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When Bipolar Makes You Jump From Job to Job

I sit here, staring at a computer screen, without anything to do, at the job that has caused me so much turmoil this year.

This is job number 12 since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, six years ago. Oh, and I am on my way out. I don’t leave jobs because I can’t do my job, and I most definitely do not get fired from jobs. In fact, at this job I am considered “highly effective,” and yet I have an interview for illustrious job number 13 tomorrow. I leave because I move too quickly, work too fast and then have too much time to let everything else get in my head. This is where my disorder comes in. I start creating stories in my mind, thinking people are out to get me or they imply things that are not intended.

I have done this at every job since I was diagnosed. I impress in the interview, get the job, work harder and smarter than half of the staff, and then start the vicious cycle of finding something to focus on that will eventually cause my demise. I begin looking again and start the process all over again.

The thing is, I work hard. Really, really hard. I have gone into offices with no systems in place and have left them organized and clean. I have worked my way up from seasonal help to a supervisor. I am given special side projects. I am genuinely liked by those who hire me and they are sad to see me go. I know all of this, but my illness self-sabotages every time. If I am not creating things for my mind to believe, I am missing work because of an episode.

Because of my bipolar disorder, absences are an issue. No matter how efficient I am at work when I am there, missing a full day, or two, or three looks bad. I get it; when co-workers miss several days, I feel judgy myself. The thing is, these absences are legitimate sick days for my disorder; however, I have most likely not explained this to my boss for fear of repercussions. So, I miss work, use up every last minute of my sick time and sometimes leave without pay, acquire a pile of doctor’s notes, and I work hard to make up for it.

Oh, and let’s not forget work relationships. Work relationships are quite a challenge. I have often set the bar for working very high. I generally keep people at a distance because of my illness. If by chance, I do get close to someone, I will most likely share too much about myself, which will lead me into disclosing “sensitive information” about my disorder. These things could later be used against me. This happened at my current job. I was not doing well, in a depressive episode, and I got tired of questions and comments so I told someone. That one turned in to two, then three, then my entire office, my boss and her boss. At first, I was relieved; I was able to miss work for an intensive outpatient program (IOP) and come in after or work extra when I was able. Later on, though, it was unintentionally used against me. People, not understanding the disorder, would question my mood at any little shift they didn’t like. My workload had slowed and I asked and asked for more work, but no one gave me any. I was considered angry and hostile when I voiced my opinion or wouldn’t participate in unprofessional office behavior. After many angry, upset, crying days, along with several medicine changes, I began to look for a new job.

So here we are, about to interview for job number 13 since diagnosis. What should I do at the next job? I have thought long and hard about this. Do I tell my new potential employer or do I keep it under lock and key — which one is the right choice? I honestly do not think there is a wrong decision. You have to do what is right in your situation at the time. My resumé may be complicated at best, an unfortunate side effect of job jumping, but think how much I have learned thus far. The only thing I do know is I will be as smart as I can be with my decision… or I will learn even more on job number 14.

— Penned by Penelope

Photo by Clarisa Guerra on Unsplash