How to Hold Down a Job When You Have Bipolar Disorder

It may be difficult to hold down a job while you are trying to manage the symptoms of your bipolar disorder. Some days, you might not want to go to work. You might even dread getting out of bed to go to your job. 


I know how this feels. In the past, I could keep a job only for so long when I could not cope with the effects of my bipolar disorder. But eventually, I realized I need to work in order to pay my bills. Most of the time, I am able to show up at my job and do the work. But sometimes, I just need to take a break. 


Now, I have been holding down a job for more than three years. I have continuously held down a job without having to go on disability. In fact, I thrive at my job, even on days that are difficult for me. 


Here is how you, too, can hold down a job if you have bipolar disorder.


Determine whether the job is a good fit for you.


Do you even like your job? Do you get along with your co-workers? Are your managers fair? These are some questions to ask yourself if you find yourself stuck. If you feel miserable at your job all the time, then it may be time to consider finding yourself another job that is a better fit for you.


No job is going to be perfect. There will be some challenges that you will need to overcome. But if your job is at least tolerable and you like the people you work with, then it will be easier to cope with keeping your job.


Find something you like about the job.


There must be something you like about your job in order for you to keep showing up at work. Do you like joking around with your co-workers? Do you have an awesome desk or work station? Do you get interesting assignments? 


Dig down deep and find something that makes your job worth showing up to. If you don’t like anything about your job, then it will be harder keeping it. Good managers notice when you don’t like your job. Your work product may suffer if you don’t like what you’re working on. 


Finding something you like about your job will make things a lot easier for you, and make you more likely for you to keep your job.


Take a break when you are feeling overwhelmed.


Everyone needs a break from work once in a while — even people who don’t have bipolar disorder. If you feel burnt out, you may be working too long in one stretch. You may be entitled to one or two 10- to 15-minute breaks, and a 30- to 60-minute lunch break during your workday, depending on how many hours you are working. Take them. Those breaks are meant to be used so you can feel refreshed when you do go back to work. 


Take time off when you need to.


If you have been showing up at your job continuously for several months, you may feel worn out and unable to produce any more work. Take a day or a week off and rest. You can even use the time off to nurture your hobbies. 


You may get paid sick and vacation leave at your job. Use your leave. Just like your breaks during work, your paid leave is meant to be used. You need to take time off periodically, or else you will crash and you may even resent your employer, or even be mad at yourself for not being more productive.


Don’t say anything you may regret later.


When you are going through a manic episode, it may feel tempting to tell someone off. You may even feel a temporary sense of relief once you get those words off your chest. But that feeling of satisfaction does not last for long. A feeling of regret may set in for you as soon as the manic episode ends. 


When you feel the urge to say something mean, stop and think “What will saying this accomplish for me?” and “Will I hurt someone’s feelings by saying this?” If the answer is yes to both, then don’t say it. If you still feel the urge to tell someone off, then wait at least 24 hours. Sit with the feeling and journal about it. There may be a less harmful alternative to achieve the feeling you wish to have. 


If the urge persists, then talk to a therapist about it. They will help you come up with alternatives to your perceived need to make angry outbursts.


Go to therapy regularly.


This is important. Keep your regular therapy appointments. Check in with your therapist about what is bothering you during each session. Your therapist will help you to gain clarity about your thoughts and feelings about your job. 


If you don’t feel like therapy is helping you, then you might not be seeing your therapist often enough. If you are only seeing them every other week, then bump up the frequency you see them to once or twice a week. You may not need to keep this schedule forever, though. Adjust the frequency as your needs change.


If you don’t currently see a therapist, then look for one. A therapist will make all the difference when you are feeling stuck and miserable.


Take your medications.


If you have been prescribed medications by your psychiatrist, then keep taking them. Taking your medications consistently will aid in your stability and ability to cope with stressful situations. Medications, along with therapy, can turn you into a coping and productivity powerhouse over time.


If you feel that your medications are not working for you, then ask your psychiatrist if they will make an adjustment to what medications you are taking. Your psychiatrist may adjust the dosage of a medication you are currently taking, or they may replace one medication with another. You may even need more than one medication. Your psychiatrist will be able to help you optimize your medication regimen.


I hope these tips help you become more able to hold down your job. They sure have helped me, and I know these tips will enable me to stay content with full-time work for years to come.


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