Yesterday's blog on work tied for the top number of "hits" on any subject I've written about thus far. And more people posted comments than on any other topic.
Clearly, we all agree it's a very important topic and as far as I'm aware, there's not a lot written about it--in books. Perhaps, it's been discussed on some of the major bipolar web sites but I'm not sure. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I rarely read these sites because dwelling on the sad aspects of this illness doesn't make me feel well. While I'm happy to discuss any and all problems, by nature I'm a solution-oriented problem solver.
Having said this, I suddenly realized that I wasn't sure how to proceed on this topic. I'm not sure how to use the blogging format to discuss individual questions that may be pressing. For example, I read Syd's comment and she needs help right now. She was recently diagnosed. She's currently experiencing a depression. She's been a freelancer for the past six years and she needs to find a job.
The other comments ran the gamut. Dootz, who's a full-time fundraiser, gave helpful tips on how he handles stress in a high pressure job. Marja talked about switching her career because of stress to that of a part-time freelance photographer. Polly discussed problems at the university because of the seasonal nature of her illness. Jinnah posted three times. He posed some interesting questions as well as providing support to Polly.
Privately, Jinnah wrote an email to me and suggested that we move this discussion to a Google discussion group. Two days later, we both decided that it's too much of a commitment although I must admit that I was initially intrigued. The reason I've never participated in bipolar discussion groups (in the past), is that they've always seemed so downbeat to me. When I was at my sickest moments and spent hours online trying to find "success stories," all I found was despair.
When I've had specific problems, where I've needed some truly insightful advice from someone who's bipolar, I couldn't find anyone whose situation was similar to my own. More than a year ago when I was in a depression and truly needed some career advice, I began researching the topic of work and bipolar disorder, and the information was unbelievably depressing.
In my journal, I wrote, "Where are the bipolar people like me? I'm having some career-related problems and the only advice I can find is geared for people who feel that it's a step up to pursue careers as members of clean-up crews, as restaurant workers, or low level office workers. (I'm not being critical here, it's just that all of the services seem geared for this population.) Why doesn't anyone seem to care about those of us in professional occupations?
"Perhaps it's because they feel we can privately pay for the services we need. What they're missing is that the financial fall-out from this illness hits us particularly hard because we don't get any help whatsoever. And it's not like people who provide career advice have any insight about the special work issues related to being bipolar."
Because it was my personal journal, I went on and on. The more I wrote, the angrier I became. The more research I did, the more hopeless it seemed. Finally, I found a 2004 study on unemployment and depression from Psychiatric Services Online.
While you should evaluate this article for yourself, I must admit that upon reading it, I laughed out loud. While I do have a quirky sense of humor, I was stunned that it took ten doctors, psychologists, and social workers to figure out that people who suffer from depression have more disability, less job retention, and more diminished performance on the job than a healthy control group and a group of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (Where do they come up with these control groups?).
Their conclusion? "In addition to helping employees with depression obtain high-quality depression treatment, new interventions may be needed to help them to overcome the substantial job upheaval that this population experiences."
What a "frigging" waste of money. All of us who are depressed and/or bipolar are well-aware that we need treatment for our illness and that we may need job-related advice. Surely, the grant money these people received would have been better spent providing services for us rather than subsidizing studies for academics.
What services would I like to see? Free high-level career counseling for bipolar professionals. Government funding for small business loans for bipolars. Research on the best working environments for bipolar professionals, tips on coping with job-related problems, a hot-line for immediate work-related problems, government tax breaks for companies that are willing to provide flex-time schedules for bipolars or job-sharing arrangements, free seminars on how to find a job when you're depressed, grants for bipolar writers and artists, and the list goes on.
In the short-term, I realized that I should have researched the topic of work and bipolar disorder before I planned on publishing daily posts about it. The preliminary research I've done is not encouraging and I don't see that it would be valuable to post it. Personally, I don't find it uplifting to read stats on how many bipolars are unemployed and how many problems we have in work situations.
So, while I'm committed to exploring this topic and will continue to try and post something on it every day this week, the best I think I can hope for is to try and find resources to explore further, individual success stories, or perhaps sites where helpful articles are listed. And I promise to do that. I'm hoping that I'll be able to provide a much higher level of advice--down the road--after I spend a lot more time researching this topic. If you have specific questions you'd like me to try and find answers to, please let me know.