To Tell or Not to Tell – Bipolar Disorder on social media
I am an avid Facebook user. Mostly I use it to amuse myself, keep up with old friends, get to know people who should be old friends but weren’t, update family on my kids and such… But, I also enjoy reading “pages” … pages about funny things and pages about serious things that only “we” understand are funny. I am talking about “bipolar” pages.
Because Facebook lists updates of what pages you have “liked”, my relatives, who know I am bipolar, have been able to see that I am not keeping my disorder as a big secret from my social group. Most everyone who is on my Facebook page already knows (or would guess) that I have bipolar disorder. To them, it is not a big deal, it is just part of who I am, and in some ways actually explains part of who I am – manic-depressive, why I am the way that I am.
I bring this up because one of my “relatives” actually sent me an email “warning” me that I should “be careful” about what pages I frequent, referring to the bipolar pages.
That was one bit of unwelcome advice. Another bit of advice might be to “unfriend” him or hide my activity from him. He is a close relative so “unfriending” him might cause problems. I could hide my activity but have made a personal policy that if you are my “friend” then you can see my page. I haven’t taken advantage of the “close friends”, “friends”, “acquaintances” – feature of Facebook – but then I don’t let anyone on my page unless they are actually someone I know.
The last bit of advice would be to ignore him. Luckily, he is such a close relative that I have made a practice of ignoring his advice, as a child would ignore a parent. I did just that – ignore him.
This situation was easy for me to solve under these particular circumstances but can be a lot of trickier. I also belong to bipolar pages on LinkedIn, Google+ and other sites, and I sometimes wonder about the impact. Fortunately, I happen to be a writer, and I am not in a situation where an employer (or potential employer) can make an objection to my diagnosis.
For others that are not the case – and it was not always the case for me. There is still a huge stigma against bipolar disorder. Technically, making an employment decision based on a mental diagnosis is illegal – it is against the ADA.
Technically, the employer could be in trouble for violation of federal law, but how many times do employers say outright” “I am not hiring you because…(insert problem here)”? Likely they will not say anything – they just won’t hire you. In some states, they can fire you for no reason (“at-will” employment states) or “not-for-cause”.
Technically, they should not hold this against you – if you are stable, and if you remain stable. The question is – will you? Hopefully, I will, but I can’t guarantee that.
If I were looking for a job – a “real” job, I would seriously consider curtailing my social media and public announcements of “I am bipolar“. As a writer – I shouldn’t do that, and I don’t.
You have to evaluate your particular situation. Know that it is against the law to be discriminated against. Know your history and likelihood that you will remain stable in your bipolar disorder and be able to do your job. Decide whether a legal fight is worth it to you. It may be; it might not be. Decide whether you really want to work for someone who will hunt you down and discriminate against you based on the information they find.
For me, I am happy not being in a “real job “. The same relative, full of warnings, is not happy about my lack of “real” employment – but I can just ignore him. Either way, I am still Bipolar.