DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - Amy Griffith pulled the worn piece of paper from her purse. Reading over the names, she finds comfort, hope and acceptance.
Some of the world’s greatest artists, performers and thinkers - Winston Churchill, William Wordsworth, W.B. Yeats, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolfe, Florence Nightingale, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rosemary Clooney and Vincent Van Gogh - fill the page.
“These people beautified the world. The world was a better place because they were in it. And every single one had bipolar disorder. I am a part of their group,” Griffith said.
Griffith, a Decatur attorney, joined the group in 2009. During the past five years, Griffith, her parents, husband and friends have undertaken an emotional journey that has tested their resolve and relationships.
Now, the 46-year-old wants to share her story.
“Bipolar is like the monster no one wants to talk about. Since no one talks about it, no one really understands it,” Griffith said. “I hope to help people learn what this illness is. I hope to dispel some fears. I hope to put a very human face on bipolar disorder.”
Naomi Griffith paused for a second, trying to find the right words to describe the daughter she watched grow - from the musical girl who played bassoon in the Decatur High School band, to the college student who landed internships at Birmingham law firms, to the empathetic woman she knows today.
“Amy is incredibly gifted. She is smart, independent, articulate, musical and athletic. She has a real sense of understanding about people and how they think. She’s pretty remarkable,” Naomi Griffith said.
A social worker by trade, Naomi Griffith never worried about her daughter’s mental health. The little bit of unpredictability and moodiness Amy Griffith displayed in middle school and high school, Naomi Griffith attributed to her “just being a teenager.”
After graduating high school, Amy Griffith attended Birmingham Southern College, where she studied English and history, joined a sorority and met the man, Brian White, who would become her husband.
“Brian has been the most important part of everything. He is as solid as a rock and has never wavered. He is a major part of her success, and I thank God for him every single day,” Naomi Griffith said.
It was 1987 when White became friends with the girl with the infectious smile and outgoing disposition. For most of college, they dated other people. Then, their friendship turned into something more.
“I don’t know how to explain it. It was just one of those things where time and circumstance brought us together. Basically, I got lucky,” said White, also a Decatur attorney.
To the outside world, Amy Griffith’s life appeared charmed. At 25 years old, the University of Alabama School of Law graduate was engaged to the man she loved and, after passing the bar exam on her first attempt, worked in one of Birmingham’s prestigious firms.
No one knew that Amy Griffith felt lost in her office in the building on 20th Street in the heart of Birmingham. Because she could not speak without crying, she volunteered for in-depth solo research projects. From her office window, she looked down on the city and dreamed of switching places with the landscaper grooming the bushes.