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Jan Wiley Celebrates a Life Worth Living

The inspiration behind his gift to support research in mental illness
Posted April 10, 2015
Grateful patient Jan Wiley supports the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences with a charitable gift annuity, an opportunity to  receive income and tax savings with his gift. IMAGE: Will Kirk Grateful patient Jan Wiley supports the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences with a charitable gift annuity, an opportunity to receive income and tax savings with his gift. IMAGE: Will Kirk

For much of his life, Jan Wiley felt like he was on a nonstop roller coaster, and it wasn’t always a fun ride. Wiley has bipolar disorder, a serious medical condition with periods of extreme elation and deep depression. He was first diagnosed in 1968, but it would be many years, doctors, and medications later before he arrived at Johns Hopkins for life changing treatment and care. In a candid interview the successful attorney describes a smoother ride, and the inspiration for his mutually beneficial gift to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Ups. “Most of the time I was up, but being up all the time gets you in an awful lot of trouble. I couldn’t get enough women. I couldn’t get enough booze. I couldn’t get enough acclamation. When I was up, I could do anything, and nobody, except for my own family, would have any idea that something was wrong.”

And Downs. “Then I would crash to the bottom. It was horrible. I used to stand in front of my mirror right before going to work and make my face look like the Jan that everybody knew, someone who was always having fun and always smiling. I was too embarrassed not to make that happen even if it was a phony thing to do.”

Comfort Zone. “I was ready to give up until I came to Johns Hopkins. I met Dr. [Susan] Lehmann, who allowed me to get a life that’s worth living, a life that isn’t affected by bipolar disease because it’s being controlled. It’s like finding out you only had one arm and were given another one! I became a member of the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers committee of the bar association and gave speeches about how to recognize bipolar disorder and not to be scared of it. Speaking about it made me even feel more comfortable in my disease. It used to be that bipolar was something you didn’t want to talk about: You didn’t want to tell anyone you had it, and you felt sorry for someone who did.”

Gratitude. “I really wanted to do my part in helping Hopkins, and the charitable gift annuity was a good approach. I’m 77, and who knows how long I could live, so I like the extra income it provides. Most of all, I have the great satisfaction in knowing that when I pass away, my gift will help support the great work Hopkins is doing to bring mental health to the forefront of medicine.”

Honorable Mention. “My gift honors Dr. Lehmann and the influence she has made on my life. She is not only my doctor; she is a great teacher and a good friend. And boy, she has always been there to support me. I never had a doctor like that. She is just a special person in my life, and always will be.”