02 December 2019 ... min read Listen

Mood swings are part of me

I know what I need to do my work and stay healthy.

For as long as can remember, I’ve had three kinds of moods. First of all, there are periods where I feel endless energy and enthusiasm. Those are times when I think I’m on top of the world, and I know everything better and faster than anybody else. To compensate, there are times when I feel depressed, drained and lack any confidence. And then there are times when I’m more stable. Luckily these stable phases last longer.

For years, I was able to work and live with this. My colleagues saw me as someone who contributed to the result and accepted me for who I was.

It all changed some 10 years ago. I was part of a large project at ING. I was in non-stop meetings from 9 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon, and was also working most evenings and weekends. At the time, I didn’t think it was special. I liked the pressure, and the project gave me adrenaline to keep on going.

But of course, I was fooling myself. My mood swings were getting more extreme, until they reached a point where they seriously bothered my colleagues. I would get angry during meetings, slam doors, or walk off crying. I know that this quite simply isn’t the way we work at ING and doesn’t fit with our Orange Code behaviours.

That’s why I decided to write a letter to my colleagues to tell them about my problem, that I have bipolar disorder. It created sympathy, but it didn’t solve anything. I was ill, and more than that: at that point I had become my illness. I thought it would be good for me to keep on working, but I was wrong. Finally I decided to take some time away from work.

Getting back, but different

It took me two years and a lot of treatment to recover. Getting back to work wasn’t easy. What should I say to my future manager about my disease? I was lucky enough to find a team that gave me the opportunity to show my capabilities. Now I’m back at my old department at Real Estate Finance, being product owner of two squads. Yep, I still work 50 hours a week. And I still like chaos and high-priority projects – that’s me!

But this time, I’m doing things differently. I’m in control. My biggest priority is to make sure that I don’t fall ill again. I know what I need to do my work and stay healthy. Of course, I take medication, but more importantly, I strictly guard the balance between performing and resting. For a long time, too much sound at our workplace bothered me. And it was no problem in that team to speak up if people are too noisy. One day of working from home per week is a life saver for me. And when I notice that stress is building up too much, I know I need to take a step back.

Did I tell everyone that I have bipolar? No, but close colleagues know about it.

Being more open about these things is super important, because it will help you explain to others what you need to be successful. But it’s not black and white. I feel ING is a safe place to do so. I also think that managers should be coached more in dealing with colleagues who are in my situation. My tip for managers is: ask questions about your employees’ behavior, but don’t speculate about what’s behind it. Leave that to the experts. And don’t be overconcerned. I can have an off-day, like every normal human being. I am not my illness any more, I am just Gabriëlla.

Accessibility at ING: leaving no one behind

We may be the orange bank, but we like purple quite as much. The colour purple stands for disability, people who deserve to have access to employment, social activities, education, just like anybody else. That’s why this year, we have embarked on an ING Accessibility Journey. The main goals are to increase self-reliance in financial services for all customers and supporting an inclusive workforce, inclusive hiring and learning about accessibility for all ING employees. The first priority of the programme is raising awareness, for instance by hosting an event celebrating the International Day for People with Disabilities in Amsterdam on 3 December.

At ING we celebrate inclusion and value a diverse workforce, as we know people are most motivated when they are free to be their whole selves.

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