Gabe MacConaill — Did Maladaptive Perfectionism Tell Him There Was No Way Out But Suicide?

On October 14th, brandname BigLaw bankruptcy attorney Gabe MacConaill took his own life with a gun. He was 42 years and at a partner at Sidley Austin.

At the time he was immersed at Sidley Austin with the bankruptcy of the Mattress Firm. In addition, as his widow Joanna Litt confides on Law.com, he was emotionally and physically overwhelmed.

The umbrella term she uses is “maladaptive perfectionism.” That is a syndrome known to destroy high achievers, especially in law and medicine.

Essentially, maladaptive perfectionism is the loudest voice inside professionals such as MacConaill.

It shouts that good-enough is failure and failure is the end of the world, or at least their professional life.

That inner voice was screaming at MacConaill, discloses his widow, to manage matters at the Los Angeles branch of Sidley Austin which had been hit with partner departures and the exit of one key associate.

There was pressure to up the rankings of the law firm so he assumed he had to do everything right in overseeing the 13 summers.

And, of course, the Mattress Firm legalities were demanding and involved travel from the West Coast to Delaware.

Like so many lawyers, MacConaill would now and then surrender to binge drinking. As we in recovery programs know from experience, in itself, that behavior can trigger the slide into the darkness of clinical depression.

When Litt suggested that her husband deal with the stress by going to the emergency room, he observed that would be the end of his career. Tragically, he decided to end his life instead. Amid the twisted value system of maladaptive perfectionism, ironically that made sense.

May MacCaill enjoy eternal rest and this blog passes along wishes of strength and hope for his widow Joanna Litt.

The author of this blog has experienced a number of suicides in her own extended family. In 2003, West Hartford, Connecticut cognitive therapist Amy Karnilowicz helped rescue her thinking from maladaptive perfectionism.

The mind can be an evil trickster, casting fatal spells.

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