“Wear a jacket! It’s cold outside.” My mom could do something I couldn’t yet as a 10-year-old – pay attention to the environment, what conditions prevailed, and what the forecast was. It’s a lesson I’ve found applies to more than just the weather.
I am an attorney. I am also someone who has a mental illness. I have persistent depressive disorder, an illness featuring depressive episodes that aren’t as severe as major depressive episodes but last significantly longer, a minimum of two years.
I often find myself trying to describe what it is like to live with depression. Often, I’ll compare depression with the weather. Typically, people modify their behavior based on the weather forecast each day, often without stopping to think about it. For example, at least in Minnesota, people tend to wear heavier coats during wintertime. Essentially, people mitigate the weather’s impact on their daily lives by altering their behavior based on what they expect the weather to be. Forecasts can be wrong, leaving people unprepared and exposed.
Similarly, people with mental health concerns, including depression, learn to adapt their behavior to mitigate the effect their condition has on their daily lives. While these skills can be challenging to learn, once mastered, they can become habits. These habits become critical skills that help to ensure one’s ability to function daily.
Like the weather, daily life can be unpredictable. Forecasts can be wrong, leaving people unprepared and vulnerable. That is why it is so critical that we maintain the habits that mitigate the effects of mental illness on our lives.
Self-care practices frequently incorporate many of these same skills, behaviors, and habits. Many people, supported by these practices and other resources, work within the legal profession, providing outstanding service to their clients and communities.
I no longer need a reminder to “wear a jacket,” but I do appreciate the people in my life who support me by keeping an eye out for what storms may be on the horizon. After all, everyone needs a meteorologist.