If you have been following my blog, you probably get the sense that I am an overall positive person who has overcome some pretty great adversity. But life hasn’t always been so grand and happy for me. During my first semester back to law school in 2009, I struggled emotionally and lived in fear of the unknown.
As I was back in Rhode Island, gone was the comfort of being surrounded by my family 24/7. Gone was the comfort of knowing that Yale was five minutes from my house. From January 2009 through May 2009, I was scared. On top of the possible side effects and the new way I was living, I was constantly worried about all of the what-ifs. Above all else – I had to find a way to be okay with “my new normal.”
Upon arriving back in Rhode Island, my friends offered their support and assistance with anything that I needed. But what nobody could offer me during these times was the guidance and calming effect that was provided by my doctors, therapists and family. I took a full course load, which in retrospect I probably should not have done, but I needed to prove to myself that all would be fine and live my usual life and resume my schedule. What I neglected to realize was that I couldn’t just jump back in – things needed to be readjusted and put into perspective all over again.
Classes proved difficult. I had trouble managing my time as the readings took a lot longer than they had previously; reading through the legal jargon just to understand the judge’s reasoning behind his/her decision took hours. I struggled with taking notes about what I had read. This became a major problem, as my final exam grade was contingent on what I could absorb and comprehend from these readings. I struggled and wanted to just quit at times. Nonetheless, I put a smile on my face and carried on.
What nobody knew is what a dark and difficult time this was for me. Even though I was so happy to be back in school working toward earning my degree, I was struggling and was spending more hours in my professors’ office hours each day to go over the materials instead of living the everyday 24 year-old life I was used to. Was the neuropsychological testing correct – were my cognitive impairments permanent? Was I going to fail out of law school? As the semester came to a close, I panicked because finals were approaching and in law school, final grades are based upon one grade – your score on the final exam.
In addition to this stress, my personality was changing. I was suddenly guarded about who I was as a person and as a law student and became insecure about my knowledge and skills. When in class, I listened to my peers recite the case with ease and making it look like a walk in the park. I grew irritable and frustrated with my abilities (or should I say, inabilities). There were many moments of loneliness and a feeling of helplessness. Then, there were moments of emptiness.
After a night out at a bar with my friends, we all returned to Ashley’s so the night would continue but I noticed that my friends were happy, loving life and seemingly without a worry in the world. As I sat there watching, I began to reflect on what had happened to me and what I had been through six months prior. The magnitude of emotions got to me and I went to an upstairs room, sat on the bed reflected and let my emotions pour out. Fortunately, Ashley, being my rock and support system, immediately noticed and rushed upstairs behind me. She did not say anything, nor did she need to. She tried to be strong for me and to keep me encouraged but little did she know, I saw a tear rolling down her cheek.
My story has had so many ups and downs that are full of laughter, sorrow, inspiration and hope. But I have never, until just recently, expressed the emotional toll it took. I don’t know why, but recently I’ve felt the urge to share, in particular because I have been hearing of more and more people undergoing a hardship. Dealing with a brain tumor, or any illness or disease for that matter is scary and your life gets turned upside down and nobody should have to face it alone.
So while I have shared a lot about the positives of my story, there have also been a lot of emotional times as well and for those of you who are undergoing something similar, you know what I mean.