Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘depression’

(it’s a secret)

I had a ball a few weeks ago recording a podcast with the delightful Kimberly Rice, of KLA Marketing. You can hear the results here.

We talked about my background, including my strange journey from biglaw to psychotherapy, then mulled over the experiences of lawyers nowadays in a variety of settings and pondered the future of the profession.

It’s a far-ranging conversation, and a lively and fun one. Thanks, Kimberly!

Kimberly Rice

==========

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 5.03.50 PM

By definition, anyone who asks me to be featured on her podcast is a lovely person…but Karima Gulick, even if she hadn’t asked me to be on her terrific podcast for lawyers, would still be a completely lovely person. She’s just great.

The podcast, called Gen Why Lawyer, is focused on young lawyers who “who dare to live their lives on their own terms and who are building fulfilling careers.”  That sounds good to me.  You can read more about it here.

For more information on Karima, and her producer, Nicole Abboud (who also hosts some of the podcast episodes) click here.

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 5.10.57 PM

Karima and I spoke for about half an hour, but managed to cram in a lot of talk around about the challenges lawyers face in their jobs, and the work I do as a therapist to try and help them.

You can listen to our podcast episode here.  It has been assigned the mellifluous title “Understanding and overcoming procrastination, burnout and anxiety with Will Meyerhofer”…which makes sense, since who else could be better to understand and overcome procrastination, burnout and anxiety with than yours truly?

The Gen Why Lawyer podcast series is so strong that you really ought to check them all out – there’s a long list of episodes available here, and I’ve been dipping in and have to admit I’m hooked.  (I’m Episode #154, so yeah…there’s a lot to explore.) What they’ve put together is incredibly impressive and useful, too.

Heartfelt thanks to Karima and Nicole and the folks who help them put together The Gen Why Lawyer – I’m honored to be a part of your series.

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning


My first book is an introduction to the concepts behind psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance


Read Full Post »

upsidedownhouseWe all know lawyers are pleasers. Everyone knows that. The weird thing is how it doesn’t feel that way from the inside. When you are a lawyer, and a pleaser, you don’t think you’re a pleaser – it seems more like you’re the only conscientious person in the world. You are the one who shows up on time, sits in the first row and hands your homework in on schedule, always perfect. Other people don’t, and that’s annoying. Thus begins a typical lawyer pet peeve – that other people never live up to their obligations. Stretch that out to the extreme, and you wind up doing a job where you bill 3,000 hours a year, just to set a good example for everyone else.

The odd thing is that lawyers simultaneously manage to feel a bit like imposters even as they’re pleasing, because pleasing isn’t the same thing as achieving. Achieving is an objective fact – you have accomplished something useful, good, of value. Pleasing just means you’ve convinced someone else that you’ve given them what they wanted, which might involve little more than smoke, mirrors and billable hours.

Lawyers are good at working hard, just like they’re good at racking up grades in school, which amounts to pleasing teachers. But hard work and good grades in school don’t mean you can play saxophone or or paint a portrait or write a gripping novel. It doesn’t mean you can design a computer or cure cancer either, especially since lawyers tend not to be much good at science and math (if you were any good at that stuff, you’ve have gone to med school and really pleased your parents.) Even if you are a lawyer good at science or math, it’s unlikely you’re designing computers or curing cancer because you’re probably an IP lawyer, who fled the lab bench for “money and prestige” (the magical lawyer incantation.) It’s a small wonder “imposter syndrome” thrives among lawyers. Don’t think you fooled me. We both know you aren’t really that good – you just run around trying to please everybody to distract them from the sense of defectiveness that haunts you, keeps you dancing so it won’t become obvious you’ve no idea what you want to do with your life. Everyone else seems to have somehow figured out what they want to do with theirs. Except lawyers.

So who do lawyers seek to please? Lots of folks. Pretty much everyone, except themselves.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SONY DSCI’m always hearing that I’m a downer, that all I ever write about is the negative side of law. Nothing could be further from the truth. If The People’s Therapist has one precept he lives by, it’s that old adage (okay, so maybe it’s a tenet) from management theory: Don’t bring me a problem unless you’re also bringing me a solution. It’s hardly my issue that all people ever seem to bring me (at least where law’s concerned) is problems. I’m drowning in their problems, and they must have the wrong guy, because I’m a constitutionally upbeat, constructive person – all about solutions, and upbeat ones, at that. Upbeat, constructive solutions are my forte. But these law people…what can I say? They just keep coming with the problems.

This dynamic plays out a lot when I do interviews. As an international celebrity, trend-setter and raconteur on all-things legal, I’m flooded – or, I should say my people (agents, managers, major domos, land stewards, footmen, grand viziers, and so forth) are flooded – with requests for interviews, podcasts, panels, speeches, award ceremonies, ribbon-cuttings, product endorsements, mall openings, ship launchings, red carpet appearances and the like. Of course, I always say yes, since I’m an upbeat, constructive guy. But in the course of these lavish, star-studded galas, my merriment is again and again interrupted by pesky, repetitive questions about anxiety and lawyers, depression and lawyers, suicide and lawyers, yadda yadda yadda. For whatever reason, these appear to be the favorite topics of whoever wants to chat about law in these situations, and so I find myself reluctantly fielding inquiry after inquiry regarding how common these phenomena are, why they occur and (just to drive home how ridiculous this all gets) if there’s something about law or law firms that might somehow be responsible for the sky-high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide that apparently seem to occur among lawyers.

I’m an upbeat, constructive, cosmopolitan kind of a guy, more flaneur than talking head, and this is downer, negative stuff coming at me when I’d rather opine about matters fun and hip. But I’m also a celebrity and a spokesmodel, with the attendant obligations (as well as a plain old, down-homey, profoundly decent and modest regular guy), and so I do the best I can to satisfy the peculiar one-track tunnel vision of certain persons out there with regard to this thing we all love that we call law.

At some point in these events, there inevitably arrives a juncture at which I’m expected to answer one key question: How can lawyers manage anxiety and depression (and thus stop committing suicide), because, you know…it’s getting to be a drag.

I get that, and as an upbeat and constructive person, I welcome this juncture when it arrives, because we need to fix this! We need answers here. I’m as positive and rah-rah and gung-ho about law as anyone – in fact, I’m Mr. Gung-ho, and I eat and breathe a love for law in everything I do, and I’m not too proud to admit that. And I totally agree that it is time to stop whining and griping and start finding solutions!

There’s just one little problem, though, and it’s a doozie…

(more…)

Read Full Post »

mikeMike DeBlis is an exhilarating interviewer. After chatting away merrily for nearly an hour, delving down into the issues in a refreshingly honest and unvarnished manner, he surprised me by nonchalantly announcing:  “Will, this is great.”  I, of course, enthusiastically agreed.  Then he added, even more nonchalantly, “So, shall we begin recording?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say, but “sure.”  And so we did.

logoI realized that’s the secret to how Mike gets such open, authentic, natural sounding podcasts for his series – he uses that first hour as the warm-up, to actually sit down and talk and talk and get to know his guests.

The good news is it really works.  We kept going, and going, and going, and I think – no exaggeration – we probably talked for about three hours, and covered a lot of meaningful ground in what was probably the most enjoyable and heartfelt interview I’ve ever participated in.

Happily, Mike, and Riche (Mike’s Social Media Director, who helps Mike produce the Emotion in the Courtroom podcast series) edited down the tapes to a mere hour of all the best bits…and here’s the result.  I hope you’ll enjoy listening in as much as we enjoyed spending those hours together getting acquainted, sharing ideas and digging into the issues surrounding depression, anxiety and the practice of law today.
Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 5.46.57 PM

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 2.37.45 PMThere’s no escaping CLE – so why not make it fun, with The People’s Therapist!  I’ve just finished helping to create an hour-long CLE On-Demand course concerning law and mental health for the LexisNexis University CLE On-Demand program.  The title of the course is “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy: Mental Health Awareness in the Legal Profession.”

1e28494I’m interviewed during the program by another attorney with a varied and interesting career, Julie Mallin, and the entire program was produced and edited by Lisa Carper, a legal editor at LexisNexis.113aed7  I was under strict orders not to wear a suit and tie – just a sweater, to make me look like a therapist (or maybe a therapist/lawyer) instead of just a lawyer.  We talked about anxiety and depression and other concerns affecting lawyers, as well as some issues involving legal ethics.

Thanks, Julie and Lisa, for putting this together!

To give you an idea what the course is like, here’s a “highlights reel” featuring several segments:

 

…and here’s a brief “biography” segment they put together with information about me:

 

To sign up to take the course (and receive your CLE credit!), and for more information on the entire LexisNexis University CLE program (which offers hundreds of CLE On-Demand courses), please click here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 4.20.55 PM

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

162546268-495x328I must be, because I was just interviewed by the celebrated Leslie A. Gordon of none other than the ABA Journal for her article, entitled “How Lawyers can avoid Burnout and Debilitating Anxiety”.

And Leslie also interviewed my old friend, Jeena Cho – and I know she’s famous!

And there’s this great portrait of me taken by the photographer, Len Irish! 0715FANXIOUS-MEYERHOFERL

The article does a great job of highlighting the issues of anxiety and burnout among lawyers.

I modestly confess that I particularly liked this quote, which somehow fell trippingly from the tongue of little-ol’ Moi:

It’s important to note that no strategy should be touted as a cure-all. “The implication can become that you’re struggling with anxiety or depression because you’re not doing your yoga or not meditating or not eating right or somehow choosing to go without sleep,” Meyerhofer says, “that it’s your fault for not having mastered some ‘effective strategy’ that would make all these issues disappear.” The fact remains that law can be brutal, and most young associates are not equipped for what they find when they enter the profession, he says. “You’re not tossing and turning in bed, roiled by anxiety, because you’re choosing to eat badly or to skip your yoga class. It has a lot more to do with being thrown into the deep end in an extremely competitive, exploitive business driven not by compassion or collegiality or the desire to mentor, but by profit and money and competition for prestige.”

Thank you, ABA Journal, and Leslie, and everyone who helped produce this piece.  I hope the message gets out that being a lawyers doesn’t have to be synonymous with being stressed out and miserable.

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

My latest book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

dan_avatar_small (1)My friend, Dan Lukasik, who created the Lawyers with Depression website, asked me to post some information on his up-coming webinar, on Friday, February 7th, 2014 at 3 p.m. (E.S.T.), for lawyers with depression. I’ll let Dan take it from here:

======

Are You a Lawyer Who Has Problems Getting Things Done When Depressed?

If you’re a lawyer who struggles with depression, you’re not alone. Studies show that lawyers suffer from depression at a rate twice (20%) that of the general population. When put in perspective, that means that 240,000 of this country’s 1.2 million lawyers are struggling with depression right now.

These findings are not about sadness, the blues or even burnout, but true clinical depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, to be diagnosed with major depression by a health care professional you need to have some of the following symptoms most of the day, every day:

Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness

(more…)

Read Full Post »

I received a letter regarding trauma and grief:

Can you explain the long term effects of psychological trauma? Four years ago I experienced two deaths in my family, sudden deaths by accident. I’ve never suffered from depression before the deaths of my kids, but truthfully just haven’t really bounced back as much as I’d have liked to.

I’d be interested in hearing what your thoughts are on depression after a traumatic death/grief and if that trauma makes one more susceptible to depression in general, what if any are other factors involved- (a second opinion if you will)? My therapist mentioned medication recently as a possible option since I have experienced two bouts of depression lasting three and five weeks respectively both occurring since Christmastime.

What factors should I be considering in making my decision regarding medication?

Thanks,

J

Here’s my answer:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s new book, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning”.

I can also heartily recommend my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”.

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

Read Full Post »

I get asked this all the time:  “What if it’s only chemical?”

Good question.  Why talk to a therapist if you can take a pill and be done with it?

Freud was intrigued by the possibility.  According to Peter Gay, in Freud’s late work, “Outline of Psychoanalysis:”

“[he] speculated that the time might come when chemical substances would alter balances in the mind and thus make psychoanalytic therapy, now the best available treatment for neuroses, quite obsolete.”

It’s appealing to treat mental illness as a chemical problem because chemistry seems clean and precise.  The fundamental functioning of the brain is both chemical and electrical, based on the difference in potentiality between sodium and potassium.  No problem.  You identify an imbalance, add ingredients, stir, and restore order.

But there is a problem.  The brain is also a ball of flesh, soaking in countless compounds we scarcely comprehend.

Injecting a drug – one more chemical – into your bloodstream is a primitive way to fine-tune complex chemistry.

That’s why psychiatric drugs are most effective when blunt, simple results are called for.  They can slow you down.  They can speed you up.  They can numb you or narrow your emotional bandwidth.  If you are bi-polar, they may help stabilize your emotional swings.  If you are psychotic, they may bring you back to reality, or at least closer to it.

For subtler changes in brain chemistry, talk therapy – or maybe talk therapy in tandem with a drug treatment component – produces better results.

How could talking in a therapist’s office affect the chemistry of the brain?

Your emotions are chemicals.  When you feel angry, your amygdala, a region in the center of your brain, releases a chemical signal.  That chemical – or series of chemicals, is what you experience as “anger.”  Joy, fear, sadness – all the emotions you feel as fundamental responses to the world around you – are chemicals.

Your thoughts are also chemicals.  When you admire a sunset, you are releasing chemicals which trigger electrical impulses that race through the circuitry of your brain.

Your thoughts affect your emotions.  So if I can affect  your thoughts, I can affect the chemicals triggering your feelings.

The brain is extremely mutable – neural pathways can be rerouted.  If I can make you aware of your thoughts and feelings, I can reroute the neurons in your brain, so different chemicals are released.

This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.  Here’s an example:  If you are depressed and I tell you to go for a run because it will cheer you up, I’m not merely nagging.  Aerobic exercise releases endorphins in your brain.  These chemicals cheer you up, relieving depression.

In the process, you will also create a memory – a piece of stored chemical information – that links depression with going for a run and feeling better.  A faint, newly formed neural link, and a piece of memory supporting that link, have been created.

Here’s another example:  if you are denying your anger – the typical pattern that creates depression – and I arrange during a session of psychotherapy for you to address your father, or your mother, or your boss or your girlfriend, and you feel anger well up and put that anger into words, saying what you’ve kept silent for years…that’s going to have effects on the chemistry of your brain.

When you get the words out, and feel your buried anger, new pathways will form between the ancient regions governing emotion in the center of the brain and more recently evolved cognition areas in the outer cortex.

New thoughts circulate new chemicals, create new memories, and effectively rewire the way you think.

You leave my office realizing you were angrier than you thought, and knowing it felt good to get it out.  You experience a lightening of mood.  Your girlfriend, when you get home, senses that you are less defended – your resistances are down.  This alters her behavior towards you, and she starts to open up to you emotionally to a new degree.  You begin questioning your old responses to her, and your old ways of doing things in general.

Your brain is flooded with new chemicals, and new pathways have been formed, that might, with further talk therapy, begin to replace old ones.

Subtle changes have been made to the chemistry of your brain – to who you are, how you think, and how you behave with others.

That’s what psychotherapy is all about:

Better living through chemistry.

=========

If you enjoyed this post, please check out The People’s Therapist’s new book.

Read Full Post »

It doesn’t make sense.  You hate depression, but feeling sad can be okay – and everyone loves the blues.

That’s because depression isn’t about feeling sad.  And the blues isn’t about depression.

Depression is about regressing into a child’s way of relating to the world.  You become helpless, so you lose touch with your own anger, your ability to protest against conditions that make you angry.  Instead, you accept defeat, and turn the blame, and the anger, in on yourself.

Sadness, on the other hand, is a recognition of impermanence.  It is about accepting that life is a brief opportunity for joy.

It is far from certain that impending death intensifies the experience of living.  If no one ever died, it seems like there would be less suffering and, if certain logistical details could be overcome, things might actually be more fun.

We’ll never know the answer to that conundrum.  You may lodge a protest, but life remains short, and only rushes by faster the older you get.

On the other hand, the natural human response to that set-up is to grab what’s there and enjoy it.  Sadness – the memory of impermanence – intensifies your hurry to drink deep of  good times.  In the process, every drop tastes sweeter.

The blues are songs written about sad subjects.  The levee is gonna break.  My woman done left me. That sort of thing.

One of the saddest songs ever written is a blues song –  Son House’s “Death Letter Blues,” which begins like this:

I got a letter this mornin, how do you reckon it read?
It said, “Hurry, hurry, yeah, your love is dead.”

I could listen to “Death Letter Blues” forever.  It always makes me feel like cryin’.

But I always feel a little better afterward, too.

Why is that?

Because ol’ Sonny is sharing his pain with me.  And that feels good.  Makes us both feel better, or it did, back when Sonny was still kickin’.

Patients spend a lot of time in my office crying.  I once ran out of tissues – something a therapist should never do.  It was one of those panicky episodes, like running out of maple syrup at an IHOP.  People come to a therapist to cry.  I know I always did.

You come to have a good cry because it makes you feel better.  It feels good to open up and share the pain.

There’s another element to blues songs – the reason they’re not about depression.

The Blues fight back.  This is music that came up from African-American communities in the Deep South.  Those people knew oppression – heck, they knew human slavery.  But their souls were never dominated, even when their bodies might have been.

That’s the true history of the blues, and African-American music, period.  It’s subversive – it fights the power, stands up to the pain.  It stands up proudly.

The blues make good times from bad times.  They summon anger from fear and sadness, and in the process defeat depression.

The blues fight back by refusing to stay silent about the conditions the singer endures – poverty, loneliness and oppression.

Sometimes they fight back by refusing to lose their sense of humor. Check out Sonny Boy Williamson in “Fridgidaire Blues”:

No, but that’s alright mama, baby, I don’t like the way you do.
Well, but I been tryin’ two or three days, woman, you know, just to get rid of you.

There’s an obvious lesson here for beating depression.

Express your feelings someplace safe, and own your right to them.  You gotta right to sing the blues.

Don’t lose your ability to laugh at yourself, either.

Now – just in case you thought you didn’t care for the blues… here’s something sweet and lovely to tear up your soul:

Read Full Post »

I’ve written a fair amount about lawyers at the office in this column.

Right now a lot of lawyers aren’t at the office.

They’re at home, out of work.

Unemployment is tough on lawyers because they tend to be pleasers – they have to be, to earn the grades to make it into law school.

It’s all about pleasing others at a firm, too. You submit to the whims of a partner and work around the clock.

Like all pleasers, lawyers get used to looking outside themselves for affirmation of their worth.

When you’re unemployed, there’s no one to please but yourself. You’re alone with you – and for a pleaser, that can lead to a plunge in self-esteem.

That’s why, during unemployment, you have to be especially good to yourself.

You can’t afford to fall into a hole right now – you need to stay strong. That means reminding yourself of your achievements – your grades, your degree, your accomplishments at a firm.

If things get truly dire – remember the bottom line: you’re doing your best. That’s all anyone can ask.

This is no time to beat yourself up. Remember to be you – your best self – the person you really are. That’s more than just a lawyer – that’s a person. Spend time with friends, and people who like you. You’re worth something and you know it – and you need all the support you can get.

You also need some time off.

The worst thing about being unemployed, as one of my unemployed lawyer clients put it, is that “when you’re unemployed, you’re always working.”

Unemployment can turn into a 24-hour/day grind. Give yourself permission to relax sometimes. Activity is important – but so is taking time off to get your head together.

Job interviews, in my experience, can be particularly difficult for lawyers.

Pleasers never learn to sell themselves – you just do what you’re told and hope good things happen.

That doesn’t work in a job interview.

You might remember those mass interviews the law school placement departments arranged back in the boom years. They typically consisted of a handshake, a dutiful glance at a resume, and a pointless chat about nothing.

Those weren’t real job interviews. Those firms were hiring your resume. They just wanted to make sure you could dress yourself. The interviewers often seemed as clueless as the candidates.

It’s different now, during a recession. You have to sell yourself actively.

That can be tough for a lawyer. (more…)

Read Full Post »

My patient, a senior associate doing IP litigation at a downtown firm, brought me the bad news.

“I got a terrible review last week.”

She seemed calm about it, considering. That’s because she knows how law firms work.

“I’m expensive, and they’re preparing for lay-offs. So they told me I’m terrible. It was ridiculous. They made stuff up off the top of their heads.”

I had to hand it to her. I wish I could have been so cool when the same thing happened to me.

My first year review at Sullivan & Cromwell went fine. Mostly, they didn’t seem to notice me. I wasn’t important enough to review.

Then, in the second year, it was suddenly a horror show. Nothing I did was right. The partners didn’t fool around at S&C – they give it to you with a sledgehammer.

Even then, I remember wondering about that one partner who seemed to like me. Of course, he wasn’t mentioned at the review.

Years later, after I’d given up on a legal career, I realized the truth. They’d probably given identical reviews to ten or fifteen percent of my class that year. We were the ones who left. It was a lay-off. Those terrible reviews were the partners’ way of creating a paper trail in preparation for letting us go – covering their tracks in case we sued.

My patient – an experienced senior associate at her second law firm job – knew how to handle this sort of thing. You don’t let them throw you.

(more…)

Read Full Post »