Local Tennis Legend Reveals Childhood Details in Recently Released Memoir

By ISABELLA KOZ | Contributing Writer

After living for 50 years with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, tennis star and Palisadian Julie Heldman has earned the title of survivor time and time again.

Heldman was born into a family that was considered “tennis royalty,” causing extreme expectations from her mother. As a woman who began the magazine World Tennis in 1953, Heldman shared that her mother had no intention of accepting any shortcomings of her

The book


“While my mother was widely admired by the public, no one knew that she abused me emotionally at home, through verbal attacks, neglect and humiliation,” Heldman shared with the Palisadian-Post.

Heldman in 1972
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Shortly after attending an entire summer at tennis camp with her sister, Heldman’s response to the abuse resulted in a “desperate need to succeed.” Throughout her career, Heldman won 22 women’s tournaments, with wins against stars like Billie Jean King and Margaret Court.

She went on to earn three medals in the 1968 Olympics and three gold medals at the Maccabiah Games. In 1970, Heldman was also one of the “Original Nine” at an event in Houston, which became the first tournament of the Women’s Pro Tour.

“Due to a combination of my childhood trauma and my undiagnosed mental illness, I pushed myself relentlessly to succeed at everything I touched,” Heldman continued.

As she stepped away from competing in 1975, she branched out toward journalism and broadcasting, yet eventually ended up attending UCLA School of Law.

From her graduation year of 1981, Heldman practiced law until 1985 when she decided to go into the eyewear business with her husband, Bernie. Their co-owned business was successfully run until 2000, when her health caused her to take a significant break from working.

“In 1996, when I was 50, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I began taking psychotropic medicines, which can be harmful,” Heldman explained. “By 2000, my mental health had deteriorated so significantly that I had a breakdown, which caused me to quit working. The breakdown lasted for 15 years.”

Winning in 1969

For four years, Heldman spent time writing her first book “Driven: A Daughter’s Odyssey,” which outlines her struggles and adversities throughout her career and the abuse that her mother inflicted upon her as a child.

The book has been praised from a diverse audience—those who have too have struggled with mental illness or abuse, to people who have an affiliation with tennis.

“Driven: A Daughter’s Odyssey” was published in August 2018 and is available for purchase through Amazon.