Mental Fitness: Reaching out and connecting, we are blazing a new trail

June 27, 2018

mental-fitness-murtaugh.jpgIn March, I received a call from an attorney who had read the Indiana Lawyer article where I disclosed my bipolar diagnosis. The attorney shared that they had recently been diagnosed as bipolar. We now communicate regularly.

The attorney asked me if I was interested in reaching out to the other attorneys that I have connected with through writing the articles and starting a support group in Indiana. I was uncertain about whether to do it, so I took some time to think about it.

I met with some people who have experience with supports groups. I also attended the JLAP volunteer training in Brown County in April. I shared the idea with some people at the conference. I explained that there are only two other attorneys in Indiana who have reached out to me since I shared my bipolar diagnosis in January 2017. I also shared that I have connected with several attorneys across the country who have shared their diagnosis with me but have not publicly disclosed it. I searched but could not find any others who have publicly disclosed, so I started asking people if they knew of anyone. A JLAP staff member, who I met at the conference, shared an article with me about an attorney who recently made partner at a large New York law firm and who publicly shared his experience with depression.

After reading the article, I was interested in learning more about the online support group the author mentioned. It has been another great experience to connect with this attorney. I learned more about the project and was invited to participate. It is not just an online support group. They are working on a website that will allow the group members to share information. The founders sent this message to the group: “Ultimately, the hope is that we can all grow this project organically into something that really makes a difference in people’s lives.”

This was a game-changer in my mind. Since I started this journey, it has been my goal to be a part of something bigger than myself. Being involved with this project means that goal has been accomplished in my mind. I believe something special is ahead for all of us. We are just getting started.

I decided that I am not ready to commit to starting a support group at this time. Instead, I am planning a one-time meeting in Lafayette later this summer. If it goes well, I would like to do another meeting somewhere in northern Indiana this fall. The call I received in my office in March put this all into motion.

I envision the summer meetup as a meet-and-greet rather than a support group meeting. There will not be a mental health professional involved. It also will include a brief roundtable and exchange of ideas and a short meditation session. I am hoping to secure a date and venue in the next couple of weeks. Your input is welcomed, and this event will be open to everyone — not just attorneys, and not just people diagnosed as bipolar.

Beneficial articles and media

• Mariah Carey publicly disclosed her battle with bipolar disorder: “Mariah Carey, It’s Time to Finally Share My Story,” People Magazine, April 23, 2018, https://people.com/music/mariah-carey-bipolar-disorder-diagnosis-exclusive/

• Demi Lovato released a documentary about her battle with bipolar disorder that was nominated for Best Music Documentary for the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, “Simply Complicated,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.

• I connected with Brian Cuban, who asked me to do a profile for his Above the Law Column: “The Bipolar Lawyer,” Above the Law, May 16, 2018, by Brian Cuban, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/05/the-bipolar-lawyer/

Mental fitness exercise: reach out

One phone call can have a great impact. Who can you reach out to? Put it on your calendar and make the call. You will thank yourself for doing it.•

Reid D. Murtaugh is attorney in Lafayette and the founder of Murtaugh Law. You can email Reid at reidmentalfitness@gmail.com. Also, you can learn more about Reid’s practice at www.murtlaw.com.