According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of crisis is “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially: one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.” We all face crises of one kind sometime in our lives. For Lee Holland, Esq., he faced multiple crises at one time. LCL Clinician, Dr. Shawn Healy, sat down with Lee to ask him about his crises and how he grew from them.
LCL: Lee, can you tell us a little about the period of crisis in your life?
Lee Holland (LH): My crisis was actually a three part crisis — personal (marriage), professional (stagnation, frustration), and financial (divorce and loss of job) — all coming to a head at the same time. At the most basic level, my crisis became apparent after a prolonged period of disconnect between needs and reality. By January 2008, my marriage was in the end stages of failure. By February of 2008, my wife had filed papers. I did not resist. I realized there was no prospect for reconciliation. I wanted to move on to achieve happiness in my own life, a feeling that had seemed unattainable. My former spouse and I had 2 children together and I knew I needed to meet my kids’ needs the best way I could, while being released from a bond to a person I could not seem to work with in a productive manner. Simultaneously, I was working at a firm under the supervision of a difficult boss who seemingly could not be pleased, either. The stress of this particular job situation and the marriage was just too much to bear. Work made clear that they recognized the personal issues with my boss, but it was equally clear he was too much of a rainmaker for the firm to deal with his limitations by unwinding the partnership in place, or taking any other action to correct his behavior. I just knew that for my own happiness I had to make changes in my life. Due to the timing and financial impact of both of these events, a third crisis of a financial nature inevitably arose out of dividing one household into two. Embarking on a personal journey to healing, I knew it would require patience and time to complete my recovery. It turns out that would take me about 5 years to resolve most of my former concerns and restructure my life to achieve greater happiness. There will always be new challenges, and the future that is available to each of us inevitably must flow from embracing and confronting the reality of our present circumstances. My crisis involved a failed marriage, a bad job situation, and, later, a financial crisis resulting therefrom. True recovery does not restore you to prior states, but transforms you into something else, something stronger.
LCL: You found yourself deep in a professional and personal crisis when you received your divorce papers. In retrospect, was this crisis preventable, and, if so, how would you have handled the coming storm differently?
LH: Respect the Gift of Fear, early and often. The biggest lesson I learned was not to second guess myself: when things feel off, they likely are. Try to investigate them, rather than ignoring and finding yourself in a worsening situation. Timing of a crisis cannot be controlled, but the consequences can be managed. An early warning detection system, built into us all, is our best defense.
LCL: Based on your experience, what warning signs of crisis can individuals look for before their lives implode?
LH: Warning signs vary, but all should produce that essential sense of alarm. Don’t ignore that sense, but try to identify the reasons you are feeling alarmed. The warning signs will vary. If you are an investor worried about your accounts, it could be financial irregularity, a disconnect between promises and actions by others, an erosion of the relationship, a signal that trust in the other may be misplaced, etc. Don’t ignore these feelings. Communication is dependent upon context. Consider options and then how to proceed. Be strategic. Find a trusted advisor, like mentor or a good, dependable friend to help you talk through your feelings. Do not put your own needs on the back burner. That won’t help improve your situation.
LCL: If the individual is feeling overwhelmed or unhappy with his/her work and home life, how should that person react?
LH: Be honest with yourself first. Only after you articulate your fears to yourself can you decide how to share those with others, and make needed changes.
LCL: Looking back on your time in crisis, what is one thing you wish you knew then that you know now?
LH: People will want to help, but can only do so if asked and if you facilitate their knowledge and access. Trust should be very selective but is absolutely essential. No relationship can be salvaged without trust.
LCL: If another attorney is currently in a similar situation as you describe yourself being in a few years back, how can that attorney identify supports and resources? What would you recommend he/she do?
LH: Reach out to friends and mentors who you can trust. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. LCL’s LOMAP program is a great starting place if you are unsure where to turn.
Lee Holland, Esq. interviewed by Shawn Healy, Ph.D.