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.
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.
- Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life by Melody Moezzi. I chose this book because she, like me, is an attorney that struggled with Bipolar Disorder.
- An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. My psychologist, an expert on Bipolar Disorder, recommended her book.
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.