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News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
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Author Topic: Chair knows from someone else  (Read 14536 times)
stringcheese
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« on: March 11, 2012, 10:34:10 PM »

I have a question about how you would handle the following situation.

My chair made a comment regarding my illness the other day, out of the blue.  Chair used a "term" to add humor, but it pinpointed that he knew I struggle with a chronic mental condition.  In all honesty, it could have been considered "on the edge of discriminating."

I am Bipolar 1.  From the comment, it was clear that he "knew," but I have never told him.
I have had some mood issues, two major ones and a few minor ones,  but I am also highly productive and in general, get along with most. 

I told 2 colleagues of my condition.  One later turned out to be an individual who entered my office and verbally attacked me regarding an issue, and  because I was "off" and exhausted, it exploded into a terrible shouting match and breakdown for me.

I am assuming this colleague told my Chair.   I am slightly bothered that my colleague mentioned this.

Should I just let Chair's comment go?  Should I have a discussion with my Chair? 

I personally have found many people completely misinformed about Bipolar, especially Bipolar 1.  For example, many people believe if I just take my medications, all is well.  It is far more complex and certain things can tip my mood even if I take all my meds.  Some of my meds have strong side-effects (weight gain, extreme thirst, passing out, lithium toxicity, etc)

I really don't want my personal business to be known by everyone.


Thanks.



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hegemony
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 10:52:36 PM »

I'm afraid that because of the altercation with the colleague, it is no longer entirely your personal business.  When it begins to impact the workplace, it becomes a larger concern.  What were the repercussions of that event?  Did you go through a procedure, mediation, apologies, or anything like that?  For the sake of your career as well as your own life, I'd think you'd want to have a plan to try to keep things like that from happening again -- a plan you can outline to higher-ups in case of concern.  "He provoked me" isn't a helpful response, I am certain.  So I don't see this as a privacy issue as much as an issue of damage control for your career.  I don't know if you want to take the initiative in talking to the chair -- others will probably have advice about that.  But you should have a response ready should your chair come to you.  It may be that your chair currently thinks that you had a shouting match with your colleague because you both have excitable temperaments, not because there's any larger issue.  If so, you should think about the wisest way to go forward -- to let him think you're just a volatile person, or to outline the real picture.
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msparticularity
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2012, 11:54:43 PM »

My first question is whether you have already had contact with the appropriate person/department for disabilities services on your campus. You have a qualifying disability, and should not try to negotiate with anyone--including your chair--on your own. I agree with Hegemony that this is not simply your business, to the degree that it affects others within your workspace, but you also are entitled to protection under the law. Be sure you understand how that works before you go any further.
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stringcheese
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 11:59:06 PM »

Thanks for your responses.

I have not been to disability services.  Should I go even if it is uncommon that I need "something?"

This incident with my colleague happened a year ago and nothing happened.  We are not friendly like before, but civil as required.  This colleague has also had issues with others that turned into shouting matches, both in my department and other departments (including some senior faculty in my department), so destruction of my career is not the issue I am worried about. 

I guess my question is would it be better to just continue as I have for years or explain things since apparently he knows?  Should I go through disability services?
Would it help or make things worse? 
I don't know.

For example, during that shouting match, I wanted to leave.  I asked multiple times.  I was not permitted to leave and it kept escalating, eventually doing more harm for me overall.  Sort of like "I need to stop this now to regulate my brain," type of thing.   

But in general, it is uncommon that I need "something" because of my condition.  My job has a lot of freedom because I do a great deal of research.  The flexibility allows me to do what I need to, to take care of myself.


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msparticularity
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 12:05:35 AM »

You should establish a file with disability services now, because if and when you actually need it, you'll be in no shape to deal with getting it set up. Further, it sounds as if you may need help in fending off any concerns over inappropriate handling of an interpersonal situation. You say, for example, that you were not "permitted" to leave--how did this happen? Did this person have authority over you, or did they take inappropriate authority in that encounter? Given your concerns now, I would suggest that this needs to be documented and discussed with a person qualified to help you.
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"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
hegemony
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2012, 6:55:09 AM »

I'm unclear on how the chair knows you have Bipolar 1 from the shouting match with your colleague.  Did you mention it during the altercation?  Did you say something like, "I have to leave now because I have Bipolar 1 and I'm overstimulated?"  Because if others have also gotten into tussles with the difficult colleague, why should the chair conclude something about your case in particular? It may well be; I just haven't connected the dots yet.  Another question is whether the chair has guessed that there is an actual documentable disability here (in which case he/she is very unwise to be joking about it -- sheesh), or whether it was just a random comment that happened to be more accurate than he/she could have guessed.

In any case, I think a consultation with Disability Services is your way forward.  I'm not sure what would be gained by informing the chair that the situation is not as stable as someone might imagine.  Normally people try to put the emphasis on how able they are rather than on how hard their condition is to manage, except when the need for very specific accommodations is the issue.   
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britmom
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2012, 8:35:54 AM »

I'm unclear on how the chair knows you have Bipolar 1 from the shouting match with your colleague.

I think that the person who argued with the OP knew about his/her condition. The OP believes that person then told the Chair about the illness, presumably as revenge for the argument.

  Another question is whether the chair has guessed that there is an actual documentable disability here (in which case he/she is very unwise to be joking about it -- sheesh), or whether it was just a random comment that happened to be more accurate than he/she could have guessed.


I was also wondering about this.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 8:39:15 AM by britmom » Logged

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itried
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2012, 8:36:29 AM »

stringcheese, it sounds like you aren't worried about any professional fallout from your shouting match, but rather would like advice about whether to discuss your illness openly with your Chair. Do you trust him and think he will receive you with compassion and understanding? If so, and if (1) you're absolutely certain that he knows and (2) talking about it will not precipitate discrimination, then I don't see any harm in discussing it with him. If he's a supportive Chair -- as a Chair should be -- then it could be nice to have an ally in your department who understands your cycles and can work with you to optimize your work performance and satisfaction despite them.
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busyslinky
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2012, 9:07:09 AM »

Is there a reason you will tell some of your co-workers but not the chair?  I don't think it is illegal for the chair to know if you told others who have no role in administrative aspects.  It seems that the chair should know of this even before other colleagues.
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macaroon
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2012, 9:15:33 AM »


  Another question is whether the chair has guessed that there is an actual documentable disability here (in which case he/she is very unwise to be joking about it -- sheesh), or whether it was just a random comment that happened to be more accurate than he/she could have guessed.


I was also wondering about this.

Yeah, any chance, OP? 

I have to admit, I did that once when I was young and dumb - not about an illness, but about something else.  We were drinking and joking around, so thankfully this wasn't in a professional setting.   I made a random comment that was, I thought, ludicrous about someone I barely knew.   My comment was along the lines of, "...since her parents left her on a doorstep and ran away with the circus."   Aaaaaand it turned out to be true.  It was a horrible experience for both of us, and since then, I don't joke around like this.  But I'm surprised at how often people do!
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stringcheese
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2012, 9:52:11 AM »


  Another question is whether the chair has guessed that there is an actual documentable disability here (in which case he/she is very unwise to be joking about it -- sheesh), or whether it was just a random comment that happened to be more accurate than he/she could have guessed.


I was also wondering about this.

Yeah, any chance, OP? 



No.  Chair used a term that is 100% associated with my condition and not a phrase that someone would just use.  I wish I could post specifically what was said, but it would be a give-away on the slim chance that Chair is reading.

I don't think the colleague told Chair as revenge.  I think it might have come up because I was so upset.  If I had not been struggling with a mood episode at the time, I probably would not have gotten so upset.  Unless my mood cycles to where major intervention is needed, I have learned to deal with my mood episodes.  For example, closing my door or working more from home if mood is depressed.  Mania is more difficult to identify, because I tend to move from feeling good to being over-the-top pretty quickly.  I am not as aware in this state of mind, but amazingly I have less interpersonal problems; perhaps because my pattern is to "do things."

In all honesty, I do a good job being compliant with treatment, tracking my moods and triggers, etc.  I have tricks that help, even when I am in a severe episode.  But I have been hospitalized multiple times and do take some powerful medication. 

I was not "permitted to leave" during the argument, because we eventually wound up in the Chair's office. So Chair was in control and is not especially good at dealing with situations like this, so it just kept going as a shouting match, until I completely broke down.

I told two colleagues, because the relationship I have/had with them also included components of a friend relationship.  My relationship with Chair is strictly a professional relationship.

I might go speak with disability services, but I have never done that.
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mdwlark
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2012, 10:48:13 AM »

I would talk to disability services to establish a file and have them aware of your situation so that if you ever need them, they are already on board.  It puts you on record as having a disability.  This doesn't need to be mentioned to others unless there is a needed accommodation.  It is best to assume, for the most part, that anything you tell people will likely become common knowledge, unless the person being told has a professional responsibility of confidentiality.  I sometimes tell a non-official person something if I want it known and it is to my advantage to have it spread informally by rumor rather than my telling it directly.  Anything you say to an administrator can be regarded as an official declaration and may carry more weight than you want it to.  Since your disability is now known, you can decide to have a talk with your chair if you think that will increase understanding, mention it casually so that it is on the table, or not at all.  Just make the decision what to say and how to say it based on the effect you think it will have and what you are trying to achieve.   
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msparticularity
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2012, 12:26:11 PM »



I don't think the colleague told Chair as revenge.  I think it might have come up because I was so upset.  If I had not been struggling with a mood episode at the time, I probably would not have gotten so upset.  Unless my mood cycles to where major intervention is needed, I have learned to deal with my mood episodes.  For example, closing my door or working more from home if mood is depressed.  Mania is more difficult to identify, because I tend to move from feeling good to being over-the-top pretty quickly.  I am not as aware in this state of mind, but amazingly I have less interpersonal problems; perhaps because my pattern is to "do things."

In all honesty, I do a good job being compliant with treatment, tracking my moods and triggers, etc.  I have tricks that help, even when I am in a severe episode.  But I have been hospitalized multiple times and do take some powerful medication. 

I was not "permitted to leave" during the argument, because we eventually wound up in the Chair's office. So Chair was in control and is not especially good at dealing with situations like this, so it just kept going as a shouting match, until I completely broke down.

I told two colleagues, because the relationship I have/had with them also included components of a friend relationship.  My relationship with Chair is strictly a professional relationship.

I might go speak with disability services, but I have never done that.

I think the disabilities people could be especially helpful to you in managing any fallout from this episode, and preventing something like it from happening again. If it becomes necessary (if your Chair makes any more comments, for example), a meeting with your Chair and a disabilities counselor could sort through what happened, and set ground rules for any future situation. The fact is that your Chair handled the past incident poorly from any perspective, not just for someone with a disability; allowing a situation to continue to escalate like that is just plain bad personnel management. It was particularly harmful to you, though, because it prevented you from using your own appropriate coping mechanisms--something your Chair may need some help to understand.

For your own protection, too, it may be a good idea for your Chair to understand that you are well managed: that you are compliant with treatment and have learned good coping strategies. And, of course, he needs to know quite clearly that it would be illegal for him to discriminate against you in any way, or to allow anyone else to do so.
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"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
chaosbydesign
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« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2012, 1:01:54 PM »

I'm kind of surprised that so many people consider bipolar a disability. I never would have thought about talking to the disabilities office about it, and I wouldn't consider myself disabled. (I am also bipolar, for anyone who doesn't know that already.) I'm not suggesting it's a bad idea to talk to the disabilities office, it's just something I hadn't thought about.
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prytania3
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« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2012, 2:47:29 PM »

I'm bipolar 1 and the whole world knows, including all my colleagues. I don't know what the big deal is about people finding out. First, if you ever have a breakdown, it's really great to have that stuff on file, which I did with the HR folks. Also, if you have an episode, everyone just shrugs it off without taking it personally. I apologize for having the episode and that's that.

I do pretty well these days, but flare ups can and do still occur. They are more rare than they used to be, though

The deal with bipolar being your personal business is that it's usually not. Bipolar people can have episodes that affect others. If you are bipolar, people tend to forgive you a lot easier than if you're a screaming a**hole with no good reason for being a screaming a**hole.

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