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Reentering The Workforce

Bipolar disorder is different for everyone. Some can continue working, others must file for disability, and then there are those that are somewhere in between, or who come up with alternative ways to generate income. What happens when someone decides to reenter the workforce after several years? 

For the past seven years, I have been working from home because it has been the most suitable option for me. At the time, I was not able to work outside of home, but the bills still needed to be paid. I was lucky enough to find a way to earn an income without leaving my house. However, things change and with expenses increasing, I felt it was best to get a job. I haven’t given up my home business, but do need a steady paycheck. 

Thanks to a new medication combination that is working great, I am now once again employed outside of my home. However, there are challenges I have faced the past few months that I didn’t anticipate. 

Take Your Medication as Prescribed 

Everyone knows that those with bipolar disorder must take their medication as prescribed. That wasn’t difficult for me. However, balancing a job and a home business was a bit overwhelming. I woke up earlier, stayed up later, and sacrificed a lot to get everything done. Like many people, it would have been easy to forget a dose. Do not let this happen to you. Those that have lived with the condition for years know all too well that one missed dose can lead to multiple forgotten dosages, which can cause troubling symptoms to return with vengeance. It can destroy all of the hard work you have done and cost you everything. 

Routines and Schedules Are Important 

Even without working, routines and schedules are important, especially for individuals with bipolar disorder. If possible, try to keep the same routine and schedule at work. The times you wake up and go to sleep are also important. The human body has a “clock”, or circadian rhythm that it goes by. When this established rhythm is disrupted it can throw everything out of balance. 

Start Off Slow 

You may be excited to get back into the workforce and sign up for all of the hours you can get. However, it may end up being too much if you are not careful. Start off slow and pace yourself. As time goes on, you can ask for additional hours. However, you need to measure how much you can realistically handle while maintaining your health.

For many people with bipolar disorder, we are unaware of subtle symptoms until it is too late. The last thing you want is to go into full-blown mania or a major depressive cycle while trying to work outside the home. The first signs are not obvious and can be easily missed unless you are vigilant in paying attention to your body. Be aware of the type and speed of your thoughts, pay attention to how fast you are walking or talking, and listen to how loud your voice is. Look at people’s eyes to gain a sense of how they are responding to your words and body language. Do you feel more tired than usual or are you feeling better than you should? It can be difficult to do this while trying to work, but it gets easier with practice.

It can be a challenge to live with bipolar disorder, especially if you are working around other people. There are difficulties, but there are also victories. Whether you work in customer service, as a nurse, or an attorney, these tips can help you when reentering the workforce after an extended absence.

Have you gone back to work after several years? What challenges did you face and what are your tips to help others?

Read more of Taylor's posts here.

Comments

I took about 8 years off after the birth of my daughter. This was many years before I ever seriously considered getting help for what has now been diagnosed as bipolar II disorder. The job I took was an in-office position. During my hypomania times everything was great, I was super productive and even managed to get a promotion. Then came the irritability and depression and I had to step down back into my original job. Working for the same company, I am lucky to be able to work from home now. This allows me to take brief breaks to lay down when I feel overwhelmed. Working from home has been a life saver for me. I can help with family expenses while still putting my mental health needs at the forefront of how I manage my day.

Hi! Thanks Taylor and Bella for sharing your insights! I am looking at what kind of job I could have working from home. Could you please tell us what you do for a living? I can't figure out a job where I would not be able to follow up on requests when I am feeling down. It would be dreadful for me to let people down!

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