Many people before me and many after me will experience the same dilemma that I have – deciding whether or not they should disclose to their employer that they have a mental illness.
Currently I am on long term disability looking for work to regain my independence. I have only been in the hospital three days in the last 10 years. I have had perhaps three “episodes” during that time, each lasting around two to three weeks. I have been blessed to have the insight to know when I am having difficulties. I have voluntarily withdrawn from my employment and from driving when the situation has arisen. Many people are not so fortunate to have that insight and, from what I have heard, may require outside help to suggest that they get assistance with their condition.
The only time I have heard from others that I may be on the verge of experiencing an episode has been from a person (who is aware of my condition) who suggested that I may be becoming psychotic simply because I disagreed with them. Because of reactions like this, I seldom disclose my condition to those around me. It has also unfortunately led to my self-muzzling when chatting with some people. To do anything other than agree with some people could lead to these people reporting to the Children’s Aid Society or the powers that be that I am a danger to my otherwise happy and well cared for son or the children that I have worked with.
I was speaking with a former supervisor this week to whom I had never disclosed. She spoke of a woman she knew with epilepsy who still had frequent seizures. This woman was having difficulty finding employment and my former supervisor indicated that while this woman should disclose to her employer, she did not have to until she was hired.
This conversation led me down my age old train of thought as to whether or not I should have been disclosing to my previous employers. I have not disclosed to my employers in the past, even though I have worked with young children with disabilities, because I seldom have episodes and have always been able to withdraw myself from work when I have had difficulties.
Is it necessary to disclose and have people watching over my shoulder, observing me every time that I express sadness, disappointment or, yes, even anger? I have chosen to go the route of frequent appointments with my psychiatrist who can verify that I am safe instead of disclosing in my workplace and having everyone second guessing all my behaviours.
About Hazel Green
I am a 50 year old woman who lives in Ottawa with my 15 year old son. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2003. Prior to my diagnosis I completed two Bachelors’ of Science degrees. The second one was in an allied health care profession. I have been on disability since my diagnosis, but have worked part-time with children with disabilities. I am attempting a return to my profession as I feel greatest fulfillment when helping people. Unfortunately, stigma being what it is, and with the general fear that people have of people with a schizophrenic type diagnosis, I am very guarded as to whom I come “out” to. I long for a career where I can help people and not have to worry about people fearing me should they learn of my diagnosis. I am passionate about helping people, my family and taking care of my son. I knit, crochet and strive to think positively. I yearn for a full recovery that would allow me to work overseas in my chosen profession.