Career Options and Bipolar?

I am BP I (officially diagnosed 10 years ago). Like many BP’s, I have a bit of trouble holding onto a job for a long time. What I am wondering is there a type or kind of job that is most accommodating to being BP?

I guess I am looking for career success stories and what keeps a BP person at a job for a long time. I haven’t been able to figure out what would work for me. I have been told “anything you want to do” is good, but not everything is a good fit for BP I feel. I am in college and have changed my major about 5 times as well. This has been a puzzling problem for many years for me.

Ahhhh. The days of college. I changed my own major many times as well and while in college, I had not been diagnosed with bipolar yet. I tried pre-pharmacy and failing my first chemistry class had me running from that quite quickly. Then I switched to psychology. After running out of my abnormal psychology class during the class on eating disorders (I was quite anorexic at the time) I figured that was a no go as well.  I tried a criminal justice class and it really held my interest. I became captivated with the law and legal aspect and couldn’t get enough. I transferred colleges and just when I thought I had nailed a major, you know … something that interested me and I did well in. Well, that college told me their criminal justice program required you to pick a minor. Are you kidding me?????? A MINOR TOO? I was barely able to pick ONE major!! Someone in the admissions office recommended paralegal studies because it required pretty much the same curriculum and was geared more toward law and the legal field (where I eventually wanted to end up). I took my first paralegal class and that was it. SOLD! I ended up with a bachelor’s degree in both. Now, you might think, “That’s great that you found your major,” but what about me and real world jobs? How did that work out for me?

Well, in 2003 I graduated from Southern Illinois University and today I am still currently employed as a paralegal. I have worked in almost every area of law you can imagine, taken cases to trial, worked large cases and small cases, worked in non-litigation departments, and I even worked as a legal secretary for a while when I first started out. I had to dabble in each area of law until I found one that held my interest and worked for me. I found that the fast paced environment of litigation and the “something new every day” type of job held my attention and kept me going. Plus, it was something that I really liked doing. I did go to law school for a year and found I liked paralegal work better. I do sometimes wish I went back to law school, but then I remember what that year was like and am happy with my choice to not go back. This worked for me, but may not work for everyone. I am very strict about keeping on my meds, going to my doctor, and doing all I can to maintain my stability. That has been the key in my success.

There are many other professions that can be accommodating for those with bipolar. As you see in the news, there are many actors and actresses, artists, authors, and musicians that have bipolar. Yet there are so many people in offices worldwide that have bipolar disorder and you would never know it because the stigma that surrounds it prevents a lot of people from coming forward with it. That is a completely separate issue though. The choice to disclose having bipolar disorder in the workplace can help or harm you. In one instance, I told an employer and I was told that I was a liability, even though I had no negative reviews or anything negative at that point in my career. If you DO disclose that you have bipolar disorder, it IS covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and you are allowed reasonable accommodations. You are also afforded time off through the Family Medical Leave Act. We have a post from a few months ago which explain these options in more detail for you. Those protect you while you are employed, but, that all rests on your decision to disclose that you have bipolar to your employer.

I do believe what people say when they say that you can do anything you want. The difference is, having bipolar may require you to do a few additional things or have a few small accommodations, like taking a few more breaks, to be successful. If you find something you love to do and it holds your interest, which is the foundation to building a good career. Know your limitations and go with it. If you know you have lots of episodes of mania and tend to call in sick for big gaps of time, you might look at careers that are more flexible in your hours or requirements to be in the office; or maybe you could go into business for yourself and set your own hours?  There are many options, but first you have to find within yourself what it is you love to do and what your passion is. Everything else will fall into place.

I hope that any other readers that have success stories will comment on this too so you can glimpse a few more successes!

Until then, here is the link to our related post on having bipolar in the workplace and the accommodations and things you can do to best handle having bipolar when you get there.

Also, here is more information on the Family Medical Leave Act for those who do not know about it and what it allows while in the workplace.

3 thoughts on “Career Options and Bipolar?

  1. One of the things you said in this article rang especially true for me and I hadn’t connected it to bipolar before. My boss often refers to me as a “project person” because I’m happiest when working on a new project. I have been at my current job for ten years and was at my previous employer for twelve years and I seem to struggle the most when things get too routine. I like coming up with new ideas and working on new projects. When my employer takes advantage of these strengths, all is well. The mood swings do make it difficult at times and I would prefer a more flexible schedule and the option to telecommute. As much as I like to be creative, the occasional “brainless” task is a nice break. The latest revelation as I met with my boss was getting him to outline my tasks and his expectations for me so we could be on the same page. I’ve been honest about having bipolar, but I have the advantage of working at a treatment center where we are familiar with it. I’m not sure there’s an actual ideal job out there for people with bipolar, but there are certain work environments and company cultures that work better.

  2. I decided my career path when I was still in high school. It turned out to be a good choice. As a professional TV creative services writer/producer I have almost no supervision, flexible schedules, project-based work, and nearly free reign to be creative and imaginative. I also can go for several days at a time without having to interact with co-workers. So when I am feeling depressed, stressed or grouchy, noboody is likely to know unless I tell them. On the other hand, when I am a bit hypomanic I can be very creative and productive.

  3. I suffer from Bi Polar disorder, and I found a position that I can work from home and go into the office, it isn’t a top paying job and lacks in benefits, the owner does what he can, I guess what I am trying to say is, “Success isn’t always the little house with the picket fence, it can be you feeling good about what you have”. My interest always steers towards jobs in Sales and Marketing Support, it is an on-going process of check list, data capture, results, and research…So it is very busy, diversified, and keeps you on your toes, it allows me to seek out my creative side and talk with people, if I am having a bad day, I just work phones, My boss is flexible with me because he knows my sincerity and that I do care about his business, I was hired back after a year of training in the medical field and figured out that the work place environment wore me down too much, since then our sales tripled, he focuses on my strengths and utilizes them. I am lucky!”

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