Melody Moezzi

Adversity: Diagnosed with bipolar disorder

Advocacy: Works to reduce the stigma of mental illness as an author, blogger, speaker

“The more I speak out and the more extraordinary people I meet who are living with mental illness, the more I realize I’m in incredible company, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Melody Moezzi is an activist, attorney, award-winning author, and visiting associate professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, all roles that require hard work and patience. And she’s no stranger to patience. It took 10 years, a suicide attempt, multiple stays in psychiatric hospitals and an improper diagnosis of unipolar depression before she was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But it wasn’t just mental illness that Melody struggled with. “When I got a proper diagnosis, I was told by many, including medical professionals, that I should lower my expectations for my life—effectively that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish,” Melody says. “Thanks to my parents—both Iranian immigrant physicians who’ve always taught me to always expect more of myself, even and especially when the rest of the world expected less of me—I didn’t believe those professionals, and I’m glad of it.”

Melody recognizes that she is privileged to have had such a supportive family that happens to include many physicians. Today, she works to fight the stigma, shame, and discrimination attached to mental health conditions, all of which she considers to be far more disabling than the conditions themselves. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, NPR,The Guardian, Inside Higher Ed, the Oxford American, The American Scholar, The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine and many other media outlets. Her second book, “Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life,” was published by Penguin/Avery in 2013 and broke new ground as the first mental health memoir by a Muslim or Middle Easterner. Her latest book “The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Life” was published by Penguin/TarcherPerigee in March 2020 and won a 2021 Wilbur Award.