Met with the big boss this week and disclosed my disability and requested workplace accommodation. The talk went quite well, although the morning leading up to it I felt like my brain straight up DID NOT WORK and I had a really hard time thinking through routine tasks. A sign of the stress that having the conversation brought.
Big boss was very understanding (as I anticipated), displaying an awareness of mental illness, personal connections with people living with bipolar and a willingness to work with me on accommodations to deal with my workplace anxiety surrounding the issue of formal observations.
What was really awesome about the talk was that while I didn't get the outcome I was specifically requesting, I got an accommodation that I think will serve both parties very well.
If I am being oblique it is because I've been asked NOT to broadcast to my coworkers what specific accommodations I am receiving so there is not some weird climate of "How come SHE gets special treatment?" and an atmosphere of perceived unfairness.
On the one hand I get that. But on the other hand if the accommodations are deemed necessary for reasons of disability... why the need for secrecy? I am not CHEATING. it is not UNFAIR. Not any more than offering accessible parking or an elevator is cheating.
Although mental illnesses are different, I realize. Perhaps because I have an invisible disability, it protects me in a way to have my accommodations invisible as well.
Well, suffice it to say the upshot of the conversation with the big boss:
I also gave a copy of my bipolar disorder cheat sheet with information that I pulled together from the Job Accommodations Network to my immediate supervisor. Who I also outed myself to. All three of my co-teachers know, both of my direct supervisors know... several people I eat lunch with know. I'd say I'm officially out of the closet.
THIS IS A GREAT RELIEF
Even just coming out as bipolar... without requesting or being given any workplace accommodations... would have made a huge difference in my day-to-day teaching life. Not that my bipolar has strong impact on my day-to-day teaching life.
However, if I fall apart at a meeting unexpectedly, or if my brain is not so worky... I would like to be able to tell people not to worry. That I might just be having a bad brain minute and things would return to the regularly scheduled program soon.
Also. Being out serves my overall general mission of anti-stigma and self-advocacy.
Quaker, teacher, parent,