I am in the final recruitment states for a job, and they require that you answer a question I have paraphrased, “Do you have or have you ever experienced illness or injury that may impacted your ability to perform or work into the future?” Sure, I have had to take time off because of ECT and hospital. It impacted my work, but IN GENERAL I hide my bipolar very well and opt for wide-ranging excuses when I have to be away from work. I have been burnt SO MUCH by employers due to having a mental illness. I am not a victim in this as I have probably caused employers some unexpected frustrations by having time away from work. When I’m at work I give my all plus some. I manage to gain promotions despite my bipolar, but they slap me right down once I am unwell in similar ways to my pre-promotion self.
Despite that, accommodating my illness is similar to a accommodating someone in a wheelchair. Most workplaces and society do it pretty poorly. When you have to walk an extra mile to find a proverbial ramp to get up the same curb as everyone else, I think that is discrimination. The hoops employers make candidates jump through even in the screening process is invasive and impersonal. If offered, I will take the job because I need money. However, this is an example of why an awesome person with a mental health concern is not welcomed in your organisation. Maybe that is the way this organisation intends it. Not-for-profits are not immune to this sort of discrimination and screening out people with mental health concerns and other marginalizing attributes. In fact, they are often worse because they do not have thorough management training, great policies, HR practices, legal advice and funding. It is one for the too hard basket.
I called a national mental health organisation, and discussed my situation briefly, and the first question was, “what has your GP diagnosed you with?” When I would not disclose, the worker told me they wouldn’t be able to advise me on what to do. Whether I have schizophrenia or anxiety has nothing to do with what the question is asking. I told the worker hat was a COMPLETELY irrelevant question. I self-advocated and told her in abrupt terms that for a national mental health organisation should be equipped to support those with a lived experience in a non-stigmatizing way, particularly around a common type of discrimination faced by clients. She transferred me. I explained the situation to the next person and was supported to answer NO to the recruitment survey since part-time work is part of a strategy to stay well.
Even in wellness I feel a bit like a fraud. Last week, I was feeling unwell. I was not coping at all and facing hospitalization. This week, I’m accepting job offers and am the old white-collar, career focused, sharp and determined professional. I need a workplace that understands that when I am well, I give 2x what most people would to make up for the times I’m sick. Healthy or not, that is how I choose to navigate bipolar II. Living life this way is much more satisfying than having a bland, mediocre existence the majority of my life (which I would find somewhat unattainable anyway).
I fake it ’til I make it constantly. There are 2 clear parts to my personality that if I’ll listen to will keep me out of trouble. My writing shows this. When I’m the well me, I am particular and cautious in my wording. I avoid being witty. When I am closer to unwell, I think that my sense of humor is on par with the world’s best comedians when it is really just a step down from a lame dad joke after he has had a couple beers. 🙂