To disclose … or not.

Photo credit:  KoshyK

My ‘policy’ of openness
In general I have taken the stance to be open about my condition of Bipolar Disorder.  I find it nothing to be ashamed of and if anything,  I feel I can use it to educate others about mental illness in general and BD in particular.  Because of the stigma attached to it,  I actually see education as an important part of being open about my condition.

Blog & future employer
When I started this blog I had this thought: ‘What when a potential employer,  who checks the web,  will find my blog?  Would I lose a job opportunity?’  The answer to this question for me was:  ‘It depends on how the potential employer will look at me.’  In my opinion,  my blog shows how I go about my life with mental illness and how I try to use it to my advantage,  instead of letting myself be victimized by it.

Latest job interview
You have to know that I have disclosed my condition with every voluntary job interview I have done so far.  Yet,  when I was applying for a job recently,  I decided not to disclose it.  Since I will be working mostly on my own in a little Documentation Center of a school,  I didn’t see the need to inform the coordinator about my condition.  As far as I can see,  it will not interfere with my duties.

Disclosure to youth group
Not so long ago I disclosed my condition to the youth group I am a team leader of together with other team leaders.  The age group is between 16 and 25 years.  The youth leader as well as I trust our youth to be able to accept it and  ask questions.

I shared with them the facts about Bipolar Disorder – not my emotions.  With keeping it factual and comparing it with another chronic disease (diabetes),  I think I made it easier on them to follow my story.

Possible consequences
One of the consequences of sharing with the youth group is that most likely they talk about it with their parents.  I have to say that at first I sort of shrugged this of.  My initial thoughts were:  ‘So what if they know it,  too?  That is not a problem for me.’

There is one BUT,  though.

It is not all about me…

Meaning that my initial honest and sincere wish to be open might have effects that I did not oversee.  My goal by becoming a youth leader was to serve the youth.  They should be the center,  not me.  Especially not a non-issue about if someone with a mental illness is fit to be a youth leader or not.  Because if this becomes an issue with the parents,  who knows what will happen?  In any case,  it will disrupt the goal I set before me…

Future ‘policy’
Although I can’t change anything because what is done,  is done,  I can review my ‘policy’ of openness.  Would I have done the same thing with this all in mind?

So,  I am very curious:

What if you know or suspect that the ‘recipients’ of the information about your condition are NOT able to deal with it.  Would you keep it confidential for the sake of the recipients?

In other words:  What would you have done / do in my place?

Please,  let me know by writing me a comment below or using the  “Contact Me”  form at the top of this page.  I am looking forward to your response!  Thank you 🙂


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14 responses to “To disclose … or not.

  1. Fenny,

    I have no experience with Bipolar disorder, I think, because they have not disclosed it.

    To me, if you can handle life and a job then it is none of their business. The only time I think one should disclose something is if it is required by law or if one is a ex-felon. Even if one is a felon, one does not need to disclose at times. Is it require by law to disclose Bipolar Disorder to an employer or volunteer leader?

    I’m sure there are teachers, day care, nurses (I take it back, my aunt was a nurse and she was bipolar-years ago, I don’t remember much, I was a child) and other professionals working with youth that do just fine and never disclose any conditions.

    As for the parents, I guess I would worry if you could handle your job. Every case is different. And I would only worry if it came down to life or death situations. Meaning, can you handle emergencies?

    As a parent of younger children, the only people I worry about are child molesters and the same. Now, I would be furious to know that horrible person was near my child. RAGE!

    I’m trying to place myself in their shoes and, frankly, I would want my kids when older (even now) to be educated in every way about any diseases, disorders, sicknesses or any other situation people are usually prejudice about. For goodness sake, your not contagious!

    As for worrying you will be the center of attention, time will pass and things will go back to normal. Unless there really are parents and kids that linger on the issue. Then, I guess, address it with your team, leader, kids and parents.

    The more I am thinking about it, the more I get angry of the ignorance of people. I better stop typing because this is starting to be a post in itself, lol.

    These are all my thoughts. In no way am I comparing or even placing you with felons or child molesters, they are just an extreme example of who not to put with kids.

    I wish you the best. If no parents have come forward, you’re probably fine.


    • Thanks for commenting, Allie and giving your view. I sure appreciate that!
      Well, since Bipolar is a mood disorder and with its previous name ‘manic-depression’ people here in Holland think that they know what they are dealing with (like screaming people running naked on the street and such), I understand where parents might get concerned.
      That said, I am not alone with the youth as we work in a team. Plus, and that is a huge plus for me, my counselor of five years encouraged me to do this. And I have learned to trust him and his judgments.
      Besides all this, I thankfully do not suffer from psychosis, hallucinations or delusions any more than the average Joe.
      Thanks for the heads up, Allie! I’ll keep you posted as to what will happen 🙂

  2. Fen, I can certainly feel your trepidation regarding the potential impact it may have on the kids you work with, whom you care so much about, if only because of the ignorance of the parents. If you have been working with this group for some time and there is a measure of trust along with good will there, this disclosure should bring about greater strength of support for one another rather than opposition. I do hope that is what you will see. If there is one or even two parties that hold fast to ignorance and prejudice which spreads to the youth then that can certainly make life difficult though. I understand your fear and guilt when you only want the best for them. I pray things go well for all of you as you strengthen your ties of trust and understanding from here on out.

  3. Fenny,
    There’s much to say about this topic. Mental illness has been a part of my life for pretty much, well, since I was a young child. I was diagnosed with Bipolar later in life…so I can understand what you’re going through when it comes to this. I’ve been off of work for almost 8 years now but I am planning (along with my psychiatrist) to go back to school & to start a family. I have similar concerns when it comes to future employers finding out about my Bipolar or any of my past with mental illness…as well as my blog. People can be really harsh.
    Honestly, my heart says it’s none of their business to put it bluntly. But on the other hand, if it is required by law & they asked I would have to disclose it. If they don’t ask, NOYB! I think of it as any type of illness, ours is just from the neck up…an illness like cancer…from the neck down…would they disclose their illness? Why is it so different? I understand the mood swings & people ‘trusting’ us…but really, who do people think we are?…crazed animals? I agree with Allie about child predators…those involved with the youth need to be more concerned with that.
    Yeah I understand parent concerns, but if you are stable & have been working with a therapist…why should any body worry? For me, I trust my doctor enough that she wouldn’t throw me back into society if I wasn’t prepared & stable enough to handle it.
    I don’t believe society is educated enough about mental illness…with what the media has done to ‘taboo’ it and create the stigma…uugghh…no wonder why people get worried. Sorry for the rant.
    It’s good that you have other people’s interests at heart here…this is a tough situation & a lot to consider, but it’ll all work itself out! I hope for the best!
    I’m not Crazy! I’m Bipolar.

    • Chantalle, thanks so much for the rant!!
      There is indeed much to say and since others are involved I can’t really share what is going on.
      It’s not so much that disclosure is required. I was the one who desired openess, since I don’t have a problem with having/being bipolar.
      I have reconsidered though. But that is for another post in the future.
      Thanks for coming by and commenting. Hope you’ll come by again 🙂
      I’ll be hopping over to your blog later.

  4. Thanks as always for linking up more insightful and thought provoking posts to my blog hop. Wonderful – these are unfortunately the issues which face us and interfere with our lives all the time. My policy is openness. By being open its not making it ‘all about you’ its just being honest. I wouldn’t offer up information unrequested – but if asked I’d lay it on the line. We cannot live feeling like our illness has to be this constant issue between us and life. It just is – fact! And move on. I think it’s good for youth to talk and learn about these issues too – should be taught at school I think. Mental health issues are not uncommon these days – chances are most people know someone with an issue. The more education and openness the better for everyone. Ignorance is never bliss – not really. All the best for you – hope it works out Fenny! Either way, you have nothing to reproach yourself for 0 I think you know that. Shah. X

  5. Shah, thanks for commenting, as always I love your additions and insights! Plus your encouragement 🙂
    Unfortunately, I am dealing with a double taboo of mental illness followed by mental illness in the christain church.
    I have given information unrequested. I am reconsidering if this is/was wise…

  6. When I was working I never disclosed my condition to anyone as I didn’t want them looking at me strange or second guessing my decisions. It’s a personal choice I think.

    • Yeah – I would be careful to. It’s not easy to understand our condition. I wouldn’t want that to get enmeshed with work – I think it’s easy for colleques/bosses/others to lose their professionalism that way.

  7. As to bipolar illness in the Church, that’s a minefield! I tend to keep my views to myself unless someone asks me and then I freely disclose. I am not threatened in any way if someone has different views than mine, (I was when young), they don’t have my condition and they don’t walk in my shoes.

    • Oh yeah, Elizabeth you can say that again! It’s not so much that I can’t handle other people knowing, heck, I know I can handle it. You just never know if the other person can handle it…. I think you know what I mean?
      Just for the record: I don’t judge people for not understanding me or the condition in any way. It makes for some interesting encounters, that is for sure…

  8. Hi,
    I have taken the decision to disclose, or at least to not hide, my bipolar. I must admit that a lot of this has to do with the forms my illness sometimes takes – it would be useless to deny it as I can sometimes be very obviously ill. I sometimes am not, though, and I found that I was worrying too much that people thought I was lying when I said I have a severe mental illness.
    I also have been doing some fairly public activism and writing about the subject, which I think is helped by the fact that I am a sufferer, so I suppose it has a positive side too.

    • Hi Alicia and thanks so much for visiting!
      Sorry for a very late reply, it has been very quiet on the ole blog for a while now.
      I love your style of writing and the way you explain things. They make very much sense to me.
      I’ve had some not-so-nice experiences with being very open about my bipolar. So that has made me a bit shy. I am not ashamed. It is more that I have to consider the other people that can not handle the info, you know what I mean?
      Thanks for responding – it remains an interesting topic.

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