My name is Sam. I’m Director of Programming at COS. I have a Masters degree in Biometry, I live with my beautiful cockapoo Freyja, and I love to travel. I also have Bipolar disorder. It has affected me in many different ways since childhood, and whilst it is now treated with medication and therapy it still can have a profound impact on my day-to-day life. The lows can unfortunately all too easily become suicidal depressions, and the highs which start as decreased sleep and increased energy and capacity at work flip into a complete inability to sleep and extreme crippling anxiety.
For me starting a new job, knowing that at some point I am going to inevitably have an episode and need to “come clean” is terrifying. Will I be judged? Will I be treated differently? Will I be expected to hide it?
It is refreshing to not be in a workplace where I need to hide my illness or face the consequences. If I am starting to feel unwell I know that I can openly say so and can ask for any reasonable adjustments to help avoid a full blown episode from happening. It could be a shuffle of my workload or maybe a change in working hours.
If I’m going high, it might be two days off work to medicate and treat it before it gets too intense. Winters are hard for me, so I often sleep in one of the offices at lunch if it isn’t in use, to give me enough energy to get through the day. There’s even a blanket in there. I’m aware enough of my illness that I put things in daily to help. I block 10 minutes each morning and afternoon out for meditation and walk my dog at lunch whilst working from home. COS supported me through two hospital admissions when I unfortunately became seriously ill and my life was at risk, and aided me back into the workplace after with flexible hours and welfare meetings to ensure that I was ok and to check if anything further could be done.
I never thought that it would be possible for me to progress in a career whilst also managing bipolar disorder, but COS have enabled just that to happen. They have provided me with a job in which I can flourish, by allowing me the flexibility and reasonable adjustments I need to function at my best. People with disabilities can thrive in the workplace if only given the opportunities that they deserve. Believe me when I say that a working environment like mine is out of the ordinary, but it shouldn’t be that way.
Tara Symonds is COS's Chief Science Officer (CSO)
Sam's words are moving to read. Unfortunately, there are many who believe they have to cover and hide their struggle with mental health difficulties and it is our hope that we can work to change the commonly held view that such illness is shameful. Sam’s strength and resilience is proof indeed that this is not the case.
Sam’s openness and honesty about her condition has allowed us to work with her to ensure that the right support is available when needed and this has enabled her to continue working whilst managing her condition. Her ongoing struggles with bipolar can throw up real challenges for her but I am proud that we at COS have not added to her burden by causing any further worry or suffering. Sam has certainly flourished with COS and we are very proud of her achievements with us.