Life Is Worth Living: Help Available for Bar Members in Distress

By Ann E. Murray

I have lost a colleague to depression. Gordon Harris died Feb. 16, 2016. I wish I had known how much he was hurting, how much pain he was in. This world can be so difficult. He is not the first attorney I have known personally whose death was due to suicide. When someone dies in that manner, it impacts how everyone remembers them. I do not want that to be the case any longer. I want people to know how Gordon lived and realize that how he died does not define him. He was a good person, a kind and loving soul. Sensitive and caring. He was in charge of an office staffed entirely of women and they adored him. He was their knight in shining armor. He was not from their area and they took it upon themselves to teach him the ins and outs of small-town living. 

According to his friends in the office,

He loved to learn our ‘country sayings’ like ‘ginning around.’ He loved to just gin around in that office of his. He learned the word ‘flukeyjuice’ from me and I teased him a lot about whether or not he had his own flukeyjuice or not … and Brenda Kay blessed his heart daily. He loved our saying ‘used to could.’ I asked him if he played the drums and he laughed that laugh of his and said ‘I used to could.’ 

Gordon loved their support and attention. He definitely “used to could” play the drums. In fact, he was quite good, winning best drummer in a statewide battle of the bands. But, the best thing of all about him was that he was a loving and proud father to two wonderful children. You could not talk to him for very long without hearing about his kids. He loved them and they loved him. His daughter shared that “He was the best dad in the world.” He was also respected and loved by his friends and colleagues.

I am writing this so that if there is anyone reading this who has reached a point in their life where life is not worth living I want them to reach out for help. If you cannot reach out to friends or family, please reach out to me or any other member of the Lawyers Helping Lawyers Assistance Committee. As an attorney, I know that we are less likely to reach out when we need help. We tend to keep things in and are sure that we can handle it on our own. Please, if you are thinking of suicide, call Lawyers Helping Lawyers. Their number is 800-364-7886. Also, please take the time to read and think about the following five things which are found on the Metanoia website.1

1) You need to hear that people do get through this — even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now. Statistically, there is a very good chance that you are going to live. I hope that this information gives you some sense of hope.

2) Give yourself some distance. Say to yourself, “I will wait 24 hours before I do anything.” Or a week. Remember that feelings and actions are two different things — just because you feel like killing yourself, doesn’t mean that you have to actually do it right this minute. Put some distance between your suicidal feelings and suicidal action. Even if it’s just 24 hours. You have already done it for five minutes, just by reading this page. You can do it for another five minutes by continuing to read this page. Keep going, and realize that while you still feel suicidal, you are not, at this moment, acting on it. That is very encouraging to me, and I hope it is to you.

3) People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief from pain. Remember that relief is a feeling, and you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel the relief you so desperately seek if you are dead.

4) Some people will react badly to your suicidal feelings, either because they are frightened or angry; they may actually increase your pain instead of helping you, despite their intentions, by saying or doing thoughtless things. You have to understand that their bad reactions are about their fears, not about you.

There are people out there who can be with you in this horrible time and will not judge you, or argue with you, or send you to a hospital or try to talk you out of how badly you feel. They will simply care for you. Find one of them. Now. Use your 24 hours, or your week, and tell someone what’s going on with you. It is okay to ask for help. 

• Call Lawyers Helping Lawyers at 800-364-7886

• Send an anonymous email to The Samaritans at www.metanoia.org/suicide/samaritans.htm

• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TTY: 800-799-4TTY) 

• Call the statewide Suicide Hotline at 800-784-2433 

But don’t give yourself the additional burden of trying to deal with this alone. Just talking about how you got to where you are releases an awful lot of the pressure, and it might be just the additional coping resource you need to regain your balance.

5) Suicidal feelings are, in and of themselves, traumatic. After they subside, you need to continue caring for yourself. Therapy is a really good idea. So are the various self-help groups available both in your community and on the internet.

1. www.metanoia.org/suicide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ann E. Murray is a state’s attorney for the Chickasha Child Support Office, Department of Human Services. She has been an attorney for the state for 18 years and is the past president of the Grady County Bar Association. She has been involved with the Lawyers Helping Lawyers program for the last 10 years and, having been personally affected by suicide and depression, is an advocate for recovery.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 88 pg. 431 (March 11, 2017)

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