Woman with Bipolar Disorder Wins Court Case

Future discrimination of people with Bipolar Disorder may be more difficult

Score one (kind of) for Bipolar Disorder.  A federal jury awarded a woman who was fired because she requested time off from work to deal with a manic episode $32.5 thousand.

Bipolar Disorder StigmatizationBipolar disorder (and many other psychiatric illnesses) carries a relatively big stigma in the workplace.  Unless you are in the creative arts, likely, you will not want anyone at your job to know that you have bipolar disorder.

Three years ago, a nursing assistant who worked in an assisted living facility, named Charlotte Massey realized she was in the middle of a manic episode.  Charlotte had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder – and kudos to her for recognizing that she needed to do something about it before it spiraled out of control.

When she called her boss, the owner of the facility, her boss not only didn’t give her “kudos”, he gave her a pink slip.  She got fired because she asked to take a leave of absence to deal with her medical issue.

Unlike most people who have been fired for Bipolar Disorder – Charlotte didn’t lose her job because she went wacko.  Instead, she maintained enough mental clarity to notify her employer of her Bipolar Disorder Discriminationdisability and was rewarded with… firing.

It is certain that the owner of the facility was aware of the American with Disabilities Act.  It is likely that he or she was aware that he could not randomly fire employees with physical or obvious mental disabilities. But, it may be that he was unaware that “mental disabilities” includes illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

The ADA bars discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities who can perform the essential functions of their job with “reasonable accommodation” and without imposing an “undue hardship” on the employer.

From the outside, some may say… well she wanted to take time off.  In fact, she took a whole five days off, with herself or a family member reporting in each day with the supervisor.  When she returned to work after only a week of absence, she was fired.

Part of the law includes an evaluation of whether the employer would be subjected to “undue hardship”.  Is giving an employee time off to deal with a medical issue, an employee whose shifts could be made up by another person – an undue hardship?

Workplace StigmaThe court thought it was not.  The jury awarded Massey $25,000 in damages for lost wages and benefits and $7,500 in punitive damages.

The employer and his lawyer attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed by claiming that:

•    Charlotte Massey wasn’t fired; she resigned
•    She had a faulty memory of the events due to her disability
•    She never reported her disability to her employer

In fact, none of those were true.  Though the employer’s attorney repeatedly referred to the case as “frivolous”, the jury found otherwise.
This award may be the first of its kind, and it may be small, but it is a groundbreaking case.  With the ability to claim protections of the ADA, future discrimination may be more difficult.

Melissa Lind

More difficult for Bipolar Disorder stigma in the future!

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s – A parent’s journey to being grateful

As the parent of a child with Asperger’s, I have gone through a series of emotional stages, and though I never thought I would be grateful, I am.

Aspergers SyndromeWhen I first realized my kid had Asperger’s, I was relieved.  I was relieved because there was suddenly an explanation.  I had thought that there was something “wrong” with him, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Finding out that he has Asperger’s let me know that he is “different” but not “bad.”  He isn’t just a kid who chooses not to behave.  He isn’t a kid with a mom who doesn’t make him behave.  He has Asperger’s.

Then, I was sad.  I was sad for all the times that I didn’t understand.  I was sad for the fact that others have taught him he is a “bad” kid.  I was sad for all the times I got frustrated and lost my temper.

I was also angry.  I was angry because even the health care “professionals” did not see.  They focused on his “bad” behavior.  They focused on what I wasn’t doing to make him better. They did not truly understand that he is “different” and they certainly did not see how great he is.

Today (several years later) I am in acceptance. I accept that my child (now 10) is different.  I accept that he will have difficulties.  I accept that his school will call about once a week to describe some heinous event.

I am also grateful.  I am grateful that I know.  I am grateful that I can appreciate the terrific kid that he is and mostly know how to help him through. I do still get frustrated and lose my temper but at least I know what I am doing wrong.  I no longer have to feel like I am doing everything wrong – or that I just don’t know what to do at all.

Autism Spectrum DisorderI am grateful that at least right now, he is fortunate enough to have a teacher that gets Autism Spectrum Disorder.  A principal that gets it – and both of these wonderful ladies see how lovable he is, how smart he is, and even though they may get frustrated and angry, they still get it.   I am grateful that I have enough information to know that there are just some things that we cannot do, and that really we shouldn’t bother.

I was thinking about this because I heard about a convention that I could go to.  The convention organizers have a “kid camp.”   The children are put on a bus and taken to some activity – a museum, a park, a walking tour…and even though he is 10 and even though he is “high-functioning” – he could not do this.  He could not be calm and collected and manage.

He has difficulty with scheduling, he has difficulty with noise, he has difficulty with crowds, he has difficulty with spontaneous activities, he has difficulty with new food… I would not even consider sending him to “kid camp” or any other activity that I could not be at.

This is not because I won’t “allow” it.  It is because the well-meaning organizers will not be able to predict and compensate for his Aspergers Children“different-ness”.  He would not have a good time; I would not have a good time – it would not be best for him.  I cannot go to that convention, but that is OK.

Not every kid who has Asperger’s has the same “different-ness”, and not every parent feels the same way. But I am grateful that I have gone through the relief, the anger and the sadness, to be accepting of my life and his life.

I am thankful that I can compensate for his differences and see how terrific he is.

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome have different different-nesses!

Melissa Lind

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder – More Than Just Anger

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (also called IED, that is appropriate as it can go off unexpectedly and cause significant damage)

Intermittent Hulk Explosive DisorderProbably everyone knows that teenage boy (or girl) who punched a hole through the wall.  Perhaps for some, this became a regular pattern of behavior during adolescence but most of those teenagers outgrew it.  In fact, at least one-quarter of teenage boys has done something dumb like punching a wall.

One boy I knew in high school even broke his hand by punching the roof of his car, and some boys were routinely doing stupid stuff.  Despite that, all of it was teenage angst and changes that can be attributed to the massive amounts of testosterone flowing through the male adolescent body – none of them had intermittent explosive disorder.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is worse than punching a hole through a wall.

It typically is first identified in the early teens – but can be seen much earlier in some cases.    In order to be actually characterized as intermittent explosive disorder, an individual must have had three episodes of explosive behavior that is severely out of proportion to the stressor.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder HulkinsectThey must have broken or smashed something that is monetarily valuable (more than a few dollars), physically attacked or made explicit threats to attack someone with the intent of causing harm.  If these three episodes occur within the space of 12 months, the disorder is considered to be more severe.

Here is the catch.

How do you distinguish between IED, average – though extreme teenage behavior and other psychiatric conditions?  It turns out that IED is probably a diagnosis of “if nothing else fits” as other psychiatric disorders certainly overlap with similar symptoms – and you have to rule out the adolescent hormone issue.

Bipolar disorder may cause outbursts of extreme anger and agitation, Borderline personality disorder may cause outbreaks, ADHD patients can exhibit a severe lack of self-control, and drug abuse is always a potential cause.  Even though those diseases may cause IED-like events, a sustained behavior pattern is something to address.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder WarningA recent study reported by the National Institutes of Health shows that IED can actually affect up to 4 percent of adults and lead to an estimated 43 attacks over a lifespan.  The disorder may also increase that chance of depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders.  People with IED have an obvious increased risk of legal trouble, financial difficulties, and divorce – that’s a no-brainer.

So the biggest problem for mental health professionals, like many other disorders, is to untangle all of the information leading in and out with a mix of behaviors and a mix of causes.  What came first – the chicken or the egg?  What came first – the drug abuse or the anger?  Which illness is more important – bipolar disorder or the IED?

One of the biggest clues may be in examining (or better, paying attention to) behavior that occurs before puberty.  In other words: What came first – the behavior or puberty?  Clearly if the behavior started before puberty, there was and is an issue.  If the behavior begins during adolescence – you have to wait (and hope) to see if the behavior goes away once the hormones are settled.

IED is not a simple diagnosis.

It requires a careful examination of an entire psychiatric and behavioral history – and the “ruling out” of a lot of other disorders that may be to blame.  Unfortunately, in the end – unless an underlying cause can be found, there is no medicationAnger management and cognitive behavioral therapy are likely the only answer – minimization of harm, not very satisfactory if it was your car window that got smashed in a fit of rage.

Melissa Lind

Borderline Personality Disorder in the News

In the news (and movies): Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) doesn’t get a lot of “press” or screen time.

We have all seen movies and news stories about people with bipolar disorder. (Girl Interrupted, Mad Love, Borderline Personality Disorder Newsand the unforgettable Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, drug addiction) (Chris Farley, Philip Seymore Hoffman, and Anna Nicole Smith), and major depression (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, and Princess Diana).  Many of these movies or real-life examples also show how mental disorders are intertwined.

Depression comes with alcoholism, bipolar disorder comes with drug addiction, bipolar disorder comes with a lot of issues – but not much attention gets paid to Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder has a few issues:

  1. It is a personality disorder and not a psychiatric disorder that can be treated with medication
  2. It is hard to diagnose and can often be confused with other disorders
  3. Borderline patients may misrepresent their behavior to medical professionals
  4. Borderline patients are often “difficult” to be around
  5. Borderline personality disorder is not well known – make it not well known… and, for this reason, there is no reason to write a news story or make a movie about it.

“Good news”;

I put that in parentheses because the diagnosis is not great – but it is good that BPD is getting a bit of attention.  Two notable examples – one not so great and one which may or may not be great.

Not So Great;

The trial of Jodi Arias.  In 2008, Travis Alexander was brutally murdered.  He was stabbed over 20 times, shot, and photographed after his death.  The alleged perpetrator: his girlfriend, Jodi Arias.

The case has been pending for many years – one of the reasons may be the development of a clear understanding of why Arias acted the way that she did after the murder.  Reportedly, Arias was witnessed immediately after Alexander’s memorial (including explicit text messages sent for “flirting”), and she has been pegged as a possible borderline patient.  This is in addition to Alexander’s former friends that reported her stalking behavior, and her statements that the boyfriend was a pedophile and a domestic abuser.

Arias’ own friends and a court psychologist have reported erratic behavior, similar to that of BPD.  No verdict has been issued as of yet, and we may never know, but it does bring BPD into the news (not in a nice way but into the light, however).

In fact, some mental health professionals have expressed the belief that BPD patients may be more dangerous – both emotionally and physically – than most other mental disorders, some likening it to a form of sociopathy.

Possibly good news;

Borderline Personality Disorder in the NewsOn the movie front, Kristen Wiig (of Bridesmaids –and the new, all-female Ghostbusters) has starred in a”dramedy”. Dramedy is  a combination of a comedy and drama that is centered around a woman with BPD.   In Welcome to Me, the character, portrayed by Wiig, wins the lottery and uses part of the money to start a talk show.

Along the way, she skips out on treatment, quits taking her meds and ends up living in a casino.  No word on reviews for the show, but it has some big names including Joan Cusack and Tim Robbins. It is produced in part by Will Farrell, and even though it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, theater showings have not been announced.

If you know a BPD patient – imagine what he or she might do after winning the lottery.  BPD is hard to diagnose, hard to predict and even tougher to be around.

Whether the movie is any good, whether the trial comes to a just end…

Melissa Lind

Borderline Personality Disorder has gotten some attention!

Work Stress Issues

Company owners and employees have their share of work stress problems

Employees have different levels of stress compared to business owners. They don’t have much of primary responsibilities as the owner of a company.
No Office StressOf course, we can’t say that only rank and file can experience stress because in the bigger picture, owners and managers also have their struggles.

Some notable causes of stress at work that both employees and managers should be aware of is the primary cause of stress; being overworked. Even the most outstanding employee will feel pressured when bombarded with work with a very limited period. Such thing might be irrational, but it happens all the time.

One of the causes for stress at work is a promotion. In some cases, employees get bored with their daily job and for this reason they would want to experience more challenging work for a greater compensation.

When you feel that you are overly stressed, make an effort to save yourself from self-destruction, and find ways to alleviate your current situation.

You can minimize stressful instances in your daily life if you know how to manage stress effectively. The key is never to let small responsibilities left unattended. Little things left unnoticed will pile up until such time that you can no longer bear the bulk of stress.

Organize your task according to its importance and time frame. There are tasks that are crucial, but you should have time to work it out. For this reason, it should be listed next to the urgent and Relax No Stress Pleaseimportant ones. Once you are done categorizing, create a timeline plan and make sure to include a break time and a day off in it.

Do not use your break time to finish an incomplete task. Break time is intended to your mind and body to rest. A break time will allow you to rest your brain and nerves as well as your body from the stress caused by too much work. Remember, you are responsible for keeping your physical and emotional health in good shape.

Do not ignore any sign of fatigue because it could lead to a more serious problem. If you feel that you are overly worn-out, take a rest. If you are feeling depressed, anxious and irritable, go ahead and rest. If you can’t concentrate on what you are doing and you are losing interest on it, rest.

If you are using drugs and alcohol to cope up with stress, stop and reflect!

Work StressYou have already reached the limit. Do not allow yourself to reach this far!

Strive to reduce your work stress by taking good care of yourself. You may start in restoring your physical and your emotional health. Once these two are addressed adequately, it will be easier for you to take care of your other needs as you are more optimistic and stronger when you are feeling better inside and out.

Once you are more stable physically and emotionally, your next step to getting rid of work stress is by organizing and prioritizing things. Make an effort to organize things first, and then you prioritize. Once you have done this, you are more guided, and you will regain control over stuff. This way you can well manage stress with self-control and confidence.

As an employee, it is your responsibility to take care of your health. No matter how hectic your schedule is, take your breaks and rest.

Excessive stress is not part of work related issues, but “typical” stress is!