I learned from the voice on the other end that I am valuable. The bungee cord was a lot more painful around my neck than I had anticipated. And it was taking more time to do the job than I had been led to believe. I was a good lawyer. I knew how to do research. Before I decided to hang myself I did a lot of Internet research. Time to unconsciousness is 15 to 20 seconds—and if you do it right, you should feel no pain. Damn! I can’t even kill myself correctly. More proof, if more was needed, that I was a total failure. I decided to delay my self-imposed execution. Maybe it would be better not to hang myself the day before Thanksgiving. It might put a damper on the family’s traditional meal. Maybe I should do it next year. I made a single entry in my task list for my next birthday: “Commit suicide.” And then something happened. I called the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program. I discovered people who knew exactly what I was thinking. I discovered I was not a minority of one. I discovered that other people had been there and done that. I discovered people who cared—not because I was a lawyer, not because of a great courtroom victory, and not because of an unbelievably clever legal stratagem that saved my client millions. I discovered people who cared simply because I was a human being living on this planet. The lawyer who answered the phone at TLAP told me I had great value. Me? Valuable? The lawyer told me a similar story and knew all about what I was going through. This lawyer had been there and came out the other side. Maybe, just maybe, there was room for a sliver of hope. My TLAP contact gave me the name of another attorney and suggested I call him and speak with him. I did. I met another lawyer who knew my story—because my story was his story. How could this be? I couldn’t tell him that he didn’t understand what it was like to practice law—he was practicing law. He, too, had been where I was and he had come out the other side. And my TLAP contact didn’t stop there but gave me the name of a therapist to contact. Wow! This person at TLAP cared and didn’t even know me. What did I have to lose? Only my life, my family, and everything else I held dear. I decided to call the therapist. We met before Christmas. She told me to come back on the 26th and to bring my family. We agreed that maybe I needed to be in a hospital for a brief stay. The next day I checked in. Walking through those doors was the hardest thing I ever did in my life, but when they shut behind me, I felt safe for the first time in months. Nobody could hurt me; I couldn’t hurt myself. And through it all, that lawyer from TLAP continued to care. I received calls and encouragement and help to go on. What have I learned? Three things: First, I learned how to prioritize my life. The law is a cruel and selfish mistress. For the first time in 30 years of practice, I am discovering that there are things more important in life than being a successful lawyer. I am learning that being a successful father and grandfather are far more important than the greatest courtroom victory I could ever achieve. Second, I learned that depression is a real problem. I learned I cannot stop the medicine, and I learned that my doctors might just know better than I do about how to deal with the disease. I learned it is not a sign of weakness to get help—it is a sign of strength. Finally, I learned there is help. There are people who know exactly what I am going through. I learned that “you just don’t understand” is not true. There are people who understand what it is like to battle depression and to be a lawyer at the same time. My message for you? You are valuable. Your life matters. You are not alone. If you are struggling with depression, pick up the telephone and call the TLAP office. They understand. They care. They will help. Don’t wait. Call now. It might be one of the best decisions you ever make—and your life might just depend on it.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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