About 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience some form of mental illness each year. That’s approximately 43.8 million people who are in the workforce or will be at some point. Thankfully, there are laws in place to protect us from discrimination based on mental illness.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990 to make sure employers couldn’t pass over anyone just because they had a disability, legally giving everyone an equal opportunity to jobs. This act also protected people from being fired for things outside of their control due to a disability, such as frequent absences due to mental illness. This is amazing considering the culture surrounding labor in our country. The ADA, one giant leap for mankind.
As I have discussed in previous posts, I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Despite my disability, I have always enjoyed working. I find immense joy in helping other people, which is why I was drawn to customer service. I know what you’re thinking: don’t you have to be level-headed to work in that field? Well, I don’t think that is true. I believe that my bipolar disability gives me a better understanding of certain situations and allows me to react quickly during stressful exchanges. The coping mechanisms I’ve developed for my illness also come in handy when a customer is being irate or when things don’t go my way in the office. Can you think of any advantages your disability gives you?
Controlling your mood swings is a huge part of having a successful work experience. I always try to make sure that whenever I do have an issue, I bring it up with my supervisor or take a moment for myself, either by taking a quick bathroom break to gather my thoughts or on my allotted breaks.
I have worked jobs where I made the mistake of not disclosing my disability status. I tried to keep my condition a secret, worrying that disclosing it would keep me from moving up in a company or even getting the job in the first place. By not telling my supervisors and colleagues about my disability, I ran into difficulties that I could’ve prevented had I just been honest to begin with. I would be near termination due to my illness, but things would change as soon as I told my boss that there was a real medical reason behind the inconsistencies in my work ethic. After telling people, the atmosphere at work always changed, but, thankfully, I never felt judged. Instead I felt better understood and at peace.
In part 2 of this blog post, I’ll discuss another difficulty, which is an impulse control issue. I’ll share a story about a manic episode I had, and impulse issues that had strong consequences. Stay tuned!