Hushed, Somber, and Sheltered Voices?
I know those voices well. In my 30s, when I struggled with debilitating depression, I confided in an older member of my family. I broke my silence and told her that I was considering seeing a doctor or a therapist. My well-intentioned relative quietly urged me to just reflect on “all the positive” in my life and to have faith that I would get through this brief chapter. The response crushed me, yet I decided to see a doctor and a therapist. (Nearly 20 years have passed since that day. Fortunately, this family member now believes in mental health treatment and has benefitted greatly from counseling.)
“Everyone” includes lawyers. The stereotype of the tough lawyer who takes other people’s problems in stride without flinching or emoting serves no one. Our profession is ready for new role models. Lawyers who acknowledge their humanity. Lawyers who see and understand that vulnerability is a bridge to empathy and connection. Lawyers who know when to ask for help.
Be a nonjudgmental sounding board. Start by checking in with yourself. When was the last time you had (and enjoyed) a decent meal? How often do you forgo the sleep that your body craves? How many nights have you simply been unable to fall asleep? When did you last exercise for even a few minutes? When was your last meaningful conversation with a friend? Have you experienced moments of joy in the last week (or two)?
Next, check in with one or two people in your life. Ask them the same questions. And when you ask how they’re doing, be sure to pause and wait for their response. Resist the urge to interrupt or finish their sentences. Listen to their words, the tone of their voice, and their body language.
If you or someone you care about is struggling, seeking help is the strongest course of action. In law school, your dean of students, a faculty member, or a peer mentor can be helpful resources. Your college or university counseling office likely offers assistance through remote therapy sessions. Lawyers Assistance Programs in many states hold confidential law student support groups.
Your struggles will not define you. Individuals can and do work through depression, anxiety, stress, and even self-destructive patterns. And they come out on the other side—more resilient, healthier, and fulfilled.