Sunday, April 9, 2017

Depression and Anxiety in Law School


Hey, everyone! It's been a few weeks since I've posted - but life has been crazy busy! As of today I AM DONE WITH LEGAL WRITING (Hallelujah!) Finishing up that class was a lot of work, so needless to say, I haven't been up to writing my blog for awhile. However, I am back and ready to blog my way to the end of the semester.

To start off on a not-so-fun note, I wanted to give a quick mental health update. A few months ago I posted about the mental and physical toll of a legal education, where I discussed my own personal story about some of the not so fun parts of law school. I admitted that I was struggling and set out a plan for what I was going to do to get better. But most importantly, I wanted other law students who might be going through the same struggle to know that they are not alone, the mental health struggle is more common than they might think, and despite how hard the day-to-day is, everyone can make it through.

I wrote that post two months ago, and I am happy to say that depressed, anxiety-ridden girl that wrote that post would be so proud of the sunshine-loving, food-eating, happy and healthy girl that I am today. I'm not saying every hard day is over, and I am definitely not saying every day will be great from now on, but I am saying it has gotten better. And I hope for everyone that goes through the same amount of stress and struggle that I have gone through will eventually feel the same.

To fully understand the struggle that I was going through, I recommend going back and reading my post from two months ago, where I initially discussed my mental and physical health struggle. And to quickly update everyone on my progress...

Physical Health Update

I mentioned before that I was losing weight and starting to develop stomach ulcers from all of the stress that I was under. At that point, I had lost about ten pounds. My weight loss continued, and I was ultimately down to 105 pounds, meaning a total loss of over twenty pounds and landing me at my lowest weight since high school. I continued to take my medicine and alter my diet to help correct my damaged stomach lining. As my stress decreased and time passed, my stomach lining began to heal. And luckily, I am finally off of my medication and starting to be able to get my normal eating habits back. This weekend I celebrated feeling happy, finishing a class, and phsyical health by grabbing a burger with friends and it's like that girl who didn't eat for two months never even existed!

A post shared by Bailey Rosecrans (@brosecrans) on

Mental Health Update:

My mental health a few months ago put me in a very scary place. I cried multiple times a day, experienced panic attacks, and I am pretty sure some of my stomach problems came from my mental health struggle. Sharing my mental health struggle was the first step to improving; it's hard enough being stressed, but it's even harder if you keep it all inside. Next, I decided (and by decided - I mean my friends and family made it mandatory) to start seeking professional help and go to therapy. Unfortunately, I got rejected by a handful of therapists and didn't actually get to start for about a month. If you want to damage someone who is already mentally unhealthy, have a mental health professional reject them from their practice and see what that does -- needless to say, that wasn't fun. Luckily, I did find a therapist that I really clicked with and has been a huge help for me.

It didn't take long in therapy to be told something I have known for awhile inside - I have situational anxiety, mostly related to the stress and pressure of law school and moving so far away from home. Depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin, which is why I felt depressed for so long as well. Having a confirmation of what I've been struggling with has been comforting, and I've been able to learn how to cope and have come a long way.

How to Cope with Depression and Anxiety in Law School

  • Be honest about the way you are feeling! One of the most important parts to me finally feeling somewhat normal again has been letting my friends and family know what I am going through. Turns out, a lot of my friends feel the same way, my professors understand what it's like, and my family is a great resource. Even if these poeple can't help you fully, I swear it does help to not have to pretend like you're okay and deal with everything yourself if you really are struggling.

  • Seek out professional help. Your school probably has resources for mental health, or there are usually plenty within the community. I chose to go to an outside provider instead of the ones at school, but do whatever works for you. It may be scary seeking out professional mental health help, but it has been a major part of my healing. It's good to sit down and be forced to talk about your feelings for an hour each week, especially when someone can help you learn how to deal with your feelings.

  • Make lifestyle changes if necessary. I started going on walks around my neighborhood multiple times a week to get outdoors and get my body moving. I set out thirty minutes each day to just disconnect and be alone with my thoughts. I cut out caffeine from my diet (ironic, considering my blog title). Sometimes these little changes can do a lot for you.

  • Understand that healing takes time. I desperately wanted to fix my mental health overnight. But that's not how things work. There were a lot of bad days, all in a row, and I would've given anything for a magic solution. But there wasn't one - it just took a whole lot of time, and a lot of effort honestly. While I know that it will take more time to get fully better, working on myself the past two months has been long and difficult, but worth the wait.

  • Know that it really, truly, and absolutely will get better. Easier said than done, of course - but I promise it is so true. 

If you are dealing with mental health issues in law school, hang in there. I know how tough it can be, but I promise you are tougher. We all are. 

3 comments:

  1. Wow, such courage to write these posts! I'm glad that you shared your experience. I'm sure you already know this but you are definitely not alone. Law school and the legal industry is full of anxiety and stress. Ironically, the stress can be brought on by succeeding (and not failing) which makes it harder to understand.

    I don't know if you've heard the old joke yet, but they say that being a good associate at a law firm is like being in a pie eating contest where the grand prize winner gets ... more pie!

    So one of the first things I had to learn was to set boundaries both in law school and in practice. People will fill up your schedule and workload with more than you can handle, so I had to learn to start saying no and "dropping the ball" when I didn't want to do something. At first this caused me more anxiety but you'll be pleasantly surprised that most of the time it really doesn't matter. People will be throwing you balls all your life. You don't have to catch them.

    I also second your decision to cut out caffeine from your life (despite the name of the blog!). It'll be one of the many little things that add up over time to reduce stress and anxiety.

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  2. There doesn't seem to be a way to send you an email (or if so, I couldn't find it). Feel free to reach out to me via my website if you have any questions about what it's like on the other side of law school. I'm a Class of 2009 law grad working in biglaw NYC.

    Cheers,
    Josh

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    Replies
    1. Josh, thank you for your comments - it's always good to hear someone who has already made it out of law school and is working in the field. You can always reach out to me at caffeineandcasebriefs@gmail.com, but I have sent you a message through the contact form on your site as well.

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