At Work With Bipolar

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So the nature of being an entrepreneur is a pendulum swing between passion and self-doubt and confidence and energy. It's not that different from just having bipolar disorder. I'm the CEO of a creative services agency. In the same month that we started our creative agency, in this room, was the exact same month that I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

There's been Sunday afternoons where I've laid on this sofa for nine hours and not moved just because you don't care about anything. The difference is when Monday morning gets here, I'm accountable to folks, I need to get up and do it for the others that we're running this company with. Depression at work is like someone has poured sludge on your brain.

One thing that helps is having a routine. I get out of bed. I brush my teeth. I take a shower. I go to work by this time. Because in depression, you don't want to do anything. So if there's a decision that's already been made, it's like, no, this is what I do. You're already on the path to keep it moving.

In depression, every new idea is a threat and your brain, it does not want to adopt a new idea or a new change. In mania, every new idea is a good idea and everything will work out. When I started the agency, I was in full-blown mania. You just have passion and charisma and energy. So at the time, we were only going to be wildly successful.

I took my business partners to dinner and I told them that I had bipolar disorder. But there was a part of them that was like, yeah we've been around you.

I wasn't surprised when we found out he had bipolar.

It was just sort of like, oh, OK, that sort of makes sense. It doesn't change anything for me.

Their support and the way we work together is very much the secret, I would say, to having a successful career while managing bipolar. The nature of a startup is you haven't done anything yet, but you have to convince people that you can. Guess what? Mania lets you do that stuff because you have a ton of excitement and charisma and you can woo people all day long. So when you wind up in a pitch room or a brainstorming session, a mind that's flooded with all of these ideas is incredibly useful.

Well, there's definitely a lot more energy in the office during his manic phases. I think it's just important that we help rein him in where he needs to be reined in, but also sort of let the sort of ideas that come out of that phase really blossom.

So in mania, you have all of the advantages of tons of energy and creativity and confidence. The downside is that in that same mania, you will assume risks, you will overcommit yourself to things, and everyone else around you can be afraid to be the one to put out the flame of passion because I can get offended by that in that moment. Like, why are you trying to slow me down? I've got all these ideas. We've got to move.

But in reality, you need a healthy dose of checks and balances. If you're looking for a silver lining, that's one of the big benefits, is when I go into depression, I become quiet, or I'm not as confident, and it creates this space for other people to step up and take more active roles in projects.

He loses confidence and needs a lot of reassurance and reminding that he is the same brilliant person that he is in mania. We joke about that being our time to reassess, catch up with all the ideas that he spewed through mania. So as Colton's transitioning through different phases, we actually have meetings that talk about how to prepare for what's coming.

So even when he's not feeling his best, or he feels like he's dipping into depression, he'll let us know. Almost to try to be courteous to us, which I'm just blown away by because he's the one who's going through it. [CHATTER]

It frustrates me that bipolar is so stigmatizing, and that so many people suffer with that or other mental illness and they don't ever tell anybody. Once every other month or so, I'll do a speaking engagement dealing with bipolar directly. And then there's other things that are unrelated to mental health, that just have to do with just marketing, or branding.

OK, how many of you guys work in-house at a marketing department? And then how many of you guys know someone that suffers with anxiety or depression? Well, good gravy.

I'd say definitely within the bipolar community, finding a career path is difficult for a lot of individuals. Normally, I tell folks to drift towards things that they're passionate about, because it's going to be one of the hardest things to be consistent with, particularly when you go into depression, still tapping into the reason why you show up to a job anymore. Honestly, that's the thing that I love, writing the blogs, the videos, when somebody says, I saw your thing and I never thought that other people went to work thinking they were a phony and I didn't realize that other people had to live that way. And then realizing that somebody else does it and it's going to get better? This is the best news I've heard all day.