I am a bipolar, HIV+ former Washington, DC BigLaw attorney. After six years of practice in one of the most prestigious DC-based law firms, I allowed my life to unravel in ways that I could not and still do not understand.  I could not rationalize why, after having excelled at two top-ranked institutions and having landed a fantastically high paying job in BigLaw, I was gambling away extraordinary sums of money, buying and selling expensive cars, drinking myself into a stupor on a nightly–and occasionally daily–basis, and having so many unsafe sexual encounters that I eventually contracted HIV+.  It was not my first hiccup in life.  However, it was by far the one most devastating to my life and my professional career.  And now I’m writing a memoir about it.

Bipolar in BigLaw: A Memoir

As you may or may not know, one hoped-for outcome of this entire project is either a collection of autobiographical essays or, with a little luck, perhaps a published memoir of sorts.  Maybe it is my legal training, but before putting pen to paper, I have decided to do some research first. While I am a decent legal writer, I have no experience with autobiographical writing.  I am therefore reading the autobiographies of other accomplished professionals who struggled with Bipolar Disorder and succeeded.  My hope is to learn how they tell their stories so that I might learn how to tell my own.  I am not writing a legal brief.

Researching: The Reading List

Right now my reading list includes the following two books by professionally successful women who, it appears, did not allow Bipolar Disorder to constrain their careers.  I do, however, assume it took them on a wild ride.

I am researching An Unquiet Mind, a memoir by Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Johns Hopkins University
The memoir An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

Although I have not yet lifted the covers, I have chosen these women’s stories because they have already done what I hope to do in the second half of my life.  Rather than merely survive, they have thrived.

Writing: Some Raw Material for You

In the meantime, while I am researching rather than writing, you can check out my Ask Me Anything, a thread I started in May of this year, before I had even received my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.  The thread is hosted on Reddit, where it will live until I have produced something more structured and cohesive to share.  In it you will find some of the raw material that will eventually find a home here.  It is raw, extremely unedited, and framed in the form of answers to questions asked by anonymous internet posters.  It is very Not Suitable For Work.

I cannot stress enough how unedited that thread is.  Perhaps in a way it reflects my own unedited mind at the time the thread was active.  My doctors and I all agree that I was experiencing a degree of mania when I began this endeavor.  I believe it shows.

Optimistic Despite It All

Regardless of the outcome, I am already grateful to have thrived during the first half of my life. I attended some of the best universities and had a successful legal career before the illness intervened.  Many others with the same potential did not have the luck and support that I had.  It is with them in mind that I work on this project.  If I produce something–anything–that helps one person thrive, even if I receive no recognition or monetary compensation, I will sleep comfortably at night.

As for the second half of my life?  Well, let’s just say that it is still very much a work in progress.  I intend to thrive, and I am grateful for the support of my loving, pseudonymous husband Ezra.

And as always, I will continue to remain Optimistic Despite It All.

p.s. At some point, depending on the level of attention this project achieves, I will lift the pseudonyms.  For now, though, no need to put cart before horse.

p.p.s. In case any domain name hijackers are reading this (why?), I have already claimed optimisticdespiteitall.com.

Researching Before Writing My Memoir(?)
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