Depressed? Me?! Come on. . .

by Joshua A. Bobich | May 13, 2019

Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2019

I was 27 when I felt something I’d never felt before: dread, a lack of joy, hope or passion for anything. A dense, gray fog that felt endless and impenetrable overtook me. The timing wasn’t particularly surprising. I had finished my first semester of law school a few weeks earlier, and I was back home in northern Minnesota with my parents, desperately attempting to find some semblance of holiday cheer. Those first few months had turned out to be the kind of experience I had read about before enrolling: stressful, intense, and isolating.

After about a week of lumbering around my parents’ house, sleeping the vast majority of the time, eating here and there, and generally lamenting just about everything, my emotional barometer kicked in—moms just know their kids. My mom sat next to me, touched my hand and asked, “Are you OK?” That was enough to make me lose it. I was bawling, stammering, trying to find a word, any word, to describe what was going on in my head, my heart, my soul, my body. Where could I begin? I was terrified, but at the same time, the sense of relief I felt from simply having emotion again was liberating.

Although it may sound obvious from the experience I’ve described, depression didn’t occur to me at first. I had never felt suicidal. I wasn’t taking drugs to conceal what I was feeling. I wasn’t using alcohol to self-medicate. How was I depressed? What did I have to be depressed about? I was healthy (at least physically), in the prime of my life, and I had a loving family, strong upbringing, and a good education. Plus, I was on my way to earning the coveted job title of “attorney.” The world was at my feet.

I started my path toward understanding and addressing what I was dealing with by visiting a physician in my hometown. She diagnosed me with depression and transitional anxiety. Despite feeling terribly selfish and confused, I followed my doctor’s recommendations. I started taking a light dose of an antidepressant and seeing a counselor (who, luckily, was made available to me by my law school). What happened in the subsequent weeks significantly changed my life and my perspective on it.

What I learned through therapy and some grueling self-reflection was that my happiness was important, regardless of my background, my upbringing, or my privileges. It’s well and good to want to help others and “make a difference.” However, the odds of achieving any of that when you’re not comfortable with yourself are extremely long. If you can’t find any joy or satisfaction in helping others, what are the chances that you’ll continue to have the desire to do more of it?

After my first experience treating my depression and anxiety, I felt better—way better. I went back to being who I really was. I engaged with my classmates. I made new friendships that have continued to grow and enrich my life in ways I can’t begin to explain. This process had changed the course of my life, and continues to do so.

Because I was feeling “way” better, I decided I didn’t need therapy or medication anymore. It seemed I had solved the problem and my rough patch was behind me. Without consulting my doctor, I stopped it all cold turkey about two and a half years after I had started. As you may have guessed, the ultimate results were predictable. The fog returned. The anxiety ramped up. My patience was nearly non-existent and my temper was explosive. It was all rushing back faster and more powerfully than ever. For a while, though, life was moving so fast I didn’t notice my own decline in mental health.

Eventually and at the urging of those closest to me, I went back to my doctor and returned to what had pulled me out the first time. The right tweaks to my brain chemistry and engaging a new therapist helped lead me back toward where I had been before. I desperately wanted to be the best husband, father, son, brother, friend, and colleague I could be, and from my previous experience, I knew that was on me. I began to find my way again. I was excited and hopeful again for everything in my life, especially my new job. That was in early 2016.

Then, as life always seems to do, just as I felt that I’d once again found my footing, the other shoe dropped. A Yeti-sized shoe. I found myself in the middle of a very unexpected divorce. At 38, I was staring down the barrel of being a single, co-parenting dad, separated from my former spouse,  my first house, my dog, my neighbors, and some of my dear friends. Now I really understood the definition of “transitional anxiety.”

The months that followed were difficult, confusing and challenging. At times, they certainly still are. But the strange and baffling part was this: I knew I would be okay. I knew things would be messy for a while, but I sincerely had no doubt that, together with the support of my family, friends, and professionals, I would make it through this latest challenge and have clarity, hope, and joy ahead of me. Without professional help, I shudder to think where I might be right now, both mentally and otherwise.

Almost exactly two years from that life-changing event, I’m right where I believed I would be. I have joy. I have ambition. I have passion. I want to see, feel, taste, and experience everything that I can. The “fog” is a distant memory. The biggest reason for all of this? Openness. I do my best not to hide these experiences. I’m willing and happy to discuss them. It’s not only therapeutic for me, but my sincere hope is that others will hear my experiences and know they’re not alone—they don’t need to hide it.

There is a movement, and a wonderful and impactful one, to reduce the stigma that has existed for so long with regard to mental health. Mental illness or sickness does not make you weak or soft or less of anything. In my opinion, acknowledging a mental health problem and actively dealing with it is among the most brave and powerful—and extremely humbling— endeavors one can embark on.

The legal profession is still dominated by men and women who appear to have no flaws, and are available to their jobs and clients 24-7-365, all while maintaining a perfect personal life. Showing weakness or humanity has historically been perceived as a flaw. However, it’s no secret that attorneys have historically ranked exceptionally high among all professions for mental health issues, suicide rates, alcoholism/drug use, etc. Clearly, there’s a disconnect somewhere, and more and more law firms and companies have realized this and are making strides to address it.

From what I have learned and experienced over the past 15 years, being more open, honest and vulnerable—in other words, more human—with my colleagues and clients has paid incredible dividends in my career. My relationships are deeper. My work is more satisfying. I’m a better professional and person because of it.

No matter the backstory, I believe my happiness and joy are important. So are yours.

By Joshua A. Bobich


Josh Bobich counsels closely held and family-owned businesses on mergers, acquisitions, corporate governance, succession planning, shareholder buyouts and a variety of other transactional matters. Josh is a member of the board of directors and executive committee for the non-profit The first Tee of the Twin Cities.