#StrongerThanStigma: How X Gets Things Done With Depression is a series featuring different people handling productivity while battling a mental health condition. Hopefully, you and I—mental condition or not—pick up tips and lessons to help us be productive, and fight the stigma that to be depressed means to be useless.
Today, we’re interviewing my colleague and close friend, Miguel, and how he navigates Bipolar Disorder whilst working in advertising.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a 24 year-old copywriter for a creative agency. I’m also an actor — graduated BFA Theater Arts, June 2016.
Tell us about your illness.
December 2015, I had a severe breakdown and had myself checked the day after. The doctor told me I suffer from Bipolar Mood Disorder Type II. After tracing how long the symptoms have been present, I was told it may have began way back in 2009.
I am normally an articulate person, in gestures, if not in words. When a breakdown happens, I lose all ability to express myself properly. Thoughts race and images flood my mind. I remember everything and everyone I have wronged. They all come back to blame me.
Needless to say, I am not productive at all when I’m breaking down. I can’t. It’s too exhausting. When I get out of it, I normally fall asleep.
What’s your backup plan for days like these?
I just let the breakdown happen to be honest. At most, I let someone know I’m having an episode, just so someone’s aware in case I put myself in danger. Other than that, I let the breakdown run its course.
When everything slows down again, that’s when I pick up the pieces and start with the small tasks before picking at the to-do list completely. I don’t work on any of the big or collaborative tasks when I’m fresh from a breakdown.
My support system is made up of friends, mostly. I only have few, deep friendships, and all of them are aware of how bad it gets. They’ve explicitly and implicitly expressed their support for me which helps a lot because I know I have people to turn to when shit hits the fan.
My parents? Not so much, in terms of emotional support. It’s hard to explain to them what happens when I’m having an episode. I can’t even process what’s going on in my mind, what more explain to someone else? They are, however, supportive in the sense that they cover my therapy sessions and medication, and that still means a lot.
Does your workplace have a system in place to help people with mental illness?
Recently, we’re in the talks to establish mental health support in the office. I, along with two other colleagues are lucky enough that we have a very supportive and flexible work environment.
In my opinion, the best way to go about mental health policies is to treat it as you would any physical illness. It’s no different. It can go from bothersome to life-threatening.
If that’s not enough, maybe there could be a briefing with HR on how to go about interacting with people who have mental illnesses. (To be honest, though, you don’t have to treat us any different. We don’t become less sentient just because we process things differently.)
What are your top 1-3 rules for getting things done while depressed?
1 | Sleep if you must.
2 | Don’t forget to eat and bathe. Those two count as small tasks on their own.
3 | If you feel a breakdown coming, let it happen. Have someone talk you through it if you can.
No matter what you believe about mental health conditions, I encourage you to be kind in the comments. If this inspired you to be a mental health advocate, or if you’d like to be featured next, email me at email@example.com so we can help each other out!