Back to Work with Bipolar Disorder
Many people with bipolar disorder are able to successfully return to work once they’re on an effective treatment regimen, which typically includes one or more medications. In Bipolar Disorder for Dummies , however, we recommend that you avoid mood stressors and triggers – and returning to work, especially a demanding job, can be loaded with stressors and triggers. In this two-part series on returning to work with bipolar disorder, we offer some suggestions on how to ease the transition back to work.
Every individual and situation is different. Some people have no option but to return to work full-time and really have very little support from loved ones. Others may have a tremendous support network, an understanding supervisor, and very accommodating co-workers. Some people may even find that returning to work is less stressful than staying home, and they really embrace the opportunity to return to work.
Following are some suggestions that can ease the transition back to work:
- Meet with your doctor first. You may need a doctor’s release to return to work. In addition, your doctor may offer some helpful suggestions concerning how to handle your medications in the workplace.
- Set up a doctor’s appointment ahead of time for the end of your first work week. By setting up an appointment in advance, you can return to work knowing that if anything goes wrong, you can get in to see your doctor soon. You can always cancel if things are going well.
- Consider any workplace accommodations that can help you function more effectively at work.
- Discuss your return with your supervisor. You’re not required by law to disclose your diagnosis or treatment, but if you feel comfortable disclosing this information, it may make your supervisor a little more understanding and flexible.Tip: You can often predict how your supervisor may react to your diagnosis by thinking back to actions she performed or words she uttered in the past. How accommodating has your supervisor been regarding other illnesses and absences from work? Has she ever made unkind remarks about people who were “nutjobs” or “headcases?” Past behaviors are the best predictors of future behaviors.
- Discuss your return with one or more coworkers you trust. Again, you have no obligation whatsoever to disclose your diagnosis or treatment. In fact, a disclosure may not always be the best idea. But if you have coworkers you trust, a support person on the job can help you watch for early warning signs and avoid potential conflicts.
Lighten the load at home. If you have a partner or other loved one who can relieve some of your burden at home, ask him or her to take on some additional responsibilities or chores or hire help (if you can afford it). If someone else can chip in by paying the bills, picking up the house, cooking, and making sure the kids (if any) are taken care of, at least temporarily, you may feel less stress at work.