Everyone with Bipolar can work

Apparently I filled in a survey about Bipolar disorder at the end of 2014.

I don’t remember the survey or what it was for, but it’s somehow tied into the NHS.

Yesterday I got an email with some follow-up questions; they asked me to rate some questions according to how important I thought they were.

Filling the survey out I got more and more depressed and angry at how they were marketing Bipolar – I wish there had been a comment box at the end of every question so I could have added my thoughts.

The entire thing was geared towards people thinking that you can recover from Bipolar, it is the person who has Bipolar’s job to manage themselves and their symptoms, and people with Bipolar can lead ‘normal’ lives with jobs etc.

One question asked how important I thought it was that the Bipolar person be “trained” to manage their recovery using the following methods:

diet, exercise, sleep, yoga, meditation, rest, routine, sunlight, change of job, avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs

Uhuh, yep. Because if I eat right, exercise, sleep well (in a mood episode? How can I magic myself into that?!), meditate, rest, have a routine, sit in the sun, manage a job (HA!) and don’t drink or do drugs…I’ll be fine, all my symptoms will disappear!

As someone who has Bipolar, I am so tired of constantly having this belief that I can and should be working shoved down my throat.

Almost every book on Bipolar I’ve read talks about the fact I should definitely be well enough to work. Websites list staggering percentages of people with Bipolar who are symptom-less and work a gazillion hours every day.

Everything is pushed towards making sure the Bipolar person *knows* that recovery is possible and they can and must work.

Work is good for them, work needs to be what they do, if they aren’t working they are lazy…blah blah blah, it’s all bullshit.

Fact of the matter is Bipolar is a lifelong illness, and those with severe Bipolar probably can’t work. Isn’t it obvious that those who have no stable episodes obviously can’t hold down a job? Or those who have tried a dozen plus medications, and none of them have helped long-term, are going to lose their job when depression or mania hits?

I’m tired of this illness not being taken seriously.

When I read things or am told about how well people with Bipolar do, or the fact I should be able to work, it literally never helps…it makes me sad and lonely, because if everyone else is fine why am I so fucked?

It also makes me anxious because if most people with Bipolar hold down impressive jobs, that’s gonna mean even more pressure on me to get working before I’m anywhere near ready. The rest of the world already sees me as a lazy, scrounging shit muncher and it’s not pleasant.

Although my last social worker and I ended on bad terms, the one thing I really appreciated was her ‘get back to work plan’ (I asked about getting a job whilst hypomanic).

She said I’d need to be stable for around two years before I should think about getting a ‘proper’ job

After 6 months stable I should start attending a group one day a week and slowly build it up to several days a week; after another 6 months stable I can start volunteering once a week and slowly build it up; after another six months I can get a part-time job one day a week, and then after a further six months I can think about building up days or getting a few days of a full-time job.

That’s what we should be telling people who have a long history of severe Bipolar disorder.

There shouldn’t be a rush to get people working; their health should come before this need to get them in a job. We need to admit that some people with Bipolar might never be able to work, whereas for others it might be a breeze.

Bipolar is an illness where each case is individual.

I also found these questions from the survey laughable.

What are the most effective ways to train and support a person with bipolar so they are motivated and able to manage the condition themselves?

How am I supposed to manage my Bipolar? I do what I can, yet everyday is hell.

I try to eat healthy, I take vitamins, I get 1-5 hours exercise every day, I listen to my body, we monitor my symptoms, I colour, I read, I handle my pets, I take on my pets’ responsibilities when I am able, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs…yet I haven’t had a stable day for years, and I experience psychosis every day.

Sometimes an illness is too much – would you expect someone with a serious physical illness to manage it themselves?

M4: What can we learn about managing bipolar from the people who are managing the condition well?

As I said earlier: Bipolar is different for every individual.

Even if you take someone with the same type of Bipolar…one person with Bipolar 1 might experience one episode every few years, whereas someone else might have rapid cycling Bipolar and switch every month or so. There are huge variations in people who rapid cycle; some of them have stable episodes between being ill, others have none.

Nobody is the same.

One person might be virtually symptom-less, yet if you had them tell someone who is very ill what they are doing to manage (exercising, eating vegetables, charting symptoms) the ill person might already be doing it and more.

Bipolar isn’t predictable, and it’s very unique to each person suffering from it.

I think Bipolar is one of the most misunderstood illnesses. There are very few people who actually understand its’ patterns – people think it’s a laughable illness (“I mean, everyone’s happy and sad at some point aren’t they, and that’s all Bipolar is!!”) or something to joke about (“the weather is so Bipolar!”) or they think it’s not that serious.
It’s about time professionals started taking this illness seriously and actually trying to help those who have it, instead of expecting the ill person to do it all themselves…
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