No, I’m Not Dead Yet

Just thinking about it all the time.

A collections agency person called me several times at work today.  He made sure to let the receptionist know why he was calling.  He represents the good people at Sallie Mae who haven’t been paid in a while.  He basically called me a deadbeat. 

I lost a significant amount of money when my old firm went under and I’m still on the hook for the firm’s debts, one of which is a doozy.  And I’ve had all sorts of other personal issues for the past, oh, ten years, not least of which was my husband’s extended period of unemployment after 9/11.  I’m financially fucked.  But I’m a deadbeat.  And I sit at work and try not to cry and hope the closed door will keep my managing partner out, since I know he’s been looking for me to schedule a lunch meeting.  Like I don’t know what that’s about. 

I was in trial last week.  I did a good job, I got a defense verdict, and my client was thrilled.  I went to law school because I actually wanted to be a lawyer and I was and am good at it.  I never wanted to be rich.   I was willing to work hard and I did and I still do. I could care less if I ever drive a Mercedes.  And yet all around me I see these asswipes printing money and they’re not even good lawyers.  They just got luckier than me. 

I know life is not fair.  Blah blah blah.  I’ve read Harold Kushner.  I get it.  The way I see it, I can paste a smile on my face and be a patsy, be brave as the ship goes down, and THINK POSITIVELY.  Or I can be truthful about the fact that this just sucks.  Which do you think I am going with?

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2 Responses to No, I’m Not Dead Yet

  1. Pingback: A Lawyer’s Despair « An Associate's Mind

  2. J says:

    I read all your posts. I, too, am a female litigator. By all outward appearances, I am successful, but I, too, struggle with depression – probably have my whole life at some level or another. Practicing law, like other professions, I’m sure, has a way of acutely bringing it to the surface. The job is stressful, not only with the type of work we do and dealing with the clients and other lawyers as we do, but as you so aptly put it, dealing with “firm life.” Your situation is certainly an extreme one and compounds far more than what many experience. But, I can relate.

    My first firm job was miserable, I remember getting home from work each night (late) and not even being able to make it up the steps to my condo. I would just sink to the middle of the stairs, drop my purse/files/whatever, and sob. Every night. I didn’t have many friends, meaning people who really cared about me and were part of my life so that I didn’t feel so tragically alone (still don’t really, these types of relationships take time, which I don’t have much of, but I’ve come to accept it). Sure there were other young lawyers, but everyone else seemed so consumed with competing and drinking or drugging themselves into oblivion, I couldn’t relate. I’ve never been a “work hard, play hard” type of person. I couldn’t talk with my old friends (not lawyers) because they were all getting married and having kids, on a different track so to speak, we had gone different directions and drifted apart – and to them, I was the independent one, the one who had goals, who had “made it.” I wondered what I got myself into and why I just spent three years in private law school with over $150K in loans. What was I trying to prove exactly and who was I trying to impress? I remember secretly hoping that I would get hit by a bus or get into a terrible car accident that would render me hospitalized for at least a couple of days so that I could have a small respite from my misery and have a valid “excuse” to not be working harder, longer, more efficiently than the other sorry newbie associates. It also didn’t help that the powers that be at that firm were seriously messed up folks, motivated by power, greed, and excess. Not nice people to be around. Not a nice place to foster a balanced career and life.

    Thankfully, the misery of that first firm job lasted only a couple of years and I moved to another firm that was better (at first). I won’t go into the details, but there were the typical a-holes in positions of power, men dominated the upper echelon so women had to work harder to get equal footing, and when I recognized (what I believed) to be an important issue and wanted to help fix it, I was essentially told to let it go, if I wanted to move into partnership, I needed to just recognize that they were doing everything fine, I was wrong. I realized then that I didn’t want to be partners with those people, and even though I was about to be partner, I needed to leave. Also, three years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was 34. I had three surgeries, didn’t take more than a couple days off work, and didn’t broadcast what was happening to me for fear that I would be pitied and looked upon as weak and not the on-her-game-go-getter that I wanted to be perceived as. I did, however, respond honestly to those who asked why I may have had bandages on (which was, I think, a grand total of 2 people). I had no support system. I just continued to go into work each day, did my work well (which has always been my fallback position), and when I needed to, closed my door, stared out the window, and cried. In a way, I felt like the cancer was caused by something I did to myself, I was so unhappy for so long, I wondered if that helped to facilitate the breeding of those disastrous cells in my body. I sought therapy. It helped. I got a dog. That helped too.

    Today, I’m at a new firm, moving in a positive direction, seems like a good place with good people at the helm. Environment is so important. I still struggle with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and despair. I feel alone at times. I feel overwhelmed at times. I make over six figures but I have so much debt, I live paycheck to paycheck and it is difficult to contemplate life without such financial restraints. But, I focus on the simple things I can control – eating a balanced, healthy diet, getting enough exercise (the best anti-depressant), and getting enough sleep.

    I am commenting and sharing because I wanted you to know that you aren’t alone. I agree with you that life sucks and isn’t fair, you can work hard and never achieve (monetarily at least) what it seems like others were born into or are luckily handed. But, you sound like an exceptional person and lawyer, successful at what matters. You are good at what you do, you do good work for your clients, and have the capacity to see the deeper side of things, which makes you an interesting and unique person. I am sorry that you got involved with bad people that wreaked havoc on your finances. There are lots of bad people out there, and, unfortunately, in the field of law. I’ve dealt with them and been burned by them too. Nothing can magically fix what you are going through, but your situation won’t last forever, it can’t – something has to give or change. There are good folks out there. We just aren’t the in-your-face types. We quietly go about our business and try to do good and be good to people we come across in life. We should be louder, stronger and more united. This is why I am posting (and I imagine why you started your blog). I invite you to correspond with me. I don’t want you to kill yourself or even think about it anymore. I care.

    PS – at the risk of sounding trite, here’s a quote that I have found to be most profound during trying times: “if you are going through hell, keep going…”

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