Manic Memoirs: I Told My Interviewer I Was Bipolar
So I messed up. I mean, it wasn’t my fault…but it was my fault.
Let me start from the beginning.
The job interview was going exceptionally well. I sat across from the extremely petite 40-something woman at Starbucks as we laughed about how many things we had in common. By this point I had been seeing my psychiatrist and therapist for well over a month and the medications were working surprisingly well. The anxiety and moments of depression were on a sharp decline and I felt confident and secure.
I lost two clients and had to amicably part ways with one during my emotional breakdown. Yeah, I had sworn that I would never go back to the 9 to 5 workforce again since starting my own business three years prior, but by then the sharp decrease in clients was having an effect on my bank account; out of necessity I began looking for part-time work. So, even against my better judgment there I sat at a coffee shop having an easy breezy conversation with my future boss (fingers crossed).
“I’m writing a book,” she said. “It’s been a labor of love for me.”
“I’m writing a book as well!” I exclaimed.
“Oh really?” she inquired. “What’s it about?”
“It’s a book of poetry and inspirational messages.”
Ha! I wish I actually said that. That’s the lie I should have said, the lie that any normal person would have repeated. I mean, the book does include a great amount of poetry and inspirational messages, but it’s more than that—it’s a walk through my journey of mental anguish and now mental stability. Riddled with the poems I wrote during my breakdown and the starkly different poetry that followed coming out of that fog of despair, this was my baby and I was proud of it–but it wasn’t the time to put it on the table. Tell my brain that.
Instead, before I could stop myself, I instinctively and prematurely dropped the bipolar bomb. “It’s a book that tells my journey with mental illness through poetry, inspirational messages and essays.”
Her too skinny face looked perplexed like I told her it’s a book about a dog that graduated with a PhD. I tried to fix it. I really did, but the damage had been done.
“This is something that is long behind me,” I lied. “I don’t even remember the last time I had a symptom of my manic depression…It’s been well over three years since I conquered my mental health journey.” (Yeah, right.
The woman looked at me uncomfortably and boldly asked, “Well, how do I know that this won’t affect your work?”
To be honest, I didn’t know. This whole bipolar thing was new to me. I just celebrated the one-month anniversary of being diagnosed as bipolar, but I also felt better than I had in the months since my emotional breakdown. But she was right–how did I know that it was a long-term fix and that I wouldn’t relapse?
I casually answered with another lie, she smiled sweetly and we segued into what my duties and responsibilities would be. Whew, that was a close one!
But suddenly my ease turned to anxiety as I noticed that her laugh became a bit strained. Her hands no longer flailed around expressively as they had five minutes before. Her eye contact became less frequent and she seemed to be rushing me along.
But I was just being paranoid right? Calm down, Kasey.
As we parted ways she said happily, “I am so excited to work with you. I will reach out with next steps tonight!” But I never heard from her again.
I tried to convince myself that I didn’t really want the job. That if she Googled me she would have found out about my mental health advocacy anyway. I even mocked her for meeting me at Starbucks instead of an office. All that was for show because the rejection cut deep and it hurt.
To this day, I have never told anyone about the result of that interview. I told my mom a lie about why it didn’t work out and she accepted it and we moved on. (Yeah, I know. I’m like some version of pathological liar due to my need to hide my manic depression but we’ll save that for another article).
I was embarrassed for reasons I still am not clear on. Not only did I begin to hate this thing called manic depression (or bipolar II disorder if you’re being fancy). I felt like a failure because I had to go back to work because I was broke and my clients dumped me. I felt dumb because I broke the cardinal rule of interviews–never tell too much of your personal life. I was angry because though what she did was illegal, I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I felt all these things, but most importantly I felt something unfamiliar—I felt ashamed.
It’s ironic that I tell my generation to have no shame and to embrace who they are and get help if needed, yet I spent two full days obsessively replaying that interview in my head and wishing I had kept mouth shut about being bipolar. It’s a process and I’m still learning.
As I consider myself a growing mental health advocate, I realize that my story isn’t for everyone and I must be strategic in how I divulge information about myself. I know some people may consider me a liability, crazy or not dependable, but I’m committed to changing the perception of mental illness in our society.
Today I’m working with nearly all the clients that I lost during the time that my mood disorder went unchecked, and while I’m hesitant to discuss my bipolar II disorder with certain groups and circles, I am getting a lot better.
As for the interviewer, I never made any attempts to contact her again. I know that if I had been hired for that position, I would have lost my focus on helping mental health communities. And as petty as it seems, it’s true: I hope my book gets published before hers.