I have a feeling you’ve been reading this blog.
I worried about that when I started writing on here again. I worried about expressing this side of me, which is not a side but rather an essential part of who I am. I’ve struggled with bipolar depression all of my life. It’s always with me.
It’s with me as I prep for my classes, as I answer questions, as I hold office hours, as I get to the podium and face you every day. Some days it is with me but very much in the background, so much that I don’t notice it. Other times it’s a strong undercurrent, depression moving me in one direction when I need to be moving in the opposite direction.
This semester has been much of the latter.
But you’ve noticed my pain and my attempt to progress. You’ve emailed me to express your gratitude for how hard I’m trying. You send me zoom chats saying “thank you professor!” or “we can see how hard you’re trying” and “no worries professor”! You’ve rallied behind me when my internet is not working, when the screen keeps freezing, when I’m choppy and you cannot hear me, when I give you wrong information that I then need to correct.
I worry that relationship, where you are extending grace to me, is unprofessional. Many people do not share their personal life at work, and for very good reasons. Many people want to keep these things separate. Many people do not even consider their coworkers to be their friends, choosing to draw a bright line of relationship that coworkers can never cross. And our personal life can contradict our professional persona, the identity that we want to be judged as competent.
I want you to see me as competent at the job of teaching you law. I want you to see me as a source of expertise. I want you to see my scholarship as interesting and something you want to learn more about.
But I also want you to know that competence is not easy and without challenges. I want you to know that I’ve had to ask for disability accommodations to survive this thing called bipolar disorder. (If you want to learn more, send me an email.) I want you to know that even when we are high-performing, we can also be struggling just to get out of the bed in the morning, struggling to shower and brush our teeth, struggling to have the strength and the energy to pick up a casebook and be ready for cold-calling. I’m struggling too and I see you.
So, to my students: thank you for your grace. Thank you for your notes of good wishes. Thank you for allowing this blurring of professional and personal persona because you are accepting and encouraging of me being all of me when I cannot separate them because that is simply not my journey. Not only will you be fine attorneys. You have shown yourselves to be really good people.