One Attorney’s Journey Back From Depression

I have been a civil litigation attorney for 26 years. I am married with two children. For a number of years I had been struggling with depression, although never formally diagnosed. Over time I began to isolate and my ability to function at work diminished significantly. I tried very hard to hide my insides and simply put on a happy, easy-going facade. Sharing my feelings was simply not something I did, with anyone. The pressure continued to build until I felt the walls closing in around me.

lawyer depression

I woke up one morning and after everyone left the house I simply drove off. I packed a few things, purchased some supplies at an outdoor store and disappeared into the woods about 150 miles from my home. No note, no message, no warning. While it was my intention at the time to never return, I did ultimately return home about one month later (the details of my journey are a whole other story for another day).

Upon my return, aside from dealing with the intense emotional and financial strain I caused my family, I finally sought out the help I so desperately needed. I spent five nights in an in-patient facility and then another eight weeks in an outpatient program. I presently see a therapist weekly and a psychologist on a bimonthly basis, mainly for medication management. I was also directed to the state lawyers’ assistance program.

Hearing the statistics about attorney depression at my initial meeting at LAP was both comforting and distressing. Even hearing the statistics, however, did not make it any easier for me to grasp that this was not just a personal weakness on my part. Others seem to handle the stress so well. Obtaining the proper medication, learning to accept my depression as a disease and not a weakness, and learning to express my feelings to others was a difficult process.

Over time, I found that my feelings do matter. It is not selfish to put my needs ahead of the needs of others at times. Yes, I needed to become a little selfish, but that is ok.

About a year into my “recovery” things really began to take a positive turn. I overcame the shame I felt around others (my disappearance was in the news papers, law journal and on the local TV news). I had to overcome the sense that others were constantly judging me.

A strong support system at home, a close friend, and a willingness to be open and honest have me on the proper road. I have begun to work on a per diem basis with a law firm that has a complete understanding of my history. A firm that has allowed me to transition back into the law at my own pace. A firm that understands that despite my depression, I have a valuable set of skills and can be an asset to the firm.

My hope is that I can use what I have learned to help others. As my relationship with my wife and children is more meaningful than at any other time in my life, I would like to share in my sense of well-being. If I can help just one other person, through my experience (strength and hope), it will give my journey a sense of purpose.











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5 thoughts on “One Attorney’s Journey Back From Depression

  1. Love the article. It’s great for people to see that even successful people like a practicing attorney of 26 years can be affected by depression. I’ve battle it most my adult life, causing it to be very hard to survive in the real world of corporate America.

    I finally started giving medications a chance once again this last years and I have found one that has helped me as well. Getting people to not lose hope and to give medications a chance, or another chance as in my case, can help a lot of people.

    Take care and have a good one.

  2. So so encouraging to me as an attorney right at the walls closing in. I dealt with major depression for years put a face and kept working. My physical body was at work but Josephine was not there. I checked into a mental treatment hospital in patient 10 days at the advice of my psychiatrist. Took leave from work for 3 months getting intensive out patient care treatment 5 days a week 3 hours every day at a mental psychiatric facility. I am recovering great. I am now just stuck at how do I fix this mess I left behind. How do I begin to rebuild with clients i just disappeared on , work that is so so overdue. The article is a tremendous help. Just to know someone gets it.

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