If you suspect you may have depression—even if you think it’s just because you work in a hellhole, and you will be FINE once you leave—go ahead and get help. Because unless you’ve got a job offer in hand, you’re going to be there for at least a couple more months. And take it from me, those “couple more months” often translate suddenly into 6 months or 9 months or a year, between workload and inertia. That’s a long time to be depressed, untreated, and miserable.
Even when those 500 lawyers finished talking about the email, it still left an emotional mark on those who already were unhappy about the firm and the profession. Emails like Morrison’s are a trigger. They set off waves of unrest and dissatisfaction, if not outright plunges into depression and anxiety. Focus gets lost, and it’s hard to regain. So you have a bunch of lawyers who are not thinking well or clearly. They may end up doing substandard work, which means that other people have to review work and catch mistakes (cha-ching!) that they wouldn’t have had to do otherwise. And the distracted lawyer has to fix stuff (more cha-ching!). Plus it makes it hard for many of them to even drag themselves to the office the next day, or get to work at all, if the experiences of me and my clients is any indicator.
Lawyers, for lots of reasons, tend to overlook, dismiss, or minimize the little joys in life. For something to count as truly joyful, it has to be BIG. Overlooking the Grand Canyon, rather thana creek that wanders through the park. I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong with those really massive moments of joy. But they’re not the only game in town. Joy doesn’t need to be big, expansive and headline-worthy to profoundly change your life.
So it’s Friday, and high time for a little fun. I’ve concocted a poll that might make you smile, just
Exploring stuff simply because you’re interested in it is how you get to know yourself and honor that inner voice. Defaulting to the choice that allows you to check off a punch list item on the road to success—and only because it helps guarantee “success”—guarantees only that you will lose touch with yourself a little bit more.
Some fears are actually useful. The ones you have when a car is heading straight toward you at 40 mph, or when a gun is brandished. But the truth is, most lawyer fears are nearly always critic-created fears—that’s why they sound so convincing! Confronting those myths we’ve created for ourselves is indeed an integral part of creating a life and career that you love.
Compassion is the antidote to judgment. If nothing else, lawyers typically operate as master judges of, basically, everything. Judgment is often what makes our lives unhappy and unsatisfying. We judge ourselves as less than, because we fall short of some standard that we imagine will unlock the key to happiness. (Newsflash: The key to happiness and a satisfying life is connection with others. Ask Brené Brown.)
Dr. Dave Carbonell says, “Our brains are organs devoted to solving problems, just like our stomachs are organs devoted to digesting food. When we direct them to solve a problem, like adding up numbers or reading a paragraph, brains generally do a good job. But there is no “off switch” to the brain. It is always looking for problems, just as our stomachs are always waiting for food. When our brains lack problems to solve, they often make some up.” But when lawyers aren’t working, they don’t turn off that switch. They likely aren’t even aware there is a switch; they’ve been drilled that “THIS IS THE WAY IT IS.”
For unhappy attorneys, this point in winter feels dire. Your soul was already stuck in permanent freeze before the actual cold and dark encroached. Now, getting out of bed and getting to work are sheer acts of will and heroism. More than a few of you may have sneaked a look at your insurance policy’s coverage for being a mental health in-patient, and wondered if you could convince someone you are a danger to yourself or others. Three days away from billable hours and all your other worries sounds like a sweet deal.
I firmly believe that Facebook can change an unhappy lawyer’s life. Just not in the way that other people think