anxiety bipolar career depression health mental health professional self care Wellness

Working While Mentally Ill – Can High Functioning Be Done? (FULL POST)

“I struggled with concentration, screening out environmental stimuli (like sounds, sights and odors), maintaining stamina throughout the day, handling time pressures and multiple tasks, interacting with others, responding to negative feedback, and responding to change also. I had potential, but struggled to let it shine all due to my condition.”

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close


Is it possible to have a thriving career with a mental illness? It’s the question that many struggle to answer.

I, myself, battle with this as well, as someone who has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder Type 1, depression and anxiety. My career has had its share of ups and downs, and I’ll be honest – some of it is attributed to my mental health issues. From getting fired multiple times to multiple job changes, to changes in industry, to changes in income all throughout the past five years – I have had quite the ride. While it hasn’t been all bad, it certainly hasn’t been all good either.

I wanted to write this post to share my story, but to also discover resources and new ways to grow as a professional, while also seeking work that can set others like me up for success as well.


Working while mentally ill is not easy to do. Life is hard enough all on its own. We have families to tend to, bills to pay, relationships to maintain and then jobs that we must fight to keep every day so that we can protect our livelihood overall. It’s hard.

In my opinion, we don’t talk about the struggles of “adulting” enough. In today’s world, everyone wants to look 100% together on social media with perfect pictures and profiles. That’s fine and all, but it prevents us from discussing where we struggle and hurt the most – as the problems inside us continue to go unresolved, untouched and ignored.


My Personal Experience

I am 26 years old with a career in Staffing and Recruiting. I recently accepted a new Recruiting position, and I am excited to open a new chapter in my work and life. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and scared.

I am scared of failure. I have had many jobs in my short career. When I graduated from college in 2015, I had no idea the amount of struggle that would be ahead of me.

Earlier on in my career, it was small struggles that grew into major problems for me as a professional.

I struggled with concentration, screening out environmental stimuli (like sounds, sights and odors), maintaining stamina throughout the day, handling time pressures and multiple tasks, interacting with others, responding to negative feedback, and responding to change also. I had potential, but struggled to let it shine all due to my condition.

While I have grown over the years, this is still a fear of mine.

Not to mention, just handling being an adult can be challenging for someone with mental illness by itself. Sometimes, just getting out of bed and taking a shower can feel like an impossible task. I can relate.

But, it isn’t. It can be done.


So, how do we do it?

  1. We can start by eliminating stigma. According to a survey mentioned by NAMI, ““employment rates decreased with increasing mental illness severity,” and, “People with serious mental illness are less likely than people with no, mild or moderate mental illness to be employed after age 49,” (Ponte, 2019). The idea that people with mental illness are unemployable is far from the truth. However, as people with mental illness, we NEED to know what it takes to combat this stigma. 
  2. We must be more aware. We must be aware of ourselves at work and in life. We need to know what our strengths and weaknesses are as not only professionals, but within our personal lives as well – as the two are completely intertwined, regardless of what popular opinion has to say. If we can’t take care of ourselves at home, then who we are at work will suffer as well. Become in tune with yourself and be honest about what needs to change or what you can start working on.
  3. We need to know the resources that are available to us. There are many programs that cater to helping those with mental health issues find and maintain work. Here’s just a few:
  • American with Disabilities Act (ADA) – “Employers may be required under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations, when requested, to an employee with a disability as long as it does not cause undue hardship on the employer. Examples include telecommuting, scheduling flexibility, sick leave, breaks and noise reduction,” (Ponte, 2019).
  • Supported Employment – Individual Placement and Support (IPS) – “IPS programs seek to help people with mental illness quickly choose, secure and keep competitive employment while providing ongoing individualized long-term support,” (Ponte, 2019).
  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) – “Clubhouses, community-based centers open to individuals living with mental illness, offer supported employment programs. Some clubhouses also offer supported education programs,” (Ponte, 2019).


In All, People With Mental Illness Can Be Successful. It can be done.



Feel free to leave questions, comments or feedback below! Let’s continue to help each other – one step at a time.



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R.K.B. is an award winning self-published Author, Poet and Entrepreneur from Detroit, Michigan.

Visit her website to learn more, and stay updated on her upcoming works and events: !


By R.K.B.

For those who love poetry, writing, and daydreaming.

11 replies on “Working While Mentally Ill – Can High Functioning Be Done? (FULL POST)”

It is question I still struggle with although at 63 I should arguably just retire. Perhaps the first task is to know oneself – a none too easy enterprise in itself. Any sort of stress seems particularly difficult to cope with although it is difficult to see how this can be avoided while still maintaining a reasonable lifestyle. As least the admission of illness is a step forward. I don’t think I was aware much earlier in life that I had depression – I just felt permanently negative and didn’t know why.

I was talking to a QC yesterday (a senior barrister) about why I gave up commercial law practice many years ago.

It was intensely pressurized – the London equivalent of your Wall Street firms like Sherman and Sterling, White and Case. Grueling hours and challenging work.

Looking back, I liked the law and the mistake I made was not to find a quiet corner of it more suited to my intensely quiet and private personality. Instead of going into something less stressful, I doubled up and went into investment banking.

If I had taken the task of knowing myself more seriously I would have done something quiet and academic within law – drafting precedents perhaps. Anyway something out of the limelight.

So, yes, I was high functioning for years while seriously depressed. No a very wise choice I think.

Think Socrates: γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Liked by 3 people

You and Anthony Garner capture where I am growing (struggling) right now. I am 61. I believe my metabolism(?) is changing, causing my 40-year anti-psychotic “friend” to be less able to control my symptoms. I believe I must “Know Myself” and change my self-care methods as I and my body change. I have begun taking my second dose of anti-psychotic early afternoon instead of at night, sparing my co-workers and family negative interactions with me caused by my symptoms.

Liked by 1 person

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