Vol 11, Issue 5
It’s funny, in the two years since I’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I don’t think I’ve ever properly acknowledged it. It’s been a part of me and who I am, without being who I am. Yet, the more I reflect upon it, the more it begins to feel like I’ve lived the majority of the past two years in denial about my situation. I don’t want CFS to define me, yet it has undoubtedly had an impact upon my internal narrative.
It’s hard to explain precisely what CFS feels like. If you’ve ever experienced Glandular Fever, it’s sort of like that but 10x worse. There is this malaise that overcomes you. A foggy head followed by a sinus headache. Then the feeling of a total lack of energy in your body. Your legs get heavy and your posture drops. All you want to do is take a giant nap but it doesn’t help alleviate much. Without a doubt though, that’s nothing compared to having to deal with the story you tell yourself.
We get told on our very first day in this building that we’re all here for different reasons; from different backgrounds and from different degrees. In essence, we all have our own narratives and stories that we bring to the law school. I would hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of us are here because of our inner narrative. We have a vision for ourselves and our future that, for some, gets reaffirmed through law camp, the LMR journey and the first couple of semesters. Maybe it’s the comps and various social outings or perhaps it may just be the study itself. Others though, find it more difficult and we have to confront our expectations, our thoughts and our narratives.
I would also propose that law school gets so much harder than it already is because of the narratives we tell ourselves. After failing Consti last semester, I began to dabble in the narrative that my back was to the wall and I needed to prove myself. So, I doubled down on my recovery, strived to do really well in Torts and set up a plan to ace second year of the JD.
Four weeks into the semester though, I’ve seen the fallacy of such an assumptive narrative. It assumes that I can push myself. It assumes I can attend every class and concentrate for the full 120 minutes. It assumes I’m on a linear projection where I won’t dip or suffer a relapse. It assumes I’m not going to be hard on myself or that I won’t get frustrated. The cold, harsh reality is that none of those assumptions are correct. Like any of our assumptions, they’re based on a false perception of reality. The reality is I can feel myself getting more fatigued because of these assumptions and my adopted ‘back to the wall’ narrative.
Law school is a tough gig and to an extent it should be. We should be trained to question. To explore. To listen. To write and think critically. To do all of that properly, it’s an intense labour of love. But if we’re willing to tune in, we’re also being taught something far more important.
In a weird way, the process of studying the law provides us with an opportunity to confront our internal narratives and tune into ourselves. A chance to look after our own wellbeing and drop the internal narratives. This law school gig is challenging and changing us all – and not in the way we thought it would.
Perhaps though, that is exactly the point.
Matthew Bradford is a second-year JD student
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