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I Am More Than My Bipolar Disorder, But For Employers, I’m Just A “High Risk”

Posted on June 1, 2016 in Mental Health, Society


Note: Originally published on Empathize This and republished here with their permission.

Comic strip
I’m bipolar. I technically have rapid cycling bi-polar, which means I can go from depressed to manic in a matter of hours. This means I’m usually really, REALLY tired, and super stressed out. Not to mention whatever other emotions I may or may not be feeling at that time. Sometimes I feel like superwoman, and sometimes I sit in my bathroom running through scenes of suicide in my head. I’ve been hospitalised a lot.

I have two kids. I also have a common-law partner. He works 60-hour work weeks, and I’m unemployed. He really wants me to go to work, because my medications are really expensive, and the cost of living is high.

I’ve had five jobs in our four-year relationship. Every time I get one, I end up leaving because I become overwhelmed, and usually wind up in the hospital. When I say, “overwhelmed”, I mean feeling like pressure is encompassing my whole body. I react to feeling overwhelmed by having a panic attack, and at that point I tense right up, and am plagued with horrible thoughts about ending my pain. I wonder if my family would be better off without me, or when I’m going to lose my job, and how embarrassed my family must be of me. I start an up-and-down sleeping pattern, often sleeping for many, many hours, and then volleying to a place where I sleep only three-four hours a night, and can’t stop moving.

Of course, none of this is conducive to functioning ‘properly’ in a typical workplace.

My bosses are never understanding, and don’t want a ‘crazy person’ working for them.

I’ve applied to several jobs that I thought would be good for me, with supportive management, but because I’ve had calls made on my behalf for ambulances because I was suicidal, I lost each opportunity. You see, this information is forever on my record, and I’m a ‘risk’.

At one job I (almost) had at a major bank, I ended up receiving a phone call from their hiring department (after I signed the employment papers, no less) saying that they’d looked into my background and had determined that I was too high-risk an employee for them to consider keeping on. Because I was within the first three months of my employment they were allowed to dismiss me with no proper cause, so when I contacted the Labour Board, I was told there was nothing they could do. This record is permanent and may even prevent me from leaving the country. It’s just a bad thing all around.

I’ve never hurt anyone, and aren’t you supposed to get help when you’re feeling like dying? Now the record of my needing help is keeping me from moving forward with my life.

Employers don’t see that I won the award for community service five years in a row. They don’t see that I’m a skilled photographer. They don’t see that I’ve got quite the green thumb, or that I can whip up a fantastic pumpkin pie. They don’t see the context of 10 years of abuse by people I should have been able to trust. All they see are words like, “suicidal ideations”, “hypomania”, and “cutting”.

I am trying – I want to have a functional place in the world. I just need someone in a hiring department to give me the chance, and offer some basic flexibility and support.