Is this pickle I've gotten myself into going to leave me in a vinegar-filled mason jar for the rest of my life? Can you help me redirect and find a decent life? I'm almost 35 years old. I'm a Meyer's-Briggs INFJ. Artist turned public interest lawyer, but really having a hard time.
I graduated from law school in May of 2009 and got my license in April 2010. I undertook law school in my early 30s (after years pursuing a career in art) to be an advocate for the mentally ill; but interning in psych hospitals as a legal advocate for Mental Hygiene Legal Services in NY during law school and undergoing intensive and productive therapy myself led me to reevaluate the meaning of mental illness. I disagree with the classifications in the DSM. Further, the law is usually unable to help victims of the state mental health system. I could not sit there and tell another person that the state could inject them with Haldol or some other narcoleptic once a month even if they (the patient) fiercely objected to it. The MHLS attorneys were perpetuating the institutionalization/homelessness/poverty cycle that many people who struggle with mental health issues find themselves in.
I have discovered a great non-profit that focuses on alternatives to traditional psychiatry (MFI
), but it's not well funded and is in Oregon and I'm not clear on what I could do to assist their work. So my focus on mental health law has become a more general focus on "poverty law" or public interest law. This change in focus means that I graduated from law school without any job offers, and very little impressive legal experience. In fact, I'm soft-spoken and kind of awkward in a way that it seems most type-A attorneys don't much like or understand, so I no longer list my MHLS experience on my resume or tell them that I originally wanted to do work in mental health law because I worry it will lead all potential employers to assume I'm crazy.
I used to think I was bipolar and took lamictal, but it did not help; I was reassessed several years ago as depressive, not bipolar. My mother lives on disability for paranoid schizophrenia. My issues seem to stem more from having been raised by a paranoid schizophrenic mother than anything else. Sometimes clouds of paranoia pass through me, especially when I'm really stressed out. But my paranoia is more that I don't trust anyone, not that I think the phones are tapped (like my Mom). So while I've been reprieved from any serious psychosis or mania, my depression is a fierce dragon. It can level me. Often by Friday of the work week I desperately need to spend the day alone in my room with my head under the covers. After a day of that I'm restored and can tackle life again.
But right now, today, this rainy Sunday afternoon in Western New York, it's time for me to find myself a job and sell my skills to the world, but I feel unable to. I feel that I don't have anything to offer anyone, that I will be poor and depressed for the rest of my life. I want out of this hole (federal debt, credit card debt etc.) but do not see how to make it happen. I miss art. I miss artists. I miss being part of a culture where the emotional realm is a given and not a problem. I don't like most lawyers. They're kind of spastic and aggressive. So it's hard to get motivated to find a job working with people who I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like. But then I start to think that's just the depression talking.
I'm in therapy and I try to exercise regularly and eat well and don't use drugs or drink beyond the weekend beer/wine so that's all under control... I'm near the end of a one-year contract with AmeriCorps (original K ends in June but the site where I'm working has asked me to stay until September -- can't really afford to do it, though, at $900 per month). This post is a little indulgent, but I'm in need of support and feedback, so whatever you can muster I will take it right in.