Posts Tagged ‘panic attack’

The Time I Had a Meltdown in Language Arts

May 5, 2013 2 comments


In 9th grade, all students at my school were required to take Language Arts. To my dismay, this turned out to be a public speaking class disguised as a writing class, which meant that my easy A was about to become a desperate C. Though friends have pointed out that I can be loud as fuck in public, especially while talking about embarrassing stories, I suddenly lose the ability to be coherent when placed in front of an audience.

I start talking about a mile a minute, sweating all the while as my face either turns as red as a drunkard’s, or as pale as someone about to pass out. My eyes will dart all around the room as if trying to identify who from the crowd is about to get up and shoot me. Whatever latent paranoia I have (which is a LOT) kicks into high gear, and I become convinced the audience is plotting my downfall at all times.

So yeah, public speaking and I don’t really get along.

But sadly, this class forced me to do it on a regular basis. It all culminated on one unfortunate day when we had to read a short story that we had written out loud to the class.

The assignment was to write a “funny” retelling of a classic fairy tale, and we all had to choose different ones. As a somewhat angry and depressed teenager, my idea of “funny” was a dark as shit Goldilocks and the Three Bears that took place in an apocalyptic future where weapons were as common as loose change. The body count in my story was startlingly high, and I was probably only saved from arrest by virtue of this being written before Columbine. My tale ended with both Goldilocks and the bears burning to death after Goldie’s flame thrower showers the house with fire. Goldie manically mutters that the temperature is now “juuuust right” as her hair bursts into flames.

I did not know in advance that we would have to read this out loud.

I heard about the change in the lesson plan during lunch, as students who had the class earlier in the day recounted their classmates’ “hilarious” stories. My only thought was, “I’M FUCKED.” I knew very well that my story was going to be seen as the ravings of a homicidal maniac, and I ran to the computer lab to shit out a different story in the ten minutes remaining before class.

I was unsuccessful.

And thus I found myself perched on a stool at the front of the class, having to read out loud some of the most disturbing shit I had ever written. As the bullets began to fly and blood ran from one end of the bears’ cabin to the other, I started to feel like I was watching a car wreck from afar. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop the brutal scene that was unfolding before me. Soon enough, my anxiety crested and I completely lost it. I began to laugh hysterically, describing the deadly fire between giggles as I gasped for air. I actually started crying as I plowed through the morbid tale, laughing so hard that my words about graphic murder came out as squeaks. I eventually slid off the stool to the floor in a desperate attempt to abort the insanity. The teacher insisted I continue reading from the cold linoleum. He did not much care for me.

In the end, I received a C- on the story (my teacher cited disliking “black humor”), and I gained a reputation for being batshit INSANE for the rest of my freshman year of high school. Fucking fantastic.


The Time I Almost Went to Law School (Part 2)

August 13, 2012 2 comments

University of Chicago Law School, aka “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

(Continued from Part 1, which discussed my terrible reasons for wanting to go to law school, and the LSAT kicking my ass.)

So I eventually sat down and took the LSAT for the second time, and did much better. Luckily, most schools decide to simply accept your highest LSAT score, though a few will average the two (or three) scores together. After taking the LSAT three times, you have to wait a few years before trying again. With my shiny new LSAT score in hand, I could now narrow down where I would apply.

The combination of LSAT and GPA is so powerful that the two alone can practically tell you where you’ll be accepted. There are a few websites out there that will tell you your chances, including the Law School Probability Calculator and the Law School Predictor. Technically, your essays, extracurriculars, and coursework should count for something, but in practice, it seems rare. Unless you’ve won an Olympic medal or something, these calculators are pretty damn accurate, mostly because of the annual U.S. News rankings. Since these rankings are based mostly on test scores, law schools come to value them as well. I have never met more prestige-obsessed people than law students. If you want to peer into the mouth of madness, check out the Top Law Schools Forums, which turn OCD into an art form. And yes, I frequented the forums on a daily basis when I was an aspiring law student, since even crazy advice is better than no advice. Nutty though some of those students may be, they were still extremely supportive and knowledgeable.

I spent ages crafting a personal statement, which was surprisingly difficult to write after not having written anything even vaguely academic in over three years. But I eventually came up with something satisfactory, and applied to 13 law schools in the Fall of 2009. Thankfully, I received fee waivers from 9 of these schools, which meant that it cost me nothing to apply there. Note for anyone interested in applying to law schools: if you ask for a fee waiver via email, you’ll often get one.

My application “cycle,” as crazed law applicants call it, went very well. I got into 8 of the schools, was waitlisted at 3, and only rejected from 2 (Harvard and Stanford, naturally – not sure what even possessed me to apply there). Three of the schools that accepted me were in the top 10 in the nation, at least according to U.S. News, so I was feeling pretty good. I even got some scholarship money, including half tuition at the school I ultimately decided to attend, the University of Michigan (aka “Hogwarts”). I was exhausted and relieved that the application process was finally over, and I gleefully submitted my seat deposit money, officially ending my cycle.

And then came the existential crisis.

I had finally achieved what I had set out to do, and for the first time, I actually had the leisure time to think about what I had done. I would be attending law school, to become a lawyer. For…some reason, surely? A reason I couldn’t seem to remember at the moment. Had I ever had one in the first place?

As the weeks passed and I made arrangements to move to Ann Arbor, I grew more and more uneasy with this decision. The closer I got to orientation, the more sure I was that this wasn’t the right move for me, at least right now. But I was too stubborn to admit this to myself. I had put so much work into the LSAT, and invested myself so fully into the idea of law school that it seemed insane to back out now. The last two years would then just be a waste of time – a run down a street that only terminated in a dead end.

No, I decided, I’d just have to go through with it. Plenty of people head to law school when they aren’t sure about it all, and they turn out fine. What would my alternative be? I had already quit my receptionist job, and was unemployed in the deepest recession of my lifetime. Surely this was the best investment I could make at the moment, even if it meant taking on substantial debt, scholarship or not. I had convinced myself that I really had no choice in this matter anymore, and that I just needed to suck it up and go become a lawyer.

Naturally, I then suffered a complete nervous breakdown, along with panic attacks on the hour, every hour. For weeks. With no coping mechanisms whatsoever.

The week that I was supposed to move to Michigan, I completely lost it and decided I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and never had. I had simply been overcome with the thought of achieving something more than being an anonymous admin in a sprawling company. I had seized onto graduate school as a life preserver in a dull black sea that stretched out into infinity. At the time, I honestly saw no other way out.

I cancelled the movers, and flew to Cincinnati to go cry my eyes out with my parents. They were confused and somewhat disappointed in my decision, but really just wanted what would make me happy, and so were ultimately supportive. I wondered constantly if I had made a huge mistake, and when I flew back to NYC, I feel into a deep agoraphobic depression. Unemployed and lacking even air conditioning, I stopped leaving the apartment altogether, and withdrew from most of my friends. My meager savings drained month by month as I struggled pathetically to get a job. Seeing as how I could hardly leave my apartment building at that point, I wasn’t much of a candidate.

Only through medical and psychiatric intervention did I eventually emerge enough to get myself employed, a year after I had originally quit my job. Even two years later, I still feel guilt from my decision, and wonder sometimes what life would have been like had I gone to law school. I would have graduated next year.

But overall, I’m satisfied with my decision. I still think it was the right one to make for my mental state at that time, and I still don’t want to be a lawyer. Why else would you go to law school? Just to have the JD on your resume? Though I’m sad it took me two years of nonstop work to figure that out, it’s better that I discovered my true feelings BEFORE I spent a good $80K or so on an education I might never use. It’s still hard to rationalize the joy I felt at being accepted to schools versus the sheer dread at the thought of actually attending one. It’s funny how the human mind works sometimes, isn’t it?

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