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Readers Respond: The Effect of Bipolar Disorder at Work

Responses: 138


Updated April 30, 2009

I feel your pain

I was first told I was bi-polar, manic depressent and other issues. I have had my first job for two years with a corporate company dealing with alot of people. I had a major surgery a few months ago and I went back to work to early only to break down within three months and now back on disability. I cant cope. I am seeing a therapist, psych doc, pain managment... The other day was so bad.. I just wanted it over! I love myself, my kids but when i get my depression bouts...its bad. I got put on cymbalta and today is my first day. Its ok... I am praying.
—Guest Katherine

People Don't Understand

I was diagnosed as bipolar in 1986 at the age of 19 - was hospitalized twice and once almost committed suicide - had three months stints when I could not work or function at all until I accepted the fact I was bipolar and stayed on Lithium since 1993, with the addition of Risperdal in 2001 and occasional Xanax for anxiety. I am on a ton of sleep meds, because for me sleep is the biggest problem. If I don't get my 8-9 hours of sleep, I cannot function. I have done well, became a Registered Nurse, and did excellent in school. I have been a nurse for 17 years and my resume is a mess. I have held good jobs, the longest was 4 years, but the past year I have been through 4 jobs. I can't work too early in the morning because I am so exhausted I can't think straight or focus. My current job is rotating days/night shift - this was not a good idea and I was warned by family and friends, but I thought I could do it. There are many nursing jobs I just cannot do. I feel I can't do it anymor
—Guest JoJoBella

How to pay the bills ?

I am going to get fired due to attendance problems. I don't need to explain that - you all understand that part! But I live by myself and won't qualify for government assistance in my province because absenteeism is "termination with just cause" even with a legitimate medical illness, since I am not serving the business need, which is to be there. SO when I get fired - fear I will die or be homeless because I'd be without a paycheck, and I'm not CRAZY so I wouldn't get approved for disability, because I can function, just not well enough.
—Guest moocow

Ignorance is bliss

I think our problem is that we just have active minds, we know we have human souls that should matter, and want something in life more than just being a slave (working = a roof over your head + food = slave). Personally, I work at a bank and give out debt for a living. It sucks. While giving out debt and 'assisting' with credit issues, the other half of the job is being empathetic and caring and showing genuine emotion to the customer. HA that's fun with bipolar 2! No problem if I'm up, but if I'm down, they guilt trip me for not being emotional. Or if I really want to help and really do show the care, I'm 'overdoing it' like sorry for not being perfect balance. (HA, I'm a Libra with bipolar.) Now I'm supposed to try lithium and I wonder how I will be, and I wonder what my boss will say when my emotions cease to exist!
—Guest Doesnt matter who i am does it?

Being Appropriate

After years on disability, I am fortunate enough to have kept my employment for over ten years. Although it has not always been easy, and I have not always been appropriate. There have been times at work when I have yelled at my co-workers, fallen asleep in the courtroom after taking new medication, had crying spells that I could not control, spoken with a client about my own mental health in an attempt to comfort them. All of which are entirely inappropriate. I work in the juvenile court system, where I am a courtroom clerk. I see a lot of people, some with mental health issues, some with addiction issues, some with just issues. It feels good to know that I may have made someone's day a little better by being kind and understanding.
—Guest reginajones

...maybe this time

I'm 48, a college grad, and have had NUMEROUS jobs, none of which have lasted 2 years. With every episode, job loss, unemployment break, and med change I have renewed hope that maybe this time I'll be able to keep the job. Two years ago I was fired from my job at the state during a manic episode. It was the best job I had ever had. Prior to having the manic episode I excelled in the position. I was devastated upon losing it, thinking that I'd never have an opportunity like that again. Now I'm temping in what is a job I love. That's rare. I need to get my application in for it soon, but am feeling low because I worry about my new employer contacting my ex-boss at the state and not being given a good reference. I can't use most of my previous employers as references. I just feel like, "here we go again," but at the same time I really hope that I'll get an interview, that it will go well, and that I'll have this job on a permanent basis. Please send prosperous thoughts my way. Thanks!
—Guest Katherine


After reading all these stories it is very similar to my experiences with work. What is apparent, especially in the UK, many employers do not understand and treat you as completely mad or unhinged. I do take medications - have done for 2 years but managed to work but with enormous difficulty. I was forced to leave a fantastic job due to having a breakdown brought on by a broken relationship and having to be a single mum. I have a job right now but after a couple of family crisis my anxiety has gone into over drive. My company are nice but too scared to tell them of my illness. As I hate confrontations I have avoided speaking to my Manager, scared she will have a go at me or worse fire me. I have to make a decision today - do I leave or to a struggle through as I absolutely love my job. When I feel a depression coming on the worse time is in the morning when I wake up with a physical pain in my throat, a tightness. It is unbearable.
—Guest Roxanne


I work at my neighborhood's subway, everyday i see about 200 customers and about 25 come in at the same time everyday. I feel that they want to tell me something but I think they don't want to bother me but one day I tend to be very happy, or sad or very angry and they tend to notice it. My co-workers tell me all the time that if i'm not hyper/happy I am throwing dishes all crazy and have an angry face but i don't notice it. One of my co-workers is tired of dealing with my mood swings that he asked my manager not to work with me. The rest of the crew like me and yet deal with my situation. Sometimes while helping customers i get sooo angry out of nowhere that i feel like slamming the subs on their faces! but then i start crying in the back because i don't like having this disorder. At first i used to go out with my co-workers to party's and now they don't want to because they say i cant control my alcohol. I don't have anymore friends and life just tends to get more difficult over time

Working w/Bi-polar

I don't know what is worse.....working with bi-polar, or being home with bi-polar. I do know that while working it makes the rest of your life even harder but if I didn't have my job, I would have no reason at all to get up in the morning. That is what I did for 1 1 1/2 years. I just stayed in bed... I couldn't function. I was on disability and I felt like I had no purpose in life anymore. My job makes me feel important, it makes me feel like I am actually needed. I am not saying it's always easy, because trust me, there are days when I don't want to move. But then I think about all those people at work who are counting on me to be there and I get my sorry self out of bed and get ready. And then I am really glad I did. There are days I am so exhausted that all I can do is crawl in bed after work because I am mentally exhausted, but I just take a nap, energize myself and get right back up again.


I work for a major call center i take about 200 calls a day most are very irate people. I have bipolor I and II. It is very hard for me to please this many people i cry want to walk out but can't do it. i cant make it any longer i don't know what to do i'm on meds but its not helping at all, people at the jobs think i need to just get over it. cause they do the same job. but bipolor make it hard to cope with so many personalities coming on your line. i don't know what to do or know if i have any rights

Bounced too much

i had finally found a job really loved and everything was going really well until they had started shifting me around to other departments and would not return me to my original department. I got in an argument with the supervisor of the department I was in because I had made a little simple mistake and I just had to quit.
—Guest anomous

Living working and loving with bipolar

I've been out of work for 6 weeks now, on FMLA and short term disability. Next week is my first week back and my job description just got bigger. I am nervous about going back to work....not sure if I can do an entire day without going thru a crying jag....still working out meds because what I am on has made me feel worse and actually given me the severe mood swings. I really think that I was just severely depressed, going through a divorce that was ugly, issues with son, trying to finish up school, new LDR in my life that swooped me off my feet....life was a little chaotic but manageable. Then stupid me decided there must be something wrong and delved into the whole childhood sexual abuse crap....bam....nut-house. Sweet guy is gone, live by myself now as son spends a lot of his time at his dad's now....I feel like I am a burden on my family, on work, friends and even myself most days. I have to find a way to live with this.
—No Future for Me

Work and BP - Much Better these Days

I have been in the hospital 17 times, but whose counting... I was diagnosed in '94. Getting the proper medication and accepting the situation took a long time and a great deal of support from my family. The medication I take now works like a charm. I used to be on 5 strong medications. I have been fired from jobs or demoted due to my behavior. Alcohol and other substances were also contributing factors. AA was a big influence on my improvement. Today work is much better. I have been at my current job for over 2 years and I enjoy it. Yes, I get bored or frustrated, but I talk through my issues with family and friends. It helps. I am very lucky. I can honestly say things do get better, with work on my part and staying honest to myself.
—Guest lovebug

I was about to crack

I'm bipolar, a single Mum, working and studying, and I feel as though my recent diagnosis of being bipolar is actually liberating for me. I have felt like such a failure for such a very long time in so many ways, but now I finally understand why. I have had many issues with trying to holding down work, study, raising a family and multi-tasking. I always feel like a little fish swimming upstream against a mighty current. Since my diagnosis I now know life is always going to be done through a bipolar perspective for me. For me it's a position of acceptance - I can’t change this, it’s in my DNA, God made me this way. I can stop flogging myself and trying to live up to all those expectations and stop wondering why I can’t do this, which only leads to my depression. I believe balance is the key, not over-committing and learning to look at the positives of being bipolar, like creativity, joy, exuberance and strong emotions that can do a lot of good in the world. I’m not a waste of space!
—Guest Lisa

Work is so much harder

I got diagnosed when i was 16. I'm now 19 still looking for the right meds. I've tried 6 different kinds. At first i used to love my job and hate school. Now it's the other way around. It is so hard for me to work, and my absences are horrible. I was on a 30-day leave so that I could find the right meds, but now my 30 days are up and I feel the same. My family doesn't understand. They just tell me "Everyone has to work, suck it up." No one understands my illness, my boss tells me its all in my head, and its SO frustrating. I would quit but I have a car payment. I don't know what to do. I have yet to try lithium, so right now that's my only hope, I just gotta get blood work done. This is eating me alive. I just wanna sleep all day and I do cause of Seroquel. I don't even eat anymore. I'm always in a bad mood, so it's hard for me to keeps friends. Why does this have to happen?
—Guest Jessica

Marcia Purse
About.com Bipolar Disorder

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