If you have bipolar disorder, no one needs to tell you how challenging this mental illness can be. You are among millions of American adults who may also find that the mood episodes of bipolar disorder can be very disruptive at work. Take heart. There are many steps you can take to find meaningful work and develop successful relationships on -- and off -- the job.
You don't have to talk to your boss or coworkers about your bipolar disorder. Your health is your business. But if your condition has been affecting your performance at work, being open may be a good idea. Your boss and coworkers may have noticed the changes in your behavior. If you explain what's going on, they may be more sympathetic and helpful than you expect.
Making Changes in Your Job
Some people with bipolar disorder find their current job just isn't a good fit. Maybe it's too stressful or the schedule is too inflexible. Maybe it doesn't let them get enough sleep, or involves shift work that could worsen their condition. If you think your job is hurting your health, it's time to make some changes. Here are some things to consider:
Decide what you really need from your job. Do you need to reduce your responsibilities? Do you need extra breaks during the day to reduce stress? Would you rather work independently or in a group? Do you need to work shorter hours or take time off? Or do you need a different job altogether?
Make decisions carefully. People with bipolar disorder are prone to acting impulsively. Think through the effects of quitting your job -- both for yourself and possibly for your family. Talk over your feelings with your family, therapist, or health care provider.
Look into financial assistance. If you do need to take time off because of your bipolar disorder, see if your employer has disability insurance, or look into Social Security Disability Insurance, which will provide some income while you recover. You can also look into the Family and Medical Leave Act. Ask your doctor or therapist for advice.
Go slowly. Returning to work after you've taken time off can be stressful. Think about starting in a part-time position, at least until you're confident that your bipolar disorder has stabilized. Some people find that volunteer work is a good way to get back into the swing of things.