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Can anyone in the legal profession tell me if I'm normal?

(11 Posts)
Worryingonathurs Thu 14-Jul-16 18:51:51

I'm looking for reassurance as I'm having a major wobble.

I'm a solicitor at a small, niche firm (think sole practitioner, no hr, no support staff, and if the receptionist is away everyone chips in regardless of seniority. I have been in the field 11 years.

In 2014 I became incredibly anxious and doubted myself at every turn. It started with just re checking things that I had done hundreds of times before and that I had double checked already, and it culminated in me not taking on any new cases and allowing colleagues to take on things that I had first refusal on. (We are all commission based so they loved me for it, but I felt the financial strain.)

Nothing preceeded this anxiety professionally but I had been under some stress with a complicated pregnancy that I feared I would miscarry (as per medical advice) I had also suffered some sudden bereavements.

I was doing quite well professionally and had a great relationship with my boss and colleagues.

I did sensless things, ie if I was filing and serving Friday I would be in the office until 11pm Thursday just checking and re checking even the shortest most basic bundle. I was constantly on edge and it spilled over to other things such as feeling that strangers were looking at me, a fear of being in public and a multitude of obsessions that I wont list. I had a word with my boss and he said he'd noticed a level of anxiety and just to not take on anything too complex.

I decided that once my ongoing cases were concluded I would take a career break rather than mat leave as it wouldnt have been fair to clients for me to continue. That took me to nearly 5 months pregnant and I left. My boss and colleagues were aware of the risks in my pregnancy and the door was left open for me.

I started CBT, which was really useful. I had to attend hospital several days a week and got to 7months prgnt before they had to deliver ds. He was even smaller than scans had suggested but did very well and is now thriving.

I continued with the cbt and, long story short, no longer have my list of obsessions and am not scared to go outside.

I've been off work a year, and for financial reasons I need to be getting back. I'm returning tomorrow part time as dh broke up for the summer today and can provide childcare until Sept.

I felt ready. I'd had a good 10 year run feeling competent and motivated and I really thought that the cbt had worked.

But the fear has set in this evening. I'm thinking about difficult clients, cases where I'm expected to go to court because we dont need counsel, aggressive opponents on the phone... all the things that I thought I'd be fine to get back to. What if I am a complete disaster and mess something up? I dont want to let a client, or my boss or anybody down. I used to love my job and I was good at it once upon a time!

Does anyone else ever have these doubts? Please be gentle, but am I normal or have I lost my capability, should I look for a new career? Does going back sound like a really stupid idea?

I have made countless applications for admin, reception and waitressing roles and haven't even had an interview (I did all 3 before qualifying so its not as though Im applying with zero experience).

DH's advice is to stop being a dick because we have bills. Dsis advice is that she doesnt understand what a solicitor can be stressed about as I just sit in an office and type. Both are a great tonic to me grin

BeatricePotter Thu 14-Jul-16 20:05:56

The thing is, you did it before and you can do it again. You had a minor blip but you are over it. If you have problems with self esteem then these will be exacerbated by doing an admin or waitressing role. Do not underestimate admin. It can be a bloody stressful job in itself as you often have little control and can become a dumping ground for everything that no one wants to do.

Be kind to yourself. Pace yourself. Spend time outside when you aren't at work. Walk, garden, connect with nature. Get a couple of hobbies that make you forget about work. Forge new friendships with people who are kind and supportive.

You'll be fine. Tell yourself this often.

LipsyDee1981 Thu 14-Jul-16 20:22:34

I think a lot of solicitors can be a bit obsessive when it comes to checking, double-checking. Attention to detail is important for the job but it can get too extreme!

What I do is check everything once, thoroughly. I make sure I'm fully conscious (as in my mind is fully on the task and I'm not distracted in any way). Once I've checked something (such as a draft document) I will physically write on it "checked" and the time and date. That is my own personal system that prevents me from re-checking (I don't allow myself to re-check anything that I've written "checked" on).

It's tough as you have to balance being thorough with working fast and being cost-efficient.

I also constantly remind myself that:

- I've never in my career made a terrible mistake, so I should trust myself more

- even if I do make a terrible mistake, in my line of work it's not a life or death matter

- I am working to a standard that could be expected of a reasonable person in the profession. No one would reasonably expect a solicitor to check something nine times - a check and double check is enough

- I'm a lot less slap dash than a lot of people I have come across in my working life!

Good luck

BirdIsland Thu 14-Jul-16 20:23:59

I am a solicitor and have similar issues with the checking/rechecking things excessively. I'm also constantly convinced I'm going to mess things up, and look at colleagues in awe as they go about confidently advising clients without any concerns about getting things wrong.

I do have anxiety issues generally, and have a tendency to catastrophacise so I'm afraid I don't have an answer - still trying to work out how to address these issues myself. I think my main problem is a fear of failure and professional embarrassment.

Just wanted to reassure you that you weren't alone, and whilst perhaps we're not 'normal'(!) I don't think we're unique, I have a colleague currently who does the checking thing too.

Ladyflip Thu 14-Jul-16 20:39:14

I think we all have these doubts to an extent and the fear that you might drop a clanger keeps most of us awake some nights. Having said that, I would hope that your cbt has worked enough that this is just typical nerves the night before you start back after a reasonably long break.

I am a solicitor and worry that I lean more to the getting the job done side than the checking and rechecking 42 times. This leads to its own concerns, that I am missing stuff as I go or will come a cropper at some point. What did you enjoy about the job for the 10 years you were confident at it? Try and focus on that and how important your contribution is to family finances. Ultimately, as one boss told me, we pay all that indemnity insurance for a reason, because all humans make mistakes at some point.

Good luck with your return.

Worryingonathurs Thu 14-Jul-16 20:52:52

Thanks to all 3 of you for your responses and advice. I wasn't sure I'd receive any at all, and you've all been really helpful.

Beatricepotter I have thought about a hobby and I think you're right. LipsyDee I am going to use your checking system. Birsdisland thats exactly it: fear of failure and professional embarassment. Im sorry that you suffer from anxiety too.

Worryingonathurs Thu 14-Jul-16 21:20:44

Thanks Ladyflip, yeah indemnity insurance is there for a reason. Hopefully it is just pre 1st day back nerves and once I'm back doing it I'll be too busy with needing to do my job to go back to the way I was before I left

LipsyDee1981 Fri 15-Jul-16 14:09:46

Let us know how your first day back goes OP

Worryingonathurs Fri 15-Jul-16 22:20:59

Thanks Lipsy, getting back on the horse was a tonic. I've just been having a drink with my boss, he's good company. It was lovely to see everyone again. I was all nerves until around lunch time but it was okay. I kept telling myself thats it's my job and I can do it, and need to do it.

HappyInL0nd0n Sat 16-Jul-16 06:38:25

Well done - that's really good to hear. I'm so pleased it went well. Anxiety can be totally debilitating (I know....), but with the right support, it is possible to get better (I know....). What's important is getting back in the saddle and you've done that, which is really brave.

I hope your family are really proud of you.

More importantly, I hope you're really proud of you.

SherryRB Tue 19-Jul-16 11:38:31

Glad to hear it went well. Notice what you notice about how you're feeling and perhaps if you notice the anxiety levels rising again, perhaps it's worth talking to somebody about further CBT? or other counselling or coaching.

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