Thoughts from a once-depressed lawyer
I’m not ready to be open about this because I’m afraid of the repercussions, so I will remain anonymous. You see, depression isn’t treated the same as other illnesses. It carries a stigma with it.
I graduated from law from school and soon became an attorney who won more cases than lost. I’ve helped people get their homes back, saved some from domestic violence, and assisted single mothers get the support they need for their children. I’ve accomplished much more than others at this point in my life. Yet, I find it difficult to celebrate my victories. I don’t believe I am as successful as others think I am. There’s a voice inside of my head that tells me that the people are just being nice. I’m not really that successful. Anyone can do this.
At most times, I loathe myself. I try to get back up, but fail, and that makes me feel even worse about myself. When I go home I isolate myself from everyone else. All I want to do is sleep so I don’t have to think.
Some treat me as if I can just snap out of it, and that it’s all in my head. I wish that were the case.
Sometimes I think about suicide, but I know I would never go through with it. I couldn’t do that to my family. It would be so nice, though, to be able to relax and not feel as if I’m constantly in a relationship with a black cloud. I don’t want to feel this way. I miss the days of laughter and fun. Why can’t I get back to being me?
I have severe depression. It affects the way I think, and it’s a major burden on my life…but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight it.
After staying in bed for three days straight, I decided I had to do something about my mental state before I hurt my family or my clients became victims of a negligent lawyer. I sought help, and it was worth it.
Reluctantly, because I thought no one would ever be able to help me, I called the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program. From the first moment the friendly clinician answered the phone, I had hope. I told her how I found it difficult to be happy, to get out of bed and go to work, even though I used to love helping people. She listened as I spilled out all of the negative thoughts and inner feelings that I had kept inside for so long. Just being able to unleash those words was the first step in healing. She invited me in for an assessment, and I took the first available appointment.
OLAP guided me through the tough journey of treating depression. There is no miracle cure for this mood disorder, but you can get through it with the right treatment plan. OLAP recommended that I see a psychiatrist and a counselor. The psychiatrist assessed me to see if I needed to take medication, and I saw a counselor once a week for cognitive therapy, where I talked about my thoughts and the therapist taught me how to reverse my negative thoughts. After a year of cognitive treatment, I can say that I am now depression-free and am living a happy life.
I can’t say it was easy, but it was worth it. OLAP did not forget about me after that first assessment. They made sure to check up on me at least once every two weeks. I also had to check in with them so that they knew I was following my treatment plan. Knowing that I had people fighting for me was also helpful in my recovery.
Because OLAP is confidential, they did not have to disclose my depression to my employer, which eased my stress level about what my employer would do if they found out I was ill with depression.
If you suffer from depression, you are not alone. Twenty-eight percent of attorneys struggle with some level of depression, and 19 percent show symptoms of anxiety.1 YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Depression is an illness that needs medical treatment. It cannot be cured on its own. I hope that more people begin to realize this. Most people living with depression are afraid to tell others about it in fear of being labeled as crazy or unstable. We need to educate the public about depression and how it needs to be treated as any other illness or disease.
As lawyers, we work together to help clients, to change laws. It’s time we also work together to end the stigma of mental health.
OLAP offers Ohio lawyers CONFIDENTIAL treatment options. For more information, go to ohiolap.org or call (800) 348-4343 or (614) 586-0621.
1 “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys,” by Krill, Patrick R. JD, LLM; Johnson, Ryan MA; Albert, Linda MSSW in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Journal of Addiction Medicine;