Attorney, Private Practice
Living with bipolar disorder

A commercial litigator who has represented some of the nation’s largest public corporations, Ted experienced four episodes of severe depression over 40 years. Since the late 1990’s he has been emotionally stable and in remission. While there are still family and work-related problems to deal with, he has the tools to cope and says his life is “better and more fulfilling than it has ever been.”

Ted’s Story

When were you first aware of your condition?

My first episode of major depression was in 1973. Over a period of several weeks, my emotional state gradually fell without my being able to understand what was happening. I eventually became suicidal and ended up being hospitalized before I could harm myself.

What helped you get well and move to stability?

During the early stages of recovering from an episode, it was largely a matter of allowing time for the medication to become effective and for my brain to heal. Aerobic exercise was beneficial in raising my spirits. In addition, I found that diet and rest were very important.

From a clinical standpoint, antidepressants were very helpful in bringing me out of the dark holes of depression. The addition of a mood stabilizer was also extremely beneficial. While my stubbornness caused me to refuse psychotherapy for 13 years, eventually I went to an outstanding psychiatrist who radically changed – and probably saved – my life. I had years of intense psychotherapy, which was critical to my recovery.

My decision to go public with my mental health history was a watershed event in dealing with my illness. My efforts to help others who have these conditions have been very therapeutic for me. Speaking at legal conferences before large groups of lawyers has helped me free myself from the shame and guilt associated with “mental illness.”

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

Recognize that you are dealing with an illness that is treatable and manageable.

Take the potential threat of suicide seriously… make a commitment to your doctor or someone else that you will not take any action toward suicide without calling.

Find a psychotherapist in whom you have confidence. If he or she prescribes medication, recognize that it can take weeks to tell if it is working for you. You may have to experiment with more than one medication.

Finally, be aware of the dangers of social withdrawal and isolation, which are strong tendencies for people dealing with psychiatric illness. An excellent way to overcome these tendencies is to join a confidential support group sponsored by DBSA, NAMI, or some other mental health organization.