Law school, as we know it, is hard enough as it is. Stress is common, but having this condition is a handicap. It is a burden I carry on top of the enormous law school workload; the strain of the workload caused me to use self-destructive actions to cope. Everyday, I neglected myself to the point that I was no longer eating healthily or sleeping properly. What was worse, I tried to hide it by pretending that I was doing just fine, when, in fact, I felt like I was suffocating in a burning kitchen. I was slowly running out of air, yet I wanted to stay. That was when my doctor recommended that I take a leave of absence. I did not want to go. I do not want to leave my friends. In the end, I was persuaded by thinking that I was not leaving law school entirely. I was not really saying goodbye to my friends. This will just be temporary.
I finally filed my for leave the weekend before the midterms. I started counting down to the day I would return to school. However, every day, I could not avoid thinking and regretting what I just did. I should have just risked it. For the time being, I worked; I was adrift because I did not know where I was going. There were also days where I also felt so lost and hopeless, thinking I would be unable to return to school. I almost gave in about two months before returning. I did not know how much longer I could wait. But, if I am to fulfill my dreams, I must be alive to do that.
Until now, the feelings of uncertainty, the impression of failure, and most of all, the intrusive bad thoughts, keeps me from becoming the student I want to be. This condition is not an excuse for a bad grade. I refuse to blame it or let it be the reason why I could fail. At the end of the day, what matters to me is the number that my professor will put in my index card. So what I may lack in brains, I compensate by preparing. But when working hard falls short, I resort to harmful acts against myself. The self-destructive and unhealthy things I do outside the classroom do not reflect in my final grade. Aside from that, I always think that others are ahead of me because they are able to study without any chemical imbalance bothering them. I am frustrated when I cannot memorize. I am always unsatisfied with the way I retain information. I am tired, but I feel guilty when I fall asleep. I feel worthless because I am not confident with what I know.
One time, just a few hours before my midterm exam, I had a panic attack. I did not have the usual symptoms because I was trying to hide my predicament (I was in Starbucks at that time). In times like this, I feel like I am drowning. There is help, but I have to swim up the surface. However, every time I try to reach the surface, it grows farther and farther. Talking usually helps, but at that moment, I found it hard to approach my friends because they had exams (or work) too.
I give in and told my friend I am not confident in taking my exam. I told her I tried buying an anti-anxiety pill, but I did not have the prescription for it. My friend reminded me to take a break and to not think about the exam. Eat ice cream. Watch cat videos. Take a quick walk. After that pause button, I was able read and understand the important concepts for the exam. I took my exam with a calmer mind, (and as of writing this piece, I found out that that I passed!).
Even now that I am considerably better, there are times when I want to quit because I am too tired to do the daily grind. There are days when I feel like my body is too heavy get up, there are mornings when I cannot wash my hair properly. But in spite all of that, I still want to go to school because there is nowhere else I would rather be. Taking a break away from law school taught me that. But I know that if I want to go to school, I must be able stop doing the things that hurt me.
When I decided I wanted to remain here in law school and fulfill my dreams, my doctor and I made a deal: I could stay in school as long as I am able to refrain from self-destructive acts. With that, I committed myself to therapy and dedicated myself into finding other ways to help me cope with the stress. If I am to survive my remaining years in law school, I need to constantly remind myself that I do not need 85’s or 90’s to become an Atenean lawyer. I just need to study smarter and get grades enough to survive until the next semester. I have to let go of the pressures I keep putting on myself to be more at peace. I accepted the pace of the world will not change no matter what happens, but having a clear mind will help me keep up with its speed.
On the last note, I want to share this beautiful Latin phrase I found while reading Sales cases, Nemo dat quod non habet, which means that “no one can give what one does not have.” It reminded me of the time I felt so empty because I was so tired from all the studying. I realized the reason why I felt so empty before was because I kept giving despite having nothing left to me. It is actually taking a break from law school to do other things and recharge, which helped become more efficient in preparing for my classes now.
So, when you find things overwhelming, remember: you cannot give what you do not have. You can only do so much. Rest. Sleep. Things may go wrong, but we will always find a way to learn from it and do better the next time. Accept the failures and the things we cannot control. Our energies are more suited for the things that would make us grow and develop. We are halfway through the semester, my friends. We made it this far and we could go farther if we continue looking ahead. Laban!