said

    Thanks! My job isn’t so much “corporate” as “a smallish company trying to be corporate”, but it’s still pretty lax in terms of working from home and days off. I was glad to read on your site that you’re making freelance work. 🙂

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