Disclosing Bipolar Disorder to HR

This post is intended for anyone who has considered reporting their mental illness to the HR group.  I’ve worked at four different companies and have disclosed my Bipolar Disorder to three.  All of these companies were 200-1000 employees, worked in the software sector, and had fully staffed Human Resources (HR) departments.  My experience could differ from other people in the same position, but each time I made the decision to disclose my issues because the alternative was to quit or get fired if my working conditions didn’t change.

My Bipolar-positive status is a documented fact within the HR organizations at three technology companies.  Even though all three companies worked in the technology sector and had a similar organizational structure, the way they handled my disclosure differed greatly. 

One company essentially hunted down every senior person harassing me and forced them to lighten up.  That worked fine for me and it didn’t even get in the way of me getting promoted a month later.

Another went by the book.  They guided me through the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) process and pretty much did nothing to address the behavior of people within the organization or the work that I was expected to complete.  You can read more about that here.

The last one gave me homework with a signature line at the bottom.  I was supposed to tell them what I needed to solve my issue, sign off at the bottom, and wait for them to fire me or give me boring work or lock me in a broom closet for 8 hours a day with one of those ball in a cup toys to keep me occupied.

  • Identify your disability or limitation.
    • Bipolar Disorder Type I is my limiting disability.
  • Explain how your disability impairs or limits your ability to perform assigned job duties
    • I experience frequent Manic episodes that heighten my irritability and paranoia.  This can lead me to lashing out at friends, family, co-workers, and clients.  To prevent these negative consequences, I take heavy doses of sedatives which knock me out, give me a hangover every morning, ruin my short term memory, and make my hands shake to the point where coffee spills on my nice dress shirts.
  • Expected duration of the Disability
    • Life without parole.
  • What specific accommodations are you requesting, if known?
    • Not having to pretend like it’s okay when someone acts like an asshole just because they are a client.  If that’s not acceptable, how about not working with clients like that?
  • If you are not sure what accommodation is needed, do you have any suggestions about what options we can explore?
    • It would also be nice to work part time so I could figure out a more sustainable income for someone with my “limitation.”
  • Has a health care professional recommended a specific accommodation? 
    • Dr. Innocuous usually just recommends that I take more Lithium and Olanzapine.
  • Is your accommodation request time sensitive?
    • Nah. My Bipolar isn’t going anywhere.
  • If you are requesting a specific accommodation, how will that accommodation assist you to perform your job?
    • It will allow me to work hard without being harassed by people who probably have undiagnosed mental conditions.
  • Have you had any accommodations in the past for this same limitation?
    • With FMLA I was able to play Grand Theft Auto 5 and nap while on the Olanzapine instead of trying to type with my shaky hands and remember what someone told me 5 seconds before.

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