In part 1 of this blog post, I discussed how my bipolar disorder has affected my work life. My experiences in the workplace have been good for the most part in terms of controlling my mood swings. However, manic episodes and the ensuing impulse control issues are another story altogether. A lot of people who suffer from bipolar mania I and II struggle to effectively cope with impulse control. One manic episode can change your entire life.
For example, I was working for a company that I loved: the benefits were great, my co-workers and supervisor were all aware of my condition. I rarely had any issues, until one day I was on a particularly hard call where the person really wasn’t looking for an answer, they just wanted to express their frustrations with someone who represented the company. If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know the type of customer I’m talking about. They were irate and inconsolable, nothing I did to try to fix the situation was good enough. They insulted my intelligence, pushed my buttons. By the end of the call, I was so fed up that I just walked out. I quit a well-paying job on impulse. I didn’t immediately regret it either — it took a few days for my manic episode to subside for me to realize the magnitude of my actions.
Why would I do that? On any other day, that person wouldn’t have bothered me to that extent. Usually my manic episodes are what make me a good worker, because of the bubbliness and talkativeness that come with mania. I had to come to grips with the fact that maybe I was unstable and go from there. I started trying to be a bit more aware of the impulses I had so something like this wouldn’t happen again. I swear, just taking a step back for reflection helps a ton in these moments.
Having realized this, I knew the best option was to try and reach out to my job and apologize and explain. You must take responsibility for your actions. Fortunately, I was able to call my job and explain what happened, and of course I got penalized for my actions, but they welcomed me back all the same. The ADA was working in my favor.
Looking back, how many job experiences have you had that would’ve been a lot better had you told someone of your condition? Do you think this level of honesty is inappropriate for the workplace, or is it a step in the right direction for a better, more equitable future for all of us? I believe we need to be more open with these things to ensure more opportunities that would otherwise not be available to us. I encourage you to speak up and have open discussions.