Stigma around mental illness is still so prominent. I found myself running into it lately and was unsure of how to handle it.
I had mentioned to you that I had not yet disclosed my illness to my new employer, mostly because I don’t have much experience in disclosing my situation (except to you guys and some loved ones), but I was also scared.
Would they judge me? Would the review my job offer? Would they expect less?
I had no idea.
Sure you can’t legit fire someone for having a mental illness, and hell would I even want to work with a team that viewed me differently for it in the first place, but it was all unknown.
A few years ago I made the mistake of ‘fessing up’ to some co-workers. The outcome profusely saddened me. I was met with what I believe to be naive and ignorant comments such as ‘someone with your condition should be at home on disability’, ‘you shouldn’t be working with people’ and my personal favourite, ‘ I hope you’re on medication’.
A lot of people really don’t understand bipolar, I tell ye!
It made me feel sad and to be perfectly honest, less than enthused to share a very important part of my life with friends, family and coworkers alike.
Fast forward a couple of years and I dare not mention anything at the interview because of the (admittedly my own) STIGMA still surrounding it.
And then there was today. . .
After thinking about it for a while and receiving some very welcomed advice over the weekend, I thought why not rip off the band aid. Honesty is the best policy, right? I sat down with the owner of the facility, and then later the manager and they were both so receptive of my news. Not only were they encouraging and thankful that I opened up to them, but they offered support and made it clear that this in no way altered my position with them.
Stigma sucks, it really does, but we don’t NEED to meet that expectation – we NEED to set the expectation.
When I was first starting out on my road to recovery, the idea of telling anyone my secret brought me to tears. You should see the hysterics that would set off when I did in fact get round to telling someone. It wasn’t cool, but I wasn’t stable, I wasn’t in a good place and I certainly wasn’t in control.
Yet here we are almost 5 years later, with care strategies, medications and 2 years of stability under my belt.
For a change I am happy to talk about my situation because finally I know that it does get better.
I hope you know that too. It does, and it will get better.