Not Working With Bipolar
[Image] A woman with long curly hair. The panel is divided into two parts, each a reflection of her – on the left side she is facing left, and on the right she is facing right. On the left side she is grinning broadly, and surrounded by confetti. Her arms are outstretched and welcoming. On the left side her eyes are closed and she is crying. She is surrounded by rain, and holding her arms across her torso.
Captions start on the left and alternative left to right.
[Caption] I’m bipolar. I technically have rapid cycling bipolar.
It means I go from depressed to manic (and vice versa) in a matter of hours. I’m always physically and emotionally drained, and constantly stressed.
Sometimes I feel like Superwoman…
Sometimes I sit in my bathroom thinking about suicide.
I’ve been hospitalized a lot.
[Image] The woman, holding her hand to her forehead. Her eyes are closed and she is facing downward. Behind her is an office scene. Four office workers are walking in various directions, and all are looking at her.
[Caption] Of course none of this is conducive to functioning “properly” in a typical workplace.
[Image] A man, sitting at a desk in an office with an empty chair in front of him. His hand ins on his forehead and he looks frustrated.
[Image] An ambulance. Motion lines indicate it is on the move.
[Caption] I’ve also lost out on jobs…because my permanent record shows that ambulances have been called on my behalf.
[Caption] But I’ve never hurt anyone else, and aren’t you supposed to get help when you feel like dying
[Image] A series of images of the woman, each with it’s own sub-caption
[Caption] I’m more than bipolar, and employers don’t see it.
[Image] The woman, smiling, shaking another woman’s hand in front of a crowd of clapping people.
[Caption] I won a community service award for five years in a row…
[Image] The woman holding a camera up to a plant
[Caption] I’m a skilled photographer..
[Image] The woman holding a pot with a plant in it, a trowel laid down next her to her, and a watering can on her other side.
[Caption] I love gardening…
[Image] The woman, smiling with her eyes closed and holding a pie.
[Caption]…and I can whip up a fantastic pumpkin pie!
[Image] A garbage can. Inside it is a piece of paper. On the piece of paper is a sticker that says “Reject”.
[Caption] I am trying. I want to have a functional place in the world. I just need a chance…
[Image] The garbage can, but in closer view. The writing on the paper is now visible. It says “Resume/ CV”. The sticker on the paper reads: “High Risk: Reject”.
[Caption]…and some understanding.
I’m bipolar. I technically have rapid cycling bi-polar, which means I can go from depressed to manic in a matter of hours. This means I’m usually really, REALLY tired, and super stressed out. Not to mention whatever other emotions I may or may not be feeling at that time. Sometimes I feel like superwoman, and sometimes I sit in my bathroom running through scenes of suicide in my head. I’ve been hospitalized a lot.
I have two kids. I also have a common-law partner. He works 60-hour work weeks, and I’m unemployed. He really wants me to go to work, because my medications are really expensive, and the cost of living is high.
I’ve had five jobs in our four-year relationship. Every time I get one, I end up leaving because I become overwhelmed, and usually wind up in the hospital. When I say, “overwhelmed,” I mean feeling like pressure is encompassing my whole body. I react to feeling overwhelmed by having a panic attack, and at that point I tense right up, and am plagued with horrible thoughts about ending my pain. I wonder if my family would be better off without me, or when I’m going to lose my job, and how embarrassed my family must be of me. I start an up-and-down sleeping pattern, often sleeping for many, many hours, and then volleying to a place where I sleep only three-four hours a night, and can’t stop moving.
Of course none of this is conducive to functioning “properly” in a typical workplace.
My bosses are never understanding, and don’t want a “crazy person” working for them.
I’ve applied to several jobs that I thought would be good for me, with supportive management, but because I’ve had calls made on my behalf for ambulances because I was suicidal, I lost each opportunity. You see, this information is forever on my record, and I’m a “risk”.
At one job I (almost) had at a major bank, I ended up receiving a phone call from their hiring department (after I signed the employment papers, no less) saying that they’d looked into my background and had determined that I was too high-risk an employee for them to consider keeping on. Because I was within the first three months of my employment they were allowed to dismiss me with no proper cause, so when I contacted the Labour Board, I was told there was nothing they could do. This record is permanent and may even prevent me from leaving the country. It’s just a bad thing all around.
I’ve never hurt anyone, and aren’t you supposed to get help when you’re feeling like dying? Now the record of my needing help is keeping me from moving forward with my life.
Employers don’t see that I won the award for community service five years in a row. They don’t see that I’m a skilled photographer. They don’t see that I’ve got quite the green thumb, or that I can whip up a fantastic pumpkin pie. They don’t see the context of 10 years of abuse by people I should have been able to trust. All they see are words like, “suicidal ideations”, “hypomania”, and “cutting”.
I am trying – I want to have a functional place in the world. I just need someone in a hiring department to give me the chance, and offer some basic flexibility and support.
This week’s illustration is by Julia Naves
5 responses to “Not Working With Bipolar”
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I am starting to believe this should be my diagnosis. Currently I have been diagnosed with BPD, GAD, and Major Depressive disorder. But more and more my mood swings have me wondering. And after reading this I am definately talking to my doctor. I needed to see this to give me that push. Thank you for posting
I don’t want to tell you to give up on working. I don’t want to tell you to relax and try something else, but here’s an idea that is a viable option for people like us. Oh, by the way I’m bipolar type two and I have borderline personality disorder. My cycles are not so rapid. I am quite exhausted usually, nonetheless. I’ve attempted working at places like Michael’s Art’s and Crafts(they were cool with my illness), I was a dental assistant but that became overwhelming within months, I did computer embroidery and screen printing but that became overwhelming also.
Now I’m on disability and I really can’t work. I know now that I’ll screw up somehow. Not by stupidity. Because I’ll become overwhelmed. When we’ve got our issues, working just doesn’t work. I am lucky if I can stay out of the hospital myself. Daily tasks are so much more than simple for me. I wish you the best. I know the dread associated with bipolarity.
This comic is creatively illustrated. But it has adapted the writer’s letter in a misleading way. It makes it sound like people with rapid cycling bipolar are depressed one hour, and manic the next.
Actually, what rapid cycling means is that you have more than four episodes of depression, mania or hypo mania lasting at least two weeks (for depression) or 1 week (for mania) over the course of a year. Not a day or a week!
Many people with bipolar experience emotional lability. Feeling despondent for an hour and then elated later on or the next day. But this can happen both during depressive episodes and manic episodes.
“DSM-IV defines rapid cycling as the occurrence of at least 4 major depressive, manic, hypomanic, or mixed episodes during the previous year in a patient with a diagnosis of BP I or BP II. These episodes must be demarcated either by a partial or full remission of at least 2 months’ duration or by a switch to an episode of opposite polarity. Duration criteria for episodes are not waived, which means that each major depressive episode must last at least 2 weeks, each manic or mixed episode must last at least 1 week, and each hypomanic episode must last at least 4 days.”
Great point! We do take creative liberties to illustrate the point. Just to clarify, all our comics are created with the author (we don’t just take the written submissions and do what we want, it’s a back and forth conversation), so the way it’s been illustrated is what the author thought was accurate in portraying their experiences. Sometimes that means it might not be the most medically accurate portrayal, but emotionally it captures what they experience (which is what our focus is).
The author’s letter clearly stated that her rapid-cycling means hours. For her. They didn’t misinterpret anything. I have the same experience as the author, though I am not medically bipolar.