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Successful career + mental health diagnosis. It's possible

Are you concerned that a mental health diagnosis for you would sound the end of your career? If you are concerned that having a mental health diagnosis will negatively impact your career opportunities, you needn’t be. I have been fortunate enough to work with many successful people who have had mental health diagnoses and in my second career as a psychotherapist, I have had the privilege of supporting clients while they establish and grow their careers with a diagnosis. What these groups of people have in common is that they have accepted their diagnosis and chosen to build a career on their own terms, so they can leverage their strengths and build a sustainable career and lifestyle.  


A mental health diagnosis doesn’t have to define who you are or what you can contribute at work. Like many well people, you just need to find your way of working, that brings out the best in you and that supports you.


If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition or have recovered from one, it is highly likely that you are receiving psychological support to sustain and improve your mental health. If you haven’t, you may want to consider it. Medication on its own will not be enough in the longer term, even if it might seem easier now.


Talking therapy combined with medication is proven to be the most effective treatment for managing an existing mental health diagnosis.


Talking therapy on its own, is a proven treatment for managing and strengthening psychological health and you do not need a diagnosis to access and benefit from it. Many undiagnosed people already know this and have engaged in private pay, talking therapy to help them understand themselves better, enjoy better relationships with colleagues, friends and family and to design a lifestyle that brings them joy and as well as help them build resilience.  


How does mental health therapy work?

There is no simple answer to this question. Mental health therapy is different for each and every person, and if you do therapy two separate times those times could be completely different as well. Like in any profession not all therapists are the same and not all therapists work with clients in the same way, however conversation is at the crux of therapy. So, expect to talk!


As you and your therapist build a relationship which is based on the principles of openness, neutrality and non-judgement, the path to change emerges. Your thoughts and behaviours emerge that are keeping you from feeling and being at your best. No matter who you are, or how well you are. Often the diagnosis is and adaptive response, in an effort to maintain personal safety.


What is the goal of therapy?

The goal of therapy is to teach you how your mind, emotions and spiritual self, work together. By exploring this you are able to highlight unhelpful patterns of thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours and make a choice about what you would like to change within yourself. It’s an inside-out process as opposed to outside-in. A good therapist is a guide that can give you tools for change, and if any change is to occur, that is up to you.


For clients with mental health diagnosis, it’s often about your relationship to your diagnosis while continuing to meet your own expectations of yourself, which is invariably higher than that of your organisation.

One client of mine attends sessions regularly to work on her anxiety, so that her eating disorder does not re-establish itself. In the time we have worked together she has developed better coping skills, been given two promotions and further developed her skills in her chosen field. New colleagues are surprised when they learn about her struggles because if she hadn’t disclosed it, they would never know.


Your mental health diagnosis does not have to be the reason you are not able to progress your career. It just means you need to do it differently. Admittedly this will be different depending on your capacity, how you earn your income and the organisational supports available to you.


Can I be successful with a mental health diagnosis?

There are many well-known people who have been able to thrive in spite of their mental health diagnosis, which I hope will serve as inspiration to you. A quick Google search will give you the names of many creatives like Jim Carrey, Catharine Zeta-Jones and ‘The Rock’ Johnson.


Our very own John Curtin, the 14th Prime Minister of Australia sufferred form Biploar Disorder. 


Now you might be looking at the list and thinking 'yes, but...'. The reality is they too had to start somewhere. They needed to accept their diagnosis and work out how to leverage their strengths or perhaps decide what they wanted their strengths to be. They had to hustle and find supporters of their work and continue improving their craft. If you're up for it, you can too!


In a study conducted in 2015 with 243 entrepreneurs by UC Berkeley, 49% reported having one or more lifetime mental health conditions, 32% reported having two or more lifetime mental health conditions, 18% reported having three or more lifetime mental health conditions. The rates of depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance use conditions (12%) and bipolar diagnosis (11%) were higher than the general population and anxiety (27%) rates matched the general population. These findings are important as they suggest mental health symptoms may lead to highly advantageous and adaptive outcomes that benefit both the individual and society. So find yours!


If you have been holding yourself back because of a diagnosis or suspected diagnosis, you needn’t. Research is showing that your mental health could give rise to a set of talents that would otherwise would not be developed. If you are struggling to see how you can leverage your talents, with your diagnosis, book in a confidential call with me and we can explore how you can better manage your career and lifestyle so you experience more joy. 


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