The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program enables those who receive disability benefits to try to transition back into the workplace without the risk or fear of losing their benefits. Ticket to Work offers the following:
May 25, 3pm EST, Social Security will present a 90-minute Work Incentives Seminar Event (WISE) webinar tailored to SSI and SSDI beneficiaries who live with mental illness.
The webinar, entitled “Ticket to Work for Beneficiaries with a Mental Illness – Support on Your Journey to Employment,” will provide Work Incentives and Ticket to Work program information and resources.
(This is Part IV in a five-part series on bipolar. To catch up, see Bipolar on the Job Part I: “Will I Be Able to Return to Work?” Part II: “To Tell or Not to Tell?” Part III, “How to Talk about Bipolar Disorder” and Part IV, “Requesting Reasonable Workplace Accommodations.”)
An “occupational hazard” of bipolar disorder is that it can trigger snap decisions, especially in the midst of a major manic or depressive episode. The illness can limit your foresight. You can’t work or foresee a time in the near future when you’ll be able to return to work, so you decide to quit, resign, or take early retirement.
(This is Part IV in a five-part series on bipolar. To catch up, see Bipolar on the Job Part I: “Will I Be Able to Return to Work?” Part II: “To Tell or Not to Tell?” and Part III, “How to Talk about Bipolar Disorder.” )
When you receive a bipolar diagnosis (and disclose it to your employer), you gain protection under the law via the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As long as your employer is on notice of the problem and you’ve expressed some desire to get help, your employer is required to engage in a dialogue with you to determine whether reasonable accommodations would enable you to perform the essential functions of the job.
Most of the population has managed to overcome obstacles in talking about a host of healthcare issues previously considered taboo in “polite company.” Some people, however, still have hang-ups when it comes to discussing mental health issues. They can’t seem to accept the fact that the brain, like other organs of the body, can become ill. When they observe the symptoms of an ill brain – which can manifest as socially unacceptable language or behavior – they blame the person rather than the illness. Most of this is due to ignorance, and the best way to combat that is through education.
(This is Part II in a five-part series on bipolar. To start at the beginning, see Bipolar on the Job Part I: “Will I Be Able to Return to Work?”)
The question of whether to disclose one’s bipolar disorder to an employer often causes anxiety for the person with the illness. Of course, it shouldn’t be that way. If you were ill with cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, you would probably disclose it without reservation. You might even get some sympathy. People with mental illness, however, often fear the real possibility of being stigmatized. Stigmatization can take several forms:
Nobody can tell you whether you will be able to return to work. The answer hinges on several variables, including the severity of the illness, the effectiveness of the treatment you receive, how much support you have at work and home, the stress level (and your capacity for handling it), and how eager you are to return to work.
Both poles of bipolar disorder – mania and depression – can make it tough to achieve peak performance at work. Depression can sap your motivation. Mania can trigger conflicts with colleagues and drive you to start dozens of projects you never finish. Appointments with doctors and therapists add to the burden, and many of the medications used to treat bipolar can sap your energy and dull your thinking, especially during the time you are first adjusting to them.
You’re cruising through life with a pretty clear idea of where you’re going. You have dreams, goals, aspirations…. Then, wham! Bipolar disorder T-bones you. When you finally wake up, you don’t know what hit you. You’re still in shock, walking around in a daze, trying to figure out what happened.
I am trying to get back to work and find a better job. But what is “better?” I was doing what I thought I loved to do. I have spent $30,000 on my education, and have been working toward this particular career goal for 12 years. I have tried to get out of it as it seems that my major bi-polar episodes have coincided with work. But the more I get away from it the sadder and more detached from myself I feel.