Real Talk About Depression

The legal profession is ripe with stress, depression, substance abuse and other mental health issues. Add a pandemic to that mix, and the result can be intense. While the Florida Bar has had the Florida Lawyers Assistance program, it wasn’t until a few years ago that they, with the lead of the Young Lawyers Division, has made mental health a priority. Their Stigma Free YLD, with resources and testimonials from lawyers throughout the state, has made mental health a priority.

The hardest thing for people to understand about depression (even those that suffer from it) is that is goes beyond being sad. Your entire outlook on life is affected. You often feel hopeless and worthless. You don’t enjoy things you usually do. You think people don’t care about you. You often can’t see any good if your life because the depression is coloring everything with its lens. I have not been without my share of depression throughout my legal career but it wasn’t until a former professor and mentor, who was an incredible attorney and well loved by all, died by suicide in 2017. This made me and every other attorney in Florida realize that depression is a vile and often hidden disease that affects so many that we know.

I’ve never talked openly about my depression before but it’s been there most of my life. I’ve taken antidepressants for two different periods: early in my career and at the end of the time I was practicing law. It was tough for me to reach out for that help but it was essential for me to function at the level I needed to. Unfortunately I had an extremely difficult time coming off the antidepressants the last time, to the point that it felt like torture some days, so when I started to experience depression at the beginning of 2020, I was hesitant to go down that road again.

As you can imagine, starting 2020 with some depression did not set me up for success! A series of events coupled by the pandemic and the isolation made things extremely difficult. In the last year, I’ve suffered many major triggering points: a toxic workplace, a huge salary cut, getting laid off, and a period of unemployment. The pandemic had me worrying about my family members with Type 1 Diabetes, my elderly parents and in-laws and even myself, who has been susceptible to respiratory infections throughout my life. I rarely sleep through the night, often waking to take care of my daughter’s blood sugar or my elderly dog, and then struggle to get back to sleep because of racing thoughts. For months, I muddled through and just tried to ignore how I was feeling but sometimes your actions to mask the pain actually make it worse.

A few months ago, I realized I needed to get help. I had been trying to run away from my life because I couldn’t recognize the signs that I had slipped into depression again. My first step was to start therapy. Through this process, I was able to be introspective and dig down to what I was actually feeling. What I thought my problems were was what I had created to mask my actual feelings.

Was it an instant cure? Absolutely not but it was a good start. With my past experience with antidepressants, this time I looked to more holistic methods to help. I cut way back on drinking alcohol, I did the 21 Day Refresh eating organic and vegan foods and doing yoga every day. I joined a yoga book club discussing a year of self-care with a group of amazing yoga instructors and their students. After I finished the Refresh, I tried to keep 80% or more of my diet organic and plant based, keeping room for the occasional restaurant food. Although on the days I just can’t muster exercise, I allow myself the rest.

I just turned 50 and that really weighed heavy on my depression. I didn’t even realize how depressed I was until my therapist remarked on my sullen demeanor in our session right before my birthday. Luckily I was able to finally spend some time with my parents (yay for vaccinations!) and that helped. My husband, daughter and parents made a big deal about it with decorations and cake and it brought me a lot of joy. Everyone that reached out to wish me a happy birthday reminded me that I have a full life. I think birthdays are one day that Facebook is actually positive!

I used to tell my clients that it was like being on the airplane: you need to put your own mask on before you can help someone else. So my advice to those that are feeling down: seek help in whatever form you can and feel comfortable with. I think therapy is great but you have to find the right therapist. You may need to try a few but don’t give up. Surround yourself with those that love you at your best and your worst. If you need medication to help, get it. Remember that alcohol is not medicine and can make you feel worse (and mess with your sleep). It’s important to remember that there is no one antidote for depression so you have to figure out what works for you.

You may feel alone, but you would be surprised how many people have suffered. I am just one lawyer to tell my story, but there are many stories on the YLD website. You can also find the stories of celebrities like Kristen Bell, Chris Evans, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Harrison Ford, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton , Michael Phelps and more.

MOST OF ALL, IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE YOU MAY HARM YOURSELF. GET IMMEDIATE HELP. THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE IS 800-273-8255. HELP IS OUT THERE.

My Favorite Workout: Walking

I love walking. Enjoying the outdoors, walking the dogs, window shopping. Walking is also very accessible. There’s a reason why there are so many fitness trackers that encourage 10,000 steps per day. It also doesn’t involve many accessories. If you have a comfortable pair of shoes, you are good to go.

When we lived in a building downtown, I walked everywhere. I estimate I could walk upwards of 5 miles or more each day. I walked the dogs around Lake Eola each morning, walked my daughter to her preschool, then walked across downtown to my office building. There were several months where I was walking to her school for lunch. We walked to the grocery store on the other side of the lake, we walked to dinner, we walked to the park and playground. We walked everywhere! That was definitely the least I have weighed since I hit my 40s.

Once we moved to the suburbs, I would still walk my daughter to school but the 7 block walk fell to 1 block. The daily 1 mile dog walk around the lake was 1/2 a mile around the neighborhood (and sometimes not even that since we could just let them out in the backyard). I had to drive to the grocery store and to my office. My daily movement dropped drastically, even with other exercise programs!

I still prefer to walk over driving when I can. When I am visiting my client law firms downtown, I often park and walk from building to building. I’ve even worn through the bottom of my shoes! I love vacations to places like New York City or Las Vegas that encourage a lot of walking. I also love to spend the day at Disney with friends, walking a ton!

There are also many health benefits to walking, aside from the obvious weight loss. The Mayo Clinic says that walking can lower your blood pressure and your blood glucose levels, can lower your stress levels, can improve your memory and cognitive functions. Walking can be part of your self-care routine as well.

This is also a very pandemic-friendly exercise and can be done by just walking out the door. So try and add this great exercise into your routine!

New Year’s Resolutions?

A time honored tradition as each year closes is to make New Year’s resolutions, usually containing things like “lose weight” or “make more money” but do they really do anything to help us improve our lives?

I don’t make resolutions but I do a review of the year and set goals for myself for the new year. How is that different? Resolutions are so much about pass/fail. Goals also include an action plan and progress towards obtaining those goals are a success!

In 1996 (I know, that’s crazy) I started a Dream Book. In it, I wrote out my values and then set goals for each year. Now, have I been perfect for the last 25 years? No, but I do review past years and craft my goals for the upcoming year. There were a few years I skipped (hey, it’s been 25 years!) I think about things I want to accomplish personally, family wise, professionally, and physically. I also started the book with a list of “life goals” which I still work towards.

My Dream Book

Reviewing last year was interesting as so many goals were impacted by the pandemic. However, others goals appeared that I wasn’t expecting! I review goals periodically throughout the year and make changes as necessary.

I’m excited to set this year’s goals. I’m turning 50 (I know, I can hardly believe it myself) and I think this year will be an amazing year! What are some goals you have for 2021?

Rest Days

As I write this, I just finished my first workout in two days. I planned to take Sunday as a rest day but when Monday came around, I listened to my body and knew I needed an extra one.

Some days you just need to rest

Rest days are important. They help heal your body from the strain you put it through during your workouts. Sometimes you also need the mental break from working out. Whatever the reason, no one ever lost all their fitness or weight loss from taking a rest day here and there. Could I have forced myself into my gym yesterday? Probably, but that extra day of rest allowed me to tackle the workout today with heavier weights and more energy.

Even an active rest day can be beneficial. Taking a walk or a bike ride, doing yoga or swimming in the pool; these are all great active rest days that allow you to physically and mentally take a break. You can even stretch or foam roll!

What is your favorite rest day activity?

The Importance of Self-Care

So I’m publishing this a little late today and that’s OK. That was part of my self-care. We were on vacation last week. We had a busy weekend with my Husband’s birthday and then had some friends over for a social-distanced pool party. This togetherness and relaxation was exactly what I needed. Letting myself take a few days off from writing was great!

In days past, self-care may have been thought of as a massage or a mani/pedi. I used to get monthly facials, which I found very relaxing and they made me feel good about myself. However, in the pandemic world, these things aren’t as accessible (or relaxing!) as they were before.

The good ole times…

Just because we may be at home doesn’t mean we don’t still need self-care. We just need to change our standard idea of what self-care is. Instead of thinking about getting pampered, think about it as putting yourself first. It’s about suspending deadlines or outside forces that have you doing something that you would not be doing if you had a choice.

We are lucky enough to have a pool and an amazing backyard so a great way to my self-care is floating on a raft in the pool with a cool drink! We also really enjoyed binge-watching Season Two of the Umbrella Academy on Netflix last weekend. We walk the dogs or just play with them in the backyard. When I can get my daughter to cooperate, I love to play games. I experimented with a lot of new recipes (which I will post in the coming weeks). Of course, exercise is a big part of my self-care and something that helps keep me sane! I’ve also been making a point of reading more and practicing my Spanish.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the status of being busy. You’re too busy to attend that social event or to cook for yourself or to start that workout program. However, self-care is the cancellation of being too busy, even if it’s just for 30 minutes or once a week or one night a month. It’s taking a break to put yourself first.

What are your top methods of self-care in pandemic times? What are you most looking forward to doing again when it is safe to do so?

Here’s why you should listen to me

Well, maybe you shouldn’t. At least not exclusively. There is not a one-size-fits all way to stay healthy. You have to takes bits and pieces of what works for you and make it into your own healthy lifestyle. I just hope that you will find some of those bits and pieces here!

A great example of this is my group of friends. We are all different ages and even though we are all different types of lawyers, we all have demanding jobs, community activities, social lives and families. All of us fit that healthy lifestyle as well but nothing we do is the same. I prefer home workouts, mixing lifting weights and cardio, following various Beachbody programs. One friend does CrossFit. Another runs and a truly bad ass one does Spartan Races and Ninja Gym training.

One thing we do all have in common is that we understand there is more to a healthy lifestyle than eating nutritiously and exercising. We know that spending time with each other, our other friends, our family and our larger groups of acquaintances and colleagues is important. We all volunteer in service of our profession and to the community we live in. We practice self-care. When we went into lockdown in March and these things were curtailed, we made a point of spending time together via Zoom or FaceTime and we update each other on a group text almost daily.

When you decide to make some positive changes in your life, first write down all the positive things you have, like some in the lists above. Then figure out how to use those positives to help you make the changes you want. Let me know what you think is a positive that helps you!