Haha oh yes. I have really struggled at times being in science and having anxiety/panic & bipolar disorder.
There is nothing scarier than having a panic attack or a bipolar episode at work and fearing for your job.
I don't have much advice for dealing with the stress. Honestly, I have just pushed through again and again. When I was really sick for 14 months, I pushed through each day. I may have thrown up four times in the morning, I may have made it in a little late to work - but I still came in each day and pushed hard each day. I may have had an experiment and had to pause to throw up, then go back to the experiment.
In my first job, my boss did not understand it at all. When I was first going through medication trials when they first gave me the diagnosis of bipolar, I was a total mess. I had to go out on medical leave for two weeks. When I came back, my boss had completely turned around like a snake and all of a sudden I was number one on his crap list. It was a true case of discrimination, but I couldn't prove it. I left the company and went elsewhere. I have been at my job now for almost five years.
At my job now, it may have taken a lot of guts and it was certainly a risky thing to do, but I took the honesty approach. It helps that I work at a neuroscience company and my boss is a pharmacokineticist with experience in CNS medications. My boss is also an extremely sweet person, charismatic, and sees the quality of my work. I told him what my condition was, I told him the medications I was withdrawing off of and the medications I was being put on. I informed him when I wasn't feeling well. I informed him that I was having trouble with my time as I was sick and dizzy in the morning and not able to drive in quite yet. I even made it known to my director that I was very ill, but doing all I could.
I guess the bottom line is I communicated my issues and worked around them. I don't know how this would work in other areas of specialty. Again, since I am in neuroscience and the potency/potential toxicities of the CNS medications is well known by my superior, I feel that gave me an edge in communication. I think it would be harder to explain to a manager who doesn't have the knowledge of the drugs and conditions. The stigma about
mental illness is still so bad and getting worse with recent events. It is still kind of a crap shoot when it comes to "sharing" this confidential medical information.
I've been trying to be an advocate about
sharing this information, for us not to remain in the dark any longer. I've found that a lot of scientists really do stick to the "fine line between genius and insanity." All of us have something wrong in our heads.
Diagnosed With: Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder
Treatment: Lithium Carbonate ER (450 mg), Sertraline (100 mg), Cyproheptadine (2 mg)