I was diagnosed several years ago with bipolar disorder, and have since been seeking help as much as possible from professional therapists and psychiatrists. I have tried a large variety of different medications, none of which have seemed to help in any significant way, and most of which caused side effects that outweighed the benefits. I have been in and out of the hospital a few times in the past as well which, needless to say, was incredibly stressful for myself, my friends and my family.

Despite all this I managed to push my way through a degree in IT from a fairly tough university, and I just started my first job out of college in software development for a large company. While I'm pleased with the salary and benefits they are offering I am finding that the combined stress of the job and the hour commute each way are taking a massive toll on my emotional well being. The work isn't terrible, but I find the lack of privacy the open concept facilitates and a few rather condescending people around me cause me to feel vulnerable and negatively self-conscious. In addition I find that sleeping from the time I get home (around 7pm) to the time I have to leave for work (around 7am) is the only way to feel alert, and even then I have no time for any leisure activities.

It's driving me up a wall having to pretend I feel okay when in fact I am spiraling downward quickly to a place where I'm sure I will start to self-destruct. I am hesitant to bring this up to my manager as I feel I don't have the ability to trust him, nor do I have any indication he might be receptive to accommodating me, especially since I elected not to mention this in the hiring process as I felt it would almost guarantee I would not get hired.

I'm very familiar with this chain of events and where it will lead, since this kind of thing has happened to me before during internships, although in those cases it wasn't such a big deal because they were temporary jobs and I could just resign and go back to school. Should I continue without doing anything different I will probably end up in the hospital or worse, but this time I can't fall back on school as my loans will become due soon.

With all of that said, my question isn't so much about whether this particular job is right for me. Instead, it's about what steps I can take from here to proceed as gracefully as possible, while keeping my head above water. It's been suggested that I could sign a lease on an apartment close to work to cut out the commute, but then I am committed to pay it for the year, which I am reluctant to do because I am unsure I can continue working here in the long run. Working from home might be a solution, but I am in my probationary period and as such am not permitted to do so by company policy. I am aware of the ADA, but I am only a month into my job, and I honestly feel like an emotional collapse is imminent any day now. I am concerned how it would look to my employer - and perhaps more importantly to future employers - if I burn out after only a month and start asking for all of these accommodations without any prior warning. I know my health is important but I also hate feeling like a leech, and if I were sure just explaining the situation in therapy would help much, I would just do that.

Should I tell my manager and risk my position to hopefully rectify the situation, or at least find a half-way point?

Should I simply resign and focus on recovering without regard to my future career?

Should I maybe just keep going as if nothing is wrong and hope it gets better?

EDIT I have read the question Should an employee tell their supervisor about their depression? previously before I wrote this question. The reason that answer is different is that it assumes the depression can be treated reasonably easily, and as such is likely temporary. This is bipolar disorder, not major depressive disorder, and as such is very likely to persist for most of my life. There will be periods of high function, and periods of absolute inability to function, almost regardless of whether I'm seeking treatment in my experience. In addition, my treatment options are very different, because any psychiatrist would be very reluctant to prescribe any kinds of anti-anxiety medications or anti-depressants without an anti-psychotic to protect against a pharmacologically caused manic episode, which has historically caused me to be so tired I can't get out of bed. The answer there implies that there will be only a temporary period of low function. I cannot guarantee that.

I am in no way attempting to diminish the struggles of those going through depression, by the way. I am simply trying to highlight the differences between it and bipolar disorder in terms of treatment and general effect on livelihood.

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    If you were in a wheelchair, would you expect to wait until you were out of your probationary period before you asked for accommodations? Aug 20, 2015 at 15:25
  • I would think that most people would be sympathetic and would be able to make some allowances.
    – Ed Heal
    Aug 20, 2015 at 16:24
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    @thursdaysgeek, if you were in a wheelchair any requests for special accommodation wouldn't need much evidence. The problem with mental illnesses is that most of them are not visible to the naked eye until is too late, and many people don't consider them as an illness, let alone a disability. Aug 20, 2015 at 16:48
  • Perhaps check out this collection of resources for mental illness in the professional world: osmihelp.org
    – KatieK
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:38
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    @Trickylastname If it's eligible for ADA and a doctor can provide a note, then it doesn't matter if it's as visible as a wheelchair. It's just as legitimate to request accommodations right away, whether the need is visible or not. Aug 20, 2015 at 22:06

2 Answers 2


First talk to your therapist not only about how this job is making you feel but about what kind of accommodations you need and how to approach your company with that. You should also ask about what documentation you need. This should not be the first time the therapist has had to deal with workplace issues. Talk about ways to reduce stress.

While it is risky at this point in your job (new employee with no established track record of performance) to ask for an accommodation, would it be less risky to flame out and end up in the hospital? But before you ask for an accommodation, you need to seriously decide what accommodation you need.

Quitting your job and hoping you get better is not going to work, bipolar issues are for life. You need to start working with a therapist to find ways to make work life less stressful to you. If you have not worked with one, I would suggest looking for a behavioral psychologist since medicine and talk therapy doesn't seem to be doing the trick for you. You need to learn new techniques for coping with daily life and reprogram your thought process. I had to go this route to get my own bi-polar disease to where I could live with it. Be comforted to know that I have dealt with this disease for close to fifty years and I have been able to remain gainfully employed for my entire adult life.

Things I personally have found helpful to deal with workplace stress and bipolar disease:

  • exercise - a punching bag is especially useful because you can hit (physically hit the bag while imagining the stressor) the things that are stressing you. Yoga is also good for this disease. Even just standing up and stretching at work can help.
  • Meditation - If you have to, go to a stall in the rest room and do a five minute mediation exercise when things start to get stressful.
  • Deep breathing - do this as you feel the stress build up. It can be done anywhere and is unobtrusive.
  • Use the commute as a de-stress time. Play music you really enjoy that is upbeat and fun. Listen to audio books. Start mentally planning your evening. Take a less stressful route, if the highway is always backed up, then take a longer but less annoying route. Stop for dinner before you head home so that you make the drive during a less stressful time of day. Consider changing your work hours to avoid rush hour.
  • A daily gratitude practice. This starts to focus your brain on more positive things than the stress.

Adding some additional thoughts. One thing I have noticed through the years with people who have disabilities of all types is that your attitude makes a huge difference. Any disability can be used as an excuse not to try or for failure. Any disability can be used as just another challenge to overcome. It isn't easy to overcome the challenges of a disability; you have to work at it. But there are a lot more people than you realize who are overcoming disability challenges daily. I have worked with or known people who were successful in overcoming the challenges of depression, bi-polar disease, paranoid schizophrenia, arthritis, dyslexia, deafness, blindness, MS, Parkinson's disease, chronic fatigue, cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia, loss of a limb, cancer. There a lot of people who deal every day with a physical or mental challenge and rise above it. You need resilience and mental toughness to do it and you need to know your limits and learn how to work around them. It won't be easy and it won't always be rosy; you will have better days and worse ones. Some days you will fall flat on your face. But you can always get up and try again. But it is a whole lot better than being one of the victim, "give up and don't try" types. Talk to your therapist about ways to develop the resilience you need to deal with your disease through your life.

Look for ways your disease can be a plus. There is a lot of creative energy in people and there are a lot of successful people with this disease. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_bipolar_disorder

  • Another option is to use the commute to take a short nap. If OP has a smartphone, there are apps that can be used to set an alarm when OP is getting near home. I've used that for quite a long time and it helps to recover sleep time I lose due to my long commute (1h and a half) Aug 20, 2015 at 16:56
  • @Trickylastname Unfortunately it is a commute via my car, so a nap would probably make a lot of people very upset ;). But I have definitely considered just pulling off at a rest stop and nodding off for a bit. The trouble is, it's the driving that really tires me out I feel, not so much the duration.
    – acm8017
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:09
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    @HLGEM Thank you very much for the advice. It really does help to hear that I am not wrong in asking for accommodations. Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in trying to work like "normal" people when what you really need to do is learn how to work in a way that suits you best while still fulfilling your requirements. I do practice meditation and deep breathing every night. They are some of the things that my stays in the hospital really taught me, fortunately.
    – acm8017
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:13

Regarding moving closer to work, I know that a lot of places in the world are quite strict with their tenancys (i.e. 6 months, 12 months, etc. But a lot have a 3month opt out, that means after 3 months you are free to leave given due notice). Also a lot of agents are very kind regarding letting people leave, so long as you build the relationship with them then you'll probably be in a good place to tell them about your position and whether you have to leave. Trust me, a short commute makes life that much better. I've done 100minute commutes (one-way), then the same back for a whole month, it absolutely killed me. Now I'm on 25minute commutes and I love it. Most of it is walking too, though this gets me a bit anxious as people have no idea how to walk without bumping into each other, it is the worst part of my commute...

I'm doing that in London, I don't feel locked in at all. I'm in a 6 month contract with the ability to leave on the months 4/5/6.

  • There are also sometimes clause that you can get out of the lease if you have to leave for work. They are common around here because it is a military area.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 20, 2015 at 15:59
  • @insidesin Most places around where I am seem to be asking for 1 year leases, but I can certainly ask if there is a 3 month opt out. That would be ideal for me right now.
    – acm8017
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:01
  • Also see if you can sublet the apartment if you change geographic locations.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 20, 2015 at 20:51

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