Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why I quit law school. The events leading up to me leaving. Plus BONUS emotions!

This is long, and I did not edit it at all because I didn’t want to keep reliving everything. It may be hard to read, but if you want to know what’s going on this is your best bet.

As many of you know I have had to take a break from law school. The more I look at it the more I think it will be a permanent thing. I haven’t told a lot of people about the situation that has forced me to leave, and a lot of people are asking my emotions about it and I hate talking about that so I figured I would get all of this down in one place so people can read what is going on.

So the reason I have left law school is because I have this weird brain issue. It started about February of 2008. Basically it started with a massive headache and flulike symptoms (I think the flu was coincidental, but I figured I would include it). I was at work and I was completely unable to talk to people on the phone. So I started trying to send emails but this was extremely taxing, however since I could take mini breaks and work at my own pace I was able to be somewhat successful with this.

After a week or so the big headache went away but the concentration issue remained. It is really hard to explain this concentration problem. It’s not like ADD where your mind wanders and you think about other things. The best way to describe the issue is that it is like placing plastic wrap around your brain and poking holes in it so only some of the information would come in or go out. Part of the headaches is this pinching feeling pressure which gets worse when I try to process information. Whether that means recalling memories, making calculations, etc. Basically it feels like the plastic wrap is being tightened and the holes constricted. I know it is a weak visualization/analogy but it is the best I can come up with.

The side effects of this issue, especially when it is at the worst, have been fun for a lot of people. I forget words, or use incorrect words when speaking and have no idea I had done it. This guy at work would actually use words that were close to the correct word, but were clearly incorrect in the sentence just to throw me off and see how long it would take me to figure out what he meant. Or even to figure out that he had made a mistake. I would often just stare at him with a blank stare trying to process what he had just said. When in a large crowd of people when it is really bad I basically just sit there with a blank stare trying to control the pain/concentration issues. Part of this is because I know I won’t be able to speak, and part is because my body just doesn’t come up with things to say to talk about in the conversation. When I don’t know what to say we really know I have a problem.

Since this didn’t seem to be going away I went to my general practitioner who did a bunch of blood tests I don’t remember what all of them were but it included thyroid tests, STD tests, test that could indicate tumors. All of those came back normal. My blood pressure was on the higher side of normal (like 120/80… right on the borderline of normal but pretty damn good for a fat man). So they thought the issue might be caused by my blood pressure. They put me on meds to lower that, which did nothing. After all of this they decided it was likely neurological so I was referred to a neurologist.

During this time the problems were fluctuating quite a bit. I had good weeks and bad weeks. It seemed to be a slow fluctuation, never was it just a sharp change from good to bad or vice versa. In August 2008 I went to the Philippines for the first time and about 2 weeks in I got a complete reprieve from the problem. So for about 4 weeks my brain was completely normal. About 3 days after getting back from the Philippines the issue came back. Because of this I thought it might be environmental. However when I went back I was not lucky enough for it to go away again.

To make a long story short with the neurologist I went through an MRI, sleep test, headache charts and tried various drugs as the theories changed. In the end with all of the different symptoms they decided that it was most likely being caused by migraines. The theory was that I would have migraines that would last for weeks or months at a time. I just wouldn’t feel the actual pain the whole time. We started trying various drugs to combat migraines, none of which worked. I though the neurologists were crazy. One day the pain was extreme so I decided to screw it and took a couple of Percocet (yes a couple) to ease the pain. Once the drugs kicked in I had no pain and was starting to think clearly (well… until I started feeling high). This made me hop on board with the migraine idea and keep pursuing that train of thought.

Finally drug number X (who was even counting anymore) was given to me in late June or early July of 2009. It was a combo of two drugs used to control pain. They seemed to work. You cannot imagine how happy I was to finally have my brain back. I was thinking more clearly and was going without pain. And just in time to go to law school. It was like everything had aligned to head off to NYC.

When I got into law school and started heavily using my brain I started to see the limitations of the effectiveness of this drug combo. There were two main issues, there was a limit to how far I could stretch my brain to comprehend things (and those limits weren’t very far) and I wasn’t able to be very social with people, basically I became a zombie. I could talk to people one on one, but even trying to juggle a conversation with two people would make my brain basically shut down. Even though making friends and having fun with people is one of my greatest joys in life I felt that was an acceptable loss, and so I just started to make friends one on one.

Very quickly I started to notice that my ability to make the connections critical to legal analysis was deteriorating and that I was starting to get minor headaches as well. About a month into the semester I had the worst migraine of my entire life. It felt like daggers were being continuously shoved into my head, my eyes were watering continuously, and I barely had any cognition of my surroundings. I stumbled to rite aid and bought a bottle of Excedrin and went back home. I decided that there was absolutely no reason for me to be taking the prescription drugs anymore since they didn’t work and I just started popping Excedrin. Luckily this was a weekend so I had time to recover before class started again.

There was a remarkable change in my ability to actually do my work and I was excited. I was taking the maximum dose of Excedrin as well as some ibuprofen here and there when I felt that a headache was coming on. On the Thursday after I stopped taking the pills I was called on in Professor Chang’s class, he loves to stick with the same person basically the entire class when it is “your day,” so long as you are giving productive answers. I was actually able to make jokes and answer his questions, which is something I hadn’t been able to do at all while I was on the prescription. It definitely felt good to actually be able to be myself again.

As the semester progressed the Excedrin became less and less effective. I was to the point where I was taking double the maximum dose and was taking ibuprofen between Excedrin doses just to stay afloat. During the week before finals it got bad enough that my vision would blur as I was trying to read so I would just have to go walk around and either talk to people or go to the bathroom and just close my eyes for a minute with no sound. I even started taking naps. For years I have been vehemently opposed to taking naps. However, when my brain got so bad I could barely function I would just say I was tired and go take a 20 or 30 minute nap.

When I got home from winter break I tried to recover my brain. I tried my hardest not to think or do anything mentally taxing. I attempted to get as much rest as possible. My hope was that my brain would reset back to the point it was at the beginning of the fall semester. A large part of me knew that it was a long shot, so much so that I didn’t buy any books (technically I ordered a couple but I cancelled the order) and I just tried to work off the library copies until I could get things figured out.

About two days into the semester I was back to the pain/concentration level I was experiencing at the end of the previous semester. It was then that I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but I still tried to hold on. I decided to take a week of not studying/reading and just go to class and see if I could recover at all with this extra time. Of course it didn’t work. I got began the process of withdrawing from school and going home.

That’s an extremely shortened version of what happened, but it is sufficient to fill in the major gist of what brought me to this point. I know many of you who have experienced this time with me have no idea about this. I hide pain and emotions very well, and there is no way you would have known. I hate when people pity me or when they feel bad for me or coddle me, so I didn’t tell anyone about the issues. My own mother, while she saw how much Excedrin I was taking while I was at home for winter break, had no idea the full extent of what was happening until about a week before I started the process of withdrawing. So don’t feel like you should have known I was going through this.

Now a lot of people have been asking about my emotions and how I feel about this change and I brush them off. Since the cat is out of the bag and I know people are just asking because they care about me, I will include some of my thoughts about this. You can probably stop reading here if you want.

The best way to sum up how I feel about this is to tell you about the walks home I had when I was still going to school but knew I was going home. If you can imagine Charlie Brown walking home with his head hung low, that would have looked like a happy sight compared to me. I never understood drooping your head as you walk until now. It was like I was completely emotionally drained and my head just dropped. I was unable and unwilling to face the world around me. I would have walked with my head buried in my chest if I could have.

I am a really happy person in general. I don’t understand being sad and feeling bad about myself. This is all very new to me and I’m trying to sort it out. I don’t really know what to say about this because I don’t understand it myself. There is this void in my heart where law school and my friends from law school are, and I’m just trying to repair it. I am optimistic that I will be able to do so.

When people ask if I will go back to law school again I answer probably not. It’s not because I don’t have an enormous desire to go back. It’s that I can’t go through all of this again, the doctors, the drugs, everything, only to have a repeat of this and to fail. I know I can manage the pain/concentration issues in a work environment where I’m not trying to learn and study constantly, I did a pretty damn good job at eBay. I need to go a route that doesn’t have the potential to completely crush me.


  1. i'm so sorry jeron. I hope the docs can figure this out, and I hope that you can find something you love that works with this!

    1. *****************************

      An inspirational story of vulnerability and overcoming adversity
      thanks for having the courage to share

      Qualified Life Coach
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      All the best
      for the future


  2. I am glad you let us know what happened. Sorry you had to go through all those test and still not know what the issue is. I hope it is figured out soon.

  3. now i know Jeron. thanks for sharing and letting me read your blog. just keep on praying and i'll also include you in my prayers. God bless...