by Jim Warner ’92
In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we are launching a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need.
The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact email@example.com.
“You are no more likely to suffer from depression now than anyone who has not suffered from depression.” And with those words from my treating psychiatrist, I was cured.
Until I wasn’t.
In the months leading up to this optimistic sign-off from my psychiatrist, I had lost my job after plunging into a major depressive episode in my late 40’s. I had undergone therapy, taken a course of antidepressants, and rebuilt my emotional and physical health in about three months. Job done. I chalked up this unexpected and traumatic period of my life to a high level of stress at work. I was the General Counsel for a company that had just gone public.
Four years later, my old friends, Anxiety and Depression, knocked on my door again. This time, they hadn’t booked a return ticket. They intended to stay for a while.
Today was the first day of my last semester of school, ever.* (*Unless I decide I want another degree down the line, but for now, after seven straight years of undergrad and grad school, I’m definitely done for the near future.) As I saw all of the “happy last first day of school” messages this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of restlessness. I’m externing this semester and was working full-time for the day. I realized my anxiety was building up over being in this new externship placement. Here, I’m working in an area of law that I have no experience in, so before I began this morning, I felt incredibly nervous about this new position: What if I’m in a meeting and get asked a question I have no idea how to answer? What if I’m supposed to know about some substantive area of the law that I actually am clueless about? Until I eventually calmed down, I even started wondering how and why I landed the position in the first place. Who, me? How? Why?
This feeling of doubt and lack of confidence isn’t foreign to me. I felt similarly on my very first day of law school, my first case during my clinic experience, and throughout my 2L summer as a summer associate at a law firm. These feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty are a form of imposter syndrome, which is something I continue to struggle with as a final semester 3L. Imposter syndrome can come in various forms for various people. One HBR article defines it as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.”
Holiday season is my favorite time of year. I love the festivities, I love being around my family, and I love the overall warmth and joy this time of year brings. What I love most about the holiday season, though, is that it is a time for me to pause and reflect. Every year around this time, I especially like to think about what I am grateful for about the past year. As I reflect on 2021, I am most grateful for the opportunity to enroll in a DBT therapy group this semester.
DBT stands for dialectical behavioral therapy and is a form of cognitive behavior therapy. I knew I wanted to make a change in my life and join therapy when I caught myself repeating some patterns that began to negatively impact multiple areas of my life. A few months ago, I began to realize that over the years, I have formed a tendency to think in ‘either-or’s.’ This type of thinking has hindered my own personal growth and is affecting my interpersonal relationships. For instance, I think in terms of either “success” or “failure,” so if I plan to get five things done on any given day and I’m only able to complete three, I see ‘failure’ and can’t process any nuanced ‘in-between’ of the situation. Similarly, in relationships with others, I have trouble breaking free from conceptions of “right” and “wrong” such that if there is a disagreement, I strongly feel I am right and I become resistant to seeing viewpoints that don’t align with my own. In both of these situations, I am causing myself, and others, discomfort and distress. When I recognized this pattern earlier this year, I knew that something had to change. I joined therapy to better understand myself, to learn how to cultivate a healthier mindset, and to make some positive changes in my actions.
Recently, one of BC Law’s arguably proudest moments has been notable alum Mathew Rosengart ‘87 freeing Britney Spears from her conservatorship. To celebrate this victory for the pop culture queen, here is a fitting Britney Spears playlist to help you survive the remainder of the semester.
- Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know (2000, Album: Oops!…I Did It Again)
This pop ballad will get you in your feels when you are searching the LSA outline bank for that one class where you have no idea what is going on. Whether you’re sliding into an upperclassmen’s DMs for help or desperately emailing your professors to set up office hours, you will be singing this song with Brit.
- …Baby One More Time (1999, Album: …Baby One More Time)
Does your professor talk too fast in class? Is the Rule Against Perpetuities confusing to you? Do you just need something repeated, say, one more time? Then this is the song for you.
World Mental Health Day, celebrated annually on October 10th, is a day to bring awareness to mental health issues and for individuals to band together to promote mental wellness, improve public dialogue and care for those struggling with mental health issues. Today the BC Law community is rallying together to share other ways individuals cultivate joy, cope with stressors, and find perspective while in law school.
Unfortunately, a high-pressure environment along with a number of other stressors puts individuals in law school and in the legal field at risk for developing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse disorders. In fact, law students disproportionally struggle with mental health issues in comparison to the general population, as previously discussed in A Necessary Look at Mental Health in Law School and Out of Place? You’re Not Alone. Fortunately, Boston College offers professional help to those struggling with a mental health issue – no matter how small. (Links provided below this post).
Along with providing professional mental health services, it is especially important for law schools to promote mental wellness. According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Thus, mental wellness is not necessarily the absence of mental health issues, but rather is the presence of positive strategies and characteristics for handling life’s ups and downs.
It is possible to boost your mental wellness by finding ways to elevate your mood and increase your resilience. Four wellness-building techniques are described in Beat Your 2L Lull: Four Strategies for Success.
Below, members of the BC Law community share what they do to boost mental wellness in their daily lives. As you read, feel free to share what brings you joy or helps you manage stress by commenting below or adding #LawStudentWellness, #WorldMentalHealthDay and/or #IamBCLaw to your post on social media. And please share this post with friends.