Love in Times of COVID-19

Think of love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself. “Love in Times of Cholera” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Six feet apart. 72 inches. The wingspan of a bald eagle.

The distance meant to protect us physically has harmed many psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. As Governor Andrew Cuomo recently put it, “People are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics.”  The emotions vary in content and intensity: anxious, depressed, bored, and all that flows from couped-uped-ness, from mild to griddle hot.

Then there’s loneliness.

Wired: Anxiety Strikes When I Talk at Harvard Law School

Freud was of the opinion that in fear a person is responding to a specific and immediate threat to physical safety while in anxiety a person is responding to a threat that is objectless, directionless, and located somewhere far off in the future—ruination, for example, or humiliation, or decay. Daniel Smith, Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

I spoke at Harvard Law about the challenges of living with depression and the epidemic of poor mental health in the legal profession. It was a memorable event.

Days before I am scheduled to talk, my sleep goes cuckoo. I become incredibly anxious about my speech. What if I fall flat on my face? I graduated from some third-tier law school, after all. I don’t belong lecturing at Harvard.  My churning night time ruminations now seep into my days as the event gets closer.

Real Men Cry: Men & Depression

“A lazy part of us is like a tumbleweed. It doesn’t move on its own. Sometimes it takes a lot of depression to get tumbleweeds moving.”  – Robert Bly, Morning Poems

Growing up the son of a WWII vet, my dad’s parenting style could best be described as minimalist: punishment at his leisure as alcoholics are prone to do; hard, physical labor built character; and praise came from athletic accomplishments like football which prized hitting.

Crying? Only once as a young child. Dad’s reaction? “I’ll give you something to really cry about if you don’t knock it off. Only girls cry!” Looking at him through the eyes of a child, the message was clear: Crying (or any display of sadness) was never to be done again if I wanted his approval (In essence, his love which never came).  As I grew older, he added this maxim: Pain, physical or emotional, was to be endured, if not conquered.

Living with Depression: A Commercial

SAMSHA in Washington, D.C. asked me, and others, to be in this PSA about living successfully with mental illness and how important support is in recovery. I am proud of what they produced, but it’s often not easy for me to talk about living with depression. I don’t want to be defined by it. More importantly, I don’t want others to define someone else who is, likewise, struggling with a mental health problem. I hope this commercial helps.

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone: Finding Support When You’re Depressed

 

Strong, supportive relationships are one of the best safeguards against depression. In fact, studies have found that good social support helps to protect both our psychological and physical health.  Sharing our lives with others is pleasurable and helps us feel better at times when we feel down. The process of talking about our problems and being listened to by someone who cares can be healing by itself.

Friends provide us with many important things such as emotional support, practical assistance and information, a different perspective on our problems, a sense of personal worth and belonging, and ideas for solving problems.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Anxiety and Depression

Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is.

It can generally can take two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation, and imagining making a catastrophe out of a future situation.

Decastrophizing means mentally bringing the problem back to its proper perspective.

We may end up recognizing that a situation rates only a “5” or “10” on our awfulness scale and not the “95” that we currently perceive.  Decastrophizing means more than purely acknowledging that our feared situation is unlikely to arise. It means considering the consequences if it should arise.  It means considering the consequences if it should arise, and recognizing that in any event, we would cope.

The Other Country: Depression

My life has been a journey.  Much of it spent in wonderful places, with awesome people I deeply love, and transcendent experiences. I’ve also had my share of the topsy-turvy curveballs of life’s tribulations that happen to everyone: loved ones dying, friendships fizzling, and adult children leaving home.

But depression doesn’t happen to everyone.

A Dream

I’m in a dream of driving my car through a countryside landscape.  My window’s open and the fresh air is blowing in. It’s sunny, and the road is sharply winding.  I arrive at a border crossing and drive from the land of a healthy life into one of darkness that is depression.  The air is stale and lifeless, hanging down like a musty drape.  I close my car window.  Looking through my windshield, I see only murky clouds. The landscape is barren and absent of people.  I turn to make a U-turn to make it back across the border, but something blocks my path.  I’m lost in this place.  I don’t have a map. All signs and traffic signals make no sense.  It’s hard to think straight. I drive around for hours, maybe days, and eventually make cross back into this sweet land of the living where I hope, live, and love.

Can We Undo Lawyer Depression? A Psychologist Weighs In

This blog is by Dr. Richard O’Connor, a psychologist in NYC who has treated patients with depression for almost 40 years. He is the author of the best-selling book “Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You” and appears in the documentary, “A Terrible Melancholy: Depression in the Legal Profession.”

There’s some interesting research to suggest that happy people view the world through certain comforting illusions, while depressed people see things more realistically. For instance, the illusion of control. You can take a random sample of people and sit them in front of a video monitor with a joy stick, and tell them their joy stick is controlling the action of the game on the screen. (But the point of experiment is that it actually doesn’t). Depressed people will soon turn to the lab assistant and complain that their joy stick isn’t hooked up correctly. Normal people, on the other hand, will go on happily playing the game for quite some time.

The Elephant in the Room at Law Firms? Lawyer Depression

I was 40 years old when depression first struck.

I was a trial lawyer and managing partner at my firm. From the outside, I was successful: a high-paying career, interesting work, a great family, and lots of friends.

From the inside, however, something was terribly wrong.

There was a deep sadness that wouldn’t go away. Before this time, I had gone to therapists for stress-related issues. Therapy always worked. After a few months talking things through, I always felt better and stopped going.

But this time, it was different. Things didn’t get better.

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