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Bipolar Disorder Plays Role in Patricia Cornwell's Financial Melée

Advisers squandered $40 million, says bestselling author with disorder.

Bipolar disorder plays a role in a lawsuit that mega-bestselling author Patricia Cornwell has filed against her financial advisers, on the premise that they are responsible for her loss of some $40 million dollars over the last four years.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the famous writer of mystery novels - who suffers from biipolar - claims that Manhattan-based Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP burned through her money and that of her partner, Harvard neuroscientist Staci Gruber.

The complaint reads in part: "Ms. Cornwell is a best-selling crime novelist whose ability to write is dependent upon the ability to avoid distractions. A quiet, uninterrupted environment, free of the distractions of managing her business and her assets, was essential to her ability to write and to meet her deadlines. Further, Ms. Cornwell openly acknowledges her diagnosis with a mood disorder known as bi-polar disorder, which, although controlled without medication, has contributed to her belief that it is prudent for her to employ others to manage her business affairs."

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This summer, "after four and a half years in which Anchin controlled Ms. Cornwell's ... business affairs and investments ... Ms. Cornwell demanded information as to her net worth.... Notwithstanding eight-figure earnings per year during that period ... Ms. Cornwell learned that [her and Gruber's] net worth, while substantial, was the equivalent of only approximately one year's net income. They also learned that Anchin had borrowed on their behalf collectively several million dollars, comprised of mortgages for real property and a loan for the purchase of a helicopter."

On the Q&A page of Cornwell's website, one question is "Do you in fact have bipolar disorder? ... What's the biggest day-to-day challenge in managing bipolar disorder?" The author replies:

"I do, and actually, this condition is quite common with artists). It is difficult to gauge how any medical condition affects one's professional performance, but my suspicion is that the great range of feelings or moods does have an impact on creative expression and the intensity of the work. I can't say that I am aware of a day-to-day challenge, but I suspect that for anyone who has any disorder (whether it is a psychiatric one or a physical one such as diabetes), it is inevitable that you tend to frequently monitor how you feel just to make sure that everything is in balance. And rather sadly, you tend to question yourself and your behavior more than someone else might. 

"It is important for people to understand a number of things when talking about psychiatric conditions, and this is why I feel free to discuss the matter. First, the manifestations of psychiatric and emotional difficulties are as varied as the people who have them, and the treatment of them is equally varied. It is very important to seek guidance and not start or stop medications without conferring with experts. Much can be controlled through one's lifestyle, but if medication is needed, to ignore it is to place yourself in harm's way. I could go on and on about this. What I especially want to emphasize is this: there should be no shame associated with psychiatric conditions! Suffering from depression, for example, is no different from having arthritis or any other physical disease. It is biological. You didn't ask for it, and getting help is simply the sensible thing to do now that there is so much help available.

"Frankly, I can think of much good that has come out of my own difficulties. I truly believe I am a better artist as a result, and I know I'm a better person because to feel pain or despair without understanding why, or to have episodes of being out of control and wishing you could take back something you said or did is truly humbling. To do what it takes to become a helicopter pilot, for example, and then have periods when you don't qualify for your medical certificate because you are on mood stabilizing medication (a stupid regulation, I think) is embarrassing and crushing (not the case with me right now, but I've been there more than once). From such painful and embarrassing experiences comes good: the acquisition of empathy and the loss of false pride."   

 

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On.

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