|Image: Farhan Fadzil|
I'd been keeping mood charts on paper for several years, but I was looking for a more convenient way to manage the information. When I found the website, I saw that it not only had mood charts, it also had charts about stress, sleep, exercise, medications, etc.
In addition, it had a forum where I could interact with other patients with bipolar disorder. I was curious about it, created a profile, and got started. It has been very helpful. I'm definitely more in tune with my moods and how they are affected by my environment and the choices I make about my health. Being a member of PatientsLikeMe is definitely one of the things that influenced my decision to write this blog. I realized that when you're open with others, it's easier to share helpful information. After I started writing this blog, I posted it in the forums of PatientsLikeMe as well as on Facebook pages dealing with mental health and bipolar disorder.
I'm fairly open about having bipolar disorder in my everyday life. I don't tell everyone, but I tell people I'm close to at what seems to be the appropriate time. Most people have digested the information easily, but some have backed away. I used to be upset if people retreated, but then I came to realize that I actually have closer friends than before I was given my psychiatric label. Unpalatable diagnoses can be a good way of weeding out unsupportive people. So now, if people can't handle the information, I let them go and don't worry about it. I don't have to be friends with everyone--that would be impossible anyway!
I'm kind of on the fence about how to handle the information in professional environments. I really like my current job, and most of my coworkers, as well as my boss, know that I have bipolar disorder. It became obvious when I was manic for a few weeks and was then hospitalized. I acted bizarrely and even called my boss at 6 o'clock one morning to see if I could go to work early because I was bored and needed something to do. After the hospitalization, I became extremely depressed and was quite unproductive for a couple of months, but everyone was patient with me, and eventually I recovered and got back up to speed.
I've had some jobs where I went for years without having a mood episode and didn't tell anyone about my condition. I always felt like I was hiding something or holding back, and consequently, developing close relationships with my coworkers seemed unnatural. As a result of being secretive, I rescheduled many appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and ended up going to many fewer appointments per year, which I'm sure was not good for my mental health.
So now I'm writing this blog. I started out as Anonymous, and I recently began to use my first name, Andrea. The article PatientsLikeMe posted on their blog only reveals my first name. I've started posting some blog posts to my Facebook page, so I assume that some of my (not so close) friends, who I haven't told of my diagnosis, may have noticed...I'll see what happens. So far, I've found that I'm happier the more open I become. Being open has enabled me to connect with a lot of amazing people. The only thing that worries me is some kind of future discrimination that might lead to me being unemployed at some point...because, after all, everyone needs money to survive. But, for now, I have a job that I like and I feel that I'm being treated fairly, and even supported...maybe there's nothing to worry about.