Despite my bipolar disorder, I’ve been able to hold down a job

Tammy and Anne Moss at the Trees of Hope fundraiser for Beacon Tree Foundation

by Tammy Ozolins

For 14 years now I have been able to hold down a job. When you suffer from mental illness, that is a big deal.

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar 2, I was working a full-time job and it was very hard to keep it. The depression made it very challenging. I did not want to go to work. Heck, I did not even want to get up in the morning.

All I wanted to do was stay in bed, not shower, and not eat.

The last thing I wanted to do was go to work. Ugh….

I neglected to tell my boss what was going on with me until I was hospitalized and correctly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

We were on break, the plant was shut down for Christmas break, so I did not have to use any sick days which meant not calling in. I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but I opened up to my boss and explained what was going on with me.

His reaction caught me off guard because I had the fear he was going to think I was crazy. He told me the opposite– that he was glad I was open with him and he had a feeling something was going on. He also told me he was glad I opened up because if I kept calling in, he was going to have to let me go.

I am so glad I told him

I worked for this company for 7 years until a new career opportunity presented itself. But this meant moving to a new state and being on my own. I was nervous at first but I thought this would give me a new, fresh start. Plus, it meant more money and better health insurance.

The best part was that it was in the education field. I was excited and nervous at the same time. But, I knew it might be the change I needed.

I moved to Virginia in 2004 and started teaching at one of the schools. I spent 6 years at this school. Then I transferred to another school and I have been at this school for 6 years now and going strong.

How have I been able to hold down a full time job for 14 years?

Through hard work and making sure I am on top of my treatment plan.

Learning how to take small steps, instead of impulsively diving in headfirst has certainly helped. I make sure I am taking my medication (not skipping any doses), seeing my psychiatrist, going to counseling, and my support group.

I also make sure I do not overload myself with too much work if possible. Too much stress can cause me to have mood swings, so I monitor how much stress I am under.

I realize I cannot control all my stresses

The stressors I can control, I do. Here’s what I mean.

I had extra job responsibility at work for 3 years. But by the third year of I felt overwhelmed and the workload had become too much. So I decided to drop the added work. At first, I thought I was a failure because I could not handle all this. And then I realized it was the best decision I ever made. I finally felt calm and efficient at work again.

I utilize my coping skills when stress hits me which has been a big reason I have been able to keep my job. I prioritize what I need to get done and what can be put on the back burner. I also make sure I have fun!

This is important because it helps me laugh and get through the tough days on my job. I rely on talking to my peers and I have an awesome relationship with my administration and try not to take work home with me all the time.

The best advice I can give someone is to take small steps if you have not worked full time in a while. Try part-time first. Then just monitor your stress as best as you can. Take time for yourself and breathe.

You can do this.

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