How Lawyers With Depression Disappear

One of my favorite things to watch as a child with my dad was The Ed Sullivan Show; an extravaganza of bands, comedians, and ventriloquists all hamming it up in front of a live audience and folks across America glued to their first generation color T.V. sets.

magicianI once saw a famous magician perform, right after Liberace.  He stepped into a giant box onstage that he had set fire to and then . . . disappeared.  To my six-year-old eyes, that really was magic. Older, and perhaps a little wiser, I now know that it was a trick: only the appearance of disappearance.

It seems to me that lawyers with depression seemingly disappear from life.  They have the appearance of being present, but they really just aren’t.

They sit at their desks and look like they are doing their jobs, but inside they are someplace far away, a place where depression has taken them to, a dark cave beneath a turbulent neurochemical sea.

Why do lawyers so often hide when depressed?

Fear

They are scared to death.  They know that there is something seriously wrong with their lives and that it’s not going away. Their life, on a fundamental level, isn’t working. It is broken.  They can’t concentrate.  They are getting behind in their work. “What if other people realize that I’m not really as together as I seem to be?” they ask themselves.  “What happens if my job falls apart?”  Driven by these fearful redheaded demons, they go into hiding.  They disappear. They close their doors and surf the web trying to distract themselves from the pain of depression and the long list of things they need to do for work which just aren’t getting done.

Lack of Energy

Depression is a disease of inertia.  There is a limited supply of energy. It also seems as though the tank is nearing empty with no gas station in sight.  Anything that isn’t judged absolutely necessary gets left behind.  And make no mistake about it.  Depression is a killer and most in its clutches feel like they are just trying to survive it: sometimes a day at a time, sometimes from moment to moment.

Shame

Many lawyers disappear because they feel a deep level of toxic shame; that they are to blame for their depression.  They feel as if they are a big fat zero and deserve to disappear into . . . nothingness.  Shame isn’t the same as guilt.  Guilt is usually understood to involve negative feelings about an act one has committed while shame involves deeply negative feelings about oneself.  Embarrassment deals with exposure to one’s peers or society at large; shame can be experienced secretly – and often is.

If you were to look into their eyes very carefully, you might see a very deep level of sorrow.  A searing pain that they have tried to numb with food, alcohol, drugs, zoning out in front of the television to keep them going, a pain that haunts them.

They Want to Be Alone

One lawyer told me that suffering from depression and being in a room full of people was simply too much for her.  It was, as she described as if the depression in her head had “turned the volume in the room way up” and she couldn’t take all the stimulation; the noise of other people.  All that she wanted to do was be by herself.  She didn’t want to talk to anyone.  She just learned to be alone.  To go to bed, pull up the covers and drift into sleep’s merciful unconsciousness.  Author Ned Vizzini, author of the book It’s Kind of a Funny Story, wrote:

“I didn’t want to wake up.  I was having a much better time asleep.  And that’s really sad.  It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”

What kind of magician are you?  Do you go into hiding when you’re depressed?  Please share your stories with fellow readers of this site.  In my next blog, I will talk about what steps we can take to “reappear” in our lives.  How we can become re-engaged with the conversation of our lives.

Copyright, 2016, Daniel T. Lukasik, Esq.

 

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3 thoughts on “How Lawyers With Depression Disappear

  1. Hello ! Yes I am for sure the Magician who dissappears into the deep sleep ? 23 years diagnosed Bi polar and no medication .

  2. I “disappeared” completely from practicing law. I thought that everything was fine until my medication just stopped working, but I now realize that I was just very successful at outrunning my depression by burying myself in my work. When it caught up to me- and it always does- I was completely incapacitated. I spent the next 8 years after my breakdown feeling completely ashamed, like a total failure, and trying to hide it from everyone I knew in the legal profession.

    1. Karen, were you able to stay working in the legal profession or did you take a break and then get back in? Depression has had me sidelined for 5-6 years and I’m just now opening my own small practice. I too feel like a total failure and also feel that everyone else can see that I am. The stigma associated with mental illness can be almost as incapacitating as the depression itself at times! Just wondering what helped you after the breakdown?
      Thanks.

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