Living with bipolar 1 disorder is quite the challenge. My manias are bad, but the depressions that follow are always worse. I recently started working a part-time marketing job. Work works for me. It gets me out of the house and gives me a purpose—not to mention a paycheck. Before the job, I would freelance a bit and blog for the brand I created. Through freelancing and blogging, I learned valuable organizational skills and how to work self-directed. Here are some tips to finding work that works and sticking with it.

Go to school or try to learn as much about your discipline online. While I have a journalism degree and a Master’s degree in Writing, I took many extra-curricular courses online in marketing, photography and writing. I also took courses at community colleges in internet fundamentals and grant writing. Be a life-long learner of your craft.

Create an online portfolio. I got my job because my employer read my blog and liked my writing style. I wrote and designed another web site for my other writing and photography on Weebly. Make sure you create online materials that reflect who you are in your industry and tell your story professionally and accurately. Remember to give it that creative edge to separate yourself from the pack.

Leave your personal life at home. Concentrate on the job when you are at work. Talk about other issues with friends, family, or a therapist. Even if the boss reads your blog, never talk about your illness or use it as an excuse publicly while at work.

It’s one day a time of good productivity. I use a planner, the Get to Work Book method, to schedule my time and I prioritize each part of a project accordingly. I try to do different tasks in different blocks of my day—to give myself some freshness and variety.

The Cardinal Rule #1: Never get too comfortable. My father told me this when I started the job. I try not to socialize or get too friendly with anyone. I never leave personal affects in my workspace overnight. I take nothing for granted and always act as if I could be canned the next day. I know. It’s super rigid but it keeps me on my toes and productive.

There is no such thing as downtime. Never use downtime to surf the web aimlessly. First of all, you don’t want to leave a trail for your employer to follow. Use downtime to enhance projects. Edit them a little more. Make a list of ideas that will help your employer’s brand.

Eat your lunch at your desk. This goes with the cardinal rule. Make your lunch a working lunch. Unless, you have lunch meetings with others, plan on eating alone with your work. Take bathroom breaks and coffee breaks when you need them though.

This is how I manage to thrive at work. Bipolar 1 or any mental illness diagnosis does not necessarily mean a life on disability. I am living proof that I can survive the workplace as well as self-employment.

Alexis (Maislen) Zinkerman is a writer, mental health advocate and journalist who writes the blog A Mile a Minute Fresh Takes on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction Her other web site is She has written for many other sites and publications and is a published author of Brooklyn’s Song, a novella about a teen who loses her best friend to suicide which is available on Amazon. She holds an MA in Writing from DePaul, and an MLIS from Dominican University.