I’m a Lawyer. I’m Depressed.
That’s really all you need to know here. I’m not talking bummed about life, I’m talking big honkin’ major clinical depression requiring daily medication to keep me a functional member of the human race.
This is not actually the law’s fault. They say that 1/3 of lawyers are depressed or having problems with addiction, mostly because of the law (compared to 1/10 of the general population). I was actually depressed long before I got to the law, diagnosed in my teens. But I did really well, on and off medication, until I got to law school.
I have not been off medication since.
I went to law school straight from college, which was probably an error in judgment, but I had a liberal arts degree. What else was I going to do?
So here I am, in my late 20s, married (no kids, yes pets), homeowner, practicing lawyer, and I’m so depressed I can barely get out of bed in the morning. Days I can work from home I don’t even bother to shower. I have no immune system because of the depression; a kid sneezes down the block and I catch a cold.
I live a block from an elementary school, so a lot of kids sneeze down the block.
I am constantly under the weather with some bug or another. I throw up from stress. I haven’t slept unmedicated in several months. I have pain in my teeth with no physical cause. I have recurrent infections that flare up every time I have to go to court, meaning I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to court without an earache. I am 60 pounds overweight, almost all of it since I started practicing law.
I can’t get out.
I practice in what’s called a “secondary market.” My husband and I are both graduates of a top-10 law school (that’s where we met), so this was a lifestyle choice for us after a couple years in an primary east-coast market. If we hadn’t moved to a secondary market, we’d probably be divorced, and I would probably be dead. I mean that literally. I like my secondary market — lawyers are more collegial, work knocks off at 5 unless you have major litigation, people leave early or schedule court around kids’ baseball games.
But the downside of my secondary market is that there aren’t a lot of options for getting OUT of the law. I have a mortgage and together we have over $100,000 in student loans, on a secondary market salary. There’s a lot of engineering, computer science, and medicine jobs to be had around here, but, again, liberal arts degree. I’ve searched desperately. Now I’m working half-time and freelancing at not-law things half-time, which helps, but I still lie there awake at night and think things like, “What kind of accident would get me a big enough tort settlement that I wouldn’t have to work as a lawyer, but wouldn’t be permanently debilitating?” or “Maybe if I got pregnant, I could quit.” I think the second thought is more normal.
I’m writing into the void because I have got to do something. Therapy, drugs, reduced work schedule is all very nice, but I’m still ridiculously depressed, and if I don’t vent this somewhere I’m going to go postal.
There are not a lot of resources out there for professionals with depression, and I think in a lot of ways it’s the expectations of the profession that traps me. If I’m open about my depression, will I still be able to get clients? Will employers want me? Do people trust a lawyer who goes home every night and sobs? If I called my local mental health agency which helps find employment for the mentally ill, would they laugh their asses off? I bet they would.
So here it is, a way for me to vent and think and suffer out loud. Don’t care if you read or not. Just gotta get it out.
Filed under: depression, introduction, lawyer, symptoms | 4 Comments