A Transformational Melancholy: One Law Professor's Journey Through Depression
63 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2011 Last revised: 23 Jul 2013
Date Written: September 6, 2011
In the fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Legal Education, Professor James Jones shared his deeply personal, remarkable, ongoing, story of living, struggling and succeeding as a law professor with bipolar disorder (James T.R. Jones, Walking the Tightrope of Bipolar Disorder: The Secret Life of a Law Professor, 57 J. LEGAL ED. 349 (2007). His essay ended with an invitation to other members of the legal academy to contact him or Professor Elyn Saks, author of an extraordinary memoir about her life with schizophrenia, (ELYN R. SAKS, THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD (2007)) if interested in forming a confidential support group for legal academics with mental illness. This is my public response to Professor Jones’ invitation.
I, too, have struggled with a mental disorder. Luckily, however, unlike that of Professor James Jones or Elyn Saks, my story is one of episodic, not chronic, mental illness. Over the course of more than three decades, I have suffered six episodes of major clinical depression. However, I have been blessed with a combination of compassionate, loving people, wise professionals, a fair amount of good luck, and a basically optimistic and resilient personality. With the consistent support of family, friends, empathetic employers, and caring psychiatrists, I have, despite it all, thrived.
I share my story for several reasons. One is to join Professor Jones’ and Dean Saks’ brave campaigns to help de-stigmatize, to normalize, mental illness generally, and among the legal academy in particular. Another is my supposition that there are more law professors who have suffered from clinical depression similar to what I have experienced than have coped with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Finally, I hope to inspire others who have born mental illness to use their own experiences, when feasible, to help their students, colleagues, and the practicing bar.
Keywords: depression, mental health, mental illness, law professor, memoir, lawyer assistance programs
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation