Now that I’ve accepted the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I’ve been able to reflect back over the years and put some pieces together and understand how and why things happened the way they did. One area that became really obvious is my employment history. With my new knowledge I can see where one way or another I lost every job I’ve ever had as a result of my illness.
My first job was a counselor for the YMCA. I was only 15 at the time, but at 16 I went into my first major depression. The depression eventually was bad enough that I couldn’t get to work at all, and I was let go. Once I recovered from the depression I went through a series of entry level jobs that were insignificant and I don’t even remember them all.
My first ‘grown up ‘job after college was as an accountant for a wholesale firm. I made it five years without a problem, and had worked my way up to controller. Then I went into a manic episode. Before long I began believing that I was severely underpaid and demanded a 50% raise. Needless to say I didn’t get it, and I ended up quitting. I was still manic, and started my own accounting practice. My manias tend to run for extended periods, and I went gangbusters with my business. Then another major depression hit. This one was bad enough that I ended up in the hospital, and within a few weeks I lost almost every client and couldn’t afford to live on the few that were left. I ended up closing the practice, and was unemployed for the next five years, still fighting the depression. I was fortunate that my Wife was working, and we were able to maintain.
My next responsible position was as a government contractor. As usual, I was a rising star and quickly moved up in position and responsibility. That lasted three years before the manic episode hit. I wasn’t fired, but because of my inappropriate behavior that resulted from the mania I was taken out of my management position and put to work as a project manager that had very little interaction with others. Still manic, I quit, and quickly found a new job as a senior executive with a small start up firm. (I can be very charming and persuasive when I’m manic)
Again… I became a rising star. Within two years I went from a General Manager position, to a Director with worldwide responsibilities. And I had another manic episode. This one was not the energetic euphoric episode, but full of rage. I completely alienated myself from my management, and eventually ended up getting laid off.
But I was still manic. Again, I found another job within a relatively short time as a VP for another start up. I had settled into a hypo manic state and maintained rather well for several years. But the mania returned, and I again found myself separated from management, ending up in another layoff.
The worst experience came with my next position. After yet another quick rise, I had another manic episode where I became so full of rage I was punching walls and breaking expensive equipment over disagreements with my management. They were gracious enough to call it a layoff so I could draw unemployment, but in was in fact a dismissal.
I’m working again, but in a position that has no employees, no authority, and no decisions to make. As I’m under treatment, and aware of my illness I’m hopeful that I can break the pattern and not find myself out of work again.
This illness is devastating and can impact every aspect of your life. It can affect you mentally, physically, with relationship, families, and financially. I’ve been extremely lucky to maintain more or less continuous employment and have never really done without. I know that not everyone is that lucky. But every time I consider discontinuing my meds, or ignoring warning signs of an impending episode I try to hold on to the knowledge that financial security is fleeting, and can disappear in the blink of an eye.