A Lawyer’s Brush with Death

As a lawyer, I am often asked how I could ever be depressed. I have a healthy income; I have a high-status occupation; I have a loving family. By all outward signs, I have no business being depressed. But my personal circumstances have little to do with the relapse of depressive symptoms, which just come and go like the tides. I am now 47; my brush with death came at the age of 40.

I was working frenetically to earn the nomination of the Federal Liberal party in the Riding of Kitchener-Conestoga. I had to go door-to-door selling party memberships to people who would commit to supporting me at a nomination meeting. At the time I lived in Mississauga and worked in downtown Toronto as a trial lawyer. My days were long: 16 to 18 hours a day for six months. By November 2007, I had won the nomination… but lost my marriage. I was surprised to come home one day to find that my wife had left a note and moved out.

I responded by focusing with singled-minded determination on winning the election, believing that a win would solve all of my problems. But I came in second. Within 24 hours of losing, all the work, support, excitement and hope were gone. I was left in the grips of yet another downward spiral. I found that I missed my wife a lot. I felt I had embarrassed myself, my community, and my family. I began to believe that I did not deserve a career, respect, friends, love, and least of all, help. Within three weeks I thought my loved ones would be better off without me.

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Orlando da Silva
Orlando da Silva works for the Ministry of the Attorney-General as a lead trial lawyer in critical litigation involving Ontario. He is the Immediate Past President of the Ontario Bar Association and was recently named a finalist by CBC Radio Metro Morning as “Torontonian of the Year” for his work as a mental health advocate. Canadian Lawyer Magazine named him one of the “Top 25 Most Influential” lawyers in the country. Law Times named him “Top Newsmaker” in 2014.
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