While working on this column I went back and read the first four Mental Fitness articles I wrote in 2017. This reflection showed an obvious theme that appeared in each article that was unintentional: connection.
Here is an excerpt from each article:
Article 1: “I’m not scared of the bipolar stigma, it doesn’t define me.”
“I decided to be open about my bipolar diagnosis because I want to connect with other members of the profession.”
Article 2: “Sharing my diagnosis gives other attorneys courage to do the same.”
“Knowing that the article made an impact was very rewarding. People were emailing and calling, and it was fun to receive praise and attention. I hope the connections continue.”
Article 3: “Connecting outside the office, across state lines.”
“A struggle I constantly face is trying to find the time to connect. It is something I must make a priority, or it doesn’t get done. It is something that is easy to continue to push down to the bottom of the to-do list. But, when I allow myself the time to connect — locally or nationally, face-to face or electronically — I am instantly reminded of how good it feels.”
Article 4: “Danger of Burnout Syndrome is cause for future self-care”
“I am just one voice. I have enjoyed writing about my experience with publicly sharing my diagnosis and my activities, but I am ready to highlight the experience of others.”
This realization made me think about why I have a desire for connection and why I decided to publicly disclose my diagnosis. I know that my desire to write and reach others who suffer is difficult for some people to understand. Many people view mental illness as a personal matter that should be kept private. I see nothing wrong with keeping it private. I do not think that anyone with a mental health diagnosis should feel pressured to disclose. Dealing with the disease in this way is just part of who I am. It was something that I tried, and it has worked for me.
I have accepted that I am a person who needs help sometimes because of the disease. But I am not just a person who needs help. I am also a person that helps others. Acting to connect with and help others with their mental health makes me feel more powerful over the disease that often makes me feel powerless. I think it is important to remind yourself that there are very few successful people who never need help and only help others. Being a person who needs help may make you feel weak in the moment, but that is negative self-talk that should be ignored and will pass. A need for support does not mean you are weak and is often viewed by others as a sign of strength.
bp Magazine: “A lawyer’s case for disclosure”
I am very excited to share that I have been featured in the Winter 2018 issue of bp Magazine. When I started thinking about sharing my diagnosis in 2015, I never imagined that it would lead to an opportunity like this.
I was contacted by Elizabeth Forbes, editor of bp Magazine, in May 2017. She asked me if I wanted to be featured for a bp Magazine My Story profile. She explained that bp Magazine is “dedicated to providing information and inspiration on living well with bipolar disorder to readers across the US and Canada.” The My Story profiles tell a person’s story of how bipolar has affected them and how they have learned to live well and what that means, to give hope to others who suffer.
The magazine assigned Jennifer Goforth Gregory to write my profile. Jennifer then emailed me to schedule a phone interview. I talked with Jennifer on the phone one time for about an hour. She later e-mailed some follow-up questions and wrote the article. In December, I received two dozen copies of the magazine. I have been able to share with family, friends, colleagues, and my mental health professionals. The online version is available at https://www.bphope.com/a-lawyers-case-for-disclosure/.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I suffered from depression in 2015, and now I do not suffer at all. The last time I had a depressive episode was a couple of weeks ago. It lasted for about 10 days, and I endured some very intense emotional pain. I have much better coping mechanisms now, and it did not affect my ability to work significantly. These types of episodes occur much less frequently, but depression will always be part of my life.
Beneficial articles and websites
“Prison Break” star helping others with depression: “Wentworth Miller’s Escape From Stigma,” Esperanza Magazine, Spring 2017. https://www.hopetocope.com/wentworth-millers-escape-from-stigma/
“Emma Stone: So Normal,” Esperanza Magazine, Summer 2017. https://www.hopetocope.com/emma-stone-on-anxiety-panic-attacks/
Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute: https://www.okaytosay.org/
Mental fitness exercise:
New year’s reward resolution
Reflect on 2017 and identify one goal you accomplished but did not reward yourself for.
Make a resolution to reward yourself for the accomplishment through an act of self-care in the new year.•
• Reid D. Murtaugh is attorney in Lafayette and the founder of Murtaugh Law. You can e-mail Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org, and learn more about his practice at www.murtlaw.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.