My first semester of law school ended with a fantastic BIG FAT C- on my transcript. I remember the day we got grades as if it was yesterday. It was the first time I ever had to drive to work in the snow. Luckily it was during the day and not snowing all that bad, but I felt a pit in my stomach knowing that I would have to drive about 12 miles in the snow for the first time. I did it though, I got to work and got my free drink and sat down to wait for my shift to begin… then I got the text “Grades are up.”
I hurriedly pulled out my phone logging into the website to look at my grades. B, B, B-, C-… my heart stopped. I reloaded the page, there was no way I got a C- in my favorite class, the one class I thought I knew so well. The page reloaded and there it was…C-. I was devastated. I felt sick to my stomach. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes… but i had to go clock in.
As I clocked in for work, my mind started spinning… of course you got a C- you aren’t smart like everyone else… maybe you should quit, you don’t belong here anyways… God you are so stupid, if you only studied the way everyone else did… Why can’t you just be like everyone else and spend late nights in the library? Why do you think you are special and don’t have to study as hard? God you are so stupid.
The thoughts just kept coming. I couldn’t stop them. Luckily within 20 minutes I got sent home early due to snow. The next few weeks were a blur. I kept beating myself up, fighting the urge to cry… I reloaded the page over and over thinking a different grade would be produced. It wasn’t until I calmed myself and started thinking about that day that I realized… it wasn’t because I was stupid that I got a C-… it was because I had a panic attack right before the exam and the rest was like a prolonged black out ending when I left the law school building.
So classes begin and everyone is a little on edge already. Classes are boring, OWLS are coming, the Weasley twins are being suspicious… everything builds to Umbridge’s class. As soon as the class begins everything becomes a mess. Umbridge tells everyone to put away their wands and read quietly, which surprisingly Hermione refuses to do and starts a heated class discussion of why they shouldn’t just read quietly. Things get so heated Harry gets sent out of the classroom for yelling at Umbridge. Harry goes to McGonagall who gives him a cookie for firing back at Umbridge. Later Harry serves detention with Umbridge… and we all know what happens there.
We all have an Umbridge inside of us. It’s that little voice that cries for control when fear and denial take the front seat in our lives. It’s that part of us that lashes out at loved ones trying to gain control of a situation that we just don’t want to face the facts about. It’s the part of us that lies to others and tells ourselves the same exact lie in order to stay loyal to the way we want to feel, to stay loyal to the toxic parts of our lives that we just cannot let go of. We may all hate Dolores Umbridge, but we all have an Umbridge inside of our hearts and our heads.
Don’t believe me? Think of a time where you talked down to yourself. Maybe it was a time where you really felt like you failed… what did you say to yourself? Did you critique every moment? Did you tell yourself that you sucked, that you would amount to very little, that you shouldn’t be part of whatever successes you were having?
Or think of a time where you belittled someone else to gain control of a situation? Maybe you were frustrated with the person because you thought they lied to you, or at least were rude in some manner… did you confront them or did you critique their every move and told them just how bad of a person they were … all to make yourself feel better?
Now I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad about themselves. No, I want people to realize that this is something most people go through in law school and in life without realizing it. When fear and a lack of control set in and toxic relationships, behaviors and the like start to come into play, your Umbridge starts to show. It may show to the outside world damaging relationships with others or it may be something that starts to break you down psychologically.
There have been so many times in law school since that first semester that I sit in class and think, “God Kristina you are so stupid. How did you not get that answer right? How could you sound so ridiculous in class? You should really drop out and go back to high school to get on these people’s level.” Even after years of therapy, journalling, and more I still can’t seem to always tame my Umbridge. When I feel uncomfortable with a situation or feel deep shame good old Dolores rears her toad like head and tells me just how much of an idiot I am… and she’s not very nice, she’s never very nice.
What’s worse is that each time we do this to ourselves we leave a little scar too. Much like the scars on the back of Harry’s hand, I know every time I tell myself that I’m not good enough or that I’m stupid I leave a little scar on my brain that just gets reopened over and over. Words cut deeper than anything else!
The thing is we have to learn to quiet Umbridge when she’s getting out of control. A little Umbridge every now and then might keep us safe…. but Umbridge on a full out assault on those you love or yourself does not need to happen! I wish I had the perfect roadmap for people who struggle with their inner Dolores, but it’s not a one size fits all solution. But I can tell you this, talk about your issues. Harry keeps all of this abuse to himself, allowing Umbridge to get into his head (amongst other things like feeling like a failure in not being able to save Cedric). Reach out to people, don’t bottle it all up. Find a community of people who will support you in times of need. You are not alone.
Speaking of community’s I want to give a HUGE shout-out to one of the best communities I’ve found in law school. I started this blog after I heard a very special podcast: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. And last night I got to be at a live show of this podcast! If you haven’t listened to it and love Harry Potter DO IT NOW. STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN TO IT NOW. Vanessa and Casper are amazing! You’ll be happy you did!
Until Next Time,
A quick picture with my best friend Kalle, and Vanessa and Casper from HP and the Sacred Texts after the Denver Live Show!