So some of you know, others of you may not know, that I graduated in May of 2008 with my Juris Doctor from Southwestern Law School. (Kind of a big deal for me, since I was diagnosed while in law school.)
Anyway, Annie, the incredibly sweet and awesome disabilities coordinator there emailed me last week and wanted to find out if I was willing to participate in Diversity Week, and share my story with current students at Southwestern.
Who me? Share my stories with people?!! NOOOO. (hee.)
So here’s what I wrote for my alma mater.
During the second semester of my second year of law school at Southwestern, I started feeling *awful*. Eventually, my physical condition could not be ignored. I wondered what all the numbness and tingling in my left side and sudden bouts of what seemed like narcolepsy were all about… but I kept on studying and going about my school work as hard as ever. What I didn’t realize was that the physical problems I was experiencing were tied to the problems I was having memorizing things, and the sudden cognitive fogs that came over me weren’t caused by the stress of writing that Advanced Copyright Seminar paper or getting my reading done before class, they were caused by MS.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease where small holes (lesions) form in your nervous system – most prominently in your brain or spinal cord. It’s a disease that’s different for every person who has it — and for me, it was presenting itself in the ways listed above, but also, slowly, in the form of a seizure disorder that would later stop me from taking the bar exam on the first-go-round and land me in the hospital for 12 full days, not to mention stop me from driving or even being able to read for several months.
I received my diagnosis on the third day of my externship at Rhino Entertainment. What was originally supposed to be a full-time, full-summer externship had to be cut shorter, as I was immediately put in the hospital for several days, but with the understanding of my boss at Rhino and Professor Lind, I returned to work and finished the externship with high marks because I didn’t quit, and I was absolutely determined to do the job to the best of my ability and to completion. That’s what the next two years of my life were all about: finishing law school and taking the bar exam while doing my absolute best with the hand I’d been dealt.
Taking on that third year of law school was tough. I couldn’t get to more than half of my classes, but I read every page of every assignment (okay, ALMOST.), attended every class I could, and kept in good communication with all of my professors. In fact, I believe that I have a better understanding of the law and a better relationship with those professors BECAUSE of my disability. MS forced me to focus harder than I would have otherwise, and it forced me to prep for the bar exam twice before I got to take it once!
Ultimately, the lesson to take away is this: No matter what difficulty you’re having, physical or otherwise, persistence, optimism, and using the resources you already have WILL pay off. You’ll never regret asking about something you want to know or getting to know someone you respect, whether it’s in regards to the law or in regards to life.
I know it’s probably kind of arrogant of me, but this opportunity really excited me. I’m hoping Annie calls me next year to be one of the speakers. There’s something about being disabled, but not defeated that somehow seems to make me “special” in some people’s eyes. I’m not really sure what that’s all about, but I’m more than okay with it. It’s like I WANT to talk about it. It makes me feel BETTER to talk about it. It reminds me that I’m just like everyone else — that this could happen to ANYONE, and that I could be really making a difference just right then. 🙂
Either that or I’m being a narcissist. Since I tend toward the low-self esteem end of the spectrum usually, I’m ok with having a positive narcissistic moment here and there, though. 🙂 I’ll take my happy where I can get it! 🙂
That being said – happiness has abounded for me recently. I had a great past few days in regards to health, and I hope the trend continues. I think the awfulness that was going on all summer was a relapse that my body is FINALLY finished with, and though it’s gonna take 8 months to get off of the Lamictal, my mood is SO much improved that I can’t help but be bubbly.
I hope you all are doing as well! Good health everybody! 🙂