I am incredibly lucky to have a few establishments around town that know me as a reliable, hard worker. It isn’t often that people have immediate job offers, let alone several at the same time. Thank you, thank you, thank you friends and co-workers who have been attempting to make my transition back to work an easy one.
Honestly I’ve been incredibly nervous about going back to work the last couple weeks (ultimately I made the decision two weeks ago but didn’t want to post anything about it until I had a solid green light from the potential employer of my choice) but I’d become sort of complacent about it the last few days. I knew the change would be imminent but it didn’t feel like anything was happening in particular, so I pushed it out of my mind and for a couple days it was easy to fall back into the rhythm of idle unemployment.
Suddenly the train is lurching forward and I’ll be damned if the thing doesn’t pick up some momentum.
My anxiety about working has settled itself into two distinct areas.
The first is the mechanics.
Will I be scheduled a number of hours that is realistic and will help meet my needs? Will I be asked to stay later some nights than what I am reasonably able to do? Can my manager and I set up a system of mechanics that will enable me to work (and continue to work) in this environment in a (fairly) comfortable way?
What it all comes down to is:
How much information is too much?
I have made it very clear to the staff up to this point that I have been having severe health problems and have not been working the last six months. How much information is necessary in order to ensure my success in the workplace?
In other words, at what point does one use the word “bipolar” when speaking to an employer?
I have had significant difficulty in the past with this and I know that I can’t just say nothing. I fully intend to speak with my superior(s) about my “health problems” but I don’t know which one(s) I’ll speak to and how much I will disclose.
This is where the stigma around mental health can really eff up your life. For example, if I were to have (for argument’s purposes we’ll say) breast cancer and I went and had a heart to heart and told my manager I can’t anticipate receiving anything other than sympathy and support.
There is a part of me that feels very strongly that if I took that situation and replaced [breast cancer] with [bipolar disorder] it would not be received in the same way whatsoever. What if that support was replaced instead with fear?
Now, for one please do not get on my case about comparing bipolar disorder and breast cancer, I realize many people would not put them anywhere near the same category but I wanted to show that by saying “health problems” I could mean a slough of different things, and different illnesses are perceived differently by different people based on their knowledge and experiences.
That said, I need to focus again on what this blog is all about for me. I want to be open and honest about this illness with others to try and help clear the stigma, not give in to it.
…Which means in some respect I’ve already made up my mind to have the full, open conversation in my potential workplace (which should happen tomorrow).
To help remind myself I should simply recall that:
1. Individuals within my generation have been extremely more receptive to the knowledge of this illness than some of the older people I have spoken with. I do anticipate having a boss who is somewhat similar in age to me.
2. Each person’s response is generated by their current knowledge and experiences, but also how open minded they are.
3. In the past, the heart-to-heart conversation in the workplace has done more good than harm.
I cannot give in to the fear now, not when I’m less than 24 hours away from this important step.
The only other issue is the carrot.
The carrot is the concept of something desirable being placed in front of you (like a carrot being held out in front of a horse), making you strive to attain it.
I hate the carrot. In the past it has been my downfall over and over again, and for the most part I feel like even in the instances I’ve worked hard enough to earn the carrot it turns out to be gross and old and not delicious at all. The power of those rewards lie entirely in my desire to attain them, not in the reward itself.
Most jobs, like school, are great at bringing up carrots. Call me weak willed, but I am usually someone who will work herself into the ground before giving up the carrot. That fact has cost me many jobs and hospital visits because my work ethic shifts between three different dimensions.
Hypo/manic dimension, average dimension, and depressed dimension.
My hypo/manic work ethic is over the top. Completely overachieving and with so much energy available to me I can work hard for days, even weeks at a time. I can do more, make improvements to efficiency, multitask, I mean this is the chick who continuously earns the gold star.
Average employee is just that, average. She does a good job but also has enough ease to goof off every once in a while. She neither stands out nor falls behind. This girl, if she needs to, can hold down the fort while hypo/manic work girl is away. -Not for very long, but it is within the realm of reason.
Depressed has basically zero work ethic, period. Motivation has gone out the window, and attempting to keep up with hypo/manic’s workload will lead to a full fledged mental breakdown. She can withstand keeping up with the average employee but only for a limited amount of time.
When those carrots come out, it is the hypo/manic girl who can’t resist. Of course Average girl has goals, but they are attainable ones. The carrots hypo/manic chases are big ones, the unattainable kind that she will do anything to try to attain.
Obviously after that level of commitment, it always rocks the workplace boat when I become depressed suddenly and can’t keep up with the work I had been doing, sometimes only days before. I’ve experienced going from being the employee everyone admires and high-fives to being the one who keeps getting written up and everyone is disappointed in.
When I think about how that must appear in the workplace I can understand that it would be weird, it would be inconvenient, it would cause rumors, ok. But has anyone thought about how I feel to be able to achieve and thrive one minute and then have that ability ripped away from me the next?
So NO CARROTS. That is a firm rule, and I’ve instructed several people in my life to make it a point to stop me if said carrots suddenly become irresistable. I am attempting an innovative (at least for me) new employment plan which involves working part time. I will not, even if hypo/manic, accept a full time position at any point before February at least when I will re-asses the situation. I want to take every step possible to ensure that if I have a job, I can work, even while depressed. I know that full time hours would make that impossible right now, so I must, at all costs, remain part time.
No insurance carrots, no vacation carrots, no money carrots. None.
And it is with this aim that I step forth into the working world…