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Weather with You

  • Posted by Bipolar Works
  • 18 Jan 08, 1:54 PM

Aspects of Hypomania and Depression

When severely depressed, I can become so anxious that I have to get up and walk around the office as I try and suppress the urge to sing the Katie Melua blues.

My sensory perception changes to such an extent that the same room appears different in all aspects as colours become dull and muted and I lose all sense of taste and smell. I can become hypersensitive to everything and physically jump out of my chair if the telephone rings or if someone creeps up on me from behind to ask a question when I am trying to concentrate.

Another troubling aspect of depression or hypomania is the inability to sleep, making it virtually impossible to concentrate on anything. If depressed, I can have recurrent dreams about death and destruction, and if hypomanic my dreams involve a colourful firework display of images and word associations going off in my head that I am unable to switch off.

Cooking a meal in the kitchen is out of the question when I don’t have the concentration or energy to read a recipe or put the relevant ingredients together. On occasions like this I resort to fast food, a tin of soup or beans on toast.

Hypomania causes a strange affliction to come over me and the multimedia sensory overload from words, images, sounds, radio, internet, television and events from all directions causes everything to become mysteriously connected in some way. I am aware that this is happening, and can reason it away as symptoms of the illness, but it doesn’t make it any less real at the time.

Unfortunately, although there are effective techniques that I can use to reduce the impact, the mood swings can’t be completely conquered and I will experience them to some extent for the rest of my life.

Sometimes I get very angry at the limitations the illness puts on me. For example, travel insurance can be very expensive and I have to think carefully about travelling to foreign countries like China and the psychiatric services that they may provide should I become ill. Unfortunately, this usually means restricting my holidays to the UK or Europe.

For years I tried to hide my illness from my employers because I knew that I would experience discrimination. In one case I was made redundant and a contributing factor was my sickness absence record. I still have the appraisal form somewhere which states that my attendance was unsatisfactory. I had been sick for 3 months with depression.

In recent years, with the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), I have tried a different approach. I told my current employer that I was covered by the DDA at the beginning of my employment and negotiated reasonable adjustments. I have found this approach to work for me, but I believe that this is still the exception rather than the rule and many employers are ignorant of their responsibilities and have misconceptions about the reality of employing someone with a mental health condition.

The truth is that we are reliable workers just like anybody else but may occasionally require minor adjustments at no cost to the organisation. It’s all about effective communication and negotiation to put this support in place.

Bipolar disorder will always be with me, unless a miracle cure is discovered.

• Visit Bipolar Works
Help and support for combating discrimination at work for people with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions

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