“Coming out” as Bipolar in the Workplace

Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. I never actually said the word “bipolar” and the person I told is a person I will probably never see again, at least not in a professional setting. However, it was the closest I’ve ever been to telling anyone at all in my professional world about my mental illness. So maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but it definitely got my heart pumping. And the response was one worth noting.

It was the last 30 minutes of the last time I will see this specific person. She asked me what my major in college was and when I told her it was Psychology, she joked that, “That completely disproves my theory! I always said that all psychologists are nuts themselves because all my friends that were psych majors have so many issues of their own, but obviously you don’t.” I let out a laugh and switched the topic.

But it was brewing in me. “I HAVE BIPOLAR DISORDER BUT IT’S OKAY,” I wanted to scream. Eventually I managed to get out, “Actually, I do have mental health issues.” She responded with something along the lines of, “Really? But you’re so NORMAL! You’re the last person I’d ever suspect to have that stuff. You’re so normal and put-together. I hope you didn’t take offense to what I said it was just a joke! And I really mean this all as a compliment.” I told her I receive treatment and “I’m also heavily medicated, which allows me to be the normal person you see.”

It was scary, but it felt good. Like now this one person knows that someone who looks so “put together” can also have mental illness. The two CAN go hand in hand. It’s small: one person, one very weak admission, but it’s a start, right?

Last thing worth mentioning: When I came home and told my boyfriend the story, his response surprised me. He was against me “coming out” in the workplace. He said after he told the head of HR at his company that he suffers from anxiety, he’s since felt “she can see right through me” and “is always looking out for signs that I’m not okay.” He said that even though she seemed supportive and understanding, he regrets telling her. He told me to “be careful.”

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4 responses to ““Coming out” as Bipolar in the Workplace

  • David Black

    I can appreciate your reluctance to come out at work. I never told anyone until I unexpectedly landed in a psych ward for two weeks last year. I figured I was gonna owe someone an explanation for being gone two weeks to say the least. I told my boss and a couple people I work closest with. Since then I have never brought the subject up again and the few people I told kept their mouths shut about it. As far as everybody else I work with I just don’t feel like its information they need to have. Maybe I do not do enough to help remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Maybe I just don’t want to miss out on all the bipolar and “off their meds” jokes that I hear around the office. I’m sure I’ll figure it out someday. Good luck to you.

  • gregmercer601

    It’s important, valuable, and yes, risky, to speak openly about mental illness in our imperfect world, especially in the workplace. Not easy!

  • gregmercer601

    Reblogged this on Big Red Carpet Nursing and commented:
    What would you do?
    What would you advise a friend to do?
    How would you react if a friend disclosed a mental health issue to you?
    Important stuff!

  • autismthoughts

    I think it’s great that you helped someone understand just a little bit more. Mental illness is something you kind of have to keep quiet about at work because there’s too much stigma attached to it and some people will discriminate against you because of it, but it’s always nice when you can let someone in a little.

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