How do I cope at work?

I am very ambitious and rather intelligent. My bi-polarity is accompanied by a very vibrant personality. So in my job I will throw myself into it…but I work in the corporate world and the people are very focused on pushing you beyond your limits. This for a “normal” person would be difficult, but I feel this is tough on someone who experiences everything so much more intensely. I do not get time for lunch brake, I get no time to gym (which is very important to me) and I feel like I am losing my lease on life. I am having more regular suicidal thoughts, and my moods change more drastically now…I do not want this condition to affect me career wise, but its not like I cannot pretend it is not there

I wish I could say that it is super easy to work AND cope with bipolar, but I can’t. Is it possible? Absolutely!!! But easy … anything but.

I myself am also very ambitious and can build fantastic relationships with clients/coworkers/etc (I may also be a bit intelligent, but I’m still coming to terms with that fact … hard to explain). When it comes to being a business woman, I kinda freaking rock …. about 75% – 97% of the time. Usually on the higher side, but this past year, not so much.

In my experience (and my total personal opinion) there are two types of bipolarees …

  1. Those on disability (or fighting to get disability) because they CAN’T work.
  2. Those with thriving careers because they HAVE to work.

I do not look down upon EITHER category. I know how difficult it is for those who struggle both emotionally and physically with not being able to work. And I know just how difficult it is to get approved for disability. Unfortunately, sometimes our illnesses are so severe it is impossible to hold down a job. I feel horrible that mental illness does this to people, incapacitates them to such an extent, and my heart goes out to them; however, today I am going to address the other type bipolarees.

Now when I say HAVE to work … I don’t mean, “Oh my monkeys I can’t pay the bills and I need 5 jobs like now or else my family will starve!!!” Because sometimes even those who can’t work find themselves in that situation. (Been there, done that, it sucks … just saying …)

What I do mean is, “Oh my unicorns, I HAVE to work because I crave the thrill of the business world and all the praise and admiration and adrenaline that comes from meeting my deadlines and and and … and I simply cannot function without being the best most awesome ambitious businessy me I can be!”

That person would be me … Call it hypomania, call it tenacity, call it masochism, call it whatever. I THRIVE in the business world and on corporate politics. I’m a corporate ladder climber and I will not stop until I’ve broken through whatever glass ceilings threaten to get in my way! Raaarrrrrr!! (I totally went a bit over board there didn’t I? Oops)

*smacks face* Get back on track MB!

So here’s the thing about us HAVE to workers … we work and we dazzle and we climb and we shine until we find ourselves in these situations where absolutely unobtainable standards have been placed upon us and we have no clue how to just NOT meet them. We HAVE to meet them. It’s what we do. It’s what makes us dazzle and shine!

Being good at your job can sometimes be a double edged sword. Especially in the corporate world. The better you are at what you do the more responsibilities and expectations get put on you. (And is it just me, or does that usually happen without a raise? Probably just me …) Suddenly we find ourselves in a world where we are getting pushed to meet goals and deadlines that just aren’t going to happen.

Maybe it’s because we could do it last month but this month the winter blues are getting to us and it’s just not possible.

Maybe it’s because our boss decided since we were awesomesauce last month surely we can be spectacularsauce this month! (side note … spectacularsauce is kinda better than awesomesauce …)

Sometimes there’s just not enough people to complete the work load and everyone gets pushed to their limits.

Regardless, we find ourselves in this nasty little hole where we don’t know where to turn or what job to do first or if we should take the time to eat our lunch or use that time to pee or maybe pee while eating lunch … Yeah, it’s like that.

The thing we forget is that we are NOT perfectsauce. (new word … totally just made it up) Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we disappoint others. And sometimes *GASP* things fall apart.

But USUALLY we are so caught up in being sparkly perfectsauce that we do whatever we can NOT to let those things happen and suddenly we start missing things like lunch, morning work outs, children’s performances, dinner with the family, etc. But … I know in my case … being a failure is not an option. Being mediocre is not an option. Being outstanding isn’t even an option in my sad sad little head. I MUST be INCREDIBLESAUCE!!!

Me = Bad

My sad sad little head = impending meltdown

When you are a HAVE to worker, it’s important to set limits. It’s important to remember that we are not infallible and we can’t always handle the largest workload.

The corporate world can be cruel. Fun yes, but still cruel. It’s all about sales and numbers and performance. And sometimes that works for people. Sometimes it even works for those who have Bipolar Disorder. But that’s only sometimes. No one should ever have to miss lunch or forgo the gym because they are having such high expectation placed upon them that they have no other choice. They make laws to make sure such things do not happen. I know the reality is that sometimes it’s going to happen. If you want to get ahead in certain jobs you have to be cut throat and replace personal wants and needs with gobs of work.

I think what you really need to do is ask yourself, “Is this really what I want? Is this good for my mental health? Do I really want to set myself up in a place where I am bound to fail?”

If you answered no, then I think you have some big decisions to make.

Maybe it’s the company you work for that isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s the career. Maybe it’s just a time in your life where you can’t be as awesome as you want to be. But all these things are okay.

I know the job market is rough right now, and I know the reality is we just can’t up and change companies and careers all the time, but I also know we have an obligation to keep ourselves happy and healthy. If your job is so overwhelming you are not doing that, you need to take a step back and make a conscious effort to change that.

And if anything, if you are EVER having suicidal thoughts … you MUST speak with your doctor or a professional about it. It breaks my heart every time I hear someone took their life because they had gotten in over their heads with their job and felt like there was no other way out.

There is ALWAYS a way out. And it NEVER has to include taking your life.

And I say all this because I’ve been there. I quit a wonderful job this past spring because I could barely function. Loved the job, but there was so much being expected of me because I let it be and I just couldn’t do it. It was a very difficult decision to quit. One that did cause quite a bit of hardship in my life … BUT I pulled through it and good things happened because of it.

Maybe your suicidal thoughts are just a way of God or the universe telling you it is time to take a step back and spend a little more time taking care of you and a little less time trying to keep up with TPS Report Cover Sheets.

*** DISCLAIMER (why must I always say things that need a disclaimer?) I am not in anyway telling you to quit your job. I am however saying you need to speak with someone about it. Your PDoc, therapist, close friend or family member … go over all your options and make sure that whatever you do that it is the best thing for YOU and YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. Being bipolar doesn’t mean we can’t thrive in our careers, but it does mean we have to take special caution not to let our careers come before our well being and personal safety!!!***


If you are thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, we advise you to get help immediately by doing one or all of the following:

  1. Call your doctor.
  2. Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room to get immediate help or ask a friend or family member to help you do these things.
  3. Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
  4. Make sure you or the suicidal person are not left alone.

4 thoughts on “How do I cope at work?

  1. Ditto to the comments above, but I would add a third type to the list….those who are on disability AND keep trying to return to the workforce. My daughter was first diagnosed in 1995 and placed on disability. For the last 17 years she has taken many different jobs where she has attempted to blend in and to be her dynamic, perfectionist self. Each time, the stress related to performing and achieving have forced her to resign. It is very difficult for some BPD people to maintain an emotional “balance” in a fast paced, performance based workplace. The important thing to realize is that your health and peace of mind are absolutely essential and that happiness is a state of mind that can be achieved through more than just the career we have. It would appear that the suicidal thoughts may be the result of extreme stress. Please heed the advice offered above……seek help now.

  2. Nana7x I am glad that you mentioned a third type as I fit into that category. I have been on long term disability for about 7 years, and can’t sustain work for a long time it becomes too much for me. Another alternative though is to try “volunteer work”, it helps a person get out of the house and the days and/or amount of hours can be very flexible. In the past I found that volunteer work was the way to go because there is no “pressure” put on you and if you’re having a relapse you can take a break whenever you need to and return if and when you are well enough to do so. So i think for some of us volunteer work can be a much better option.

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  4. i actually told my boss about me having bipolar disorder. i had been off meds for a few years and was off them when i got hired. it got to a point in my life where i knew i needed to be on meds. i told my boss that i would have a lot of doctor’s appt’s and possible strange behavior while my doc and i figured out what meds to put me on. luckily, his brother-in-law also has bipolar which i didn’t know until then. i also told him that a set routine is very important to me as far as work hours. i know some employers don’t care about their employees but sometimes it helps to speak up especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. legally, they can’t ask you about your mental health (i volunteered the info) and they can’t fire you for it if you do tell them. if you think you have an employer that might try to fire you because of it, document everything or don’t tell them and try to find a new job where you won’t feel so overwhelmed.

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