I recently had a mood episode at work that caused me to have to leave early or else I would have had an emotional meltdown. I’ve also been struggling to do my job well due to side affects from the meds. These are scenarios the Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes. And accommodations are legally supported.
So I talked to my therapist about it and she encouraged me to go ahead and disclose. The next day I walked into HR’s office, closed the door and detailed the issue. She was understanding and never batted an eyelash over it, but then came the tough part. She felt like I needed to talk to my boss about it. He is a very emotionally guarded man.
I decided to write an email and copy HR on it. HR commented that it was an excellent email and probably the best way to communicate the issues with my boss. I described the disease, talked about how it has affected my work, and made a reference to the ADA and that if I need accommodations, I will communicate that. I also told him that I want to be treated the same as anyone else. No kid gloves. If I’m having issues, I will communicate with him. If he’s seeing issues, he shouldn’t hesitate to communicate them with me. He never responded to the email, and I’m not crazy about the idea of asking him if he did, in fact, read it. I also mentioned that I’m considering setting up a buddy system with a close coworker…which I did today.
The thing is, I didn’t think I’d ever have to do this. I was beginning to believe that I was cured. That as long as I took my meds, I would never have any problems. I was disappointed to discovery that this wasn’t true. They doubled my lithium to get me back on track. The effects are very gradual. I can tell I’m not fully stable because I totally lost me temper with the church choir I direct last night. They were so shocked, because I’m generally so patient. It’s not my fault they were being whiny bitches, but I generally handle that with grace and humor.
So, I’m not totally “out” at work, but the people who need to know do know. My close coworker friend is on board with a buddy system, by which I mean he is willing to watch for unusual changes in my behavior. No speech filter, irritability, argumentative, inappropriate with women, incessant talking, sitting and staring at my screen for hours, regular negative self talk. You know, all the stuff that signals manic or depressive states. He was willing and compassionate and I believe emotionally adept and sensitive enough to do it. This is when a coworker friend becomes a friend friend.
I do recommend the buddy system. When you are at home with family, they know the instant something’s up. But I spend 40 to 50 hours a week with my coworkers. I need someone to be aware of the possibilities. I can’t always tell when things are going wrong. I need someone I trust to take me aside when something is odd in my behavior.
I’ve never disclosed to an employer before, and I wouldn’t do it with just any employer, but I feel good about this place. I’m willing to take a chance that this will improve things for me rather than the alternative.