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Law School Blues

Rain clouds

My first experience of depression happened at 16. Family and childhood issues from a young age had changed my cheerful, blissfully ignorant character to a pessimistic, angry Scrooge. I got back to my true self after a lot of soul searching, re-assessing my life and goals and how I approached them. Counselling and new positive influences in my life helped me rid my mind of negative thoughts and get off the track of self-sabotage. Learning how to regain confidence in myself, not seeking external validation and not letting fear of failure get in my way allowed me to focus on what was really important to me again. For the following few years I seemed to have bounced back to my former self; carefree and emotionally at ease, giving me the illusion that my initial bout must have just been a one-off.

My first year of law school was great. I was motivated, fascinated by what I was learning, and living my childhood dream of going to law school and becoming the female equivalent of Deny Crane. But during my second year, things started to go backwards. A death in the family, unhealthy relationships and waning university grades eventually led to drug dependency, loss in sleep and appetite (losing 15+ kilograms), withdrawing from people, being constantly sick and being unable to even get out of bed for months.

Being unable to bounce back from life’s hardships only made me feel worse about myself, and not coping with issues like a “normal” person would shattered whatever was left of my self- esteem. Many say that depression is a “loss of heart” and I can attest that it’s the most empty, lonely thing to feel.

Lawyers are often seen as capable, composed, strong, successful, high-achieving perfectionists, and not living up to that stereotype prolonged not being able to re-engage with life or myself. Finally after the better part of a year I decided to get help. Counsellors, GPs and sleep therapists helped me with a mental health plan that allowed me to take control of my life and mind again.

People often perceive that motivation precedes achieving goals, but for me it also works the other way around: it’s only through achieving my goals that I gain motivation to continue the progress. I forced myself back into my studies and legal aspirations, and I’m now publications director of my university’s law society and a competitor in law competitions. I’ve also turned my grades around and have re-started all the non-academic hobbies and passions that depression temporarily took me away from. I feel more myself and better than I have for some time.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, know that there is nothing wrong with asking for help or admitting that you’re hurting. You will realise there are many others going through the same thing and find that there are many resources out there. If this strikes a chord with you, familiarise yourself with the symptoms and book an appointment with your uni’s counselling service as a first point of contact; no harm can come from a conversation. As confronting and scary as the uphill battle may seem, it isn’t worse than the spiral down.

For more information, check out these Mental Health Resources for Law Students. If you’re in need of immediate support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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