mental illness and holding a job - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 12-19-2005, 06:04 AM
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I've been worrying a lot about my sister who was diagnosed with bipolar earlier this year. She's known she is depressive for a couple decades, and has been successfully treated for that, but, like myself and our grandmother, experienced her first major manic episode later in life (we're in our 40s, our grandmother had the only manic episode we knew of in her late 60s). My sister has been in and out of the hospital all this past year, for both mania (once) and depression (2 or 3 times), and is still not stabilized from her last dip into depression. I'm so worried she won't be able to find a new job. She was finally let go from her previous job because of illness.



I became unable to hold a job myself as my illness worsened (I was undiagnosed during the winding down of my career as an employee) and I'm sure I would not be able to hold a "real job" now, even with treatment.



Of those here on the board with mental illness, how many of you are able to hold a real job? And how do you do it? My sister's previous emplyer was extremely forgiving of her being absent frequently, but I can't imagine most employers being that way, mine certainly weren't.
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#2 Old 12-19-2005, 02:23 PM
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Ludi,

Have you visited the boards at the Depression and Bipolar Support alliance? http://www.dbsalliance.org/. I haven't visited there in a while myself, but the "Friends and Family" board - for friends and family of people with bipolar disorder, was a saving grace for me when my husband was first diagnosed.



The people on those boards were really friendly, and didn't care if a 'newbie' would show up and ask all sorts of questions that had been asnwered before. It's also great to just read the zillions of posts there.



A lot is discussed there about holding down a job, and also seeking protection under the ADA to prevent discrimination in the workplace. (Bipolar disorder is covered under the ADA, so once your employer knows about it, they must provide 'reasonable accomodations' for your 'disability' in the workplace. Of course, there are all sorts of ways to interpret that, and that's exactly why they talk about it a lot on those boards.)



I have to go catch a bus, but please check that out. I think there would be a lot of help more geared towards your needs on those boards.



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#3 Old 12-19-2005, 05:21 PM
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My father is bipolar, and he doesn't have a job.
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#4 Old 12-19-2005, 08:20 PM
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I hold a job having ADHD and bouts of depression. I do not take medication for either. With that said, I have attendance issues and have been known to walk into jobs and quit without thinking it through.
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#5 Old 12-20-2005, 08:39 AM
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Thank you for your input, everyone.
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#6 Old 12-20-2005, 09:55 AM
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Ludi,

A bit more of a response. My husband has very severe bipolar disorder. (When he was untreated, he had manic episodes with psychotic features.) He has gone through several medication 'cocktails', and is finally on the right combination. He is doing very well (there is hope!), although I've noticed that he needs to sleep more than the 'average' person, probably due to the medications.

Therefore, he works a part-time job. He has not had attendance issues, but I think that is due to the fact that he is well-medicated, and we have come a long way in terms of understanding his role as a person with bipolar disorder. (I think, at first, he just felt like giving up on 'normal' life roles - like worker, husband, etc. But he has figured out how to assume those roles again, with some modifications.)

I work two jobs to help make up the difference in pay. Of course, that's not ideal, or something I want to do long-term. But for right now, that's the state of things.

Perhaps your sister could find part-time work as a way to ease herself back into a work schedule. Some places have part-time help come in for 10 hours a week. And maybe she could schedule herself for her best time of day - mid-mornings, afternoons, whatever, so that she'd have a better chance of being able to go to work.

That being said, I think the most important thing is that she gets the right medication and support for her to adjust to this new fact of her life. That might take time.

Again, I really recommend the bipolar and support alliance boards. There are a lot of really great people there.
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#7 Old 12-20-2005, 08:23 PM
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Thanks, piratebean. My sister is resistant to most medications, unfortunately, and has a history of going off them for no very good reason, but that's fairly typical for many bipolar people. She also seems to find the lamest doctors in town, who are never at their offices, very hard to get ahold of.
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#8 Old 12-21-2005, 02:25 AM
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Hi Ludi , most of the patients that I know are not able to work, but that's partly from lack of motivation I think. The reason they lack motivation is because it's kind of doubly hard to do that on top of an illness I think. They just kind of live in survival mode. If you or your sister want to do something then I recommend getting as much support as you can , advocates, financial help, etc and there are also special centres for disabled people to help them back into work or at least to find them voluntary work which is a good way to build it up . Some patients are too tired to work which is another thing. Tiredness often goes with the territory ,



best of luck to you both and happy christmas !!!



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#9 Old 12-21-2005, 04:45 AM
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I'm very lucky in that I have a home business. I've expressed my concern to my doctor that I wouldn't be able to hold a "real job" and she says not to worry about it because I don't have to, but enjoy the fact that I have this flexible life.



My sister, on the other hand, is used to being an employee, and wants to continue her career. Not only must she recover from her illness but she also must find a new job in a new town which is not as friendly to her field (genetic research).
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#10 Old 12-22-2005, 08:03 AM
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Ludi,

I know what you mean about lousy doctors...I know what that's like. My husband is lucky because we had a great primary care physician when he was going through this. The psychiatrists were useless, the hospital was useless, but his physician was a godsend.

I know it's hard, but finding a better doctor might help. (And I know how darn near impossible that is...we've sinced moved far, far away from that wonderful physician, and we have the most mediocre physician now. And yet another useless psychiatrist. And one of these giant networks with all sorts of 'specialists' in it, but no person who can acutally *do* anything for you - they just keep passing you from one doc to the next. I HATE medical 'care'. The next doc who writes me a referral to another doc is going to get strangled.)

Anyway. (Sorry for the rant.) Ask around and see if you can find a recommended doc - and when your sister goes to the doc, she should say , "Your patient So-and-so recommended you." That way, the doc has to live up to his/her reputation, not only to your sister, but to the patient who recommended the doc. (Doc wouldn't want your sister to report back to the patient that the doc was useless.)

Therapy is also really helpful, but again, you can end up with a really lousy therapist.

I hope your sis gets the help she needs.
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#11 Old 12-22-2005, 08:06 AM
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Hi Ludi- Sorry I didn't post already.

I'm very mentally ill & work full-time, but it's been a real struggle.

To begin with, employers won't generally hire mentally ill (m.i.) people while they are showing symptoms. THey will fire you if you have already been hired because traits like apathy, withdrawal, anger, depression, etc. do not fit in well in the workplace & appear "deliberate" as compared to , say, a broken arm or heart attack.

There are programs that allow many m./i. people to do at least a little work to feel better & get some experience. I worked at a pet supply co-op when my illness was very bad. I recall going from the inpatient ward to my job, which was on the grounds on the mental hospital, & then back to the ward, when I was at my worst. I don't know if these programs exist in the US but there are a few around here.

Canada Pension is very good about helping you get back to work, but I don't think there's an American equivalent. They don't cut you off until they are sure you can support yourself without them.

I would say important factors in working while m.i. include: finding a job that doesn't make stress worse; making sure you can do the job with your illness;

making sure you can afford your meds & taking them (a benefit package helps); making sure you are able to take time off for hospitalizations & regular appointments; having supportive friends/family/co-workers.

I also suggest keeping the m.i. under wraps as much as possible in the workplace, because there is tons of prejudice against m.i. people.

Most of all, don't listen to people like Tame & certain others who seem to believe that m.i. people should be doing the crappiest jobs available no matter how m.i. they are. I have no doubt that 10 years of scrubbing floors/toilets, serving coffee all night to drunks at a donut store, exotic dancing, commssion-based retail sales & the like made me more paranoid, aggressive & depressed than I was before I workled those jobs. FIND SOMETHING THAT WON'T AGGRAVATE YOUR SYMPTOMS.

Ludi, I hope your sister finds the help she needs, & I think a transitional supported workplace may be the place for her while she's still symptomatic. However she NEEDS a better doctor if she expects a better recovery.
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#12 Old 12-22-2005, 12:27 PM
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Thanks for all this input.



One of the problems with my sister's career field is that it requires very long hours and a great deal of concentration. I think it's wonderful she's been able to do this so long, but I worry if she needs to transition to a less stressful way of making a living, it will have a negative impact on her self esteem. I think there are plenty of lab type jobs she could do with her skills, but possibly lower paying and certainly less rewarding.
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#13 Old 12-22-2005, 12:30 PM
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What about supported employment in her field, where a caseworker or occupational therapist meets with her & her employer to discuss accomodations?
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#14 Old 12-22-2005, 12:48 PM
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I don't know if such a thing is available here, as you know this isn't Canada!
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#15 Old 12-22-2005, 12:58 PM
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Oh yes, I know we have it better in Canada, but aren't there any supports in your/her area?
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#16 Old 12-22-2005, 02:35 PM
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those sorts of therapies exist, but are not often covered by insurance. it largely depends upon what her insurance covers and then what she can afford out-of-pocket.



a friend of mine has a son with reactive-attachment disorder. he has a lot of hands-on help through the schools that the gov't covers, and his parent's health insurance covers some of the cost of basic therapeutic treatment (they're drug free right now). but, my friend pays for 'wrap around family therapy' (which is where you have a therapist on call for you 24 hrs a day in case there is an episode), specialized therapeutic trainings and workshops (for parents to learn how to help their children, to learn about RAD, and to support each other), and anything beyond what the basic diagnosis allows for under the insurance.



luckily, they're also wealthy.



but, it averages about $10,000 per year in therapeutic expenses for their family (if not more).
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#17 Old 12-22-2005, 07:55 PM
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I know your post was to people with a mental illness. I don’t deal with it personally but I do professionally. I have worked with a number of people who have Bipolar. Some have been able to work so not. It has been my experience that if someone can find a medication regime that works for them and sticks with it.



You said she was recently diagnosed with Bipolar. It might be helpful for her to talk to a social worker or a therapist. Who she can talk to about her issues with medications and what ever else might be helpful. Learning how to manage stress and symptoms can do a lot, but the biggest part of managing bipolar is the medication.



I have also read that once the symptoms are in check maintaining a regular sleep routine can help keep the bipolar symptoms from returning.
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#18 Old 12-22-2005, 09:05 PM
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Huggles to you guys. I know what you're talking about. I have lost 2 jobs due to bipolar and was diagnosed in late September. I don't really have any advice, but I'm here to listen to if anyone ever needs an ear.
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#19 Old 12-23-2005, 08:34 AM
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Thank you all very much. My sis has never been very good at managing stress, she has always tended to an "overdo it and collapse" kind of living. Some of her previous overdoing it might have been hypomania. I know she really needs to get educated about the illness, and about her medications. After all these years, she is still not good about getting proper information about things. I have been trying to provide helpful hints and suggestions, but I don't know if she's really listening. She's rather stubborn, being the older sister.
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#20 Old 12-23-2005, 08:40 AM
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How will she support herself if she is unemployed due to illness?

Is she willing to take a job like Tame suggests the mentally ill should do, like cleaning or security?
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