Why I Keep My Bipolar Disorder Secret at Work

Posted on August 30, 2013

Last winter, I was declined by five health insurance companies. I am 26, do my preventative screenings like clockwork, and have no physical health problems. As my boss told me when I started working at a small start-up a few months ago that has no group health plan: “You’re young and healthy, I assume you’ll have no problems finding a new plan.” I smiled and weakly said, “of course.”

Five applications and four declines later, I anxiously awaited my last and final letter. The verdict came: Declined. Reason: Bipolar II/ADHD.

So there is my secret: Like millions of other Americans, I have a mental illness.

The most frustrating thing isn’t the insurance—with Cobra I can stay on the plan from my last job for 18 months. It costs $675 a month, but at least for now I have that option, which makes me luckier than many. No, the most frustrating part of my situation is that I can count on one hand the number of people who know about my mental illness. The stigma that surrounds mental health is suffocating, and I don’t feel comfortable talking about it with most of my friends and family, and certainly not my boss or colleagues.

My doctor said I need to see this like having diabetes—it is a lifelong chronic illness that I just have to manage. Instead of insulin, its daily meds, therapy, making sure I get enough sleep, avoiding alcohol, and limiting high-stress situations. None of that advice is compatible with working in an inflexible corporate setting where I can’t be open about this. When I travel for work, I need to make sure the flights aren’t too late or early. When I go to work dinners, it’s awkward not to partake in the expensive bottles of wine going around—I often end up drinking at least one glass, even knowing that it could set off a hypomanic or depressive episode. The constant balancing act of managing my illness and keeping people from knowing about it creates its own stress, further compounding the issue.

Click on the link below to read the full article

Category(s):Bipolar, Workplace Issues

Source material from The Atlantic

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