Sharing Stories and Tips on Surviving Law School

As part of Wellbeing Week, we’ve been asking students, law graduates, alumni and academics to share their stories about getting through law school – the challenges to their wellbeing and their responses. We’ve been staggered by the honesty and generosity of everyone sharing their story, and there is a genuine sense that everyone contributing has done so in the hope that they can make life a little easier for someone else experiencing similar challenges. This is exactly what building a resilient and compassionate law school community is all about.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed, and if you have a wellbeing tip or story to share, you can still do so here. We’ve also had people raise a number of questions that they would like our forum panels to address, so it looks like we’re in for some very interesting discussions tomorrow and on Thursday!

We’ve included a few key stories below, and are also tweeting out some of the shorter tips and stories.

One law graduate writes:

I was 23 years old and had an awful headache that didn’t go away. One night I took a bath to relax, and my skin felt like it was burning. I got out of the bath and had a rather beautiful rash, shaped liked butterfly wings, symmetrically running down my back. I went to the GP at uni. He asked about my lifestyle. “I am really healthy,” I said. He asked about my week, and I told him how I went to the gym every afternoon, catching up with friends and family, eating well. He asked what I was studying, and when I replied, “Law,” he nodded and asked more questions. I was studying law full time, keeping a grade point average of 6.4 on a scale of 7.0, working night shifts full time, sleeping on average 4 hours a night.

The GP checked my teeth, my skin, and took my heart rate and blood pressure. He told me that I probably had anxiety and depression. I thought, “No, not me! I’m kicking butt!” He explained what the symptoms were, and I ticked every box. I was outwardly coping, but I wasn’t well. My blood pressure was 190/110 – dangerously high, my gums had started to recede from grinding my teeth at night, and my hands were shaky.

I had six months of my law degree to go, and I had a decision to make. Implement significant changes in my lifestyle now, or fill an script and undergo weekly monitoring for my response to medications. It gave me a shock. I had no idea that I was so unwell.

Studying law is a challenge to every person’s mental health. Law students are hard wired for perfection. They are given unsolvable problems to solve, and there is rarely a clear answer to the problems.

It’s not only OK to be struggling. It’s EXPECTED! Talk to a health practitioner. Talk to a family member.

Talk to friend. Talk to a fellow student. Talk to the School.

You are not alone. And you’re very much loved.

One of our alumni writes:

Personally I struggled with the length and intensity of my law degree. It’s a hard and long road and without significant support from your friends, partner and family, it can become incredibly daunting. Your law degree does come to an end, however, and practicing law brings a whole new set of challenges that you will have to deal with. Always remain open to change and accept these new challenges.

One of our current students writes:

At one point during second year i got really depressed and just hit a roadblock, stopped functioning, slept all day and night, stopped doing any studying. It was a really strange and awful time but I had no idea I was depressed until I started Talking to someone and they suggested I go speak to a counsellor. It really helped to talk to them and talk to my supportive caring friends too. Eventually, I got out of that dark hole. The most important thing is to keep communication open and let someone know what is going on so they can help you – and speak to the counsellors they can offer really good advice on how to manage all the stress.

Our Wellbeing Resources session on tomorrow will be all about the support services available here at La Trobe University to help you through any rough patches or dark places on your law school journey.

Remember, if you are feeling too stressed and busy to come to any Wellbeing events, that is probably a good indicator that you really need to come!

Marc Trabsky