“If I couldn’t handle the first term, how was I going to get through 3 years plus articling?”

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2016

My biggest struggle with law school was that I didn’t realize how much of a mental and emotional toll it would have on me. From the infamous bell-curve to the super-humans that were my peers, my confidence took a huge hit. I tried telling myself “obviously they accepted you because you can do it.” But as my first term progressed and we hit midterm season, I started breaking down more and more. I felt like everyone was getting it and I just wasn’t. I couldn’t keep up with the workload, I didn’t understand what was going on in class, and my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t eat or sleep properly.

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“You’re not alone”, they said. “Everyone gets stressed”, they said.

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2015

 

I am a proud nerd. I always loved school. Sitting down and pouring over texts came easily to me. As did paying attention in lecture and taking notes. I was thrilled when I got accepted to law school. It had been a dream of mine for a while and my hard work paid off.

When I started law school, my attitude slowly began to change. My class attendance was irregular and I was vocal about not caring about school. I goofed off in class when I did attend. At first, I thought that the fact that I didn’t care was healthy. Law school is known for making people care too much. I was not letting that happen to me – I was beating the system. Fellow students were consumed by their work, spending every free minute in the library. I laughed at the guy who asked me in October if I started my summaries. While everyone appeared to be working a lot harder, I was living it up, spending hours talking to friends during my free time and binging on television shows at home.

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Mental illness is not a sign of weakness

Rebecca Lockwood,
Osgoode Hall Law School, Class of 2014

In October of my first year of law school, a counsellor explained to me I was suffering from anxiety and depression. I knew something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what was going on or where to turn.

My doctor referred me to this counsellor after I broke down during a routine check-up. She inquired about my general health and asked, “How are you doing these days?” With that question alone, I began to sob. She sensed something was up.

Although my counsellor wasn’t a psychiatrist and thus her diagnosis wasn’t official, it had the same effect as one. Coming to understand what I was experiencing brought both relief and shame. I was relieved to know that spending entire days in bed crying wasn’t my new “normal” state of being. I had been afraid this was going to last indefinitely. I was ashamed because I felt weak, like I had failed to live up to people’s expectations, including and especially my own.

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