There are two things I’m certain of: (i) I am a fantastic associate; (ii) I am profoundly miserable. And I’m afraid there’s a direct link.
My rumination on this topic started valiantly enough. The recent layoffs of most of my friends had me in an introspective mood—and I had a little extra time on my hands since there was no one in my foreseeable future with whom I’d be “just lunching.” So I decided to apply my lawyerly reasoning to something other than arguments in opposition to summary judgment motions.
I spend no less than seven days a week getting hyped up about finding razor-thin distinctions among unfavorable Seventh Circuit precedent and the facts of our clients’ cases, so why shouldn’t I allow a few hours for analyzing a more intimately pressing question: How did a witty, attractive, intelligent, well-dressed, high-achieving, twenty-something girl like me end up so bitter and lonely? Honestly, I look good, and I listen to Colin Cowherd and Mike & Mike religiously. Those two facts alone should have most reasonable guys feeling like they “out-kicked the coverage” when dating me. Instead, I just end up kicked out of bed—usually by douchebags.
I thought it might be helpful to get assessed by a psychiatrist. I already have an aesthetician, manicurist, waxer, masseuse and hair stylist, so what’s one more addition to the LF10 payroll? And considering I almost let a gypsy on the Lower East Side persuade me into buying a $250 crystal to cleanse my aura when I was in New York last month, the services of a trained medical professional seemed more than appropriate. Ultimately, I hoped that figuring out a way to better manage stress and root out my issues would start a wonderful chain reaction culminating in a lasting relationship.
I made my first appointment with a female psychiatrist in a small practice just north of Northwestern Hospital. Going into it, I was only nervous about three things—that I would lose my lunch hour at the last minute on the day of the appointment due to an “emergency” assignment; that there would be weird people in the waiting room; and that my shrink might not like me. (The latter stressor a potential diagnosis in and of itself.) But when the doctor called me into her Crate & Barrel-ish little office, it all evaporated, and I immediately felt comfortable. She expertly commingled introductory and probing questions. And I noticed we even had on the same Theory pants.
Towards the end of the session, she offered her diagnoses: Mild depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and mild OCD tendencies. She wanted to see me weekly, which was fine by me. But then she made an unexpected suggestion—she wanted to start me ASAP on a low-dose SSRI. It turns out that people wired like I am are poster children for anti-depressants. She opined that I would see a decrease in irrational anxiety and obsessive behaviors within a week or two. In other words, I might be able to be a happy lawyer instead of a bitter lawyer.
That night after work, I set forth doing what I do best—obsessively fixating on her findings—when it dawned on me. I’m a sought-after associate by partners because of my good judgment and attention to detail. When I’m working on their cases, they have the relief of a few less things to agonize about because they know I will scrutinize every, single, solitary inch of the cases I cite to weed out potential dicta traps, and I’ll never get their motions struck in out-of-jurisdiction cases because of a failure to precisely follow filing requirements.
They know that I possess that special mixture of pathological perfectionism, neurotic need for approval, and irrational fear of failure that make for a superstar litigator. Without my anxieties, I truly do not know what would motivate me to triple check each and every mind-numbingly minute detail of a brief at 3 AM the night before it’s due. And the media partner from our D.C. office who has publicly dubbed me the heir to his throne might not be able to terrorize me into submission with outrageously critical emails if I was suddenly granted the capacity to not let those emails get to me.
In other words, without irrational anxiety and low self-esteem, I don’t know what the hell would motivate me.
Winning can’t be the motivation because when I actually get to see the final disposition of a case, half the time the wrong guy won because our fate was in the hands of a fickle judge who wasn’t even smart enough to realize how stupid the other side’s arguments were. And “love of status” certainly won’t suffice—my firm isn’t even a top-tier big firm, not to mention the partners who graduated from Michigan have eternal hard-ons for finding creative ways to remind me that I went to a second-tier school. And the money, which I never have time to spend anyway, doesn’t justify developing ulcers over inhuman and nonsensical minutiae.
Which leaves me in a quandary. Tranquility is within my grasp. But with it could come the end of my Big Firm golden-child status. I’m afraid that if I take the antidepressant, I won’t be a good associate anymore. On the other hand, if I don’t take the antidepressant, I might have to accept that the only men who will ever love me are the asshole partners whose abuses have helped carry me over the pharmaceutical threshold in the first place.
On the bright side—all this still beats obsessing over whether or not my shrink likes me. And the control freak in me enjoys already knowing what we’ll talk about next session.