Amidst the hustle and bustle of another manic Monday (that’s an 80’s song by the Bangles, in case you were wondering), take a moment to pause and give this a read.
Today’s World Suicide Prevention Day, and while I think mental health and suicide prevention should be talked about more often and more openly, I’m taking this opportunity to share a post I wrote this summer while studying to take the bar exam.
I wrote it on a day when I was really struggling. It’s not pretty. It’s not all put-together…but it’s real and raw and I want to share a glimpse into what myself and so many others around the world deal with on a daily basis. That’s not to say I’m in this headspace 24/7, but there are some days, triggered by all kinds of things (stress, traumatic memories, poor diet, inactivity, you name it), that choosing to overcome these thoughts seems impossible.
The italics in the post are my current thoughts as I went through this to refresh myself what I’d written and how I feel about it now.
Even though I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude during bar study, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how studying every day, all day, for the better part of two months has worn me worse for wear.
It’s not all inspirational quotes, positive vibes, and “I’ve got this.”
It’s rock-bottom, “fuck the world,” turn everything on DND (do not disturb) and pour a glass of something to numb the tingling sensation of that voice inside your head whispering “you’re going to fail.”
The other day I had a really bad night – like the kind you don’t talk about because there’s no way to spin your face soaked in tears and depression at an all-time high. I was in a bad place. All of the stress from these last few months finally came to a head and I self-imploded.
I was stressed because I took some time off at the beginning of bar study to take a planned weekend trip, but I underestimated the rigor of the program and never fully caught up on assignments I missed. The stress that lingered after that long weekend ate me up for the duration of my studies, and is probably the reason I went from eight hour study days to ten/twelve hour days to make up the time I lost…and even then, I felt behind. As it turns out, it’s normal to feel behind, because bar prep programs throw more information than you know what to do with…and it’s beyond unrealistic to think you’ll memorize every lick of the law across almost a dozen subjects in a matter of weeks.
I was stressed because I was navigating a new relationship, and truth be told, I really struggled to give my studies 100% of my focus. It wasn’t until after the exam, when I asked my friends who’re married or in long-term relationships how they dealt, that they told me they didn’t. They had fights and frustrating moments just like we did, the only difference being a relationship is much more likely to unravel when it’s new because you haven’t built that foundation of commitment yet. They told me they were surprised we made it out alive (aka didn’t breakup), and upon hearing that, I was really proud of us for working through the tough moments to still be together, now. It was probably one of the most trying summers, but in the long-run, we’ve looked back at it as something we overcame together.
I was stressed because I’ve got two weeks left before the exam and it feels like nothing’s sticking in my head. What do I do when I get to the exam and don’t know what to put down for five essays? Draw a picture about how I’ve just spent $200,000+ going to law school and nearly $5k just to take this stupid test, only to be faced with the stark reality that most people who take this test have to retake it (at least once, some several more times, if they don’t give up before then). Sometime that week, I came to the realization that the last time this test was administered, less than one third passed. The stark reality is a retake isn’t the end of the world. It’s inconvenient. It’s expensive. It’s frustrating…but it’s not cause for dipping my toes into the pond of self-doubt and self-harm.
I was stressed because trauma from my past kept resurfacing and the nightmares were so vivid, I’d wakeup in a cold sweat crying.
It was a clusterfuck kinda situation. Damned if I think about everything that’s stressing me out, damned if I try to forget about it because they’ll still be there in the morning. I know a huge part of my stress is the test itself and how it’s a bear of an exam. The other part is how the stress exacerbates existing anxieties I already deal with on a daily basis, unrelated to law school and the bar exam. It’s true…stress fuels stress.
It took me a long time to be able to openly talk about my demons.
They’re things that keep me up at night. Things I wouldn’t wish on anyone, because no one deserves to feel they’re unworthy of being alive.
While trauma manifests in varying degrees, the outcome is all the same – it shakes you to your core and its effects never truly go away completely.
The worst of my traumas happened right after college. It was an unexpected jilt that left me distrusting of so much. Losing friendships, self-worth, confidence, and even the ability to do day-to-day things like drive alone and go out in public became unfathomable. When I have bad days like the other night, I’m rudely reminded how much my life has changed, for better and for worse.
After all of this, I’ve struggled to be open and to trust. I’ve talked to people who’ve endured similar (and different) traumas from my own, and what I’ve gathered is that you can’t start moving on until you acknowledge what happened to you.
This blog was/is my outlet to share that acknowledgment and how I’ve been able to cope…because even though there are lots of good days, the bad ones like the other night still creep in and shake me up.
Bad days are ones where staying alive is a choice I consciously have to remind myself is something I’ll want when the anxiety and stress subside.
It took me a long time to realize I am the only person that can make the choice to choose “life” each and every day. People who say suicide is selfish don’t understand the depths depression, anxiety, and trauma can reach.
I can understand where the opinion originates (because I’ve asked people about it) – it affects not only the person, but their family, their friends, anyone who has crossed their path in life, and it’s an irreversible decision.
But if you try and see it from a different perspective, maybe you’ll see someone who’s exists in an incessant state of anxiety and pain. Someone who worries their private struggles carry too much of a burden on the ones they love the most. Maybe you’ll see that for some, it’s not a choice at all, but rather the only visible option in such an isolating situation.
You can’t fault someone for their choices – whether that be in life, or in death. I want to open up a discussion that while not everyone may have skeletons in their metaphoric closets and demons in the back of their mind, there are people who do.
I don’t expect my friends, family, and even strangers on the internet to understand where I’m coming from. That would be impractical, because we each have our own set of experiences, and that’s what makes life so incredibly fascinating – you can cross paths with someone once and be forever changed.
I guess what I’m trying to parse together is, despite the #goodvibes attitude, I think it’s important to talk about the low points too. It’s the blooper reel you don’t get to see that often, but it’s there, and everyone feels like they’re dealing with shit like this alone. This is where the original post ended because I honestly didn’t know how to wrap it up. I was in tears by the time I finished it, but damn, it felt so good to just get my thoughts and frustrations out in words. It didn’t solve my problems, but it deflated the balloon of anxiety I was feeling and allowed me to process the situation more calmly.
Well, this is me being raw and honest and real. This is me shining a light on my demons in the hopes that someone reads this and realizes their own demons aren’t so scary. Yeah, there are scary moments; but the beautiful thing is moments pass.
If you’re reading this and want to talk, shoot me an email or a dm on insta. I don’t think there’s a cure-all to stuff like this, but from my own experiences, talking to medical professionals who specialize in depression, anxiety, and trauma was my first step. Then I started to share what I was going through with my friends and family and came up with ways they could help me stay accountable (e.g. I’ll send you a text when I’m in a bad space and just want you to come over and watch Gilmore Girls reruns so I’m not by myself). Writing is another tool I use, because even when I feel like I’m the only soul in the universe going through this, I can spit out my thoughts and keep them in a word doc instead of my head. When I started this blog, it didn’t matter if one person, a thousand people, or no one read it; this was and still is, largely a platform for me to document a journey that’s far from over. It’s a story that’s more common than I thought, and that’s why I keep writing. I’m still fighting this alongside everyone else who struggles to find purpose and value in staying alive every single day.
Figure out what works for you and then make a conscious effort to follow through with it. I’ve found that the more people that talk about this, the less of a stigma it has and the more people realize social media is but a carefully curated highlight reel that can create this sensationalized and unrealistic perception that you’re the only one struggling and everyone else exists in a stress-free vacuum.
The truth is we all struggle; so next time you feel alone, reach out to someone who’s been in your shoes, even if it’s a stranger on the other end of a hotline phone number. You never know, maybe one day you’ll be that someone on the other end shining a light on someone else’s demons.
The National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
If you want to read more of my thoughts on this topic, you’ll find a smattering across the blog, but in particular, this post.
All my love,