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It started with me not being able to focus. I’d be sitting in class, hearing the words float above my head but I couldn’t actually comprehend what was being said. It’s like it wouldn’t transfer. I would stare listlessly into the air, wondering when I could leave, and if I’d be able to move when it was time, my head would be filled with anxious thoughts.

Would I be able to pass?

Will I be accepted to law school?

Do my friends still like me?

They’d nag me all day and keep me from sleeping. Instead of sticking to my midnight bedtime, I’d be up until 3 a.m., or even 5 a.m. Thoughts would race around my head like a rollercoaster of emotion. And when there were no thoughts, my body would still be going. Laying in my bed my heart would shake violently, my throat would close up and I would be unable to breath as tears silently flowed out and soaked the sheets.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t get better in the morning. Writing became a chore, speaking to people was terrifying and I was petrified to tell my loved ones that something was definitely wrong.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz via Unsplash

After a few weeks of suffering, I finally found the courage to tell my mom that something was different. Over the crackling on the phone one afternoon, I wept to her, “Mom, I’m scared. I’m feeling apathetic about everything. I can’t find the passion I had for anything anymore. I don’t care about things, this job or school. I’m tired.”

“Baby, you need to rest. You don’t sleep. You’re dealing with really tough things at work. You need to take care of yourself first. I need you to take care of your body. You need to take care of your spirit. You’re not going to be able to do what you need to do if you’re not your best.”

I was burnt out. I didn’t want to admit it. People like me don’t get burnt out. We keep going.

We have a call – a blessing put on us, carrying the hope of a legacy on our shoulders. It doesn’t happen to me.

But it did. It does.

I was burned out. In studying and taking the LSAT, having a really tough season at work and having a capstone course taking over my life, I was really burnt out and I had to reckon with it. I needed a break.

Mental health manifests itself in a variety of different ways and can differ in severity for each person. During my time spent in college and in the residence halls, I have seen a couple of major trends that signify the need for a mental health break.

Consistently Exhausted

You can sleep all day and you could sleep all night, but still feel exhausted. Maybe you’re just not sleeping, you can’t seem to relax or your body just can’t seem to settle. . Restful sleep isn’t coming and you’re just not feeling like yourself.

Apathy Towards Life

I have always considered myself a person very excited for life, generally excited to start the new day and super passionate about what I was studying. However, in the midst of my burn out, I couldn’t find joy in anything. Even doing things I loved to do, like writing, drawing or reading couldn’t provide me with anything. I felt so empty. This was a really clear sign.

Lack of Motivation

This doesn’t just apply to work or school. With friends, students and myself, I’ve noticed that simple tasks can be daunting. Even showering and eating can be things that get put on the back burner. Do you have the time? Sure, but the actions going into these tasks can be so draining (or even scary) that we can’t even bring ourselves to take care of our bodies.

Getting Sick More Often

During my burnout period, I was getting sick more frequently. In the week of the LSAT, I had probably one of the worst colds of my life. I was bedridden for three days, force-feeding myself soup and tea. I don’t get sick very often or for very long. But this illness lasted for so long and was so intense, I had no clue had to deal with it.

Isolation

This symptom affected me the most. While this can look different for everyone, it can start as a resistance to being with people in social situations and turn into actively avoiding any and all people, and possibly even showing aggression. Justification for isolation is different for everyone, but the pain it creates is salient for all.

These are signs not to be ignored. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, reach out. Encourage rest and reconnection with each other. For me, it helped to be encouraged to rest and receive affirmation that there was nothing wrong with needing to rest.  

If you don’t have that person in your life, let me tell you:

Your emotions are real and understandable.

You have been working so, so hard.

Your body deserves to rest.

Your heart deserves love and affection.

You deserve to restore yourself.

A FL native, attempting to survive the Pitt weather. If I'm not out fighting the patriarchy, I'm probably watching Classic Disney films and/or searching for some decent Latin food.
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