By Claudia McClinton

An NCBA member shares her BarCARES story in recognition of Mental Health Month.

Ten years ago I found myself in quite a quandary. My law partner had been appointed to the bench so I was practicing family law and criminal law (his former caseload) at the same time. I was also carrying the financial responsibility of three attorneys (don’t ask).

As you can imagine, I was in court practically every day and yet still barely scraping by financially. Worse, I was chronically stressed, not sleeping much, if at all, and my on-the-go lifestyle had me making poor health choices. One of those poor choices, for me, was the regular consumption of alcohol in an attempt to drown out the day. That choice amplified other poor choices and, in some cases, endangered not only my life but the lives of others.  I was going down a very dark path.

If I had not called BarCARES, quite possibly, my career and life would be over. You see, I had been wearing “the mask” every day and it was beginning to crack. A case coordinator for Wake County Family Court noticed and jokingly suggested that she would call BarCARESon me. I felt so out of options that I said “Let’s do it!” and I called BarCARES right there from her office.

I was immediately put in contact with a therapist who deals primarily with attorneys, and was uniquely qualified to address our needs. That therapist evaluated my concerns and lead me to other lawyer services that helped treat my depression, encouraged me to make lifestyle changes as well as changes to the way I was practicing law. BarCARES literally changed my entire life.

I now practice family law exclusively at a small Raleigh law firm and, though I remain in treatment and recovery, I am a better attorney, family member and friend because through BarCARES I gained the tools necessary to navigate the stresses and pressures we all face as attorneys.

During May, Mental Health Month, the North Carolina Bar Association is focusing on BarCARES, a confidential, short-term intervention program provided free to members of participating judicial district bars, voluntary bar associations and law schools. For more information go to ncbar.org/members/barcares/. Also, watch NCBA Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (#NCBarCARES) accounts this month for more about the program.