Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.
I was the first born, over achiever, good grades. I worried so much all the time, and still do about what others think of me. Do they think I’m smart enough? Do they think my hair is too frizzy? Do they think what I just said is ridiculous? There is constant ruminating every day when I get home about what I should’ve said, and why mostly everything I did was wrong.
This overly anxious attitude seemed to help me in law school. I was so anxious about doing poorly that I studied and did all the work so I wouldn’t fail out and embarrass myself. I also started sleeping way less and had a lot of extra energy.
I began therapy in my early 20s and was encouraged to see a psychiatrist for a diagnosis. The diagnosis I got was high anxiety. It reminded me of when I was asked to participate in a study for highly anxious people as a UT undergrad. Apparently my survey responses were very abnormal. Almost everything made me anxious, very anxious; apparently that doesn’t happen to others.
Then, about three years ago I was in a weird accident where I fell out of a moving vehicle and struck my head hard on the concrete. After that I started feeling even more anxious on an even more regular basis. I had at least two panic attacks where my heart wouldn’t stop racing, my vision blurred, and I had to sit down to not pass out.
I went to see a new psychiatrist thinking I was losing my mind and desperately needed inpatient treatment. Instead, intensive outpatient therapy was recommended to me and I was told I had to be given a diagnosis for my health insurance to cover treatment.
I was asked how I felt about a bipolar diagnosis. Well, I’ll tell you how I felt about it: unhappy. I didn’t want to be labeled as a “bipolar” for the rest of my life. That’s how those diagnosed as such are labeled, not even as bipolar people, but as “bipolars.” I didn’t want a permanent mental health diagnosis. I didn’t want to be in that category.
How my depression manifests now: I am very low energy, I don’t want to see people or participate in things, I’m unmotivated, especially to do anything differently. How I know it’s depression and not just sadness is that it is constant and pervasive, it is not precipitated by a really sad event, and it doesn’t lessen in a normal amount of time.
I’ll tell you what I do now, and that is focus on a lot of self-care. I have to take good care of myself. For me, this includes mindfulness and meditation. I use the Calm app on my phone and try to meditate every morning and night. I also take prescription medication on a daily basis. I speak on panels and tell my story when I am invited, and I do things like write this article. I try to get outside as much as possible and walk, even if it’s just around the block during lunch.
Sometimes I feel silly doing these little things, but I really need them to be OK on a regular basis.