My first experience with LAP came when I was finally ready to admit that I needed to try something different.
It was my first year as a lawyer. I was convinced that I should be able to handle the stress of practice. Every day that my billable hours were not on target, I told myself that I should be able to do better tomorrow. I had a trial go sideways and was convinced that I should have known more about trial work and done better. My girlfriend, also a lawyer, was working 12- to 16- hour days, and I said I should be able to do the same. After all, with all my debts from law school, I had no choice, I told myself.
No matter how many “shoulds” I said to myself, I was not getting stronger, better or more productive. Instead, I felt tired, distracted and disconnected. I began surfing the web at work and eventually playing games on the computer. I ate fatty foods and hated how I looked. When I tried to concentrate on work my head ached and my fatigue increased, and I eventually returned to spacing out on the Internet. The billable-hour clock slowed further, a constant reminder that I should be able to act differently. I began missing work appointments, and I told myself I should be more organized. The work built up. My bosses appeared to agree with me that I should be able to increase my productivity. So did my girlfriend, when I saw her.
Eventually the difference between what I was doing and what I thought I should be doing became too painful to face. I began calling in sick a day here or there. On those “sick days” I stayed home in the rented basement suite we had, alone, in a rather small and dark room, on a computer for hours at a time. When I went to work, I never felt like I could do as much work as I should be able to. The amount of time I spent spacing out on the computer at work increased.
I felt worse, and then I called in sick every day for a week. Every day of that week, I said I should be able to pick myself up the next day and get to work, but I no longer really believed it. I started to think that maybe I really should not be alive. My one week off work turned into a second week. I didn’t bother calling in sick the second week. My gut felt twisted from thinking about it.
I reached out to the Lawyers Assistance Program during that second week away from work. I heard my girlfriend come home unexpectedly mid-afternoon, and I put one foot in the closet intending to hide. I stopped. I had gone pretty low up to that point, but I just couldn’t go so low as to hide in a closet from my own girlfriend without at least trying something different first. I had heard of the Lawyers Assistance Program during PLTC. That day, in a desperate state, I called LAP’s phone line. For the first time in a long while, I became willing to ask for help from something other than my compulsive self. Derek LaCroix had me in his office within 24 hours.
I have had a lot of work to do on myself over the last several years since that first call to Derek, and I have pulled on the assistance of LAP continually. I took several months off work to deal with the major depressive disorder I had developed. Derek provided me with the tools to deal with my employers, to whom I remain grateful for their support. A LAP volunteer introduced me to meditation, which has been a foundation of my life for several years now. Following my return to work after addressing my depression, Bob and Derek helped me develop healthy tools for dealing with the breakup with my girlfriend, the loss of my job and the death of a sibling as a result of complications from heavy drinking. Most importantly, LAP introduced me to a community where I have learned I don’t have pretend to be more than I am.
The basis for this community is a meeting. Every week, for years, on Tuesday at the LAP offices in Yaletown, I attend a meeting. After a good day or a bad day, an up day or a down day, a trial day or a computer day, I go to this meeting. In that meeting are lawyers, my peers, willing to show up simply as they are and to share their experience, and to listen patiently while I do the same. These lawyers have taught me that I do not have to hide who I am or what I have or have not done to be worthy of love friendship and respect.
Much has changed in my life, for which I am grateful since calling Derek. I got rid of my home computer years ago. I have adopted a religion that helps me with relating to the world. I am getting married soon to a kind, gentle, caring woman who makes the time necessary to build a strong relationship. My debts are almost gone. I have lost weight and have not put it back on. I have a job practising law that I like and respect. I have run trials, both successfully and not so successfully, and managed to let them go, win or lose. Best of all, I no longer feel the need to hide what is going on for me, good or bad, and I have a safe place to go to connect.