I have struggled with anxiety and depression for much of my life.
During adolescence, feelings of depression would flood me without warning, at unpredictable intervals and with no apparent pattern or length. Similarly, I would find myself feeling anxious and worried regarding everyday tasks such as school. These feelings came and went through college and law school. For the most part, I was able to get through those patches, but I never determined a trigger and, other than a brief stint with a counselor during college, I never really discussed my thoughts or feelings with anyone at length.
But during my first year out of law school, I found myself paralyzed with anxiety on more than one occasion while working at a large law firm in another state. What seemed to come naturally to everyone else did not come naturally to me – the workload, organization, hours uncertainty – it all took me off guard. Moreover, I appeared to be the only person who struggled with anxiety. All of my peers seemed to handle it with aplomb. I tried to find an explanation – it must be my boss, the firm, the kind of work. I took a clerkship and made a move. I married, had a child, and became a stay at home parent. The anxiety followed me everywhere. I worried about small things and big things, internal and existential.
The anxiety would alternate with periods of depression. Both manifested in physical symptoms – headaches and fatigue, but also migraine-level headaches that I determined were from grinding my teeth.
It was not until a series of personal tragedies that I got serious about pursuing cognitive behavioral therapy. In this process I learned about stopping negative thought loops, the importance of self-care, and ultimately in my case, the necessity of medication.
I did not learn about the Lawyer Assistance Program(LAP) until after I had pursued therapy elsewhere. Had I realized the abundance of resources LAP provides, I easily could have received help earlier. Seeking help from a lawyer-centered program not only would have been a relief, but it could have helped me at a pivotal time in my career when I thought maybe I just wasn’t meant to be a lawyer.
Fortunately, through volunteering with LAP, I have learned myriad self help skills that I continue to use and have heard the stories of lawyers like me who struggle with mental health. This knowledge has allowed me to view my legal practice in a more reasoned light and manage my anxious tendencies when parenting and working. While I wish I had been able to utilize LAP’s services earlier in my career, I am grateful for its services now.
If you have a story that you want to share anonymously, please contact Lisa Caplan, Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program at email@example.com.