Generally, when I have struggled in life, I turned inward, shut out the world, and tried to power through it. That met with mixed success at best, but it was my way of doing things. I now know that if I am to successfully emerge from difficult times, I need honesty and the support of others. Recently, I needed help to catch my bearings. In my search for balance and wellness, the Virginia Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (VJLAP, formerly Lawyers Helping Lawyers) crossed my path, a familiar path, only this time as a career opportunity.
For years, I worked on the same floor as the Lawyers Helping Lawyers’ office in Richmond; and, when it moved, I had its sign on my office door. After leaving that job, and the sign behind, I reached out to VJLAP for assistance. It was the only place I even considered because of its insular existence. I knew if I talked with them, that was it. No one would ever know about it unless I told them. No referral. No insurance. No nonsense.
Fast forward a couple of years. Professionally, I had pressed the reset button and was looking for an opportunity where I would have a sense of purpose and could grow professionally. Joining VJLAP was one of those coincidences with no other explanation than it was meant to be. I am a lawyer and social worker. I could join VJLAP and promote and support its mission – a mission which I wholeheartedly embrace. Reading the many reports on our profession at risk and learning that Virginia was expanding its VJLAP bandwidth to reach even more who may be struggling, whether it be with finding balance or addressing mental health or substance use concerns, the opportunity sounded right up my alley. I could be that beacon of hope for a colleague just like the light that had guided me years ago.
I recently caught up with one of my former directors. Her response on my VJLAP adventure was simply “That makes sense.” I am grateful that Virginia has embraced this stage of wellness and that I have joined this team and become part of a confidential, safe harbor that understands.