‘I returned to my desk and broke down in tears’: Magic circle junior lawyer opens up about battle with depression and anxiety

Avatar photo

By Polly Botsford on

Three-part blog is frank account of City solicitor’s journey

A magic circle solicitor has written a brutally honest and illuminating blog charting a “terrifying” year in his life when he reached his lowest point and contemplated suicide, and his slow but inspiring road to recovery.

Lloyd Rees, a knowledge lawyer at Freshfields in London, posted the first of his three-part blog series, called ‘What Have You Got To Be Miserable About?’, on Mental Awareness Day in March. It starts with Rees’ attempt, in early 2017, to come off medication that he had been on for a number of years. But withdrawal resulted in an “extremely bad reaction” including “heart racing”, a “zapping sensation in my head” and even “vomiting in the morning”.

Finding his old depressions resurfacing, he explains his utter despair at the time:

“I remember thinking: what on earth do we do now? A failure. Can’t function. Can’t enjoy anything. What is the point?”

After a meeting at his firm which in other circumstances he would have attended without incident, he writes: “I returned to my desk and broke down in tears.”

Rees eventually saw a private GP who advised him to go back on medication, but this in itself made him feel “like a failure”. Returning to his home in the Merthyr Tydfil area of Wales, he describes the sheer debilitation that having a mental health illness causes: “My concentration had evaporated. I couldn’t read anything let alone work out what it was about. Terrifying. I normally read a couple of books a month.”

By January of this year, Rees had plunged further into his depression which he describes in his blog with both power and, amazingly, humour.

“The depression was raw. Heavy. Dark.” He continues: “This was the next level. To use a phrase from George W. Bush… this ‘was some seriously weird shit’.” The blog continues:

“On that Sunday morning, I realised that I had ticked over into a more severe and dangerous phase of depression. (I paused for nearly 10 minutes before I wrote this next sentence) I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”

From this point, however, Rees story turns to recovery. He checked himself into the Nightingale Hospital in Marylebone and began a new treatment programme including different drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

As he eventually begins a phased return to work, Rees concludes his blog by saying:

“I still had months and months of recovery and work to do to get back to where I was. I’d escaped the very worst part but this was really only the beginning. I needed to learn to live properly with this condition. It wasn’t going to defeat me. Not for a second.”

Glimpses of Rees’ legal self pop up in the blog in quite a positive way. Here’s a snippet on how his lawyer-brain helped him during the consultation at the Nightingale at a time when Rees describes himself as otherwise a “blubbering wreck”:

“Luckily, somewhere deep inside my seemingly non-functioning brain my lawyer’s training had helped. I’d noted down a few things in my trusty notepad during the consultation.”

Rees, who got a first in law from Cardiff University before going on to study the LPC at BPP Law School in Holborn, joined Freshfields in February 2013 as a trainee, qualifying into the corporate team.

The 27-year-old, who is active on Twitter with almost 4,000 followers, tells Legal Cheek:

“Mental health conditions are indiscriminate and affect people from all walks of life and at different stages of their lives. I battled with this condition from my late teens and I wish I’d had the confidence to speak more openly about it then. I hope by writing these blog posts I’ve helped continue to raise awareness of mental health conditions.”

Of the positive reaction to the blog, Rees says he has been “overwhelmed”, and has indicated that he will be publishing more posts on his blog in the future.

Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, a mental health charity that runs a helpline for lawyers, said: “People like Lloyd opening up about their experiences is absolutely vital in tackling the stigma surrounding mental illness. Mental health affects all of us and Lloyd’s blog is frank, eloquent and brave.” She continued:

“We hope his story will help others recognise the signs of anxiety and depression and give them the confidence to seek help.”

You can contact LawCare by calling 0800 279 6888.

Comments on this article are now closed.

Related Stories

Law’s cut-throat ‘sink or swim’ culture has been laid bare in a string of recent disciplinary cases

Is the profession beginning to show mercy to its stressed-out juniors?

Feb 14 2018 9:04am

Number of lawyers calling mental health helpline at record high

One half are trainees and junior lawyers

Jan 31 2018 9:26am

Why lawyers need to loosen the ‘stiff upper lip’

Macho demonstrations of 'resilience' are overrated

Sep 13 2017 2:41pm