A year ago today, I attempted to take my own life. To the outside world, that probably made no sense.
I was about a year into my second law firm, and on the cusp of becoming a partner there, too. Nominally, things were going well at work, in that lots of files and clients were coming in. I had two fantastic young daughters, a generous and unwaveringly supportive husband, and a nice-looking life. But I was drowning. I wasn’t even close to breathing. There was none of me anywhere in my life.
Work was also a deep, deep disappointment in that it was every bit the dick measuring contest I had left behind at my national firm. I also found myself, again, buried in a sea of administrative responsibilities couched almost insultingly as leadership opportunities, all of which I was expected to handle on top of building my practice and getting my actual legal work done. I had exceedingly limited support and resources with which to attempt to juggle these multiple roles, despite being assured that this would not be the case. This was not the first time this had happened to me.
Being a lawyer is tough on the best of days. People want stuff from you all the time, right now. Being a parent to young children is very much like that, too. Combining the two seems to compound the difficulty of each.
Trying to deal with what was happening at work while also trying to parent in a halfway decent manner—presently—it wasn’t possible.
Stuff just kept piling on. No one knew how bad it was for me, even me, until I woke up in the ER.
The searing, unbearable pain and despair that I felt a year ago contrasts so deeply with the overwhelmingly deep joy and purpose of my current existence. Getting here hasn’t been all roses. I had to claw my way up at times. There have been a lot of tears, but no regrets. Once I got a taste of freedom, once my world stopped being so narrow, I was like a jack-in-the-box, springing forth with several times the velocity with which I had been stuffed into that box.
I will not stop talking or writing about mental health, and lawyer mental health in particular, until discussing it is somewhere closer to the line of destigmatization.
We need to find ways to foster cultures and environments where extending grace to others is valued, and being an asshole is not valued.
If you’re reading this and you are in the workplace—check in with the people around you. Make sure they’re OK. And if you’re in a position of leadership, make it OK to check in with the people around you.
Like, actually OK to do it.
And if you’re where I was a year ago, or close to it, I want you to know this. You can’t conceive of it now, but there is a time when you will feel better than this. It takes work, and help, but there is help. Making that call might be the hardest thing you ever do, but you are brave.
[**** If you or someone you know is in crisis, please phone 1-800-784-2433, 24/7/365 (Canadian number).***]