A series of interrelated mental and physical illnesses turned my life (and the time I spent in law school) into what can best be described as an out-of-body experience. Four years later, I'm beginning to come out of it--I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not an oncoming train. It's pretty obvious (to me, if not to a few people who believe in me and/or my talents) that finding a position at a firm is out of the question. Which leaves another question: am I out of my mind to think that I can, via the magic of another graduate degree, reposition myself and get the career I'd hoped for before the psychological bottom fell out?
posted by t2urner to Work & Money (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The short(-ish) version: I was initially diagnosed as being severely depressed several months before beginning law school. Meds didn't help--and we tried several. I'd be fine for a couple of months, but would then crash. The crash left me feeling more depressed than I'd felt before taking the prescription meds; I also suffered anxiety attacks, an inability to concentrate for any length of time...all of which just killed me academically.
Before you ask: scholarship and financial aid issues kept me from taking a leave of absence; all I could do was to try and soldier on and hope things would improve. They didn't. Friends, acquaintances and professors who weren't aware of what was going on would occasionally give me the "What the #@$% is going on with this guy?" look, which I noticed in the manner of someone thinking, "I'm about to be punched; this is going to hurt" a millisecond or two after fist meets face. There was a half-hearted suicide attempt; there were several lengthy conversations with therapists and the Dean of my school, who ended up encouraging me to hang in there, just get across the finish line, you'll feel such a sense of accomplishment at having completed the task given everything you've gone through...and to tell the truth, for one brief afternoon (commencement day) I actually had that feeling. I hadn't done well at all, but I hadn't quit, either. But looking back at it, I wonder what, if anything, I accomplished by crawling across the "I have a law degree from one of the top ten schools in the country" finish line.
Because here I am, a few years later, and...it looks like the medical profession is finally beginning to figure out what has been--is--wrong with me. Some combination of a mild form of MS, chemical depression, and sleep apnea . Those of you in the know about these things are raising your eyebrows at this point, because you know that some of the neurological bits and pieces that mark MS can also be indicators for sleep apnea; the sleep apnea can be the cause of many of the symptoms that can also lead to a diagnosis of depression, et cetera. Is it one? Is it the other? Perhaps all of the above? On the one hand, I kinda sorta have an idea as to what's going on. On the other, I'm more confused (and frustrated) that I don't have a single definitive answer. But I'm getting there. I have a good doctor and two neurologists who seem to be brimming with "I can't believe they didn't figure this out earlier" confidence, and so I'm hopeful that I can get my life back on track--"back on track" meaning that I can start being as productive and mentally aware of things as I was before the bottom dropped out.
Which brings me to the career question. The combination of my having been absent from the legal world altogether since law school and the grades received while attending law school more or less precludes my becoming a lawyer. I went through the usual slew of law firm interviews before, during and after my third year of law school. I'd make it to, say, the visit the firm stage of things when someone would finally say something along the lines of, "You're obviously [fill in the blanks with intellectual compliment here]...what happened during law school?" Well, how do you answer a question like that---how do you tell a potential employer in an area where your brain is the most important tool of the trade that yours was broken for several years, but that it's better now, and you can do the work if given the opportunity? I'm not sure if I can.
So I'm thinking of doing two things:  taking the Bar Exam in July, and  taking the GMAT. Doing the former is more for personal reasons than anything else--I want to prove something to myself--; doing the latter, I think, will allow me to leverage myself into a consulting position somewhere, jumpstart my career, and allow me to prove to potential employers (via that wonderful piece of paper known as an academic transcript) that I'm normal. I've always been the mediator/arbitrator/counselor in a given situation, professionally and personally; I'm thinking that an MBA with a concentration in something along the lines of change management is the right way to go. And given the economy, this might be the right time to retool/retrain and be ready for whatever comes next.
All of this, of course, assumes that over the next few months I begin to come back around medically. I'm making plans, which I suppose is a good thing. Somebody out there has to have experienced something like this. But even if you haven't, I'd like an opinion or three: am I out of my mind to be thinking like this re: professional planning? Comments? Suggestions?
Please keep the snark to a minimum, thanks.