Written for Blackstone's Blackbird Journal 2019
This article is very different from the one I thought I was going to write. When first asked to contribute to the Blackbird journal, it was going to be all ‘ ‘hey, there’s a connection between humour and well-being’ and ‘did you know that the body has a positive physiological response to laughter? and 'I don’t want to do a ScoMo here but HOW GOOD IS HUMOUR?!!’ Because here I was thinking that wellness was important but kind of an abstract concept and that I clearly had it all sorted out. Absolutely sorted. Yes. Sure, Jan.
And then I had The MeltdownTM. (It was so epic that I was legally required to trademark it.) A head in hands, tears dripping on the desk, a river of (rookie mistake) non-waterproof mascara streaming down my face. Sounds effects. The whole bit. Not unlike this lady here:
It’s been ages since I’d lost it like that and there are probably many reasons it all got too much but basically, I think I a) had taken on WAAAAY too much (a lesson I am sadly still learning in my 50s), b) was getting increasingly tired and overwrought about it all and c) was expecting myself to do things perfectly and was getting frustrated when that wasn’t happening. (Does ANY of this sound familiar to you, Law Students?) And then something really minor happened. I overreacted then I felt TERRIBLE. Cue ugly sobbing, as the dam that had held for a few weeks well and truly burst.
Frankly, a good cry did me the world of good and I wish I’d had one earlier. It was completely therapeutic. And, speaking of therapeutic, once I got home, so was one of those Korean sheet masks, my PJs and a Tofu Pad Thai. No explanation needed. (Or maybe there is. In my experience, tofu can be divisive.) And my ridiculously embarrassing Spotify ‘Shameful Favourites’ playlist also got a bit of a workout for the next few days. (Extensive side note: This playlist is not called Shameful Favourites for nothing. Obviously I am not at liberty to divulge the song titles of the indulgently horrendous music contained therein but let me just say it works magic on a bad mood. An upside to this is that the algorithms just can’t work out which demographic I belong to. They have variously suggested ‘Pride Dance Party 2000’, ‘Finnish Death Metal’ and ‘Apres Ski Classics’ as playlists I might like. Kate – 1, AI - nil.)
The other thing that helped was talking about it. This was a lunchtime meltdown and before I could head home, I had a class to teach. As I was talking to a group of students, I had the sudden realisation that mascara could well be spread not only around my puffy eyes but streaked, zebra-like, across the breadth of my face. Since there was no opportunity to check whether I looked like I had just come off army reserve training, I thought I should probably explain why I might look like I had. And that group were SO NICE and SO UNDERSTANDING and SO KIND that I shared it with every other student group in the class. I was struck by our shared sense of relief at being honest about how hard things can be sometimes. Everyone got it because everyone’s been there. I’m so glad that my embarrassment over having had a meltdown was outweighed by fear of looking like a panda because otherwise I never would have experienced the kindness I did.
Meltdowns happen to us all, especially when you’ve I an intense environment like Law. And so I would add: in addition to post-MeltdownTM, pyjama-wearing, Pad-Thai-eating, daggy-music-listening, Korean-sheet-mask frenzies, find a nice person or two (or thirty. Thank you, Legal APPtitude) to talk to. As the geniuses from High School Musical sang, ‘We’re all in this together’ and we can be each other’s greatest support when things get overwhelming.