As I inch towards the two year mark of the worst period of my life, I thought it useful to reflect on life after burnout or, perhaps more accurately stated, life recovering from burnout.
I have a few important updates for those who have been following my experience.
A change in focus
I have decided to stop speaking about burnout and mental health at legal conferences and similar events. You can find replays of most of my speeches online. There are a few reasons for this.
I feel like I have said all I have to say and that my message and ideas are out there already.
While initially the talks were helpful to me therapeutically, I now find reliving those moments to be unnecessarily painful given where I am at in my recovery. My mind only went back to those dark places while preparing for and delivering my message. I prefer to spend the time looking forward.
I am not going to be the one to solve this problem. It's a global one. It's systemic. It's for everyone to work on in their own workplace.
My focus is shifting to building and improving my business and being a mentor and confidant for other lawyers who want to build their own path.
In addition to moving on from speaking about the topic, I will also be writing and sharing about it far less for similar reasons. This is likely to be my last update in a while. However, there are some last parting messages I wish to share.
Recovery is long
The recovery from burnout is long. It is not easy. Do everything you can to avoid getting there. Nearly 18 months after my lowest point, I am still recovering.
My "billable hours" are mediocre by traditional law firm standards and I recently built in time off at least one afternoon a week to have some more "me" time. My body still, after all this time, fights against the relentless drive I once had. It is afraid to go back there. Maybe that's a good thing.
What does burnout look like 18 months later? For me it looks like this:
mostly being productive and much happier;
being more careful to set boundaries;
recognizing my triggers and avoiding them;
seeing signs of trouble in the legal profession literally everywhere and trying to ignore them so that they don't drag me down;
knowing that there will be bad days (maybe 1-2 a month) but that the bounce back is swift; and
wanting to safeguard my firm as a place where me and my staff can be healthy and happy.
I am, above all else, very grateful for the people I have met through talking about these issues.
There is an invisible army of people just like me who are much less public about their struggles but who have given me strength.
I am also beyond grateful to my clients, the lawyers and firms who refer me work and my colleagues at Durant Barristers and associated firms.
I am grateful to former Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy for lending his strong voice to the subject - in the process taking some weight off of me - and making lawyer mental health a leading topic of discussion in workplaces across this province and in judicial chambers.
I am grateful to all of you.
Thank you and on to the next chapter.