Community Contributions: WORK

From an email from Meggy:

I feel that the area of work is something that hit a nerve when I brought it up a few posts ago. So far, I’ve wound up disclosing my MI to every single boss I’ve had, which I think is rare. I wonder

1. How many other visitors to the site have done the same thing?
2. What factors played into their decision to do so?
3. What protections are in place at their office to prevent discrimination or recrimination?
4. Were there positive reactions or “happy endings?”
5. Did being outwardly HF help or hinder their ability to get help from the company?

And then, of course, (6.) the question of getting day jobs at all — as I mentioned, having a full-time office job helps me to feel like a HF person, but I experience breakthrough symptoms while holding down said job — largely stress-related. Having gone through periods of time in which I feared that I would never be able to hold down a job, I wonder if other people also identify work with being HF, or v.v.

Thanks, Meggy, for sending in this topic. We talk about work and jobs and our professional selves quite a bit, but haven’t taken the time to focus on it, and we have definitely not taken time to discuss what protections could be in place within a workplace. I’m very much looking forward to the conversation on that, but first, my extremely short answers to these questions:

1. not me
2. n/a
3. n/a
4. n/a
5. n/a
6. I have a really hard time with a typical “office” job. In fact, I haven’t had one in years. I work for myself, by owning my own company, consulting, and by working adjunct at universities. I work in short, very concentrated spurts with breaks in between. I can focus intently on something, get a lot done, but then have to stop and do something else. So, multiple project-based jobs works best for me.

The only employees of my very small company are myself and my partners, so all the protections I need are in place. They knew me and my disorder before we started the company. That being said, my clients as well as everyone within the university settings have no idea. It’s the stress there that is particularly difficult for me. Still, as I’ve said before, I cannot expect myself to do anything or feel good about anything, if I don’t work. I absolutely have to be making something, thinking about something, constructing something, as a part of my humanity. To me, it’s what people do. It’s what makes them people. I am not my resume. But if I cease to work in one fashion or another, I fear I will cease. The result of that fear is keeping the MI stuff to myself where I believe it will affect my opportunity to work.

A moment for explanatory honesty: My pseudonym is the direct result of my reality with respect to this topic. This topic is the reason Define Functioning just can’t appear when my name is typed into Google. I don’t really have a problem telling people in my life about the MI stuff. Most people see me, see what I’ve managed to do with my life, and actually come away with a new respect for me and a new understanding of mental illness. But that doesn’t work if they don’t already know me.  I have a pseudonym, because before any new client contacts me, they google me or my company. I need clients or else I don’t work. If the first thing a person learns of me is my illness, I am fairly certain that I would lose at least 90% of my business. It’s a risk I can’t afford to take and a risk I can’t ask my partners to take. (Further, I teach and love teaching. Students google everyone, and they should. They should see their teachers’ curricula vitae, they should know their specialties and expertise. With the world the way it is now, with the stigma, with the misconceptions and misunderstanding, before they meet me, before they learn what I have to teach, before they get a chance to see what I know and how I teach it, I can’t risk them showing up on the first day of class with mental illness on their minds.) In short, I need people who don’t know me personally to trust the wellness of my brain or the whole house of cards — including both my financial and mental stability — will come tumbling down.

  1. Alan Smithee said:

    1. How many other visitors to the site have done the same thing?
    In my current job– I’ve been here five years– I don’t really have a clear boss, but the one who comes closest, yes, I am out of the MI closet with her. Also, another woman who works here knows my status.

    2. What factors played into their decision to do so?
    My unofficial boss- her son is MI, and would probably be considered “low-functioning.” I believe I told her after I learned about her son. The other woman here, she spoke honestly about her depression, so I cam out to her. She had a long history of depression. Basically, in both cases, I knew that these people would not make false conclusions about my status.

    3. What protections are in place at their office to prevent discrimination or recrimination?
    None really, but I’d have a couple mean bitches fighting on my side, and nobody wants to go toe to toe with them.

    4. Were there positive reactions or “happy endings?”
    My unoffical boss lady is a total bitch, but she’s also a great person. I call her Momalah sometimes. I can reveal to her when I am struggling with MI issues, and she can give me suggestions and support.

    5. Did being outwardly HF help or hinder their ability to get help from the company? I don’t know, but I think if I wasn’t HF I would have gotten/kept this job.

    6. the question of getting day jobs at all
    I am able to swing it, but it does get very hard. Especially when I do a day job I don’t like so I can do something I don’t like which pays me.

  2. First, I have to say the graphic reminds of (a) Men at Work and (b) aerobics in spandex tights in the 1980s.

    That off my chest, let’s see…
    1. Having been diagnosed only 5.5 years and having owned my own business for 5 of said years, I have 2 answers. When I was first diagnosed, I told only one person. We were coworkers and she was one of the 2 I really connected with. Actually I told a volunteer who was also recently diagnosed after having a breakdown. He was struggling pretty badly. Now in my business, I have no employees so it’s on a case-by-case basis with my clients.

    2. I told the volunteer so he’d know I understood where he was coming from. All about connection. I told my friend because she was reading my poetry and we talked about a lot of personal stuff. It was as-needed information. Some people just needed to know.

    3. I don’t have any protections except my closed mouth.

    4. I have told a few clients about my MI and all the reactions have been positive. Mostly, they’re surprised. The last client I told was someone who is very open herself and we would end up talking for quite a while on the phone. She was also getting her Master’s in Social Work. One email asked something about my personal life. I sent her my blog address.

    5. Doesn’t apply

    6. Well why do you think I have my own business? Despite the fact that my schedule naturally mimics a bipolar mood chart (unmedicated), I would rather have this than work for someone else doing the 9 to 5, or as I was doing, the 7-3 teaching little ones how to control their impulses and emotions. This just fits. Everyone in my life agrees.

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