Living with a Chronic Illness is tough, being LGBT+ can also be tough. Having a job as a stopgap to hopefully bigger and better things – also tough. Life is tough. And there are many situations you may encounter in life where you feel you need to not be yourself. Where you feel you should pretend to be someone your not or downright lie as to why you want to take x day off. (As the mother suggests and does often).
Maybe there’s a bit of Hufflepuff in me, but I value honesty and integrity. I don’t want to be living a lie and I want the freedom to post about events I’ve attended on social media without having to worry about who’s seen it.
I used to try and pretend to be someone I’m not, fit myself into that perfect mould that people told me to be. Attempting to conform with that on application forms, contemplating the mould in the decisions I made in life and when I was a lot younger, pretending to be someone I’m not to make and maintain friendships.
My advice is don’t. Also don’t lie. Chances are you’ll get found out eventually.
I’ve got a lot further when I’ve been honest. When I’ve shown my genuine passion and interests.
I’ve also got myself into very bad situations from not disclosing my disability and as a result having to push myself more than my body was capable of. This caused a decline I haven’t come back from in 2017 and over the summer it caused some psychological trauma from being on a carpark floor in front of colleagues for two hours and having to go to A&E. It also caused me to be unable to walk for two weeks and drop attacks that I am only just getting some control over.
Never had this made being true to myself ring so true.
I have also found that I am a lot happier when I am being true to myself. In whatever way that may mean. It also helps me to create a narrative I can use throughout my training contract applications and soon LPC applications (I’ve heard this helps).
So yes be true to yourself. In all parts of life. Now this doesn’t mean sharing everything and anything. There’s a lot I don’t share. I don’t share the details of my illness in anywhere near as much depth as I feel them, for example. It just means being honest, and not pretending to be someone your not.
So this weeks post is going to be a law post instead of a chronic illness post. And more specifically a post for law students who are either currently trying to write their dissertation or want to get a head start on the whole process. Now my only qualification is that I myself got that magical first and in doing so I saw that there were few blog posts dedicated to legal dissertations. So what I want to do here is give the graduates perspective on getting a first in your dissertation.
The first place to start is with choosing your topic and more specifically the question that you want to answer. The number one most important thing here is to make sure that you are passionate about what you want to write about. As much as you can anyway, as at least with my university you need to write three proposals and the uni gives you one. If that’s the case then spend a lot of time thinking about the three proposals you put down. Ensure that you can really see yourself spending a year working on any one of them. Passion makes the whole thing so much easier – I found that I actually wanted to work on my dissertation and enjoyed doing so because the topic was so me.
When choosing a topic you also need to do your research and I mean proper research not just reading the relevant textbook chapter or lecture notes but actually start looking into journal articles and case law. You need to look out for whether there is enough but also to make sure that there is a gap in the scholarship and the law for your dissertation. It also helps if your topic is current.
Don’t be shy. Ask for help. Be that friends, family, professors. Sometimes just talking out your ideas really helps. I also mention this because from my knowledge it is common for people to need to refine their questions and if your supervisor says this do not get disheartened and work with them. Easier said than done I know. I wasn’t asked to refine my question and I didn’t refine my question but I can imagine it feels a bit like falling at the first hurdle. But you haven’t fallen and you have got this.
But Hannah, my problem isn’t my topic. I have my topic, I have my question. I just don’t know how or where to start.
I definitely relate to not knowing where to start. It can all be so overwhelming but I’m going to share some planning and writing tips that should help you get over that block. Although it’s important to remember that we all work differently and ultimately you need to do what works for you.
Firstly it’s necessary to make a brief and flexible plan, utilising your initial research. Essentially, write down each overarching concept, idea or argument that you want to cover. This will really help you break your dissertation down into chapters and sub-headings within those chapters. This and be done in mind map format or in a word document or you can handwrite it and stick it upon your wall/place it at the front of your dissertation folder, on your desk or whatever works for you.
I had a mind map, I had random scribbles in my notebook whilst I tried to work it all out in my mind, but for this I used a word document, as then I could add research to it as I went along either by writing in my own words, copying and pasting or just “see y at line 34.” This really helped me keep my research, which there was a lot of, organised and help see the links, as well as where I maybe needed to do some more research, and what that research needed to consist of. It is so essential that you keep your research organised in whatever way that works for you and your dissertation.
Set a schedule, set deadlines. Be that “I’m going to work on my dissertation on a Wednesday,” or something else. That will definitely help you get from the overwhelmed stress procrastination block and mean you don’t leave it all to the last minute.
So what do I do now I’ve started?
Immerse yourself into your topic, but if you need to take time out that’s okay to. It’s a marathon not a sprint and wellbeing is a key component to success.
Use your supervisor to your advantage. Use them way more than I did. You are not a burden it is quite literally their job and if you have a good supervisor they can be a real helping hand.
Keep a notebook or a section of a notes app or both with you at all times for those random thoughts. Most of them will be useless but some will be gold.
Make use of a wide variety of sources for your research, don’t just look at legal journals, books, cases and legislation. Use videos, podcasts, or even journals from other disciplines if these may be relevent. This can definitely help with motivation as well as give content that is laking in the legal resources.
Keep challenging yourself to go deeper, get others to challenge you. Writing a first class dissertation isn’t easy for most of us and I certainly submitted it knowing that that piece of work was reflective of the top end of my academic ability at that time. To add on to this believe in yourself. A first is not out of reach.
Proof-readers are essential. Especially if your chronically ill and suffer from brain fog. Once you’ve spent that long on something an extra pair of eyes or two are useful to let you know when you’ve made a typo, when something doesn’t make sense, is repetitive or where there’s a grammatial error.
Finally, make it original. Come up with an original solution, an original justifiation. Add a bit of personality to it. Some level of originality is needed for a first and adding a bit of personality to it will help keep your examiner interested.
This is longer than I wanted it to be but to close, you can do this!
It feels like it’s been a really long time since I last wrote a post despite only being a couple of weeks.
This is going to be a bit of an odd one but because it A level results day tomorrow, an important one for multiple reasons.
As the title says, I graduated top of my class. An achievement I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Especially because I went into university feeling v out of depth after royally messing up my A2s. I was incredible as an AS student and excelled in law and psychology, also had a bit of a knack for business.
Fast-forward to A2 results day, I achieved C’s and D’s, meaning I ended up with 3B’s. Not that 3Bs is bad. But I was meant to go to a Russell Group. At the time, it was disastrous and to tell you the truth it affected me for far too long.
See, what I didn’t realise then was that grades are not the be all and end all of life. One bad day in that exam hall doesn’t make or break you. Yes it may put a few extra obstacles in the way for certain industries. I know it means I am unlikely to obtain a training contract with a magic circle firm.
BUT NO MATTER WHAT THOSE GRADES YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFULL IN YOUR OWN RIGHT.
And I hope that me graduating top of my class, despite essentially being near the bottom of my class when I entered uni (based on A level grades) shows that.
On a more serious note graduating top of my class and winning a grand total of four academic awards took a lot from me. And I want to let all my fellow perfectionists out there that life is not all about grades and academic awards.
I was in a bizarre position entering third year where my ME was so severe that I couldn’t engage in extra curricular activities due to the amount of walking involved to get to one. Due to the upright time it would require. And I think that pushed me to do so well. Because at the beginning of third year, all I could do was my degree. I could lay in bed and stare at a screen – it was the thing that kept purpose in my life and once I started to improve I was so deep in achieving my goal – to be the best I could be. To get a first that although I allocated more time away from the degree or complete rest purely because I had more hours in the day and was less liable to complete and utter, complete non-functional crashing, it still took a substantial amount of my time.
If I was healthy. I wouldn’t have done that. I would have been more engaged in Drama society, in volunteering or a job and I would have ended up with an average degree.
And that is okay! For three reasons.
There is more to life than grades
Employers value experience more than you being top of your class and winning four academic awards. (Trust me. Yes I have two provisional job offers but no legal work experience or training contract in sight)
MENTAL HEALTH (and physical health) IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR GRADES.
The third one being in capitals because it is the most important. I am fortunate that my mental health was for the most part positive in my final year of university, my ME improved and I got more of a handle on the suspected endo monster than ever before. But there was a lot of stress, there were tears. There were stress runs away from my dissertation even though those runs caused excruciating chest pains, felt like dragging my legs through cement whilst they were being weighed down with lead weights and inevitably caused a bedbound day 48 hours later. My sleep pattern was for the most part non-existent until I realised all of my exams were in the morning because ME/CFS sleep issues + pain + stress = han in too much pain to sleep, up until 4am frantically writing and reading about gestational bonding and whether that is a valid argument for the unenforceability of surrogacy arrangements. I partially dislocated joints in every exam, sat one exam whilst on antibiotics and another whilst having a bit of an endo flare.
I did this all because I genuinely wanted it, because I had nothing else, because I’m a workaholic and more importantly I love law. It created a perfect storm.
But just because I did it doesn’t mean you should, or you’ve failed. And I hope this goes to show that one bad academic year doesn’t mean you’re doomed for failure for the rest of your life. I also hope I’ve reminded you that self care is so important and more important than any grade could be.
As a perfectionist that’s difficult to accept, I know. The only reason I’m not doing 24/7 LSAT prep at this point is because I know if my brains not working it won’t be productive. Because However much I want Stanford and however much I am trying to get there, not getting in and not getting the scholarship I require is not the end of the world. The same goes for everything in life. Just because your not the best it doesn’t mean your not enough. Or you’ve failed in some way!
So imagine this, you are just out of university. Every graduate in the country is looking for a job. This time, that wonderful season called summer, is a time where the job market is heavily saturated. And it’s difficult. Every single job seems to ask for experience or is in a difficult to get to location. Or due to health issues, it’s one that just isn’t possible. Not only do you need to think of a job now, but you also need to plan your future, apply for training contracts, mini-pupillages etc.
Then again you just have a thirst to travel. To run away from it all but here’s the catch – it’s borderline as to whether you have the funds. Due to flights it’s borderline as to whether I’d have the 5000 aussie dollars necessary for a working visa. (Would be planning on office temp work because health if I did it)
I actually have an interview to teach in china with EF on Monday to lets hope. I got a not really legit teach in china job a few months ago and turned it down due to that. The differences in how EF do things is already evident in the recruitment process.
But anyway. I Fear I have gone on a tangent.
This blog post is targeted at explaining that often times whether you get the job or not is just luck. To go along with that I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. And this is not to underestimate the hard work that is also involved in securing a job. For law, all the research into firms and in any case CV’s should be tailored for each position. Yes it is a lot of work, but it is also a lot of luck and that is the stance I am going to take in this post.
Many of factors go into how good the application was and whether you progress, such as;
How tired you were when you applied
How distracted you were
How tired/distracted the recruiter was
They may have filled all the positions and just not taken the job down
Where you live
You don’t have a driving licence
The recruiter just doesn’t relate to you
Hours your available to work
Potential commitment time
How good everyone else who applied was
Your CV is not ATS compatible
and many many other reasons why you may be rejected for a job without getting to interview but may get an interview for a more skilled job.
Getting a job can be a difficult journey for some of us. I still have these two provisional offers under my belt with no signs of progress and one is meant to start next week.
Shit happens with references too. Which is one of my issues right now because all of my previous employees have left their jobs. And due to health issues I wasn’t great at those jobs anyway…
Remember not to be disheartened about rejection.
Rejection is redirection and it could happen for a number of reasons.
Just take action and persist and eventually life will work out.
Disclaimer: it goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list and my only qualification to write about this is getting a first in family law. I am also going to try and avoid too much generalised advice and just let you know what I wish I knew before taking the module. So let’s get started.
You need to consider the wider context – policy considerations, likely effect on the child, the political climate etc. Really consider this in essay questions and if you’re planning on thinking out of the box, problem questions too!
Take a psycho-social approach to the law – You will likely have a lot of studies thrown at you in lectures or put on your reading list about things like the importance of contact with both parents, the impact and prevalence of domestic violence, the reaction of the criminal justice system to domestic violence and various other areas you will cover throughout the course. It can be difficult to know how to utilise these and what the purpose of them is at the beginning because these are things that are not featured in many other law modules. But use them! Use them to back up a point, use them to help explain why the law is the way it is and if you have coursework critique them.
The Welfare of the child is paramount – The welfare principle comes up time and time again in family law. Know S1 Children Act 1989 off by heart. Just do it. Even if you can use statute books in the exam. In revision notes make note of when it applies and which parts apply to help avoid confusion.
Feminism – Feminist perspectives to the law are prevalent and easily applicable to the entirety of family law. If you have coursework spend some time discussing this where relevant and think about it for exam essays.
Utilise a variety of resources – It can get confusing, but fortunately family law is well resourced. If you need to use a website meant for parents going through disputes just to get the bare bones then that’s okay. You can build up from that to get the knowledge base necessary for a first. Understanding is however key. You can know all the statute and case law but if you don’t know the reasoning behind it or implications of it you won’t get a first.
Human rights – More specifically consider A8 ECHR and the implications that has on the law in that topic – could one argue A8 implications as a reason for reform?
Case facts – Okay I guess this is a more general one. They can be useful for essays to analyse whether the decision was a just one or to outright say how unjust the decision was but don’t get too bogged down with them. In problems remember that in many areas of family law each case is decided on it’s own facts. So don’t justify your conclusion based on a similar case. Stick to principles from the cases and apply them.
If you keep these in mind, they will definitely help you succeed in this module. Family law can get very overwhelming but it is certainly doable and it was probably my favourite module in final year.
If anyone wants advice relating to other modules you may take in law school leave a comment! And if anyone has more family law advice please feel free to comment!
Passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law, and of life – Elle Woods
Earlier this week I received my overall degree classification and my final year module results. And well… the title says it all. I got a first. Very much feeling like Elle Woods right now despite perfectionist me trying to get me down because some people get higher firsts. Yes I need to learn to be easier on myself. I am mentally and physically unwell and a first is more than enough! But anyway, in light of the progress I have made throughout my degree I thought I’d discuss a little bit of my journey and give a few useful tips getting the undergraduate degree you deserve. This will be aimed at law students but a lot of it will apply to many disciplines.
So a came out of first year with a 2:2 – albeit a high one because my strengths lie in exams. And back in the day there was a huge difference between exam me and coursework me. Now that difference is only marginal – but still there. Exams are my strength. For some coursework is there strength. There are a few tips that arise from this point.
If you know your better at coursework before going to uni select a uni that offers a lot of coursework for your course – I think for my uni it was 60/40 for my class. Which is quite high for a law degree. If exams are your strength then maybe select a more exam based.
If you don’t have this luxury – which I know I didn’t, then find it in your first year and really play to it. Take exam based modules if you have the choice or if coursework is your strength, take coursework based modules.
Work on closing that gap – ask your lecturers what they are looking for, what you need to improve. Read books around your course in the holidays and refer back during the year and make sure you are away of the mark scheme at your institution and what it asks of you.
In first year I was a very busy gal. Yes I worked hard with my degree and I wanted to do my best but I was also doing a lot of other things and dealing with some terrifying and debilitating health issues which I will not discuss because just thinking back to the levels of pelvic pain and myriad of other symptoms is too much. In my first year I had two jobs, spent 6-15 hours a week doing drama related activities, debated, attended poetry society and catholic society. I did a short course in advocacy, spent maybe a little too much time in the pub, had movie nights with my friends and went to the gym 3-6 times a week.
I was for the first time ever truly living my life – maybe as a distraction from the worry about my fertility levels and also because I very much like to seize the day if the opportunity to do so arises. Hilariously, I also applied to switch to theatre and got accepted. I made pro and con lists and couldn’t decide. But the day before I had to make a decision the judgement on the Charlie Gard case was handed down and it captured me.
It was then that I knew.
I was going to persist with the study and hopefully one day, the practice of law. That is still the case. I’m planning on working for a year because I need a break and then going on to do the BPTC. I would also like to go into law academically at some point because, just like Elle Woods, I learnt to love law.
2nd year I started off trying to be as busy as I was in 1st year, despite my chronic fatigue having got worse over the summer and still very much being symptomatic with suspected endometriosis and dealing with fibromyalgia – which I think I developed towards the end of my first year.
I was on two committees, had a job, dabbled in model UN and the climbing society. I also walked to and from uni. So it was no wonder that despite working really hard that in my first piece of coursework I only got a 53. (And it was trusts law which I really did not understand, didn’t even answer the question – as I realised once I got feedback.)
All the meanwhile I was getting progressively more ill so I cut back. I had my degree, my committee responsibilities, many GP appointments, transvaginal ultrasounds, gynaecology appointments and blood tests and that was about it.
And what happened? I took that feedback from the 53 and on the next piece of coursework (EU law) I got 73. And it wasn’t a fluke. I got 73 in my land coursework and 68 in my tort coursework.
Admittedly this was not all sunshine and rainbows. My mental health in 2nd year was appalling because of the pill I was on at the time. Cerazette I hate you. I started self harming again, attempted suicide. But hey atleast I got good grades.
Going into exams I was determined to keep this up. So me and my concentrate revision guides and Q&A’s got to work.
Just want to put a disclaimer here – do not rely on revision guides too heavily. They are useful to supplement your own work and resources, to clarify areas you don’t understand and to improve exam technique.
And my exam results were as follows
Not too shabby at all and certainly more than I expected.
So after summer we go into third year. This year the workload was higher as we had a dissertation on top of the 4 modules. But we had choice over our modules and our dissertation topics.
Now I got really unwell with my ME/CFS and suspected POTS over summer so third year, gonna be honest. I only had my degree. But this is not be saying that you should have no life to do well. I was in a unique situation. Of being pretty much bedbound, and not very functional even in bed at the end of the summer but being too stubborn to take a year out. And I did have some life – just not as much of a life.
I spent time talking to my flat mates, had 7 theatre trips and other things happened.
But for the most part is was study, rest, attend medical appointments and apply for grad schemes (+ the interviews I had associated with that).
My health has honestly been a laughing matter this past year. I’ve managed to improve my ME/CFS drastically although I’m still probably on the mild/moderate borderline. My nausea is no where near as bad as it was in first term. But my joints are horrendous (Yay HSD), my fibro pain got a lot worse and I spent 2 months working my way up to the maximum dose of gabapentin. Which helps. But it made me really anxious and paranoid which I just deal with tbh, my mental health is still a lot better than it was in 2nd year. Suspected endo and suspected POTS are much less of an issue but my skin is causing all sorts of issues.
But there we go. Life goes on.
I would say I learnt to love law in 2nd year but in my 3rd year I really developed that passion for law. Which I think can make everything more frustrating because suddenly it matters so much more. I absolutely chose the right modules.
It’s that passion that I believe really helped drive my success and allowed me to work the hours that I worked, despite so much going on health wise. It was no longer about just getting the grades because I need the grades. I was, for the first time, doing my degree for me and only me and because of that I wanted to do the best I possibly could.
In terms of revision it was a lot of recall, a lot of colour. I made PowerPoints for essay plans and colour coded problem answers. It was extra research where I felt it was needed or where I was just genuinely interested and it was tactical emails to lecturers, asking specific questions on things that were likely to be relevant to the exam that I needed clarifying. I asked about the structures expected of us and clarifications on the operation of specific parts of statute, sentencing guidelines and case law. It is also important to not underestimate the benefit of talking with your peer group about specific topics within your modules. And in relation to coursework lots of research and thinking. Thinking about the question, the wider context and the merits of the research itself. Again talking to your peers and getting people to proofread is helpful here.
So third year finishes and results are as follows
Children and the Law: 73
I was a consistent bunny.
Children and the Law: 75
I was a successful gal. In terms of academic achievement anyway. Not much else. But we have provisional job offers, we’re waiting to hear back from interviews and I’m meeting with someone about some volunteering on Monday.
I also want to note that I am not naturally intelligent and I really struggle with reading comprehension. I never expected these results and it was REALLY hard! Now I’ve finished discussing the journey I’ll end this post with useful tips and try and link a few useful resources.
You need to peak at the right time! Third year is the most weighted year at most uni’s – don’t burn yourself out! Pace yourself. Take first year to get involved in all the things.
If you don’t understand ask for help.
Look after yourself. You won’t reach your full potential otherwise. This means trying to sleep atleast 7 hours a night, taking time to calm down. Go for a 10 minute run, do some yoga or pilates. Try to eat a balanced diet.
Don’t become too isolated!
Switch up your study space.
Practice makes perfect.
Extra research is a must – if you can go beyond the reading list that is even better – but you do not need to read everything on the reading list. If it says it’s optional, it means optional. Utilise them for coursework, seminar preparations or when looking at specific exam questions.
Attendance is key. Especially seminars but I also found it necessary to attend lectures as I focus more in a lecture than when just listening to the recording in bed.
You do you. Comparison is the thief of joy. Please do not succumb to it. I know it is hard, I know law school is a breeding ground for comparison but you will save your self a lot of tears if you don’t succumb to it.
Your lecturers will try to psych you out. Which makes sense. If you want to be a lawyer you need a thick skin. Be prepared!
The secret barrister: (Currently listening to the audiobook and it would be especially useful for sentencing, evidence and criminal justice students.)https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1509841148/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1
Another day, another blog post – I definitely have a creative muse right now. Today, I am going to write about something I would like to call productivity culture.
I feel as though in todays day and age productivity is so much more important than it was in previous generations. Maybe this is because of the internet, specifically social media which gives us access to so many people who previously we would have seldom come across.
Social media is full of those who build their platform from their business, their studying, their bullet journals, it is also full of a range of other stories, which when taken the wrong way or read in the wrong mindset can put the rest of us to shame. These ultra-productive people have upped the anti for what it means to be successful, to be productive, to be trying your best.
And obviously that’s not true, success is relative and the rational part of me knows that success is relative, and that everything happens for a reason. I also believe that a lot of the time these online personality’s are just inspirational and nothing more – they certainty don’t intend for harm to come from it. I was studytubers, follow studygrammers myself. I hold nothing against the concept or them as people.
But, I do know that I sometimes have to step back, and there have certainly been times when I have been left feeling like I’m somehow not good enough because I’m not ultra-productice or ultra-successful in life. This brings us to a deeper problem. For some teenagers and young adults, just desperate to be successful, for anxious minds this can cause harm. It can lead to the belief that you have to be doing something worthwhile at every waking second of every day. That you have to sacrifice your sleep, your downtime to being constantly busy.
Busy is the word that brings me to belief that this culture is also heavily represented outside of social media, in certain industries. In law, medicine and academia to name a few. And it can certainly be represented by that family friend everyone has who is doing all the things and puts you to shame. Makes you feel like your not doing enough to be successful in life.
Your not doing enough worthwhile activity. You feel bad for spending maybe a little too much time on social media, watching TV or watching YouTube. For not being successful enough. Currently, I’m unemployed. I’m waiting to hear back about a provisional job offer, and have one assessment centre and an interview lined up next week so it’s not like I’m not trying and I’m really trying to be okay with not being ultra-productive during my time off. And not being ultra successful.
Yes I’m being relatively productive (depending on your definition of the word) because the second I’m not distracted I realise just how bad my chronic pain is. Which is not good. I’m really trying to learn that comparison is the thief of joy and we do not all have to be ultra-productive and ultra-successful.
We are all unique and we all have different roles in this world, we are not all meant to be ultra-productive or successful and nor do we have to be.
It’s all relative. Everything is relative. And self care is so so soo important! Some need more of it than others.
It’s okay to let your body rest after running off adrenaline to get through exams. It’s okay. It’s okay if your barely managing your academic commitments, let alone anything else. And so long as your trying, it’s okay if your presently unemployed be it due to fate or otherwise.
We don’t all have to be ultra-productive all the time.
Be you, be unique and that’s enough.
If you just want to binge TV and do nothing else, that’s okay! If due to illness your unable to do much else that’s also okay!
Listen to your body, your heart and your sole and don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to someone on the internet. If you feel your family or teachers expect to much of you, please don’t let it get to you too much.
And a final reminder – it is okay to rest! We do not have to have every second of our schedules filled out at all times!
I’m not really sure what led me to start writing this, other than I think that this affects more people than those who let on about it. It makes sense really, putting everything into these exams, especially if your not good at self care and spend far too long working each day at the expense of everything else. Coming out of it and suddenly feeling low, hopeless or even scared makes sense, especially if your a person who already has a background of poor mental health. This is even more likely if you’ve just finished your final year exams and your suddenly compounded into uncertainty. We’re bound to find ourselves feeling this way.
And it’s so difficult to deal with. You have this desperate urge to be productive and get things done and you are – you do more than lay around watching TV all day, but it feels worthless. It feels useless. You see everyone on social media around you, living their best life, having a job, having an income, having a purpose…
And you, you have to try and keep the money you have and make it last so lets say goodbye to living that best life. Desperate for a long weekend abroad, at the very least, but can’t justify it financially because you have no job.
Admittedly, at this juncture I may have a full time job, which would allow me to apply for the LPC (Solicitor qualification in the UK), and take that alongside. Pending security checks, which I am currently stressing about. Maybe post exam anxiety is also a thing to.
I know they could take months. But here I am stressing about people finding my YouTube channel, which although no one watches at the moment other than me, myself and I – I’ve had my mum frequently hate on me for doing YouTube (back in the day where I had more than me, myself and I watching). I had her scaremongering, saying I wouldn’t get a job if I posted things on YouTube or any social media for that matter.
What if my past actions have destroyed an opportunity I was so, so close to getting. What if… I can’t bare to be moving back home long term. I function much better when I’m away from my family. And even if I didn’t – part of me feels like I’ve failed somehow.
I feel like people perceive me as lazy, unambitious, useless….
Because I’m neither doing my degree anymore, nor am I contributing to society.
And it hurts.
I’m not the sort of person who can just sit down and do nothing easily. I can no longer spend an entire day binging a TV show. And I guess that’s why I’m writing this now. My mental health needs me to be busy, but not self made busy, actually usefully busy.
And I just want to send a message to anyone reading this who may be experiencing something similar, that you are not alone.
A few days ago I sat my final exams for my undergraduate law degree. Something terrifying, because now I’m unemployed, with no income and like an actual adult who’s maintenance loan will only last so long. Trying to navigate the work world with these illnesses is going to be terrifying and incredibly difficult. I’m scared of having to take too many sick days, scared of not taking the sick days and then producing work of a substandard quality.
It’s terrifying! Now as I’m writing this I may have a full time position to go to in the near future, and I really hope so because this limbo – even only a few days in. That feeling that I should be working is awful.
Now as for third year. Wow. What a year. It has taken me a lot to stay mentally sane through it all. I new at the beginning I had to sacrifice everything outside of my degree to make it through with my chronic illnesses and I did. And even then, it was tough. The one thing I’ve learnt is sacrificing your entire life is absolutely not what you should do. I feel like I have no friends, I feel like I’ve missed out and that’s okay. It just hurts sometimes.
Academically it has been one of the most challenging of years, suddenly everyone in my classes actively cares and by caring they are so much more intelligent than me and my chronically ill body could ever be. And it’s been difficult to deal with but I have. It’s time to really learn that comparison is the thief of joy, and everyone is on their own journey and everyone has these feelings. I’m saying this about others when I know for a fact atleast some of those others think I’m so much better than them. And then there’s the academics teaching me who are both incredible in their field (for the uni I go to) and have written a million and one papers on the topics we’ve been studying. Fair to say seminars felt a little intimidating sometimes. I even had one who, just the way she spoke to me in class when I contributed made me feel stupid.
Just because I have a different opinion doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Just because I have a different opinion it doesn’t mean I haven’t considered the other arguments. Maybe it’s just the nature of law school, maybe she was just playing devils advocate. It probably wasn’t personal, and if it was then shame on her.
This year we had an increased workload due to that all important dissertation. I printed it the wrong way once so I still have a copy sitting above my desk. It’s very cringeworthy on reflection, I haven’t even bought myself to read it again since submission. I know it won’t get the grade I hope for it, but I also still hope it does. Because on effort alone it deserves it. Unfortunately we’re not marked for effort. We’re marked for content. My dissertation was my baby. It was also meant to be. It came to me, out of nowhere, having not even previously studied the subject area, but knowing some basic information in a session about choosing topics for our proposals. I put it as second choice because since A levels I always thought I was going to write a criminal law dissertation, so I put that proposal first. It came to me. And I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, there were tears, both stress tears and emotional overwhelm tears. But I can say that I enjoyed the process and I would happily do it again.
This year we had free choice over the modules we took and I can say I made the right choice. Yes evidence was hell. Evidence is a complicated module and all of the lectures were at the end of a long day of lectures so I can’t say that they went in very well.
Thank god for recordings, right?
But it was still interesting and I absolutely fell in love with my other modules. Sentencing was a challenge because other than the actual sentencing part there wasn’t much actual law going on, but it lived up to it’s expectations in being the module I knew I had to study. I then took family law and children and the law, which in some universities is just one family law module. Yes they’re that similar. I fell in love with these two modules more than I ever thought I would. So good modules, good year. Grades may not say the same…. but I really hope they do because again effort.
But I’ve actually learnt things this year. Not just remember and regurgitate for an exam. I’ve learnt things non-academically too. I’ve learnt how important it is to take a break. Even if that just running some errands on campus for 10 minutes. I’ve learnt that I need to be more confident and in a way I have. But I’m still not there. As someone who previously had no self confidence it’s a very long learning curve to become confident – but I need to, because it is that confidence that shines through and makes others believe in you.
I’ve learnt I can be anything I want to be, and albeit late, if I want to apply for the LPC (with LLM) because it makes it cheaper – or SQE if that’s happening and I delay it for a couple of years in the location of new potential job or anywhere for that matter then I can do and I will do and providing I can get a place I can make it work. Just maybe somewhat unconventionally because there’s nothing conventional about working full time and studying part time with chronic fatigue syndrome and others. But if I want to be a lawyer, if I want to pursue law in the future, which I really really think I do. And It’s in my heart and the reason I didn’t want to before was because I didn’t have the confidence. Yes I’m behind, have no work experience (in law) etc and it’ll be hard but hopefully I’ll manage it. I didn’t think I could so I didn’t. But this year, I’ve had this increasing feeling that law is what I want to do.
And now I’ve finished. I miss it. I’ve realised just how much I loved it. So I will make it work.
So long as I get a place and a good enough degree…
But worry about grades aside. I’ve actually done it! I’ve finished my degree within three years despite all the set backs. I’m not saying that this is what anyone with my conditions should do and it’s absolutely okay to take a break! But I am incredibly stubborn and I am proud that I have done it, despite people not believing I can.
Now here’s to the next adventure! Whatever that may be….
Ask me now if I’d do it all again and I’d say yes! I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Recently I’ve returned from a summer school to Colombia with my university. This involved a LOT of firsts. Flying alone for the first time, flying long haul for the first time, first time on a plane since developing ME as well as first time on a plane since I had a cyst rupture on my right ovary in an airport at 14. (Yes that experience traumatised me a little).
Now of course this wasn’t all smooth sailing. It didn’t even start as smooth sailing considering I woke up with a paralysed arm on the day I flew out and had to sit down to get dressed it’s some minor miracle I made it at all and without use of wheelchair assistance at the airports because I am far too stubborn for my own good.
The flight itself was better than expected. I thought I would get bored, considering the first plane was a 9 hour flight and the second one 3 hours. The reality was so much stress and adrenaline went into getting these flights that I spent much of that time dozing. Although I did manage to get the reading for our first lecture done (Only reading I did all trip) and watch Love Simon. So boredom wasn’t an issue. Pain on the other hand was. I was getting severe endometriosis related pain in my lower left back as well as severe pain in my lower left leg. And if that wasn’t enough my left collar bone decided it would be fun to act up. As our first flight was delayed by an hour it meant we had barely enough time to get to our connecting flight, this meant a hurried walk through the airport praying we’d make the plane on time and trying to keep our stress to a minimum. This was where fatigue was an issue – as my heart had been above 100 all day due to possible POTS and a confirmed diagnosis of CFS I was really struggling once I got off my first flight, despite spending a large portion of it dozing. I was honest about this, which was a step up from usual however persisted in the fast walking despite every inch of my body was screaming against it. I was fighting to keep my legs moving, I was lightheaded and started getting severe chest pain but I didn’t want to cause the rest of the group to miss the flight because I was slowing them down.
Fortunately we made it to Bogota, Columbia on our scheduled flights and made it to our accommodation. After having a shower, I went straight to bed.
Lesson 1: Get the wheelchair assistance – it will make the journey more comfortable and less stressful if you have tight connections which leave you sprinting across the airport. It would also be good for reducing payback and allowing you to get more out of your trip!
Fast-forward to 7 hours later, I woke up the next day feeling nauseous and feverish and genuinely thought I’d caught something off the plane. Go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and realise I have an autoimmune rash. (Which is always slightly terrifying as someone with no known autoimmune condition.) But obviously being me, I couldn’t say I needed the day to rest. I get restless being stuck in a room unless I am legitimately dead, especially in an unfamiliar environment. So I went out with everyone, had breakfast and a few of us walked around the city for a few hours. Which obviously was great for my pain. Again, when I was asked, I was honest and said I was getting a lot of pain but also being me, said I would be fine unless everyone else wanted to go back. We headed back, and I was told to rest, moaned a little, and then actually crashed for 5 hours upon getting back to my room. Went out for dinner feeling refreshed although was fading again towards the end and that was that.
Lesson 2: Take the first full day to rest! Don’t do what I did and walk over 10,000 steps when you never do that at home due to the pain and fatigue it causes. You will pay for it later on and you don’t want that.
So then we have our second day. Which was the first day of timetabled activities so obviously perfectionistic side of Hannah kicked in. There was no way I could miss that and in my mind I had to do everything. (Which obviously wasn’t true, throughout this entire trip it has been made expressly clear multiple times a day that everyone else would be okay with me resting if I needed to.) But Hannah is Hannah, and although I’d had very minimal sleep due to being in pain (Yay ovarian cyst ruptures and all the walking being hard on my legs) I made it my mission to manage the full day despite not feeling atall well. It wasn’t like I was in a crash or anything.
Lesson 3: REST! Listen to your body. If you had a cyst rupture on your ovary or whatever is causing you to feel bad let your body have at the very least a morning to recover. (Normally give myself atleast a day when I’m not away)
I made it through the day, and even participated in a salsa lesson which I was very much told off for in a “well done but please don’t push yourself too far” way. It was fair to say that once the day was over and we got into the taxi I was well and truly done for. My endometriosis pain was really acting up in a contraction like pain way and once I got back to my room I managed to dislocate my shoulder by writhing in pain. (My pesky shoulders will feature a lot in this post).
And so, from 6pm to 6am, only getting out of bed to take a shower our third day starts. Apparently, I still had a lot of endometriosis pain, which is always fun because max strength prescription co-codomal combined with an overdose of ibuprofen won’t touch that. But we persist, despite being told resting was okay if that’s what I wanted to do. I stayed off of the coffee bcause I think it was coffee that really did me in the day prior. So we stuck with a green juice which did wonders for my endo pain.
The juice in Columbia is all freshly made so it’s incredible!
So you would think, endometriosis pain solved, I would manage the whole day. Well you and I were both wrong. Which was sad as the rest of the group were going up Monseratte which I really wanted to do. But my body had other plans. I was feeling lightheaded, shaky and my heart was doing weird things. I would have tried to power through it if it wasn’t for my brain completely going to the point where I didn’t even feel present in the room we were in. I knew I was having some sort of crash. If I have POTS it can be put down with that as on this occasion I lacked the extreme muscle weakness that tends to come with ME/CFS. So I didn’t even make it until lunch, but after forcing down various forms of electrolyte drinks/powders and eating salty snacks I was back in full force by the next day. (Well as much full force as is possible for me)
Lesson 4: If you have POTS or just have similar issues as a result of another illness keep salty snacks and electrolytes on you because sometimes they do actually help and it will save you from having to get other people to go down to the shop for you when your too unwell to do so yourself.
So it is now our 4th day! And we managed! Maybe we pushed too much considering nausea, and severe pain but at the end of the day, I would rather push myself a little too much than not quite enough. I had to sit down on the pavement whilst waiting for the taxi has my heart rate went crazy high and I knew at this point I had to make it through the rest of the day. In the afternoon we went to a botanical gardens which meant lots of standing and walking on some severely painful legs, which I managed but god knows how. Especially considering I had been told if I needed to sit down I could. (Clearly being given the option to rest doesn’t make me weak and pathetic)
Lesson 5: If your honest about how your feeling you may be surprised by how people try to help/accommodate you.
Now day 5 is what I would call the start of the major crash. (This was definitely ME/CFS) I woke up feeling okay. (Well in my book). But at around 10am It just hit me like a ton of bricks and although I managed to stay for the rest of the lecture and went back at lunch I knew when I was standing in the lift on the way back up to my room that I had really gone and done it. For those of you who don’t have ME, a bad crash is so bad that you can barley lift up a bottle of water and lift up your head to drink said water. It’s having to crawl to get to the loo because you can’t stand up for long enough. Not fun.
But idiot here did things the next afternoon/evening as she was getting to the bored and restless stage of the crash.
Lesson 6: If you have a bad CFS crash don’t rush back into trying to keep up with your able bodied counterparts.
So I spent the weekend and the Monday stuck in bed, barley conscious, barley able to eat or drink due to severe head and face pain as well as muscle weakness and barley able to get myself from my bed to my bathroom.
But I to some extent recovered and was back to managing a full day of things the next day. Although I did collapse in the toilets after lunch. Fortunately I was able to get back up and pretend nothing had happened but it was still slightly terrifying.
Lesson 7: If you collapse/pass out/fall bring your phone with you EVERYWHERE. I was lucky I could get myself up that time but if I couldn’t I would have had to wait for someone to find me because I left my phone in the classroom.
And so Wednesday came, with more endometriosis pain (Think my uterus is slightly jealous that CFS has been getting all the attention.) Again I only managed a half day, but felt dreadful with CFS less than half way through the morning, however it was so much fun that I had to stay. Now obviously I then spent the rest of the day, in bed, in the dark feeling super nauseous, unable to see, with a really bad migraine. But it was worth it!
Lesson 8: sometimes you need to have fun! Even if physically you feel dreadful!
With a lack of better judgement and despite being told to rest I managed to make it through Thursday. This was out second to last day in such a beautiful country and by this point I just needed to have fun and make the most of it rather than look after my health. I slept in all 3 of the hour long taxi journeys that day, and my right ovary started acting up a little more than it had been in the 2 days prior but I managed and it was definitely worth it for the post it notes in the 3M goodie bag. (I’m such a stationary whore) After going back and starting packing, which meant enduring more bad right ovary pain and a subluxed shoulder I even managed to go out and look at some pretty lights for around an hour before crashing in bed till the next morning.
Lesson 9: We’re going to reinforce that sometimes you’ve just gotta have fun message!
So obviously felt awful come our final full day. Endometriosis was definitely jealous at this point seeing as I woke up, unable to move, crying from pain and nausea. Even had to send a message to say I might not be able to make it down because Endo was that jealous. But being me I did and somehow made it through the morning despite being very bitchy and absent as my entire body was hurting so much. There were times when I was asked if I was okay and all I could do was nod or whimper because endometriosis really knows how to get the better of me. Submitted to being taken back to the accommodation just before lunch, was not feeling remotely well enough to endure pain and people for any longer by this point. Layed down, which helped ease my endometriosis pain although nothing else and basically napped for a good 5 hours before going down for our final dinner together.
Lesson 10: Sometimes pain gets the better of us all. Superwoman or not. Giving in does not make you weak. Giving in means your listening to your body, accepting your reality and that requires an incredible amount of strength.
And here we come to our flight home. Which was obviously not smooth sailing because severe pain, endometriosis was definitely threatening a major flare up and still is and it became my mission to make all my flights on time so I could get home before the stabbing vaginal and rectal pains and the burning stabbing bladder pains and all the rest of the taboo joy that comes with endometriosis. It was about the point that I had to stop myself from crying/screaming in pain in the plane toilets over peeing that I realised that this is going to happen at some point. And I did. I made all my planes, dozed for most of it bcause fatigue, had to run more than I’ve ran in atleast a year to make my last flight as due to a delay I had less than an hour to make the connection. But I managed and I’m now home safe and sound. Can’t tolerate having my curtains open and sleeping more than I’m not but happy with how my body is dealing with this because it could be a lot worse!
Lesson 11: Avengers: Infinity war is incredible for pain distraction! Especially if you like fangirling. (couldn’t follow it because brain fog but enjoyed the fangirling.)
Lesson 12: Going to reinforce the wheelchair assistance thing so you don’t have to fight your body to run up escalators when you find walking up steps difficult enough.