The biggest downside of success ‘that no one talks about’

In 2018, after graduating from Harvard Law School, I landed my dream job at a top law firm in California. I was just 24 years old and making $200,000 a year, including bonuses.

From the outside, it looked like I was happy and thriving in my career.

But here’s the biggest downside of success that no one talks about: the deep anxiety — and eventual depression — that often goes ignored.

From Harvard Law to severe anxiety and depression

My grandmother and I were very close. After she passed away during my last year of college, I started experiencing frequent panic attacks and gastrointestinal problems.

I went through a cycle of stool tests, ultrasounds, and eventually an endoscopy under anesthesia. At certain points, I couldn’t eat, exercise or even hold conversations because I was so sick.

But the doctors kept telling me the same thing: “You look perfectly healthy, you just have to get your stress under control.”

When the pandemic hit in 2020, my mental health spiraled even more, and I found myself unable to keep up with my workaholic habits. I finally met with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with severe anxiety and mild depression.

That wasn’t what I expected after working so hard to get to the top. At the same time, however, having an official diagnosis forced me to redefine what success meant to me.

So in July 2021, I quit my job as a corporate attorney to focus on my mental health, and it has changed my life for the better. With the additional breathing room, I was able to stay more disciplined with healthy routines.

Don’t tie your self-worth with how others see you

Success means finding a balance you can live with

Focusing on your mental health doesn’t mean having to sacrifice your ambitions. It’s about understanding what is most important to you, and what you can handle.

Here are some strategies that have helped me maintain my equilibrium:

My goal is to help people find a balance that works for them. Success and prioritizing your mental health aren’t mutually exclusive, and my experience is proof of that.

Julian Sarafian is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School. He is a lawyer, mental health advocate and content creator. Julian has been an active voice in the mental health community, growing a community of nearly 350,000 followers across social media channels including TikTok and Instagram. Email him at [email protected]

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