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What Happened When I Was Vulnerable About Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace

“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.” — Brene Brown.

I recently read a book by Brene Brown called “Dare to Lead” and it inspired me to become more vulnerable about my mental illness, mainly because it is important to share aspects of yourself and with a mental illness even though it is not you, it’s still a part of you.

My work has seminars on Brene Brown, and they also have required training about mental illness. These seminars highlight the importance of being vulnerable within the workplace. Let me tell you, it is a scary place to be. Is it worth it?

Yes and no.

I have faced a lot of judgment in certain areas, mainly from my manager who has said they never experienced someone with a mental illness. That is a gross lie as several people I work with, that I know, deal with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 out of 5 people deals with a mental illness. However, a positive about my manager — they are also going to therapy based on my recommendation and has worked hard to give me a more comfortable work environment.

It’s hard because I realized there is a lot of stigma attached to revealing your mental illness in the workplace, but in my case it has made my life a lot easier. I live a more authentic life, even though I am uncomfortable with the amount I have had to share in order for people to understand me.

Do I regret it?

Honestly, sometimes I wish I didn’t tell people what my specific diagnosis is, but at the same time it has given me a lot of support, including the support necessary to get accommodations at work.

Vulnerability is a hard thing to do. Tools are in place to allow us to become more vulnerable and I have drawn strength from being vulnerable. I want to be understood most of all. I encourage everyone to seek some sort of vulnerability with someone so you can be a more authentic self.

Some of the negatives are: I get called out when I am having an episode, which on occasion is not accurate. I get more side glances when I am stressed or upset by something. I sometimes feel like I am not taken seriously. I am uncomfortable with myself at times, feeling vulnerable isn’t a good feeling initially.

On the positive side, I am happier because I am not hiding a big part of my day-to-day struggle, like medication changes or when I didn’t sleep for three days. It was all understood that it was something that I can’t control. I’ve received a lot of support from my higher-ups by developing a plan in case I experience psychosis or paranoia at work. This includes if I transfer or if I get a new manager, and how to best approach them when dealing with someone with a disability and accommodations.

I am mostly thankful for a company that helps support me, even though there are plenty of people who stigmatized me or simply don’t understand what bipolar disorder entails. But the connections I have developed with people who have a mental illness and chose to reveal to me — that is priceless.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” — Brene Brown

Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash