How do you disclose bipolar disorder at work? Should you disclose it at all? If you are going to disclose, how do you tell your boss, colleagues, and human resources that you have bipolar disorder? What are the pros and cons? Would you be surprised to hear that it is mostly cons or would you be surprised there are any pros? Listen now to find out more!

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website,

Dr. Nicole Washington
Dr. Nicole Washington

Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.

Find out more at

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.

Gabe Howard: Welcome, everybody. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board certified psychiatrist.

Gabe Howard: We recently did an episode on disclosing bipolar disorder and like friendships and romantic relationships and the Internet being what it is, is like, Well, how do I do it at work? Should I do it at work? Why didn’t they cover work? This is a fair question, right? Dr. Nicole, when do you disclose at work? Should you disclose at work? How do you tell your boss, supervisor, colleagues, H.R., that you have bipolar disorder in the workplace? Good topic.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Absolutely. Because work stress is huge for a lot of the people. I see.

Gabe Howard: Okay. So let’s break this down a little bit. First, we’ve got the actual question

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Should you disclose bipolar disorder at work? And if this were a yes, no question, meaning we couldn’t talk about it for the next half an hour? I’d say no.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I would also say no.

Gabe Howard: Okay. Okay.

Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: All right.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I would also say no.

Gabe Howard: Good. We’re on the same page. But I that’s like a really tough thing for me, right? As somebody who lives with bipolar disorder, suggesting to people that, hey, you know, that thing that you’re managing, that thing that’s part of you don’t share it at work. It does impact your ability to to, I don’t know, connect with your coworker. I recognize it’s not the office. I mean, do you really need to connect with your coworkers?

Dr. Nicole Washington: I mean, my answer is no.

Gabe Howard: My answer is no. My answer is just straight up no. But can you see where that’s hurtful? I mean, sincerely.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes. Yes, it is. But do we disclose other things? Like are you at work saying telling your friends at work like, hey, I got diabetes? Hey, I got high blood pressure?

Gabe Howard: I mean, kinda. Yeah.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Not all the time, though, right? Like some people are very closed off. Like they don’t necessarily share a lot of that part of them with people they work with.

Gabe Howard: Some people are. But consider this scenario. I don’t know many people who are off work for two, three, four, six weeks. Right. Because they have to have a surgery, a baby, there’s

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: A death in the family, diabetes, whatever. And then when they come back and people are like, hey, are you okay? Where have you been? They’re like, I will not disclose. No, they always say that it’s because of and and then there’s a potluck and there’s a card and there’s niceness.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I don’t think there’s an always. I think you can be as open or as partially open as you choose to be. What if you returned from. I’ve been off for two weeks and. Oh, we heard you were in the hospital. What was wrong? Oh, I think there’s a way for you to be vague enough about it that you don’t have to feel forced to tell people what was going on with you.

Gabe Howard: I think that’s a really good point. And I want to just pause on that for a moment. The answer to whether or not you should disclose that you have bipolar disorder at work is actually it’s whatever you want.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: It’s up to you. No, nobody should force you. Nobody should make you feel bad. So we’re going to discuss some of the pros and cons of disclosing and why people don’t disclose. Why people should disclose it. Because, you know, we have a half an hour to fill and that’s just what we do. Doctor Nicole, for me, Gabe Howard personally, I disclosed immediately.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: I came back from work like, hey, you were gone for three weeks. Where were you? And I said, I was in the psychiatric hospital. I wanted to kill myself. This was before I used phrases like, you know, died by suicide and

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. Wow.

Gabe Howard: This is raw. This is raw, Gabe.

Dr. Nicole Washington: That’s pretty open. How did that work out?

Gabe Howard: Poorly. Very, very poorly. It worked out very, very it was not good. It was very, very bad. But I want to tell you here here’s why I did it, because everybody else did. I was 28 years old. Everybody we all got along. I had worked for this place for, three and a half, four years. I thought these people were my friends. I mean, I understood that they were in like the work friend category, but the word friend was in there and we had celebrated so many things. We had birthday club and we had potlucks and we celebrated holidays and we had holiday parties. And every time somebody’s like close relative died, we went to the funerals. I mean, I’m not saying it was like The Office, the sitcom, but it was as close as it could be to that kind of environment in real life.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Mm-hmm.

Gabe Howard: I felt like they were a supportive group of people who genuinely cared about me. Also, I didn’t understand things like discrimination and stigma. At that point.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Hmm.

Gabe Howard: I was a 28 year old white guy. I did not know that mental illness had a thing. I was diagnosed with a medical condition. I was told there was nothing to be embarrassed about,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: So I opened up about it.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. And so when people ask me, should I disclose, one of the first things we talk about is what are the positives that could come from disclosing and what are the negatives? And then we just have to risk-benefit. What are you willing to deal with? And some people are very much like, Nope, I’m going to put it out there. I need people to know because if I start behaving in a different way or anything like that, and some people say it’s not worth the risk. Right? Like I can’t afford to risk losing my job or risk being ostracized by my peers at work because all of a sudden, I’m this mentally ill person that they don’t want to invite to happy hour or to events or things like that. So it really is super individual, but there’s a lot to consider.

Gabe Howard: I have both sides of the spectrum. I have the worst case scenario disclosing at work. And ultimately, about a year later, I lost my job because of just bullshit things. The things that they listed to actually terminate me were untrue. And one of the things that they listed is that I faked bipolar disorder. Family Medical Leave Act. It’s I needed I was off work during this time. I’d been off work for six weeks. And they said in order to approve that time off, they needed my medical records. I signed them, they had an independent review and the independent reviewer said that I did not have mental illness and that I was faking and they ordered me back to work. I said, I can’t come back to work. I am in fact not faking. And they said, Oh, well, that’s essentially the same as abandoning your job. That is, that is you have quit. You are you are fired. And I said, But I don’t I don’t understand how the doctors who see me the therapists who see me, the the the hospital who saw me, I fooled them all. But the person who read the documentation, that’s it. Didn’t talk to me. Just read documentation. Saw right through it.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Just that’s that’s some kind of amazing.

Dr. Nicole Washington: So that’s a good example of why not to disclose, right?

Gabe Howard: Yeah. That is a really good example of why not to disclose.

Dr. Nicole Washington: That is a really good example of why not to disclose. And I’m not saying that a person should hear this and go, Well, I’m never going to disclose. There’s going to be times when you decide that it’s time or you want to or you it’s a very individual decision. But I don’t think it’s a decision that should be taken lightly or impulsively. And you should just consider the pros and cons of that decision before you do the disclosure. You need to write out what the potential pros are, what the potential cons are, and make an informed decision before you do that.

Gabe Howard: See, I believe that the mistake that I made when I got the negative reaction is that I did take it impulsively. I didn’t consider anything. I didn’t understand what was happening, and I just blurted it out. But finally, I was so new, right? I wasn’t stable. I hadn’t reached recovery yet. I had just been diagnosed six weeks prior, and now I’m sharing it with everybody. I couldn’t possibly have given good information to my coworkers as I was blurting this out because I didn’t have a good understanding. How could I help them understand what my life was when I didn’t understand what my life was? I feel that that was a mistake. But now let’s fast forward. It took me four years to reach recovery. Now I’m in recovery. I understand bipolar disorder. I’ve got support. I’ve got I’ve got success, I’ve got an understanding. I’ve got my my medication is under control. My therapist is under control. I basically just look like a boring guy at this point. Right? I’m just I’m just some dude. But it hurt.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: It hurt to keep it inside. I felt like I was keeping a secret. Now, this is me personally. I just felt like I wasn’t able to connect with people because I was hiding this. I also started to feel ashamed, like, Gabe, why aren’t you telling people this? Is it because you think you’re bad? And my opinion means something to me. I have a lot of anxiety and self-esteem issues and imposter syndrome, and one of the things that kept coming up over and over again is. Gabe, you don’t think you’re a good person? Well, yes, I do. Well, then why won’t you tell people that you have bipolar disorder? Well, because it’s shameful. Yep, it is. And this was like the narrative that was going in my brain.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: And I finally decided, all right, I’m just going to tell everybody. I’m just going to tell everybody and let the chips fall where they may. But but here’s the part that I want to make sure that people understand. The Gabe Howard that made that decision was incredibly different than the Gabe Howard who disclosed the first time. The Gabe Howard who disclose the first time was still sick, was still reeling, had not reached recovery yet. I was six weeks from diagnosis. Looking back, it’s not surprising that it turned out poorly. So if you decide to disclose to everybody, have a game plan, right? What’s your game plan? Also know this you will become the ambassador for all things bipolar disorder and mental illness once you disclose.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Now, I don’t mean like if you become an advocate and have a podcast or write or come out with a book or become a public speaker. No, no. You will be the go to. The minute something bad happens in the media says, well, mental illness is a problem. Everybody will be like, What’s your opinion?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: They will just. You are the tour guide.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes. Yes.

Gabe Howard: For bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes. Yes.

Gabe Howard: So, when you’re doing your pro and con list, just remember, do you want to be constantly answering questions about mental illness? Because you will.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah. If there’s a wellness committee, they’re going to ask you to be on it. Listen, as a black physician who is often the only black person in this position in a variety of organizations I’ve worked in. You get called on to do all the diversity stuff, all the stuff, right? Like I’m the I’m the go to right when I taught in an academic setting. Who’s going to teach the African-American culture series? Oh, Dr. Washington. Of course it’s going to be her. Right. So I get that. I get that for sure. And that could be a pro or con, right? Like maybe you want to be able to educate people about it and you don’t mind. Maybe you’d rather not be the face of all of bipolar disorder for your company. But I get that. What do you think about disclosing at the interview? This is a question I get a lot people ask me like, hey, I’m going to interview for this job. Like, do I tell them that I’m going to need time off for appointments? Do I tell them, like, how do I how do I deal with that?

Gabe Howard: Listen, I believe very, very, very, very, very. I don’t have enough verys. I believe that the deck is stacked against the workforce. Employers hold way too many of the cards. I live in Ohio, which is an at will state, meaning they can fire you for any reason. I know some companies have unions and that’s fantastic, but it often takes 90 days or six months to be able to enter the union. Sometimes you start the job, not even as an employee. You’re a contractor for the first six months working for a contract company. There’s lots of things that are stacked against you. We talk about all the rights that workers have. While some of those rights are accurate and are sacrosanct, they don’t kick in for the first year. Right? Like FMLA, they’re like, oh, well, Family Medical Leave Act will protect you, right? Doesn’t kick in for the first year. You have to work that job for one year before FMLA will protect you. And the longer you’re at a place, the more I don’t want to say the more rights you have, but the bigger case you have, if you start a job, you’re there for a month and they fire you. They can always say, I was a training issue. It didn’t work out. They didn’t fit in, right? Unless somebody like puts in writing, we’re firing Gabe because he has a medical condition and we just don’t want him here. You’re probably not going to be able to make that case if you’ve been there a month. I only say that whole soapbox moment because I really advise people that, look, wait as long as you can.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yep.

Gabe Howard: I that is the best advice that I have. That’s number

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: One. Wait as long as you can, you will have a bigger foundation of which to stand. The second thing is, is when it does come time to disclose, make an appointment with human resources, and in fact, make an appointment with human resources when your supervisor is out of the room. See if you can come in on a Saturday. Just make the appointment in person. Don’t put in an email in case your email is being monitored. Like like do some real clandestine shit here, right? Just. Just just make that appointment after hours so that your supervisor doesn’t wonder why you’re in HR. And then explain it and have the documentation to back it up. Get with your version of Dr. Nicole ahead of time and say, look, i’m, i’m, i’m going to disclose at work. Generally speaking, people disclose because they need accommodations

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Like you alluded to. They need extra breaks, they need their desk moved or they need something, right? If you can get away without disclosing, that’s what I recommend. But if you need to disclose, it’s probably because you need something. Get your ducks in a row first.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Mm hmm. Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: Get with Dr. Nicole and fill out the form.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Well, I mean, is there is there a form, right? Because like you said, there’s no FMLA in that first year. So if it’s in that first year, you may not have much of a leg to stand on if you need time off to go to appointments. And they don’t want to give it to you.

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Dr. Nicole Washington: And we’re back talking about when to disclose bipolar disorder in the workplace.

Gabe Howard: Right. I sound pessimistic and like I hate employers. And that’s that’s not the case. I just I’m very realistic here that many, many people, they’re just working jobs where. Yeah. They’re just not going to get the support that they need. Listen, if you are a physicist and you want a Nobel Prize, you can disclose at the interview. Right. That’s cool because Nobel Prize winning physicist can get away with a lot.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Right.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: But for most of us, if we’re having this conversation, we’re probably in our early twenties, maybe our mid-twenties, late twenties, maybe we’re probably not established in our careers. Maybe you’ve got some work gaps. If you are at the top of your career. Yeah, maybe disclosing right in the interview. I can tell you that I disclose in the interview, but I’m sort of at the top of my career right now. You know, I go to apply for podcast production. People are still asking what a podcast is. So the fact that I understand it and I’ve been doing this for seven years, people are like, Well, I’m willing to tolerate that. I mean, after all, who else are we going to hire?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. Right.

Gabe Howard: There’s just not a lot of people out there doing it, but I think about 28 year old Gabe.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You also have the luxury, though, of you could not disclose it. But I can guarantee you, I can guarantee you that future employers or possible employers are Googling you and looking at your social media. And so they already know. There’s no way that you could hide it. Right?

Gabe Howard: Yeah, yeah, there’s no way at all. Just. Just Google Gabe Howard.

Gabe Howard: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: It’s right there. It’s got a picture of me on stage. It’s got a picture of my wife. And she says, it’s a bad picture. And it says Up there, podcaster. And then right there, Gabe Howard lives with bipolar disorder. It’s right there. I can hide nothing.

Dr. Nicole Washington: But this also speaks to people out there with social media accounts. It is not uncommon for HR folks and future employers to look you up on social media to see what they see.

Gabe Howard: I really like that you said that because you are correct. Human resources just Googles you.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: So if you’re all over Facebook with with your diagnosis.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And your page is public.

Gabe Howard: And your page is public.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And your page is public.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You might want to disclose.

Gabe Howard: You might want to disclose in the interview. Now, now some people are in a position that this is okay. They can wait longer to find a job. They’re in a career where they are. You know, we said at the top of the show, it is a personal decision and it’s a personal decision that you got to make. But, you know, that’s not even all fair because let’s let’s swing the pendulum the other way. I know a person who lives with bipolar disorder who is at the top of their field as a defense attorney, one of the best defense attorneys in their state. They are super well-respected, incredible lawyer. They are not telling a soul

Dr. Nicole Washington: No.

Gabe Howard: Because, listen, I’m going to say something that that is not popular. I don’t know that I would want to hire a defense attorney with bipolar disorder. I mean, if I’m on trial for murder, I want everything to go well. If I’m in the position where I need a defense attorney and this person is a high level defense attorney, so their clients are, in fact, on trial for murder, manslaughter, just they do some serious shit. And I get it. I can’t even argue with them when they told me that they don’t want to disclose because they don’t think it would be a good look.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Let me ask you a question. What do you think about your doctor? If your doctor said, oh, I have bipolar disorder?

Gabe Howard: I personally would not have a problem with that. In fact, I kind of like it. I kind of wish I could find that. I understand because of the boundary issues that we’ve discussed in previous episodes, and I

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Understand why doctors don’t want to share that. But but for me personally, I would like that.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I will tell you that there are lots of doctors out there who choose not to be in treatment because medical boards are intrusive. And ask you a lot of questions about have you been treated for mental illness? And there are lots of people who won’t even go into treatment because they are concerned about losing their livelihood. Right. There’s a reason why we see our physicians with some increase in mental health and suicides and not getting to help because honestly, we see it right. If a mom sees her child’s pediatrician at the psychiatrist office that she goes to, she might question like, oh.

Gabe Howard: Well, the stigma and the discrimination of of mental illness is is so, so, so

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Pervasive. It gets into everything.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah. So there are a lot of people in a lot of different industries. The point is like you make the attorneys, the doctors, this is not unique to the young person who is new in the workforce, this happens across the board. This is regardless of whatever level of education or degree like a lot of this stuff is just pervasive to having the disorder and then having to try to manage it.

Gabe Howard: So this is we’ve gone off and we’ve got like an octopus of of of of information here, right? We’ve got, like, the core issue of whether or not to disclose and then the arms go off in all of these different ways. I would love to tell you that I’m about to summarize it for you, but but I’m not because it’s really, really messy depending on your industry, where you live. If you live in a big city, it’s super, super easy just to apply for 20 jobs and disclose it, all of them and see which one is cool. Right. Because people are out there. Let’s say that I am working in and this is a true story. I’m working in a scrub shop. Right. I’m selling scrubs. I’m managing a mobile scrub store. And you come in and apply and you disclose that you live with bipolar disorder. Listen, this is going to be an asset, right? I’m thinking, all right. Okay. I live with bipolar disorder,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: So I understand you. I, I can manage you in some ways a little bit better. So I’m kind of thinking, hey, I’m really glad you disclose. True story. Absolutely happened. Hired the person. As far as I know, they’re still there. After I left, they took my job. But

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: That was that person is in central Ohio, big city, a couple of million people and I talked to them after and they’re just like, look, I just didn’t need this anymore, much like the decision that I made. So I just started telling all employers I was applying for sales jobs and if they didn’t like it, if they were scared of it, I didn’t want to deal with it three months from now. You liked it? It worked good. You were a good boss. Gabe, I’m so glad that we can stay in touch on Facebook, but that was a risk for them.

Dr. Nicole Washington: So basically they took the stance of I’m just going to tell everybody.

Gabe Howard: Right.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And if a person doesn’t want me because of that and they never invite me to the interview or I don’t make it past the first round, I’d rather that than to be there and get invested and kind of get into a rhythm and then have the rug pulled out under me.

Gabe Howard: Exactly. And that is a that is a valuable, worthwhile and excellent position. It just doesn’t work for everybody.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Let’s remove the sales job and then let’s pretend that there’s only one employer because you live in a rural area.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: There’s one good employer. It’s the factory. We’ve all seen this movie, right? It’s the factory. You finally got the interview at the factory. And if you get this job, you are set for life. You join the union, you make $75 an hour. It’s I don’t know, it’s the auto industry. And you’re thinking, you know what, I I’ve got two kids at home,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Right? Maybe you’re a single parent

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Who knows? Who knows your personal situation and you’re like, yeah,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Now now is not the time.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And there’s no shame in that. I mean, you talked a little bit about

Gabe Howard: None.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You talked a little bit about personally for you, there was a little bit of shame of questioning yourself, like, am I ashamed of myself? Is that why I’m not sharing? And so for you, the answer was to just do it, but to do it in a more informed way. Right.

Gabe Howard: Exactly.

Dr. Nicole Washington: But for these people, that may not be the answer for them and it may never be the answer for them. Right. It’s like if you work in a staunchly conservative space and you’re gay, maybe you just don’t tell anybody.

Gabe Howard: That is an excellent example and one that I have heard from members of the LGBTQ+ community before. If you if you’re going out for a job in the arts in California, you disclose

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Because nobody cares.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Disclosure may not matter if you live in Oklahoma.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. In Oklahoma. And if you’re applying for a job as a as a basketball coach or an MMA fighter trainer.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You may not share.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. All of a sudden, you want to keep your mouth shut. Look at the number of I really think this is an excellent analogy. Look at the number of retired football players, basketball players, baseball players who, after they were retired and their careers were over,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Came out.

Gabe Howard: Came out

Dr. Nicole Washington: Exactly.

Gabe Howard: And all of them were asked, why didn’t you during your career? And they all said, I can’t risk it. I

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Can’t risk the locker room, I can’t risk my money. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m not getting another job that pays this kind of money. It was not worth the challenge them. I want to I want to stay on this for just a second longer because in the LGBTQ+ community, things are getting better. I know it’s slow, but it is getting better. We’re starting to make progress. And there’s this piece of me that says that that community has made progress because they’ve been open.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Like, that’s the reason that I wanted to be open because I see all of these negative representations of people living with bipolar disorder, and I wanted to provide a positive one

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: So that I could help balance the scales. And that for me was the number one reason that I disclosed. But I feel I feel like I must say this. I was in a very privileged position to do so. And I don’t just mean because of the area that I lived, I don’t just mean because of my illness. I don’t just mean because of financial status. I also had things like very supportive parents. Do you know how many parents would not want their son trashing their mistakes all over the Internet? And listen, I kind of get it. Keep listening. I’m going to say some bad shit about my mom and dad eventually, but they’re cool with it. Not everybody has that. We always hear the phrases they told me not to air my dirty laundry. No, Thanksgiving is too weird. If I disclose that, well, I’ll share it with you, Gabe. One on one and you can write about it as long as you anonymize me. But I can never get on your podcast and discuss it. And they acknowledge that their story has value and will help so many people, but they’re not willing to alienate mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, because it’s just too much.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: That is a big reason to disclose.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yep.

Gabe Howard: It will absolutely help the cause. So if you are able to I would like to like have you on stage with me. I’d like to have you on the podcast with me. I’d like to read your writing. I’d, I’d like to see your advocacy no matter how small.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: But.

Dr. Nicole Washington: But the key words there were, if you can disclose,

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Because everybody can’t.

Gabe Howard: Exactly. And don’t feel bad if you can’t.

Dr. Nicole Washington: No, not at all. You should not feel bad. I have people I see whose families literally don’t even know. They see a psychiatrist and don’t know they take medication. And they have asked me multiple times, you know, should I tell my parents? Should I tell? We talk about all the reasons to tell. We talk about all the reasons not to. And for these individuals, they’ve decided that their list of reasons not to far outweighs their reasons to do so, because they know how their family feels about mental illness and taking medication and things like that. And they just don’t want to go there. They just don’t want to go there. They don’t feel like their mental health can handle that stress in addition to everything else that’s going on in life. And I support people in that decision. I think it makes it a little difficult to find support when you’re kind of secretive about your mental health care. But let’s face it, everybody doesn’t have Gabe’s parents. Everybody doesn’t have parents who are going to say, oh, my gosh, you have bipolar disorder. Let me go learn about this thing so that I can better support you through your illness. Some people are the complete opposite of that.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, are you surprised that we’ve ended up here? The question is, should you disclose in the workplace yes and no. And we’ve basically given some reasons for yes. Some reasons for no. It does seem like we’ve leaned on the no side pretty heavy, but there’s no clear cut answer here. You know, listen, I’m kind of a black and white thinker, so I was really hoping that we’d work this out and be able to advise people. But that’s ridiculous, right? It is very personal.

Dr. Nicole Washington: It is very personal and we were never going to have a firm yes or no. I mean, if you force me, I’m going to say no. But there are lots of reasons why a person would choose to disclose. You know, informed decisions are all we can do.

Gabe Howard: But do you, as a psychiatrist, see the benefit in being open about bipolar disorder and disclosing not only in the workplace, but elsewhere? Is this something that will help future generations of people living with bipolar disorder have better access to care?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think that if you are in a position to be an advocate for anything that you’re passionate about, we need that, right? We need media coverage and we need people to be able to take their brain to something other than all the negative representations. So when you disclosed that you had bipolar disorder or psychotic features, it would have been great for that person to not pull up in their brain. This mental image of some guy who’s going to shoot up the office. Right. It would have been better if they could think, oh, I follow this mental health advocate or I follow this person on Instagram or I know somebody I go to church with who has bipolar disorder and they’ve talked about it before. That would have been a better image for them to pull up and maybe a more realistic image, because, let’s face it, the things we see in the media are often not realistic and not great representation for the illnesses that they describe. So that’s a whole different episode for a different day. But I think advocacy is important, but I also think employers need to pull it together.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. Employers have long felt like your personal life is your personal life. Whatever you got going on at home, your mental health, leave it there and just come to work. Be my robot, do my job, and then go home and be human again. And that is so far from real. It is scary that people think that way. So, you know, I do some work with organizations about wellness and educating about mental health and advocating about mental health in the workplace. And the one thing I try to push to them is, you know, if you can create an environment that is supportive of all people, including those with mental illness, including people with trauma histories, including all these things, you probably will get more out of your employees in the long run and they’ll be more productive and you’ll have less turnover. But employers have to take some responsibility because some of these environments are so toxic that it would be impossible for someone with mental illness history to be able to survive in those areas.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, thank you so much for pointing out that employers have to be part of the solution, and in many cases, they hold all the cards, so we need to get them on board. And to all of our listeners, thank you so much for being here. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” You can get it on Amazon, but if you come to my website, I will give you my signature, I will give you stickers, I will give you swag, and all you have to do is go to

Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole, Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms @DrNicolePsych to see all the things I have my hand in at any given moment.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole and I both travel nationally or internationally. We could be at your next event, learn more information on our respective websites, and hey, we need a favor. Tell everybody you know about this podcast. Sharing the show is how we grow. And finally, wherever you downloaded this episode, please subscribe or follow. It is absolutely free and we will see you next time on Inside Bipolar.

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