I was never in the closet with my Bipolar Disorder, mostly due to the fact that I was so crazy the first time I was diagnosed that I needed a medical reason to explain away my behavior. The fact that I called everyone I knew from the mental hospital and told them where I was and sort of why I was there didn’t help either. Luckily, my employer at this time was more than understanding of my absence, and a few days after my hospitilization, I was given a clean bill of health and was back to work.
The reality is that it is not easy for everyone to admit they have a mental illness as there is still a stigma attached. It tough for someone newly diagnosed to tell others, and there are definitely times when it is not a good idea to let people know. When should you let your boss know (if ever)? How about telling a new boyfriend or girlfriend on the scene? “Hi my name is ___________ and I have Bipolar Disorder” may work well at group therapy, but I wouldn’t advise doing it on a dating web site.
Most people suffering from BIpolar Disorder would advise you to wait until you feel comfortable enough with them to tell the people you know. Of course, I took the opposite route and told nearly everyone I knew at least some of my stories (the time I painted lipstick all over body in a strange ritual of only one is a doozy), but full-disclosure is not always necessary.
You should also be aware that Bipolar Disorder is covered by the American Disabilities Act. According to this article from PsychCentral, this means that your employer can’t force you to disclose your Bipolar Disorder to them, so again, keep it under wraps until you are comfortable.
Being legally protected does not necessarily take the sting away of Bipolar Disorder. I was once unable to work for a long period of time due to a mind-numbingly crippling depression. While I couldn’t work, my self esteem suffered not only because of my lack of productivity, but by the fact that I felt like I was being viewed as a lower class citizen by people around me. Even now, I work on a slightly different schedule and sleep more because of my meds- I feel like I’m perceived as a lesser person as a result. The main thing to remember is that even if other people fail to understand you, you are doing your best.