Life After Congress: Lynn Rivers

Posted December 20, 2012 at 5:45pm

Former Rep. Lynn Rivers has never been ashamed of her bipolar disorder and says she always tried to be a model for other people suffering with mental illness.

During her first bid for the House, in 1994, Rivers, a Michigan Democrat, acknowledged her condition on a call-in radio show in an effort to suppress rumors that she was having a nervous breakdown.

“Yes, I am manic depressive; I am taking medication; and I am a member of the House of Representatives and good at my job,” she said of her four terms in Congress.

The subject arose anew this year when Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill., resigned five months after he began treatment for bipolar disorder.

Rivers still receives letters from patient groups she spoke to during her congressional years and from people she has inspired with the story of her struggle with the disease, which began when she was diagnosed at age 21.

Throughout her 20s, she endured highs and lows as doctors tinkered with her medications. Sometimes, she slept for 20 hours a day; on other days, she would fly into rages for no reason.

In her 30s, she finally settled on a cocktail of drugs that kept her on an even keel, and she was able to graduate from law school and run for Congress.

Since leaving the Hill, Rivers has tried to live a simple, relaxing life.

She teaches political science courses at Washtenaw Community College and the University of Michigan and lives with her dogs in Ann Arbor. Until last year, she hosted a radio show about politics and current affairs on her local NPR affiliate.

As a host of members begin planning for their lives after Congress this January, Roll Call is launching a new feature to let readers know “where are they now?” If that’s a question you’ve asked yourself about a former member or members, drop us a line. We’ll do our best to track them down.