african american businesswoman interview

[MANIC MEMOIRS]
'I Told My Interviewer I Was Bipolar'

Kasey Woods on what full disclosure looks like while job hunting

by Kasey Woods, January 24, 2014

Comments
african american businesswoman interview

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 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.”

Crap.

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 had just marked 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, I have to be honest--- I hope my book gets published before hers.

This article was originally posted on Mommy Noire

More great reads from Kasey Woods

 
Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter