Minds Over Matters: An Examination of Mental Health in the Legal Profession
Law.com has embarked on a yearlong investigation into mental health across every sector of the legal profession. Over the course of 12 months, we will aim to shine a light on mental health, addiction, stress and well-being; destigmatize the issue; and identify methods to effectuate change.
'Scared. Ashamed. Crippled.': How One Lawyer Overcame Living With Depression in Big Law
Reed Smith counsel Mark Goldstein wasn't sure he could both be a lawyer and have mental health disabilities. But he learned how to survive and thrive in Big Law.
It was Oct. 16, 2017. A Monday. My wife’s 32nd birthday. A day after the Jets blew a 14-point lead to the Patriots. It was also what I thought would be the last time I would ever walk through the halls of Reed Smith, the law firm at which I had spent the past four-plus years.
Roughly six weeks earlier, I had been diagnosed with severe depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety. I felt scared. Ashamed. Crippled. As if I was going to die. Perhaps most of all, I felt alone, particularly in a profession that often stigmatizes mental health disorders. A profession that tends to label them, instead, as “burnout,” or sweep them under the rug. The symptoms of my conditions, which had likely been percolating for some time, came on suddenly and swiftly over Labor Day weekend 2017. These symptoms included not only mentally crippling cognitions, but also physically impairing side effects as well. By early the following week, I knew that this was no mere passing phase; it could not be ignored.
For the next month and a half, I sought the counsel of a small circle of family, friends and colleagues. With their support, I searched high and low for a path to reclaim a life that I felt slipping further away by the day. I attempted to persevere with my personal and professional lives. This, unfortunately, proved futile. My relationships with my wife and son continued to deteriorate, due largely to my own self-imposed isolation. As for work, I simply could not function. In fact, I spent most of my time parked on the couch in one of Reed Smith’s wellness rooms. And when, between panic attacks, I could stomach being in my office, I was often held hostage by symptoms of my OCD.
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