Mental Health Support
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(Lack of) support at work

I have bipolar type 2 and while I've only had three diagnosed manic episodes I have been moderately to severely depressed for at least the last 10 years. I take all manner mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants but I look back on my life and all the amazing adventures I had as a younger adult travelling the world and working for the most respected newspaper in the UK. Now I work for a successful but mindlessly parochial Scottish newspaper where the stories are all crashes, child porn and "tragic tots" losing their brave battle with cancer (who has a cowardly battle with cancer?)

But I'm rambling. My point is that, no matter how hard I try, no one at work realises how debilitating bipolar is. Only 22% of patients can hold down a job. I have tried to engage with HR and the company's doctor but the HR woman admitted she had Googled "bipolar" on the train on her way to meet me and had no idea it is incurable. I see a psychiatrist fortnightly and take 11 drugs a day (half to counteract the side effects of the other half).

How do I get my employers to grasp the seriousness of this chronic, life-sapping disease? Has anyone had a positive experience with employers?

I'm left doing the most junior of jobs even though I ran a whole art department in London. It's a hopeless, unsatisfyingmiserable drudge of an existence.

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To be honest I have never mentioned it because I always thought it would cause them to treat me differently. I have borderline personality disorder, anxiety and depression. Anyhow, do they have employment supports available to you or case management?

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Hi, I can understand why you keep your diagnosis to yourself, the words "borderline personality disorder" strikes fear into the hearts of the ignorant, they imagine violence and unpredictability.

I told my previous employer, a very liberal newspaper group with unrivalled human resources services, because they knew something was not right with me. They were so supportive, they even sent me on an all expeses paid holiday to Spain (it didn't help but it's indicative of the variety in HR approaches).

I assumed honesty was the best policy with my current employer but I'm just seen as a lame duck and unreliable due to my absence record.

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I feel deeply for you. I also have I polar, I am on Lithium, I was told that I had the serious type as I was in hospital for over a month, however fortunately I have only ever had the one manic episode, over 25 years ago, I am now 65. I totally agree that HR are oblivious to Manic depression. I lied to get my jobs, I managed 11 years in a civilian post in the Police force, 5 years in child protection until I made a clerical error which had me off work for 6 months, I was in the union, I made out it was stress and managed to go back in a different post. To cut a long story short I left when I was 55 did domestic cleaning self employed for the next 7 years, no stress, hard work but I felt I had achieved a lot and I still iron for someone😃 Is it not possible for you with your skills and incredible talent to go self employed? It is a suggestion, as I can tell you are fed up, I am researching a blog about the injustices of the system we are under, they claim to help people with mental health but it's not happening. Granted I have been fortunate in not having another manic episode, I do not see anyone either, just have regular blood tests for the Lithium. Please let me know if I can help in any way, even if just to support. Bipolar is debilitating, when I was working I became very stressed if pushed too hard. Suggest to your HR that they contact a GP or better still a Psychriastrist so they have a better understanding. Research if you could go self employed. Take care keep me posted 😊🤗

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Mental health support is supposed to be changing according to the government and news reports but it doesn't seem to have got through to employers. BiPolar UK (formerly Manic Depression Fellowship) are excellent and can provide all sorts of useful information. Everybody who works there has BiPolar -- maybe worth contacting if you haven't already.

It's great that you are able to work with bipolar and maybe your employers don't deserve your talents. Perhaps freelancing as lin62 suggests may be a good option.

Good luck

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Thanks (I won't call you Crazylazy, lol). I am involved with Bipolar Aberdeen which is a self-help group under the umbrella of Bipolar Scotland. I find the group meetings helpful and it's good to know I'm not alone. Unfortunately I work in the evenings so often miss the monthly meeting. I've asked my manager to adjust the rota so I can have the last Thursday of the month off (one day!) to attend (I'd make up the time, we only work four nights a week in newspapers) but she says this is not possible because other colleagues work specific days to accommodate childcare, meaning I'm needed to cover for them. I don't want to sound like a grumpy bachelor but having kids is not an illness. Having crazy neural pathways is. In the long term it's in the company's interest for me to get as much support as possible as it ought to lead to less sickness absence. They just don't get it. They try to link depressive episodes to "stress". I've been a journalist for 26 years, it doesn't stress me. Being viewed as a fragile lame duck does.

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I know it's not the same, but I've suffered with m.e for 2 years, and when I was still able to work I was very unsupported at work. The school I worked at had no h.r dept and basically said if I couldn't do the work I'd have to leave, as they wouldn't consider a reduction in hours. I researched support organisations online, and mentioned to work I may take legal advice regarding employment laws. That changed their tune and they were suddenly caring and more accommodating! However I felt I couldn't give my valuable time and care to people who really didn't give a s%*&, so left shortly afterwards anyway, feeling hurt at the thanks I got for many years of dedication. It's so miserable mourning the loss of a life once lived so differently, from being so energetic, my life is now very small. Sorry for the long-winded reply, but the crux of my reply would be to search for support groups that have legal advice lines, as it sounds like your employer isn't supporting you in making necessary adjustments to do your job;

perhaps if you felt more supported it would be easier, and learning more about your rights may help you to feel more empowered. Just a thought for something to look into maybe.

I wish you the best of luck and hope you feel more on top of things soon. No doubt you deserve to. :) take care x

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Thanks Sweenz, I know what you mean aout life becoming very small. I wish you luck with your ME, another invisible but very real affliction x

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I have a dx of bipolar type 1 and took a cocktail of drugs for 5 years. I was severely incapacitated. I made the mistake of telling my employer (the UK Post Office) and was sacked within 6 hours. I missed my chance to sue them as I had a full on manic episode and missed the six month cut off to launch proceedings.

I'm now very wary about telling anyone about my illness and following what happened I didn't tell another employer until just this year when I found a 'cure' and got well. My advice would be to ensure you speak to senior management and occupational health (if you have one) and make it very clear that you are disabled under the equalities act. Any action on their part that is detrimental to you is then discrimination and you have a right to take them to tribunal.

Incredibly I've cured myself of my illness. My bipolar was triggered by anti neuronal antibodies that attacked nerve tissue, leading to problems with plasticity and neurotransmitter metabolism issues leading to low mood and memory issues, as well as antibodies that triggered over activity leading to mania and psychosis. This is true in at least 10% of all cases of severe mental illness. This wasn't helped by hyper then hypothyroidism. I identified that a number of foods triggered my immune system so stopped eating them and I'm today more well that I have been at any time in my life. I just wanted to share this as there is always hope - bipolar is just a label for an undiagnosed physical illness that's affecting the brain. It can be cured.

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Numezhall that sounds amazing -- may I ask which foods you eliminated to help you. So good to know you've discovered what works for you.

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In my case I seem to react to prolamins which are the storage proteins in grains. The most common one is Gliadin which is wheat gluten and leads to coeliac disease, but I seem to also react to maize, rice and oats too. I'd long suspected I had coeliac disease but I didn't really get well on a traditional gluten free diet, and when I broke the diet and reintroduced wheat I had my first full psychotic / manic episode. There are also numerous types of antibody that attack other tissues and not just the gut, in my case transglutaminase 6 which is in the brain and nerves.

I identified what was making me sick by following a diet called The Autoimmune Protocol, which is a diagnostic paleo diet. I've spoken with experts who confirmed that only recently did scientists discover that glutens in a whole range of grains, not just wheat, barley and rye, can cause the immune system to activate, sometimes staying active for decades. I spoke with a world leading professor of immuno-psychiatry who told me that at least 10% of patients with severe mental illness will have anti-neuronal antibodies from their own immune system as the cause of their mental illness.

The incredible thing is the diet is dead easy - you just eat plants (veggies & fruit) and meat for 30 days and see if you get better. In my case it took me 10 days to put all my psychiatric problems into permanent remission. After 30 days are up you slowly begin to reintroduce other foods (but not grains), including dairy, nuts and seeds, legumes, eggs and nightshades and see if you remain symptom free. If you start to notice symptoms you stop eating the last food you reintroduced and so on.

The diet is healthy and free. One day I hope that anyone who is placed under section is prescribed this diet before they are prescribed pills as it could be a simple cure that halts their illness forever.

I'm not completely med free and have my life back. I just wish someone had told me about this 6 years ago as I got very sick and lost many years to my mental illness.

Here is a good resource about the diet: thepaleomom.com/start-here/...

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Thank you so much for that. I shall pass it on to a friend who has bipolar and it's certainly worth a try. I shall try it too. My sisters and long term friends have always thought I was bipolar bcoz I have such bad depression and then massive highs but my gp doesn't. Diet makes such a difference and I find it too easy to overeat on unhealthy comfort food when I'm depressed (too many carbs too!) which certainly doesn't help.

After losing your job through the illness have you been working since? I hope everything continues to go well for you and that you stay well -- thanks again Mags x

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It's certainly worth a try. Vegetables and good proteins (fish) contain all the nutrients needed for metabolising neurotransmitters, and cutting sugar and processed food will rebalance your gut flora which has been shown to help with depression.

I went back to work less than a month after I started the diet and I still work today. It's beyond incredible, I'd been out of work for a year and only been able to work part time for the 4 years before that. This is the longest period I've been symptom free since I had my first manic episode.

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That's just wonderful 😀

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