Losing a job can be difficult for anyone, but for a lawyer who is diagnosed with anxiety or depression, the situation can be devastating. If this sounds like a situation you’re facing, don’t despair. Here are some ways to help get through it:
Contact your psychotherapist or psychiatrist immediately. You know better than anyone that stress can make your symptoms worse, and your therapist can help. Most likely, you are experiencing many different feelings—you may feel defeated, overwhelmed and confused. Your therapist can help you reframe your negative thoughts for more positive and productive ones. You may also need to adjust your medication, if you are on any, but that is for you and your doctor to decide. If you have never formally been diagnosed with a mental health issue, but you are finding that you cannot sleep, you are sleeping the days away, you are feeling worthless, or you are thinking about the “s” word (suicide), please get help. I would strongly recommend getting healthy before you start your job search.
Use your firm’s outplacement provider, if available. He or she can organize your search and give you the tools necessary for your search to be a success, whether or not you want to stay in the legal field. Moreover, I would recommend finding out if your outplacement consultant has any training in mental health. If not, he or she may not fully understand your situation or may even be scared by it. You can even ask your firm if you are able to find your own outplacement consultant if you feel that your firm’s selection may not work for you. This is a situation that some of my clients were in when they first came to me.
Try to be honest with yourself: Do you think that your mental health condition contributed to your losing your job? Maybe a big law firm setting is not the right one for you. Only you can determine that. As I am sure you already know, practicing big law can be quite stressful with unpredictable hours, short deadlines, and multiple projects and cases happening at once. A more structured and less stressful setting may be a better fit for your psychological make-up. Such a setting is usually better for people who suffer from anxiety-based disorders, such as generalized anxiety, OCD and social anxiety. Keep an open mind. There are other settings besides those in big law—and even other fields—that may be better for you long term. What is most important is that you stay healthy.
Finally, don’t forget you are not alone in your situation. I encourage you to reach out to the appropriate people for help, and together you will get through it.
By Sheryl Odentz, Founder and President, of Progress in Work. This article was published on June 3, 2019 in law.com. Sheryl received her M.A. and Ed.M. degrees from Columbia University where she studied psychological counseling with a specialization in business and industry. She can be reached at 212-532-6670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.