May 8, 2024

Living and Working with Bipolar Disorder

Long time Prechter Program research participant shares her story about working and living with bipolar disorder.

Wendy Ascione-Juska has been a research participant with the Prechter Program for 17 years. She has her Masters in social work and has been a lifelong advocate for those living with bipolar disorder. In 2022, NAMI Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ken Duckworth published his book “You Are Not Alone.” Wendy was interviewed for the book and while talking to Dr. Duckworth, she reflected on her work experience as a person who lives with bipolar disorder. She shared the struggles she faced after experiencing a major manic episode in which she was hospitalized. After returning to work, her employer placed her on probation and eventually fired her. Wendy says that she was told to leave her personal life out of work.

The interview for “You Are Not Alone” led to Wendy doing another interview—this time for NAMI National. For this interview, which you can watch below, Wendy expands on those work experiences and the need for workplaces and employers to make accommodations for their employees to live and work well. Wendy shares that her experience working at the University of Michigan was life changing. About six to nine months after starting her job at U-M, she experienced another manic episode. At the time, her new supervisor was more concerned with her getting well, instead of letting her go.

Wendy’s experience is a testament that it is possible for a workplace to be understanding and accommodating of its employees.

Wendy is now in a different job, still at U-M, but shares that she’s still in a good place with her work life and mental health. She shares that her daughter is now 18 months old and watching her grow has been very rewarding.

Wendy remains a participant in the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder. She started participating back in 2007 and talks about the importance of participating in research. “I’ve been here since 2007 and it feels like there’s changes throughout the years on what bipolar disorder is and how to treat it…[this] wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have participants in the longitudinal setting.”

Wendy was recently nominated for an Advocacy Trailblazer award for the Social Health Awards. She continues to be advocate for herself and others through her work with NAMI and participation with the Prechter Program.

To watch Wendy’s NAMI interview, click here!