Six years ago, when I was entering my seventeenth year in my law practice, I hit emotional crisis. I had been working so hard, for so long, and for much of that time I felt unhappy and anxious. My crisis came when I was in a meeting with another law partner. I felt a profound wave of sadness come over me, I lowered my head, and I began to cry. Nothing in particular that day triggered the breakdown. It was simply a culmination of years of undiagnosed anxiety and depression.
Looking back now, it is no surprise that I reached a place of crisis. Markers of emotional turmoil were present throughout much of my adult life. I was the victim of a violent home invasion when I was a teenager. The trauma of that event went untreated, substantially contributing to my emotional condition.
Leading up to the day of my crisis, uncontrolled frustration regularly bubbled to the surface. A deep sadness often overwhelmed me. I was anxious, nervous, and at times profoundly unhappy.
Up to that day, I kept having the same thought: “This is what a lawyer does. A lawyer’s job is hard. A lawyer’s job is mentally exhausting. A lawyer’s job is 24/7. The fact that I feel unhappy. The fact that I feel sad. The fact that I feel angry. That’s just what you do. You button up your suit and go into court.”
I was wrong!
The day I hit emotional crisis, I reached out to a psychiatrist who referred me to a therapist. The very next day I started seeing my therapist, and my personal journey to health began.
Through therapy, I learned how to embrace and manage my emotions. As I became healthy, I began to see the beauty in the world around me. Becoming healthy opened my eyes to a world that had hidden its face from me for so long. Important to my profession, through therapy, I found pleasure and meaning in the practice of law in ways never felt before.
I also learned that being mentally healthy required attention to proper life balance. Work could not be all I did. Therefore, I embraced healthy amounts of exercise, as well as getting outdoors and kayaking. These activities took me to a place of peace. Today, even when I don’t believe I have time to exercise or get outside, I make time. It is an important release that allows my mind to relax; this way, when the stress of my profession dominates my day, I am mentally rested and prepared to meet the challenge.
Now that I am healthy, I enjoy practicing law more than I ever have. I was a good advocate before; I’m a great advocate now because I’ve been able to shed so much of the emotional baggage that was holding me back.
My journey has also made me a better father, husband, friend, and colleague. You may need professional help like me. If so, please reach out to a professional. In other cases, you may simply need a friend to walk beside you. Mentors at Issues Lawyers Face are ready to provide a listening ear.